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Hood River Incident Collection Available Online Now

Hood River Incident Collection Available Online Now

July 1, 2024

A new collection of the Japanese American Museum of Oregon is accessible online via the museum’s website. The Hood River Incident Collection, made up of 600 letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera, documents the public response to an action by Hood River’s American Legion Post 22 during World War II. These items add to the public available resources on this little-known historical event and will increase understanding of Japanese American history in Hood River and Oregon. The project was made possible by an Oregon Museums Grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission and funding from the Oregon Nisei Veterans and Portland JACL. Over 400 letters from the collection can be accessed now at https://jamo.org/hood-river-letters/.

Processing the letters
Volunteer Wynn Kiyama processes the Hood River Incident Collection at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.

During World War II, American Legion Post 22 placed a billboard in downtown Hood River honoring those who were currently serving in the war. Known as an honor roll, the names of more than 1,600 men and women from the Hood River Valley, including those of Japanese descent, were on display as a public memorial to their service.

On November 29, 1944, as part of an effort to discourage Japanese Americans from returning to the area following the war, Post 22 members blacked out the names of the 16 Japanese American soldiers listed on the honor roll.

The removal of the 16 names from the honor roll was covered in national news outlets and led to a large public reaction, both for and against the racist act.

People from all over the country wrote to Post 22 via letter, postcard, and telegram. These correspondences were filed away and eventually donated to the Japanese American Museum of Oregon in 2022 by present-day Post 22 members as part of a larger reconciliation effort. That year, they organized a special Veterans Day event to honor Nisei soldiers and officially apologize for the Legion’s actions in 1944.

The presentation and donation was part of a lengthy effort to help heal the injustices against the Japanese Americans of Hood River. Other components included a monument at Idlewilde Cemetery in honor of Japanese Americans who served in the military; a stretch of Highway 35 renamed for the Oregon’s Nisei Veterans of World War II; and an apology from Riverside Community Church, United Church of Christ for their silence when Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps in 1942.

You can access the Hood River Incident Collection and read more about the project here.