September 2, 2010 will mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II. For Americans, participation in that war began when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. However, the United States was only one of several nations, including China , Australia, the Netherlands and Great Britain, who fought to prevent the creation of a Japanese Empire in the Pacific.
Forty college professors from the United States, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Marshall Islands were selected by the East-West Center to meet in Honolulu, Hawaii for a weeklong workshop on the Asia Pacific War. The program began on August 1, and was sponsored by the East-West Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Park Service. Professor Thomas Matijasic of Big Sandy Community and Technical College was among those invited to participate in the program.
Participants were taken to visit sites related to the conflict, including Pearl Harbor, the Fort DeRussey Army Museum, Punchbowl Cemetery, and the Headquarters Building at Hickam Field. In addition to visiting historic sites, the group listened as Pearl Harbor survivors Sterling Cale (USN) and Evertt Hyland (USN) spoke of their personal experiences on December 7, 1941.
Lily Hatanaka and Izumi Hirano also addressed the group. Ms. Hatanaka was placed in Japanese internment camps in Arizona and California during the war, but she refused to express any bitterness about her experience. Hirano survived the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima as a sixteen-year-old student. He vividly described the experience of looking out the window of his classroom and seeing a “curtain of fire.” Within moments, he was thrown to the front of the room, the right side of his face shredded by flying glass.
The members of the workshop also discussed the manner in which different nations commemorated the Asia Pacific War. All of these activities were designed to help college instructors improve their ability to teach students about the war.