A Hawaiian Friendship Ceremony: Marking 75 years of War and Peace in the Pacific

Formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay. Image: Naval History and Heritage Command.

Formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Images: Naval History and Heritage Command.

This year the formal learning team, funded through the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund, embarked on a new and very different project, reflecting on the cumulative 75th anniversaries relating to World War II in the Pacific. We invited schools from the USA, Japan and Australia to research and reflect on significant battles from the conflict in the Pacific.

The student-led project encouraged the students to investigate, write, film and produce videos. The students created their own documentaries on the topic. They were given the opportunity to find and interview witnesses, go on field trips, talk to experts and immerse themselves in primary and secondary historical sources. Many of the students found previously untold stories and opened a line of dialogue with elders in their community, as well as family members, about their experiences during the War. The students came away from the project with a deeper understanding of the time, the conflicts and a commitment to maintaining peaceful relationships throughout the Pacific.

A highlight video with all of the participating schools and their research.

The project has been enthusiastically received from both the students and teachers and we will be running it again 2018, with a focus on Life on the Homefront.

The Hawaiian Friendship Ceremony

The students will come together for this week in Honolulu, Hawaii, and visit a variety of World War II historical sites, such as National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the Pacific Aviation Museum, speak at a local school, hike to the top of Diamond Head, witness the moving Blacken Canteen Ceremony and attend the 76th Anniversary Ceremony of the Bombing of Pearl Harbour at the US Valor in the Pacific Memorial.

In 1945 the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed aboard the USS Missouri, which signalled the end of hostilities between Japan and the allied forces. At the Friendship Ceremony, student ambassadors will each give a speech on the project and their commitment to maintain and promote peace in the Pacific. They will then sign a friendship agreement between Australia, the USA and Japan.

The Friendship Ceremony will be live-streamed through YouTube will take place on the Surrender Deck on board the Battleship Missouri Memorial on the afternoon of 7th December, 5pm Hawaii-Aleutian Time (Friday 8th December 2pm AEST). After the ceremony, the students will join with a local school and sleep over on the ship.

Meet the student ambassadors

An additional program stemming from the project invited students from each of the participating countries to apply to become a student ambassador for a Friendship Ceremony. To be considered, the students needed to compose a written essay, have a letter of recommendation from their school Principal and record a video response to the question: Why do you think the friendship ceremony is important?

Nanari Minegishi, from Sendai Shirayuri Gakuen Senior High School, Japan

Nanari Minegishi

Nanari Minegishi, Sendai Shirayuri Gakuen Senior High School, Japan.

Hello! I’m Nanari Minegishi, a student from Sendai, Japan. I’m very honoured to be a part of the friendship ceremony as a Japanese ambassador. This is my first time to participate in an official ceremony so I’m a little bit nervous but I’m also excited. I hope this historic event will lead us to the next step. Thank you.

Millicent Sarginson, from Lake Macquarie High School, NSW, Australia

Millicent Sarginson

Millicent Sarginson, Lake Macquarie High School, NSW, Australia.

After months of research and preparation for the Friendship Ceremony & Anniversary in Pearl Harbour, I am thrilled to be near the apex of this project. War & Peace has given me amazing personal and educational experiences, which I am so grateful for. Being able to pursue textbook knowledge and applying it to real life events allows my fellow ambassadors and I to appreciate not only our opportunity but also the courage & sacrifice displayed during these events in which we will be commemorating.

Sara Cole Academy, from Canyons Santa Clarita, California, USA

Sara Cole

Sara Cole, Academy of the Canyons Santa Clarita, California, USA.

I was at my grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving and where I would usually be fielding questions about possible boyfriends and possible majors, this time every question I got from my nosy (but loving) relatives was about this project. A full on interrogation about what exactly I plan to say at the ceremony or how it feels to represent the United States didn’t exactly ease the monstrous anxiety I’ve felt in the weeks proceeding my trip to Oahu, but the deluge of probing questions were worth it if only for this: At one point, my grandfather interrupted to murmur absentmindedly, ‘You know, I was based on Ford Island in 1954’. I hadn’t known that. We spent the rest of the night talking about his experience with the Navy and the emotional and physical scars that war had left on the military base. I know that I am going to Oahu to tell people what I’ve learned working with the Australian National Maritime Museum, but the truth is, and I suspect always will be, that I am still learning.

Teacher feedback for 2017 program

It engaged staff in extra curricula development of ideas and concepts that branch between all learning areas. It also motivated staff to learn more ICT skills to support the students to develop primary resources, such as video and written reports. The project was critically Project Based and moved the learning beyond textbooks to accessing human knowledge of historical events. In terms of the students, they were brought together as a learning hub, sharing ideas and supporting each other. In short, the project was a clear example of a STEM and PBL based learning. It achieved what schools have been wanting to do for years.

