Top positive review
Righting/Writing American History: To Honor Japanese American Soldiers of WWII
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2021
As a volunteer, the author, Daniel Brown, helped to record audio-visual histories of Japanese Americans who fought with the allied forces in WWII. The recording project is called "Densho" which in Japanese means "to leave a legacy" and indeed what a stellar legacy it is!
The book has four major sections. The first section recounts in vivid detail the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At that time, a third of Hawaii's residents were either Issei, Japanese immigrants or Nisei, American citizens of Japanese ancestry. As enemy zeros flew low over Oahu, imagine the shock of civilians coming eye-to-eye with an enemy who looked like them!
In February, 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 enabling the FBI to round up and place in internment camps Issei, considered Enemy Aliens, and their children who lived on Hawaii and in the States of Arizona, California, Washington, and Oregon Their businesses and properties where taken away from them. In this second section the roundup, transport and primitive amenities of the barbed wire camps are described. The 17 camps had watchtowers with 24 hour armed guards.
By 1943, the United States was fighting a war on two fronts. More soldiers were needed. On February 1, 1943 FDR authorized the formation of a Nisei military unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Over 26,000 young men volunteered, but they needed to sign a loyalty oath to the USA before they could enlist. Some Japanese Americans believed this was racist and against the US Constitution. The author follows the story of one such conscientious objector. Of those who did sign, the descriptions of the fierce battles they endured are both harrowing and action-packed. The 442nd moved up through Italy, into France and finally into Germany. Though Japanese GI's comprised a mere .11% of the US armed forces, they earned 4.4 % of the military medals of honor for heroism and bravery. The 442nd was also among the troops that liberated Dachau.
What happened to these Japanese American soldiers upon their return to the USA post war? In this final section, Brown describes their reunion with family and their dedication to build new lives through education and service to the community on the city, state and national level. Anti-Asian sentiments remained, but many of these veterans lobbied to pass state and federal legislation to make reparations, attain citizenship for their parents, and provide a record of their service to country. This book embraces both the shameful incarceration of Japanese Americans as well as the honor and heroism of the most decorated military unit in all American history. It is such an important work about our nation's history and the legacy of some of its bravest citizens.