The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 13: The 442nd Regimental Combat Team
The 442nd in France in late 1944; image courtesy of US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Following the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7th of 1941, many patriotic Japanese American citizens wanted to enlist in the armed forces. It wasn’t long, however, because of anti-Japanese hysteria, that their Selective Service classification as IV-C, Enemy Aliens, made them ineligible for service. But a year later in January of 1943, following the fiasco of the internment camps and the government’s realization that Japanese Americans posed no threat to the homeland, news came down from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson: “The War Department announced today that plans have been completed for the admission of American citizens of Japanese ancestry to the Army of the United States….” Simultaneously, there was a decision to allow Japanese civilians to work in war-related industries.
The unit formed by the army for Japanese Americans (exclusively) was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In the case of the Tule Lake internment camp, recruits headed first to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, where they were formally inducted into the Army. From there they traveled to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, for training. Beginning in 1944, the 442nd began serving in Italy, southern France, and Germany. When the war in Europe ended, for its size and length of service, the 442nd became the most highly decorated unit in American military history, with 18,000 medals.
Americans back home read in their newspapers about the unit’s bravery and sacrifices. In no small measure, the heroic, patriotic actions of those Japanese-American soldiers countered the suspicions, fears, and racism of those who had lobbied to have Japanese Americans interned.
Interesting aside: The motto of the 442nd was “Go for Broke.” That slogan became the title for the 1951 Hollywood movie starring Van Johnson, as well as several veterans of the 442nd.
Up next: The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 14: War’s End.
Feel free to share this blog. E-mail (email@example.com) me if you have any questions.
Stories you can listen to, #13: Heaven First
In my continuing series of short stories, Heaven First is sentimental and schmalzy. I may be wrong, but I think I got the idea for the approach for this story from a James Bond book; after a dinner party, Bond hears the fascinating story about a guest who had been sitting next to him. If you like relationship stories, particularly one having a heartbreaking, yet fulfilling, ending, you’ll like this one.
Click here to either listen to or read the story.
Feel free to share this blog and e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
Stories from My Life: Lessons learned from inside Nittany 40 at Penn State
Photo courtesy of www.libraries.psu.edu
During my first year at Pennsylvania State University in 1963/64, I stayed in Nittany Halls, also known as Nittany Barracks. These structures (built after World War II to accommodate the influx of returning GIs) were spartan and small. Sometime after I left Nittany, rooms became “singles.” But while I was there, everyone had roommates. Here are five things I learned during my nine month’s stay at Nittany 40.
Lesson # 1: Nicknames can change your life, if only temporarily.
I have no memory of how it came to be, but soon after I arrived at Penn State, I became known as “Pablo,” and only by the people in my dormitory, and only for that school year. That name became so entrenched that, once, when my parents tried to reach me on the dormitory phone, they were told there was no one there by the name of Paul. I never had a nickname before Nittany 40, nor afterward.
Lesson #2: When you’re in a state of duress or under pressure, common sense can leave you.
As often happened, guys in the dorm would horse around. On one occasion, several chased this one fellow into his room and locked the door from the outside, using his own room key. This poor fellow then proceeded to bang on the door, saying things like “Let me out of here; I’ll get you guys for this.” This went on, I’d say, for a good 5-10 minutes when, suddenly, at a much lower volume, came another exclamation, “Oh.” He then unlocked the door from the inside (no key necessary) and walked out, much to his embarrassment.
Lesson: #3: There are people who are selfless and will always fight against injustice.
There are bullies now, and there were bullies then. I saw them in grade school, in high school, and again in Nittany 40. One day, one who must have targeted me as an easy mark, proceeded to deride my mother, saying nasty things about her.
A fellow dormitory student was there to witness this provocation. I knew him, but not so much that I would call him a friend. After the bully left, he told me that what the bully had done was wrong and—and to my astonishment—that he would go with me to take care of this problem. I remember declining his offer. To me, it made no sense to get into a fight from which I could easily walk away from. Plus, I was a small guy who wouldn’t have stood much of a chance. But, what he was suggesting was clear, that we would go and beat the crap out of this guy. To this day, I fondly remember his sincere offer–odd as it was–to seek retribution.
Lesson #4: I learned that, if necessary, I had the tenacity to stand up for myself and not back down.
My roommate was a “character” and, after reading this, you will no doubt conclude that I was one too. For a reason that escapes me now, my roommate did something to offend me, and it was necessary that I get back at him. So, I took something of his and hid it.
My roommate then proceeded to create a torture machine to get me to talk. I had the top bunk bed, and there was a bookshelf adjacent to my pillow. He took his desk light (you remember the old style, with a single bulb) and angled it so that it glared onto my head all night long. If I quietly turned it off, he just as quickly was on his feet to turn it back on. This went on for weeks, if not months. Somehow the situation eventually resolved itself, but I am still proud of how long I remained steadfast.
Lesson #5: It is possible to re-enter a dream after waking.
I tried to schedule early morning classes so that I could nap in the afternoon. I’d then stay up until one in the morning studying. One afternoon in the spring of 1964, I had a spectacular dream that I didn’t want to end. After waking, I decided to go back to sleep to try to continue the dream. I did and repeated this procedure several times, using up most of the afternoon to complete the dream. I’ve had other good dreams in my life, but never one as vivid and relentless as this one.
You’re wondering about the dream? Basically, I found myself in a chase movie, with me being the one hunted. I remember having to kill several of the bad guys in my attempts at escape.
If you ever lived in Nittany Halls at Penn State, please drop me a line (email@example.com) with your experiences.
The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 12: Yes/Yes or No/No?
Significant news came from the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson at the end of January 1943. “The War Department announced today that plans have been completed for the admission of American citizens of Japanese ancestry to the Army of the United States….” In addition, there was a simultaneous decision to allow Japanese citizens to… View Article
Stories you can listen to, #12: Millie’s Dilemma
In my continuing series of short stories, Millie’s Dilemma could best be described as a fantasy. It is probably the most esoteric and abstruse (read: strange) story I’ve written. Along with her boyfriend, Millie has participated in a crime that involves the very jewelry story in which she works. The two of them are now… View Article
Japanese American Citizens League forum on “Gaman”
I had the good fortune to be invited to a special function sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in Monterey on the 17th of May. To the left in the above photograph are the four panelists: Marie Mutsuki Mockett, yours truly, Luis Valdez, and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. To the right… View Article
Book signings are always fun!
More happy customers! This picture was taken this past Sunday at the Barnes and Noble at the Almaden Plaza Shopping Center in San Jose. It was a successful signing event; we sold all of the books the store ordered.
The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 11: Internal Resistance and the JACL
Life in the internment camps was difficult, unpleasant at best. Although most Japanese accepted their plight with traditional resolve, not everyone was content to suffer in quiet. In particular, much of the discontent emanated from the Japanese American Citizens League’s (JACL) role in the internment process. Founded in 1929, the JACL was formed to advocate… View Article
Stories from My Life: Grandparents from Russia, the Depression, and Costco Blueberries
Image, Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons My grandparents on my mother’s side, Fred and Molly Kern, emigrated from Russia in 1913. They didn’t consider themselves Russian. They spoke German and came from a German region. The story goes that Grandpa and Grandma stole away in the middle of the night because Grandpa’s family would… View Article
The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 10: Life at Tule Lake
As depicted in the above photograph (courtesy of Densho; see note below) of a plaque set in May of 1979, the Tule Lake interment camp was operational from May of 1942 until March of 1946. It had the capability to house over 18,000 Japanese Americans. Life at Tule Lake was trying. Basic accommodations and monotonous… View Article