It’s hard to describe in a few words the events of today. I’m still trying to process everything I saw and heard, and I wish I could remember every detail. But the overall feeling I came away with is going to be very valuable as I dive into writing my book.
The attendance for the annual reunion of the WW2 Japanese American Veterans is slowly shrinking. The reason is obvious – and as more pass away each year we lose another piece of history. The contribution these men made to the war effort, while enduring persecution, discrimination and isolation, continues to go undocumented in the history books.
Yet, despite the hardships they endured because of their Japanese heritage while we were at war with their ancestral homeland, they determined to prove their loyalty to their country – America. Many of them had family locked away in internment camps somewhere in the western states. Yet they chose to serve in the armed forces – some fighting against their relatives.
The grace and forgiveness I perceived was overwhelming – as well as witnessing the pride and dignity of heroic servicemen. I definately got a feel for the attitudes of the time. This along with the confirmation that I’m on the right track with my story line, made it a valuable day. Oh, and talking awhile with Philip…he was a boy in Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped. That conversation was a highlight.
So that was my day – but there is more to say…
I’ll save it for the next post.
Have you ever attended an event or traveled to a place that helped you understand history?
I was telling a friend about the topic for my new novel I’ve started writing. She was fascinated with the premise as I described it, but seemed to be puzzled the more I talked about it. She knows I write historical fiction and she knew my story would be based on true events during the WW2 era.
Finally, she interrupted and asked me what I meant by Japanese American Internment Camps. “You mean that really happened in this country?”
It wasn’t the first time I had someone ask me the question. That’s what worries me. Do they not teach these subjects in school anymore? Why doesn’t every American who has at least a 10th grade education know what came down in this country after Pearl Harbor?
My friend was shocked at the ensuing lesson I gave her on WW2! I know I have an advantage – having researched this for several months. I’ve read about 4 books on the subject, several articles and found a couple websites that have led me to more information. I happen to love history and always have. So I guess I paid more attention in high school US History class.
If you would like to read a couple good stories about the WW2 Japanese American internment, I can recommend two good books. They are both easy reads and very touching.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston.
They are great books that tell the story of this piece of our country’s history. You will see why it’s not our proudest moment, but war changes everything.
I wonder if anyone remembers that song…hmmm.
Anyway, yes, I’m headed to California. Alameda to be exact. I’ll be accompanying a lecturer when she gives her talk aboard the USS Hornet which is permanently docked as a floating museum. She will be speaking to a group of Japanese American WW2 Veterans about a secret interrogation center that existed in central California during the war.
This all came about because I took a chance and emailed this person when I saw her name at the bottom of an article on this top secret center. We have been corresponding for several months and now and she has been gracious and helpful in my quest for information. She has invited me to attend the lecture.
The timing is perfect and I will be in the midst of the real life subjects of my novel. Not to mention meeting my pen pal after all these months and hearing her talk on another subject that will be in the book.
A fluke? Unbelievable luck? Good karma?
No to all three questions. This came about partly as a blessing from God, but I worked many hours to put myself in the position for this opportunity. I doubt this blessing would have been dropped in my lap had I not been looking, researching, digging, reading and digging some more. Partnership with God on my projects always yields a result that goes beyond my dreams. I work hard and do my part and He connects the dots.
Writing is hard work – and historical fiction might be even more challenging. I’m learning so much in the process and now I have this date with destiny to make my research come alive. Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes.
You don’t have to be a writer for opportunity to come knocking. Any of you have a similar thing happen?
Ominous title? Yes. Interesting topic? Depends. Relevant to today? Maybe.
I have begun research on my next book. Yeah, I know…haven’t even published the first two. But a writer has to keep on writing. Anyway, my topic for this book is again WW2 – specifically the Japanese American’s internment and Japanese POWs. (Don’t steal my idea)
I watched a documentary yesterday that is not publicly available – I got a copy from someone interviewed on the film. I saw and heard things that disturbed me. I gleaned insight and information I never had before about WW2. I came away with a different perspective, and a heavy heart.
What destructive forces lie in the heart of a warmonger! Emperors who are worshiped as a god, Presidents who have the power to sit on information that could have prevented tragic events, people who blindly choose to be led by staying uninformed – these are the ingredients for war.
But here’s the thing.
War is part of humanity. I hated the images I saw on the film. I wanted to blame someone. But we are all to blame. WW2 happened because of an intersect of time, personalities, greed and prejudice. On a global scale, it’s likely to happen again. My biggest concern is that lack of education about the history of WW2 to our children. Most of the young people I talk to know very little. And it’s such a huge part of our history. It shaped and formed so many attitudes and brought out the worst and the best in us.
Would I show this film to my grandchildren? No. Do I plan to talk to them about it. Yes. Will I continue to write about it. Yes. There are so many stories to be told and I never want this time in U.S. history to be forgotten.
I don’t usually get philosophical on this blog – at least not in a political way. But I’ve been impacted by my research. I like being impacted in ways that make me grow and understand. The disturbing stuff…not so much. But it’s all necessary if I want to write fiction with a large grain of truth.
Is learning about history something you like or could you leave it?