Pearl Harbor attack survivors talk with foreign students via distance learning
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011
Pearl Harbor survivor Alfred Rodrigues sat before a large computer screen, pondering a question posed more than 3,000 miles away by a college student at Kansai University in Osaka.
Takashi Kunihara asked Rodrigues what President Franklin D. Roosevelt meant when he called Dec. 7, 1941, a date that "will live in infamy."
Rodrigues looked at the webcam as if looking at Kunihara and spoke into the microphone.
"When Franklin Roosevelt used ‘infamy,' he knew that the American people would stand by him when he declared us in a state of war," he said.
Although more than 300 videoconferences have been coordinated by the Pacific Historic Parks — formerly known as the Arizona Memorial Museum Association — Monday's video conference was its first with a college in Japan. Last year, Pearl Harbor survivors connected with Japan for the first time in a videoconference with Kinjo Gakuin, a high school in Nagoya.
Kunihara was one of Dr. Maho Toyoda's third-year students at Kansai University who had the opportunity to speak with Pearl Harbor survivors at the Pearl Harbor Research and Education Center.
The Witness to History Program is a free distance-learning program that uses videoconferencing to educate students around the world about the events of Dec. 7, 1941.
Established in 2004, the program has connected Pearl Harbor survivors with more than 12,000 students from the United States, Australia, France and, most recently, Japan.
"For young people, these events are far removed," said Paul Heintz, the center's education director. "This is the last opportunity for this generation to interview the WWII generation. One day we won't have these survivors.
Rodrigues and Sterling Cale, two of the four Pearl Harbor survivors who regularly participate in the calls, spoke for 15 minutes each, recounting their experiences when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The last 45 minutes were saved for Kansai students to ask questions of Rodrigues and Cale.
It was the 73rd such videoconference since the fiscal year began Oct. 1.
When Kansai student Atsuko Dehara asked why they continue to tell their story, Cale said, "We need to carry word to people all over the world, so they never forget Pearl Harbor, and we just love talking to people.
Heintz said he is working with communicating via video with schools in the Philippines and hopefully creating a virtual tour of Pacific Historic Parks, which supports national parks at Pearl Harbor, Kalaupapa, Saipan and Guam.
"It's all a form of oral history and it's important that we get it into all the classrooms."