Parents saw a definite change in their children as being more focused in school and engaged in learning more about their local area. The scope for future projects is broad and can encompass many areas, as the process of accessing local knowledge has been established. This means that the students can become leaders for other rich tasks that showcase local history. The project also increased the use of literacy and ICT skills, all of which are key to the new curriculum.

— Brendan Maher, Principal, Lake Macquarie High School, Australia

The program was very successful in making the students (and staff) more aware of the history of their city and how it was affected by WWII. It has encouraged students to start asking questions of their and other countries’ pasts, and to hear stories from their relatives – conversations they otherwise may not have had were it not for this program. The students have likewise become more inquisitive about the quest to achieve peace.

Although we joined the program late, we made time in groups (and the students independently also) to engage with staff from the local museum and to hear the stories of survivors of the events we studied. Some of the students have expressed an interest in wanting to make a children’s picture book to communicate their understanding of the events to young learners. As such, I believe that this program has planted the seeds for students to further investigate the events of WWII and the promotion of peace.

— Anna Parker, Sendai Shirayuri Gakuen High School, Japan

It was an amazing experience, and the students loved it. It was probably my favourite project I did over the course of my five years at this school. I heard similarly from the students.
— Matt Arnold, The Franciscan School, USA

War and Peace in the Pacific 75 - a series of programs to commemorate significant 75th anniversaries of World War II. Image: ANMM.

War and Peace in the Pacific 75 – a series of programs to commemorate significant 75th anniversaries of World War II. Image: ANMM.

Supported by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.

— Anne Doran, Education Officer. 

Find out more about our education programs on our website. You can also explore more stories of War and Peace in the Pacific during World War II in our feature stories, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Bombing of Darwin and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

4 thoughts on “A Hawaiian Friendship Ceremony: Marking 75 years of War and Peace in the Pacific

  1. If commemoration and the study of war is to bring participants and their families/communities and former opponents together – then as a former teacher (including of history) I am in agreement. I’m Australian – now retired from teaching in various parts of the world – NSW, Spain, Germany – and for approaching two decades – in Japan. I have visited many places around the world and within museums and historic sites – evidence of wars and their aftermath is ubiquitous. In more recent times I have had close family members within the US, from Australia and from Britain involved in Iraq and in Afghanistan – much to my anxiety and fears not only for the forces sent – but also for the many civilians and opposing forces being invaded/engaged/affected.

    During my years in Japan I taught three generations one family (in various contexts) the eldest being the daughter of a noted Admiral who was engaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea (Admiral TANAKA Raizō). A distant Australian cousin by marriage was a member of the first BCOF contingent – stationed at the old Imperial Naval Academy on Etajima (modelled on that of the UK Dartmouth and Annapolis of the US) slightly to the south-east of Hiroshima. The institution from which Admiral TANAKA Raizō graduated. I taught at a secondary school in Ube in nearby Yamaguchi-ken – the mother campus of which was established in the latter 19th-century as a prep. school to the Naval Academy. Another distant Australian cousin is married to a great grand-daughter of a former samurai of the Obi Domain (Nichinan-city – modern day southern Miyazaki-ken) who died in the Battle at Kumamoto on 30 March 1877 – led by the great SAIGO Takamori – part of the doomed South-West Rebellion. And met many others with war service or connection to Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria in China. And a couple of chaps who became PoWs in Cowra – then Hay. I visited quite a number of sites in Japan where Australians spent time as PoW slave labour – in Niigata-ken, in Fukuoka and in Oita-ken. And the beautiful WWII/BCOF occupation era cemetery in southern Yokohama-city – at Gontazaka.

    I read a lot, too, of course – including lots of John DOWER, Walter HAMILTON, Richard FLANAGAN – and the writing of Australian journalist Wilfred BURCHETT – who first exposed the horrors of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – shattering the secrecy at the very moment others were aboard the USS Missouri for the official signing of surrender – and of the writing of US academic Ronald TAKAKI who in his book Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb – as Studs Terkel the great oral historian describes it “…explodes the myth of its ‘military necessity'”!

    So good luck in what you will surely find an ever-widening frame of reference to the Pacific sector of WWII – the involvement of the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – and Japan – and all the other Asian nations and Pacific Island then colonies/still US colonies some now nations – caught up in that war with Japan.

    • Thank you Jim,

      I am finding that as the project goes further my colleagues and I are learning more about WW11 and the many stories that haven’t been told in public before.The students through their research are now finding connections to the past that they didn’t realize they had through their local community. Next year we are hoping that more schools can tell the stories from other countries as we turn the focus to life on the home-front.

