Japanese American soldiers faced Nazis at war and racism in US

Fred Shiosaki, the American-born son of Japanese immigrants, was decided to affix the navy virtually instantly after the assault on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. 

When he turned 18 the next summer season, Shiosaki took a bus to Spokane, Wash., to enroll with the Selective Service. But when he instructed the younger officer behind the desk he needed to enlist, Shiosaki was met with a blank-face stare. 

“You can’t sign up,” the officer instructed him. “You’re an enemy alien.” 

Because Shiosaki lived in a small, principally white group, he’d “missed one essential piece of news about Japanese Americans and the service,” writes Daniel James Brown in his new ebook “Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II” (Viking). 

Just a month after the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor, the War Department decreed that Japanese Americans have been ineligible to serve in the US navy — and draft boards have been instructed to categorise them as 4-C, or “enemy aliens.” 

Shiosaki didn’t take the rejection evenly. “No I’m not,” he insisted. “I was born in America. I’m a citizen.” 

The officer simply shrugged. “Well, the War Department says you’re an enemy alien, so you’re an enemy alien.” 

It was a devastating blow for Shiosaki, in a yr that had already introduced fixed reminders that he and his household had grow to be outsiders in their very own nation. 

Slurs like “nip” and “yellow vermin” have been changing into more and more widespread in radio broadcasts and newspaper tales, and even amongst their very own neighbors. Restaurants began displaying indicators with messages like “This restaurant poisons both rats and japs.” 

The Miho brothers, including Katsugo (“Kats,” third from left), were among the Nisei who fought.
The Miho brothers, together with Katsugo (“Kats,” far proper), have been among the many Nisei who fought.
Courtesy of Katsugo Miho Family Estate

Though his father had operated a laundry in Hillyard for greater than three a long time, it was out of the blue dropping clients who not needed to do enterprise with anyone who had Japanese roots. 

Shiosaki was simply certainly one of 1000’s of Nisei — second-generation American sons of Japanese immigrants — made to really feel lower than American due to the colour of their pores and skin. They had grown up “like other American boys,” Brown writes. “Playing baseball and football and going to Saturday afternoon matinees. They performed in marching bands on the Fourth of July, went to county fairs, ate burgers and fries, messed around under the hoods of cars, and listened to swing tunes on the radio.” 

But when it got here to preventing for his or her nation, these younger males have been turned away and scorned, their loyalty to the one nation they’d ever recognized known as into query. 

That modified in early 1943, when President Franklin Roosevelt activated the 442nd Regiment Combat Team: made up virtually solely of Nisei soldiers — greater than two-thirds coming from Hawaii alone — who would lastly get to exhibit their unwavering American patriotism. 

More than 18,000 Japanese American soldiers enlisted, and by the war’s finish theirs was essentially the most adorned unit of its measurement in the United States Army: 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor and seven Presidential Unit Citations. 

When Fred Shiosaki initially tried to enlist into the military, he was told he couldn't because he was an "enemy alien."
When American Fred Shiosaki initially tried to enlist into the navy, he was instructed he couldn’t as a result of he was an “enemy alien.”
Courtesy of Shiosaki Family Collection

That can be a outstanding act of heroism for any infantry brigade, nevertheless it was particularly spectacular for younger males serving a rustic that painted them as villains — the place their very own associates and household have been relocated to internment camps, residing in barracks behind barbed wire and handled like traitors and criminals. 

This Memorial Day, the story of the fearless males of the 442nd Regiment feels particularly related, with Asian Americans as soon as once more beneath assault. 

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, reviews that there’s been an 164 % improve in reported anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide in the primary half of 2021, in contrast with final yr. And in a latest survey from Pew Research Center, 81 % of Asian-American adults say that violence in opposition to them is on the rise. 

Hatred of Asian Americans has by no means made sense, nevertheless it was particularly confounding in the course of the war effort of the Nineteen Forties. 

