Mission US: Prisoner in My Homeland

WNET THIRTEEN’s Award-Winning Game Series Mission US Brings Pivotal Moment in History to Life for Teens with “Prisoner in My Homeland”

The sixth mission in the series provides a valuable tool for at-home and in-school history learning, letting
students experience life from the perspective of a Japanese American teen during World War II. The newest game gives
middle and high school students the chance to see life through the eyes of a Japanese American teenager
during World War II as they encounter diverse perspectives, witness key events, make difficult choices – and
experience the resulting consequences in a scenario from this pivotal, difficult moment in history.
In Prisoner in My Homeland, students step into the role of Henry Tanaka, a 16-year-old
Japanese American boy whose family is forced to leave their home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, for a
prison camp in Manzanar, California. Players must make decisions that reflect broader strategies of survival
and resistance: will they help their community, focus on family, support the war effort, resist injustice? Like
all the games in the critically-acclaimed Mission US series, “Prisoner in My Homeland” is designed to
increase young people’s knowledge and understanding of our nation’s past by immersing them in a critical
moment in U.S. history. The game also features period music by Japanese American artists, including a
song composed and recorded by Mary Nomura, also known as the “Songbird of Manzanar,” while she was
incarcerated at Manzanar.

The Mission US team collaborated closely with humanities advisors and members of the
Japanese American community to develop “Prisoner in My Homeland.” Densho, a digital archive
that preserves oral histories and other primary source materials on the incarceration, consulted on
content development for the game and its supporting educator curriculum guide. An advisory board of
leading scholars and researchers of the history of the incarceration guided development of the game’s
historical content, including Martha Nakagawa, author and researcher at the UCLA Jack and Aiko
Herzig Collection and Eji Suyama Endowment project; Tetsuden Kashima, Professor of American
Ethnic Studies at University of Washington and author, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American
Imprisonment during World War II; Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History Emeritus
at the University of Cincinnati and author, Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World
War II and American Concentration Camps: A Documentary History of the Relocation and
Incarceration of Japanese Americans, 1941-1945; and Allan Austin, Professor of History and
Government at Misericordia University and author, From Concentration Camp to Campus: Japanese
American Students and World War II. In addition, the project was developed with input from the
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community and the Manzanar Committee, who both provided
feedback on game development.

“Densho has been excited to support WNET on the development of this carefully researched
interactive experience,” said Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho. “Mission US takes an
innovative approach to teaching Japanese American incarceration history by giving students the chance
to imagine themselves into the world of the characters. This approach opens up new opportunities for
engaged learning and deeper understanding of a dark chapter in American history.”

“My hope is that this new Mission US game gives players a more nuanced understanding of the
past, while offering educators a valuable, easily accessible tool for deepening history learning both in the
classroom and at home,” said Sandra Sheppard, Executive-in-Charge of Mission US and WNET Director of
Kids’ Media and Education.

Research has shown that by assuming the roles of peers from the past, students playing Mission US
develop a more personal, memorable and meaningful connection with complex historical content and
context. As of June 1, 2020, Mission US games have been played by 3 million registered users, including
98,000 teachers, in all 50 states. The Mission US website includes six games and comprehensive
companion classroom guides that include document-based history activities, primary sources, vocabulary
builders, standards alignments, writing prompts, visual aids and professional development videos. The
website also includes tips for parents and educators seeking to use Mission US as a resource for at-home
history learning.

Prisoner in My Homeland is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior,
National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, with additional support
from the Page and Otto Marx., Jr. Foundation, Estate of Bhagwant Gill, and Helena Rubinstein
Foundation. Funding for Mission US is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with
additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, U.S. Department of Education’s
Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fund, The Page and Otto
Marx, Jr., Foundation, and Atran Foundation.

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