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Nonprofit Begins Digitizing Japanese-American World War II Veterans’ Stories

A community nonprofit has begun digitizing hundreds of videos of Japanese-American World War II veterans' stories in a project that hopes to expand access to their experiences for scholars and the public.

The Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) started the project, which will compile and digitize more than 800 oral histories over 18 months, in part due to an approximately $190,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced March 29.

Asian-American WWII Vets' Tales Serve as Reminder of Their Contributions 1:13

"Digitizing these interviews... will allow the public to expand our understanding of the role of Japanese-American contributions to the American war effort and hear the stories of what life was like for these brave veterans and their families," Ellen Jones, an NEH spokesperson, told NBC News.

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The videos focus on Japanese-American veterans' experiences in the United States military during World War II as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Services (MIS) while their families were imprisoned in U.S. incarceration camps.

"We [hope] to inspire new generations to embody the Nisei veterans' values of courage, sacrifice, humility, and patriotism," Pauline Yoshihashi, a spokesperson for the GFBNEC, told NBC News. "They fought in combat and fought prejudice at home."

Members of the GFBNEC will view more than 1,200 interviews from the Hanashi Oral History Archives in the selection process for the 800 videos. The Hanashi program was started in 1998, and GFBNEC's staff and volunteers recorded the largest compilation of Japanese American veteran interviews to date, according to the organization.

Image: WWII Nisei veterans saluting the flag at the Go For Broke monument in downtown Los Angeles.
WWII Nisei veterans saluting the flag at the Go For Broke monument in downtown Los Angeles. Go For Broke National Education Center

"This grant from NEH will allow us to preserve these priceless histories of our Nisei veterans, and to better organize and index them so that they can be shared with scholars, researchers, and the public for years to come," Dr. Mitchell T. Maki, GFBNEC's president and CEO, told NBC News. "Their example influences our society today as we discuss important issues such as tolerance, social justice, and equal protection under the law."

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