When Raymond Matsuda, who served with the 442nd, returned to his hometown in Parker, Ariz., in the course of the summer season of 1944, he determined to get a haircut earlier than visiting associates in a close-by internment camp. He hobbled into an area barbershop on crutches, having been shot in the knee throughout fight and, desirous to impress his friends, was dressed in full uniform and emblazoned with a number of Army ribbons and badges, together with a Purple Heart. 

“He did not see, or chose to ignore, a sign on one of the doors [reading] ‘Japs keep out, you rats,’ ” writes Brown. “The proprietor took one look at Matsuda, strode over to him, cussing, and shoved him right back out through the doors and into the street, crutches and all.” 

When it was identified to the proprietor that he’d kicked out each an American citizen and a wounded US Army soldier, the proprietor simply snarled, “They all look alike to me.” 

Katsugo “Kats” Miho, a good-looking University of Hawaii freshman known as “a Japanese Cary Grant” by feminine classmates, was one of many many younger Nisei decided to affix the navy and battle for his nation after the assault on Pearl Harbor. When that choice wasn’t out there, he and his fellow ROTC cadets signed up for the Hawaii Territorial Guard, tasked with guarding Honolulu’s energy crops, pumping stations and gasoline depots in opposition to a Japanese invasion. 

Lt. Col. Pursall and President Truman reviewing the 442nd Regiment Combat Team.
Lt. Col. Pursall and President Truman reviewing the 442nd Regiment Combat Team.
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

What Miho didn’t know was that, whereas he was retaining a watchful eye on American shores, his father — who ran a small resort on Maui and was born in Japan simply south of Hiroshima — was being dragged from his residence by federal brokers and taken to Oklahoma to stay in a camp with different Japanese Americans. 

Miho didn’t maintain his job in the Territorial Guard for lengthy. He and his friends have been discharged when “some of the brass visiting from the mainland had been upset to see young men with Japanese faces carrying guns,” Brown writes. 

It was a crushing second, one which Ted Tsukiyama, one other member of the Guard, says was extra traumatic for him than any expertise he had in the war itself. 

“If a bomb had exploded in our midst, it couldn’t have been more devastating,” he recalled. 

It was the sudden realization that he was not trusted — and not even seen as actually American. 

‘The War Department says you’re an enemy alien, so that you’re an enemy alien.’

Military officer to Fred Shiosaki, an American citizen by beginning, when he went to enroll with the Selective Service after Pearl Harbor

Some Asian Americans didn’t need to serve for that very motive. “Why should they lay their lives on the line for a country that had forced them and their parents into bleak concentration camps?” writes Brown. 

But regardless of these reservations, many didn’t hesitate when Roosevelt made Asian-American navy recruitment official, asserting that “Every loyal American should be given the opportunity to serve this country.” 

Though the Army had known as for simply 1,500 Nisei volunteers from Hawaii, almost 10,000 flooded the Selective Service workplaces. There have been so many keen volunteers, most of the workplaces didn’t have sufficient typewriters to deal with all of the paperwork. 

For Miho, his determination to affix was about honor. Though his older brother tried to speak him out of it, Miho insisted that he had no alternative. It wasn’t a matter of non-public alternative, however “the Japanese ethics their father had taught them,” Brown writes. “Even though the enemy now was Japan itself.” 

Like lots of their fellow Nisei recruits, they knew that their faces and final names steered an affinity with the enemy. But, writes Brown, “they were determined to prove that they were as American as the next Joe and just as eager to fight.” 

When the villagers of Bruyères, a city in northeastern France, emerged from their houses to thank the American soldiers who’d liberated them from Nazi occupation in mid-October of 1944, they have been initially confused. The Asian faces of the 442nd weren’t what they’d been anticipating. 

They started exclaiming, “Chinois! Chinois!” 

The soldiers tried to clarify. “No, no, Americans. Japanese Americans!” 

“The French looked at one another, clearly baffled, but nobody really cared,” writes Brown. 

“Young women, old men, children, utter strangers, ran to the men, embraced them, kissed them on both cheeks. Old men brought out bottles of wine and strings of sausages and offered them to their liberators, patting them on the back.” 

