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Multimedia show honors the strength of the 442nd amid prejudice and war

Courtesy Story Boldly

The Japanese American soldiers who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II are the subject of a new multimedia experience called "Defining Courage."

Part film, part narration, and part live concert, the production is the work of ABC7 Los Angeles news anchor and filmmaker David Ono, along with Jeff MacIntyre.

Ono’s mother was from Japan, but he grew up in Texas with very little connection to his Asian heritage. It wasn't until he moved to California in the 1990s that he began learning more about his Japanese ancestry and the exploits of the 442nd.

Courtesy Story Boldly

"So I started researching, studying, and for the last 25 years or so, I've really immersed myself into trying to find out more about this incredible chapter in our history," he said.

"Defining Courage" will be performing in front of a sold-out audience Saturday at the Hawaii Theatre. It’s the first performance outside of LA.

"We have me live on stage narrating. We have a choir, and we have an orchestra. And all of these things are coming at you if you're in the audience. The main star is the big screen, where we fly you into these incredible places today," he said. "They are battlefields from World War II, so they have tragic stories attached to them."

The 442nd was activated 80 years ago on Feb. 1, 1943. Thousands of nisei from Hawaiʻi and the continent enlisted. Their motto was “Go For Broke” — to put everything on the line for a big win. They, along with the 100th Infantry Battalion, are known as the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for their size and length of service.

Ono said all profits from the Hawaiʻi performances will go toward building a local educational curriculum about nisei soldiers.

"The folks who saw the first show said, 'You got to bring this to Hawaiʻi.' And we kept getting requests. So we're bringing it here. We weren't sure if it was going to sell a ticket or not. But we got lucky that there was a date available at the Hawaii Theatre. And then it sold out in a couple of weeks, which we're so thrilled about," Ono told The Conversation.

Tickets for two shows on Sunday, April 23 are on sale now.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 15, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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