What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home

*Opening October 6th* NLCHM is now hosting the Oregon Historical Society’s traveling exhibit “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” which is on display in our Anne Hall Gallery. This poignant display examines the prejudice that Japanese American veterans from Hood River, Oregon, experienced upon their return home from serving our country in World War II. These American citizens served heroically with the United States Armed Forces in the South Pacific and in Europe, yet many of their families were unjustly incarcerated in concentration camps on American soil.

Curated by Linda Tamura and Marsha Matthews, “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” was originally displayed in August of 2013 at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland in conjunction with the Smithsonian traveling exhibition American Heroes: Japanese American World War II Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal.

This exhibition, now available at no cost as downloadable PDF documents, uses first-hand accounts, photos, and scans of letters and historical documents to show how wartime events brought national notoriety to the small community of Hood River. Visitors will be invited to make meaningful connections between the past and present—exploring the promise and reality of American democracy and equality. One soldier depicted in the exhibit, George Akiyama, wrote in his diary that after the war, still wearing his uniform with the Silver and Bronze Star, he stopped to get a haircut at a downtown barbershop. The barber waved his razor, exclaiming, “I ought to slit your throat.” Visitors are asked to put themselves into his shoes, and the shoes of the other returning soldiers, and consider how they would have reacted in that situation, and further, how they would handle similar situations of bullying or racism in the present day.

NLCHM has also included an exhibit panel on the Kanatani family of Otis. Frances Kanatani and her family were sent to Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho while she was 9 months pregnant. Their story hits home and highlights perseverance in the face of oppression and atrocity. This temporary exhibit is opening October 6th and will be up through January.