      This project has been an amazing learning curve for all involved. The one resounding fact is there are no winners in conflict it affects all members of the community. Adding to the importance for youth, our future to come together in friendship for we are one global community

  2. I am appalled that one of your commentators would laud the writing of the traitor Burchett on any subject let alone the bomb concluding the Japanese War 1942- 1945.
    All my relatives fought in the War against the damned Japs. One, my great-uncle Bill Box, a plantation owner in New Hanover, was one of the first Australian civilians captured by the Japs as they rampaged through the Pacific. A 46 year old, he was murdered along with his close neighbour the Revd Tom Simpson and the other men captured on New Hanover and New Britain.
    Even the Norwegian crew of MS Herstein that just happened to be in Rabaul harbour when the Japs invaded were slaughtered.
    Moreover, the Jap invaders just happened to be from the same units who slaughtered many of my former Chinese wife’s family in Shanghai so I know the story from the Chinese side as well as the Australian.
    The Japs are damn lucky the emperor surrendered when he did otherwise he would have lost a great number more.
    “military necessity”? – stopping the war saved many Aussies and Yanks from death at the hands of the Jap fanatics. If Japs had to die, well so be it. The war ended.
    My great uncle and over 1000 Aussies many civilians as well as Australian and German missionaries, were slaughtered by the Japs – who paid for it with their own lives after the war. Look at the story of the Montevideo Maru.
    The evidence of the Jap atrocities in the New Guinea islands as well as right across the Pacific is all in the war crimes trial records in the National Archives in Canberra as well as in US records. That would be a better starting point for the students than the writings of that traitor Burchett.
    I object most strongly to those trying to rewrite history and relying on the word of that traitor: the Japs started the war – we stopped it. That was the only necessity at the time and it was achieved with fewer Allies killed than would otherwise have been the case.
    Japs died but they had been committing atrocities in China since at least 1937. The bombs put an end to it.
    The modern Japanese still have to contend with a slanted view of their war time history – and a denial of the atrocities they committed. That is not helped by regular visits to the memorials to the Class 1 war criminals at the Yakasuni Shrine which, quite rightly, still upsets relations with China and Korea.
    If students want to know more about the effects of the Jap atrocities and the necessity to end the war, let them read “When the war came, New Guinea islands 1942” PNGAA 2017 or “Yours sincerely, Tom” Margaret L. Henderson, Openbook Publishers Adelaide, 2000.

    • Dear Gary:

      Your emotion is still quite raw. Let me try to bring it down a notch. And we all – on all sides of the Pacific as well as elsewhere – have relatives who fought and died in wars. This is not a competition about whose great uncle or father or son was fighting or killed where. This is the given that is understood and at the basis for this project above to which in the spirit of peace and reconciliation we are invited to respond.

      When I was selected by my Nelson Bay High School Principal in late 1988 as a possible teacher to introduce Japanese language studies into the school – part of a Newcastle/Hunter Valley-wide response to the importance both of trade with Japan from the port of Newcastle as well as developing tourism and other cultural connections I was happy to take up the role – which included the next couple of years studying Japanese two nights a week at the University of Newcastle – with a cohort of teachers – while at the same time introducing studies of the language into the junior school – Years 7 and 8. It was challenging and yet quite rewarding – for both the students and for me. Occasionally a student would tell me – without any hint of subtly – that his (always a “his”) grand-father hated the “Japs”! On one occasion I was introduced down the street in Nelson Bay where my students were collecting money for Legacy to the head of the CWA as the new teacher of Japanese at the high school (ignoring the fact that had already been teaching English and History for several years). “Oh,” came her pleasantly smiling reply, “I hate the Japanese!” (Inwardly I took note of the way in which prejudices can easily skip generations – it’s not necessarily the parents at all.) “Yes, well,” my own measured and spoken response (and understanding where she was coming from – of course – having grown up myself in post-war Australia) “you know, I was born in 1949,” I began. “Even if we went back to 1920 – it would scarcely be possible that we could blame any of the young men involved in war on this or that side for the cruelty to each other or to civilian populations re the war in the Pacific.” He still smiling response: “That’s what my children tell me all the time!” It wasn’t an unpleasant or vitriolic exchange – but it was an honest one. And given this is 2017 – and 72 years since the close of WWII – I can’t understand the reason for wishing to infect the children of nowadays with a confected hatred against former enemies. Indeed, however, it is wise to know what happened – though Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo – as much as Manus and Nauru – tell us that hideous things remain with us. Sadly.

      And Wilfred BURCHETT was NOT a traitor. But he was a truth-sayer and he reported on military and political engagements from the other side – though not only the other side – at least until his Australian passport was stolen (quite possibly early CIA shenanigans) – and the Menzies Government refused to provide him with another. At which point HO Chi-Minh provided him with a Laissez-Passer diplomatic document and later Fidel CASTRO provided him with a Cuban Passport. It was Wilfred BURCHETT – out of rural Victoria – who had the courage to break the US military secrecy over the A-Bomb destruction of Hiroshima and the subsequent radiation sickness which carried off large numbers who had survived the actual “pika-don” explosion. An Australian of heroic proportions.

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