2013 Education Committee Year in Review

The Education Committee’s primary focus this year was spreading the word about the role that Japanese American soldiers who trained in Minnesota played during World War II. In 2007, our committee published the first version of its Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) Teachers Curriculum and Resource Guide. This guide helped those who teach Minnesota and World War II History understand the part that our state played in instructing nearly 6,000 Japanese American soldiers in the Japanese military language at Camp Savage and Ft. Snelling. These men and women then went on to participate in every major campaign in the Pacific Theater and are credited with shortening the war by two years. This year, new academic standards for teaching Social Studies were adopted by the Minnesota Department of Education, thereby necessitating the updating and revising of the curriculum guide. We would like to give a special thanks to Matt Walters, who spearheaded this work, committee members who helped with this project, and funding from the JACL Legacy Grant. This guide can be downloaded from our chapter’s website www.twincitiesjacl.org.

One of the highlights of our year was being able to spend a day with former MIS Master Sergeant Roy Matsumoto. Roy, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, traveled to the Twin Cities with his daughter, Karen, for the reunion of Merrill’s Marauders from his home in San Juan Island, WA. Carolyn Nayematsu conducted an oral history interview of Roy, which was filmed by Bill Kubota and Steve Ozone. Roy’s heroic actions while serving in the Burma jungle not only saved many lives, but led to victory over the enemy. Roy trained at Camp Savage and was anxious to see what was left of the site. We were graciously escorted by Janet and Will Williams of the Dan Patch Historical Society and Savage Community Library on a tour of Savage and posed for pictures by the plaque dedicated to the Japanese American soldiers at Camp Savage.

Lucy Kirihara, Carolyn Nayematsu, and Sally Sudo at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference on October 17 at the River Centre in St. Paul
Lucy Kirihara, Carolyn Nayematsu, and Sally Sudo at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference on October 17 at the River Centre in St. Paul

Another major project was putting on a Teachers Workshop at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference on October 17 at the River Centre in St. Paul. This is the largest educational conference in the state and is attended by some 10,000 educators. The title of our workshop was “Minnesota’s Yankee Samurai: America’s Secret Weapon in World War II.” Carolyn Nayematsu served as the moderator. Edwin (Bud) Nakasone gave an overall history of the MIS. Then Ed, along with Al Yamamoto, and Sally Sudo participated on a panel, each giving their experiences of how their lives were affected by World War II. Teachers were introduced to the use of our new MISLS Curriculum and Resource Guide. It was interesting to note that of the 31 educators attending our session, none of them had any knowledge that the MISLS was located here at Camp Savage and Ft. Snelling, and they knew very little about the role of the MIS during WWII. In addition to the workshop, Lucy Kirihara and Sylvia Farrells staffed an exhibit booth, and Jan Kirihara Monson helped with setup. Our participation in this conference was made possible through a grant from the JACL Legacy Fund.

In the September 20-October 3, 2013 issue of the Pacific Citizen, an article was published about the “Power of Truth” Teacher Award, which our committee is introducing for the first time this year. Any parent, student, or colleague (or the teachers themselves) can nominate a Minnesota educator in grades K-12 (not limited to a classroom teacher) whom they feel goes beyond the required Minnesota curriculum standards in teaching about the Japanese American experience during WWII. The winner will be honored with a monetary award and recognition at our chapter’s Fall Banquet in 2014. We hope to make this an annual award. For more information, contact Sally Sudo ssudo@comcast.net or (952) 835-7374.

We filled requests for speakers for the following schools and community groups:

  • Edina South View Middle School
  • “One Book, One Community” event at Lakeville, MN
  • Lakeville North High School
  • Eagan High School
  • Control Data Ceridian Retirement Group at Creekside Community Center Bloomington, MN
  • SALT (Senior Adults Learning Together) in Burnsville, MN
  • Lakeville Senior Heritage Center

As for future projects – the Minnesota History Center has expressed an interest in bringing the “Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts” exhibit to the Twin Cities. The national JACL Education Committee will be sponsoring one of their Teacher Workshops in our area in the spring of 2015. Both of these events will require a lot of man power and we will be looking for volunteers to help with these projects.

We would like to thank Mary Yoshida, Seiki Oshiro, and Sylvia Farrells for their contribution of resource materials for our library of World War II related materials. Donations to the Education Committee enable us to carry on with our work and are always appreciated. Monetary donations are 100% tax deductible, and can be made to “Twin Cities JACL Education Fund,” and sent to TC JACL treasurer Karen Lucas, 8625 Hunter Way, Apple Valley, MN 55124. For a complete list of available resources, check our website at www.twincitiesjacl.org.

Those serving on the Education Committee are: Janet Maeda Carlson, Sylvia Farrells, Lillian Grothe, Cheryl Hirata-Dulas, Lucy Kirihara, Gloria Kumagai, Carolyn Nayematsu, Sally Sudo, and Matt Walters. A special thanks to Ed Nakasone and Al Yamamoto for their advice and help with MIS-related projects. For any questions about our work, feel free to contact any committee member.