One of the last, great untold stories of World War II—kept hidden for decades—even after most of the World War II records were declassified in 1972, many of the files remained untouched in various archives—a gripping true tale of courage and adventure from Bruce Henderson, master storyteller, historian, and New York Times best-selling author of Sons and Soldiers—the saga of the Japanese American U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the Pacific theater, in Burma, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, with their families back home in America, under U.S. Executive Order 9066, held behind barbed wire in government internment camps.
After Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military was desperate to find Americans who spoke Japanese to serve in the Pacific war. They soon turned to the Nisei—first-generation U.S. citizens whose parents were immigrants from Japan. Eager to prove their loyalty to America, several thousand Nisei—many of them volunteering from the internment camps where they were being held behind barbed wire—were selected by the Army for top-secret training, then were rushed to the Pacific theater. Highly valued as expert translators and interrogators, these Japanese American soldiers operated in elite intelligence teams alongside Army infantrymen and Marines on the front lines of the Pacific war, from Iwo Jima to Burma, from the Solomons to Okinawa.
Henderson reveals, in riveting detail, the harrowing untold story of the Nisei and their major contributions in the war of the Pacific, through six Japanese American soldiers. After the war, these soldiers became translators and interrogators for war crime trials, and later helped to rebuild Japan as a modern democracy and a pivotal U.S. ally.
This exceptional history documents the crucial part played by Japanese American soldiers and interpreters in the Pacific theater of WWII. According to historian Henderson (Sons and Soldiers), the training and deployment of first-generation Japanese Americans, or Nisei, was one of the best kept secrets of the war. Many were recruited from internment camps, where their families had been sent by President Roosevelt's controversial executive order. The highest-prized recruits were those, like Purple Heart recipient Kazuo Komoto, who had returned to the U.S. after being sent to Japan by their families for schooling. Henderson notes that the program was strictly classified because Japanese war planners, believing their language "so complex that few Westerners would fully understand it," sent many communications uncoded, giving U.S. forces a crucial advantage. Throughout, Henderson enriches his sweeping overview of the Pacific campaign with intimate profiles of Tom Sakamoto, one of only three Japanese Americans to witness Japan's 1945 surrender aboard the USS Missouri, and other Nisei soldiers who made vital contributions to American victories at Iwo Jima, Leyte, and elsewhere. The result is a stirring tribute to the courage and sacrifice of young men who exemplified "the true definition of patriotism."