UH to Document Life History of AJA Veterans of World War II

Responding to community need, stories and contributions will be made available online

University of Hawaiʻi
Mariko Miho, (808) 956-3859
AJA Life History Project Liaison
Posted: Oct 6, 2004

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Kapiʻolani Community College will join forces to capture the life stories of the Hawaiʻi-born Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) veterans of World War II. The three-year project will entail the collection, preservation, and dissemination of documents, manuscripts, letters, and oral histories. The platform for public access will be a high-quality, interactive web site, with high-resolution online viewing and streaming media capability.

The project began in response to requests made by several Hawaiʻi AJA veterans for UH Mānoa to not only preserve, but to tell their life stories. UH Mānoa Chancellor Peter Englert saw this as an opportunity to design a community-based project that would simultaneously provide an important educational benefit for future researchers, historians, students, and the general public.

During the first year of the project, the UH Mānoa Center for Oral History will conduct and video as many as 30 life history interviews of the veterans with special attention paid to their early years before the war. UH Mānoa‘s Hamilton Library will be the repository for the videos and transcripts. Kapiolani CC‘s Library will provide digital processing and web site development. All interviews and transcripts will be accessible online by 2007.

Life history interviews of members of the Varsity Victory Volunteers will be sought, as well as veterans from each major AJA military unit, including veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399th Engineering. The project will also seek to interview women who are related to the veterans.

The project complements another historical initiative made possible by Englert. Under the direction of Diane Perushek, university librarian of UH Mānoa Libraries, Hamilton Library has begun working with veterans groups and their affiliate organizations to build an archival collection of their personal letters, manuscripts, documents, and artifacts.

Anticipated completion of the AJA World War II Life History Project is 2007, though the web site may be accessible to the general public as early as 2005. UH Mānoa hopes that this collection becomes an important historical and educational resource for future researchers, scholars, students, and all those who value the tremendous contribution the veterans have made to Hawaiʻi and to the nation. In a broader context, the project will build awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the American experience in Hawaiʻi.

Those wishing to learn more about the project may contact Mariko Miho, director of funds development for the UH community colleges and life history project liaison, at (808) 956-3859 or at cmiho@hawaii.edu.