Rudy Tokiwa, received the Bronze Star for his bravery during the war, but was haunted by memories of shooting a German soldier.
Rudy Tokiwa, acquired the Bronze Star for his bravery in the course of the war, however was haunted by recollections of taking pictures a German soldier.
Courtesy of the Tokiwa Family Collection

It took 10 brutal days of preventing for the 442nd to liberate Bruyères and the close by city of Biffontaine, and the worst was nonetheless forward. The 141st Regiment, a battalion of Texans, was surrounded by Germans in the Vosges mountains, and the one hope for survival was a rescue mission. 

The 442nd someway pushed by in opposition to insurmountable odds, going through an onslaught of German tanks, grenades and machine weapons to save lots of their seemingly doomed fellow countrymen, initially dubbed — with out a lot optimism — “the Lost Battalion.” 

Fred Shiosaki, who fought in the battle, recalled “shooting at anything that moved out in front of him, firing reflexively, on instinct,” writes Brown, who spoke extensively with Shiosaki and different 442nd survivors. (Shiosaki, one of many final residing members of the 442nd, died on April 10 of this yr.) 

“He was beyond thinking now, except for one overwhelming thought, an absolute conviction: He had to kill these bastards before they could kill him,” Brown writes. “Nothing else mattered.” 

The toll was each bodily and psychological. Shiosaki wasn’t killed, however he was hit with a jagged piece of metal shrapnel, which embedded in his stomach. A fellow soldier crawled over, pulled the shrapnel out, and rapidly bandaged the wound. Within seconds, Shiosaki was again in the battle. 

Just as traumatizing have been the horrors the Nisei witnessed. Rudy Tokiwa, a 442nd vet who acquired the Bronze Star for his bravery in the course of the war, was haunted by recollections of taking pictures a German soldier solely to find later, whereas analyzing the physique, that the person he’d killed was carrying photographs of his youngsters. 

“I wonder,” Tokiwa thought, “when I get out of this, if I do, whether I’ll be a human being.” 

The Germans have been defeated and the Lost Battalion was saved, nevertheless it got here at an infinite price. The 442nd misplaced 800 males in a battle to rescue 211 Texans. 

Even the highest brass didn’t totally comprehend the extent of the sacrifice. In mid-November of 1944, Gen. John E. Dahlquist, who commanded the division, ordered the whole 442nd to face in formation for a recognition and award ceremony. When solely 17 confirmed up, Dahlquist grew to become irritated. 

“Colonel, I told you to have the whole regiment out here,” he barked. 

The Colonel turned to him and with a wavering voice croaked, “General, this is the regiment. This is all I have left.” 

Facing the Mountain

“Dahlquist fell silent,” Brown writes. “Apparently, this was the first time he fully realized the magnitude of the price the Nisei had paid to rescue the Texans.” 

Though the Nisei soldiers of the 442nd didn’t danger all of it for glory, they honor it in the oddest locations. Just weeks after their historic battles, the survivors have been at a movie show in Nice, on the French Riviera, the place newsreels have been already that includes the rescue of the Lost Battalion. This was the primary time they’d seen themselves portrayed as heroes. It was a weird expertise, particularly after so a few years of being known as “Japs” and watching their households dragged away to camps. 

The viewers “burst into applause and then patted the men on the back and shook their hands as they filed out of the theaters,” Brown writes. “The Nisei were fast becoming celebrities in France.” 

But in all probability essentially the most significant reward got here from their fellow soldiers, the Texans who shouted out “Thank you!” and “We love you!” once they noticed the Nisei marching towards them by the smoke. 

Martin Higgins, a primary lieutenant for the 141st Regiment, mentioned he felt chills run down his backbone when he noticed the 442nd strategy. Though the Nisei have been usually smaller than different American soldiers, with the legs of their pants bunched up round their ankles, “They looked like giants to us,” Higgins mentioned. 

The greatest praise, which Rudy Tokiwa overheard as he and his fellow Nisei navy males greeted the Texans after the battle, was uttered by one of many surviving Lost Battalion soldiers. 

“Hey, kids,” he shouted, a cigarette danging from his mouth. “Some balls you got. We thought we was all dead and gone.”

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