History and Commemoration:
Legacies of the Pacific War

Workshop Controversy

Pearl Harbor Survivor Responses
Participant responses
Workshop faculty responses
Formal reply from NEH Chairman James A. Leach
Dr. Blake's original accusations

A note from the Workshop Director

The workshop(s) described in this website, conducted in July and August 2010 at the East-West Center, became an object of controversy in the weeks following when a participant, Dr. Penelope Blake of Rock Valley College, wrote to public officials charging that the program had been a “sustained attack on our military, our veterans, and our nation’s history by academics who have an agenda to recast history in their own politically-motivated image.”

Needless to say, I and other workshop organizers found Dr. Blake’s characterization of the program to be unrecognizable. We designed the workshop to provide a forum that honors the service of military veterans and experiences of civilian survivors, at the same time as facilitating discussion of current scholarship on memory of the Pacific War.

Of the 6-day program, the first three days focused on visits to official memorial sites, guided by the Chief Historian of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, two panels of military veterans and civilian survivors, and a lunch and dinner in which those same veterans and survivors were featured guests. The impact was then reflected in the projects presented by participants on the final day, a great many of which reported efforts to bring veterans and survivors into classrooms and otherwise record their experiences.

We felt it important to convey Dr. Blake’s specific criticisms to the other participants and invite them to respond. Many have now written letters to NEH. Those copied to us with permission to include on this website are available by clicking here.

In the hope that something may be learned from this controversy regarding the difficulties of teaching about war history and memory, we are making participant letters available here, alongside Dr. Blake’s original accusations, and the reply from NEH Chairman James Leach.

Geoffrey White, Ph.D.
Workshop Director
Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology
University of Hawai‘i, Manoa