Senator Spark M. Matsunaga
Spark Matunaga was a Japanese American Democrat whose 28 years in Congress and his pre-Congressional life experiences, especially his Army service in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, all together are the significant part of the history of Hawai'i and Nikkei experiences. Matsunaga started saving things so early in his life, the collection contains a rich variety of papers, photographs, and memorabilia from his childhood, university days, service in World War II, the Hawai'i Territorial Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
Spark Matunaga was born Masayuki Matsunaga in 1916 on the Kaua'i island, Hawai'i to a modest farm family. After working his way through college he volunteered for active duty in the U.S. Army. During World War II he served in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion, was wounded twice, and was awarded the Bronze Star. After the war, he legally changed his first name to Spark, taken from a childhood nickname.
He earned a law degree from Harvard in 1951, was an assistant city prosecutor for Honolulu, then served in the Hawai'i Territorial Legislature from 1954-1959, playing a major role in securing statehood for Hawaii. In 1962 Matsunaga was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and he was a powerful member of the influential Rules Committee and co-authored the book Rulemakers of the House in 1976.
Matsunaga was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976 and was Chief Deputy Whip for 12 of his 14 years there. He was instrumental in passing legislation for civil rights, reparations for Japanese Americans interned during World War II, space exploration, renewable energy resources, and peace which resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Institute of Peace. In 1968 his book The Mars Project: Journeys Beyond the Cold War was published.
His pastimes included playing the harmonica and writing poetry, the latter impelling him to pilot legislation that created the U.S. Poet Laureate position at the Library of Congress. He died in 1990 at the age of 73. Shortly thereafter, the Institute of Peace at the University of Hawai'i was renamed the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace.
The Matsunaga Collection - Scope and Content
U.S. Senators and Representatives retain personal possession of their papers and may dispose of them as they wish. Senator Matsunaga and his staff generally followed the records management program recommended by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate Historical Office. As files became inactive, they were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration for storage. Upon the Senator’s death, all the records in his office at that time as well as the ones in the National Archives became the property of his heirs and were transferred to his family. In October 1997, the Senator’s family formally donated his Papers to the University of Hawai'i.
The Library received approximately 1200 boxes of material. The Papers include documents, photographs and memorabilia from Senator Matsunaga’s 28 years in Congress, in the House of Representatives from 1963-1976 and in the Senate from 1977-1990. Also in the Papers are professional and personal materials from his pre-Congressional life; especially noteworthy are many documents, letters, photographs, and memorabilia from his Army service in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
- Memorabilia: All have been inventoried and stored in archival boxes.
- Photographs: All have been arranged by broad categories and are rehoused in acid-free archival folders and boxes. Approximately 20% of the photographs have been completely processed; a final list of folders will be created after the collection has been fully processed.
- Papers: Approximately 95% of the papers have been processed and inventory lists continue to be complied. A finding aid will be available after all the papers have been processed.
- Audiovisual: All videotapes, audiocassettes and films have been stored in archival boxes and inventoried.
For Nekkei Studies
The Senator’s strongest interests are well represented in the Papers; among these are peace, civil rights, space exploration, renewable energy resources, and reparations for Japanese Americans interned during World War II. The parts of the collection most relevant to the Nikkei Legacy Project are:
- Civil Rights - 6 document cases
- Immigration - 3 document cases
- Veterans - 3 document cases
- Biography - 32 document cases
- Civil Rights (including Redress) - 26 document cases
- Veterans - 12 document cases
- Clubs (mostly JACL) — 4 document cases
- Community (ethnic groups) — 2 document cases
- Veterans (mostly AJA organizations) — 2 documents cases
- Photographs — 32 document cases
- 100th Infantry Battalion flag
For more extensive collection on Japanese Americans’ internment and relocation experience, go to Japanese Internment and Relocation Files: the Hawai'i Experience 1942-1982.
For those who are interested more in the topics on the experience of Japanese American veterans check out our other collection: Hawai'i War Records Depository. The rich source for race, community and ethnic relations in Hawaii is also available at Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory collection.
Use and Access
The Senator Spark M. Matsunaga Papers are located in the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Library’s Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection. The Papers are currently being processed by Ellen Chapman at Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection in the UH-Manoa Hamilton Library.
Hours are by appointment
Ellen Chapman, Archivist for Congressional Papers
Voicemail: (808) 944-7656
Fax: (808) 956-5968
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Library, Special Collections
Spark M. Matsunaga Papers
2550 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, HI 96822
Telephone: (808) 956-8264
Fax: (808) 965-5968
The first all-Japanese American Nisei military unit was the 100th Battalion, which was the designation for the unit which was formed from the Japanese Americans who comprised a large part of the Hawaiian National Guard. These Nisei were sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for combat training and later were moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for additional training. They adopted the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" as their motto.
In 1943, the War Department, in need of manpower reverse itself and sent recruiters to the relocation camps asking for volunteers to form a new Japanese American combat unit the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Volunteers were also accepted from Hawai'i where 12,500 men had volunteered. The Nisei volunteers were combined with Japanese Americans still in the military and were sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for combat training. 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry
The Japanese American Citizens League, the nation's oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, was founded in 1929 to address issues of discrimination targeted specifically at persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the United States.