Reading and Viewing Corner: Reviews of 442nd RCT-related books and media
Nov 2017 edition
My Life’s Journey, a memoir
Ted T. Tsukiyama, Watermark Publishing, 2017.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention that Ted Tsukiyama is one of my real-life heroes. I’ve only known Ted for a few years, but I feel that he epitomizes the values of the Nisei soldiers of World War II and of those veterans that were fortunate enough to return from the War and who made the contributions that they made to society here in Hawaii and across America.
Ted was a member of the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV), the group of University of Hawaii Reserve Officer Training Corps members that were mobilized as part of the Hawaii Territorial Guard and helped defend Oahu after the attack on Pearl Harbor, only to be unceremoniously dismissed by the Army a few weeks later. They then volunteered their services to perform construction labor for the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks and worked hard for 11 months, until the Army called for volunteers to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943.
Their hard work to contribute to the War effort and prove their loyalty to the United States during the period of suspicion and mistrust of Issei and Japanese Americans was noted by people like Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and had a positive impact on the decision to allow Japanese Americans to serve in the Army.
Due to Ted’s Japanese language capability, he was selected to join the Military Intelligence Service and served in Burma and India as an intelligence operative, listening for Japanese aviation radio messages for useful information. After the War, he became the first Japanese American student at Yale Law School and upon earning his law degree began a law career in Hawaii. He gravitated to labor law and became internationally acclaimed in labor negotiation and arbitration.
In these memoirs, Ted describes his family’s immigration story and growing up as a young Nisei in multicultural Hawaii. He writes with great pride about his family and his passion for bonsai. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays by the Japanese government for his contributions to promoting bonsai and cultural exchange and friendship between the U.S. and Japan.
Ted also served as a historian and documenter of the Nisei veteran experience. His photos of the work of the VVV are the primary record of their work building facilities for the Army. He wrote numerous articles and gave speeches about the War and the background behind the efforts to ensure that the Japanese American in Hawaii were not incarcerated en masse as happened on the West Coast of the Mainland. His papers are now in a collection at the University of Hawaii Archives, available for future generations to learn about Hawaii during and after the War.
Through my discussions with Ted, often over bento and a beer on his porch in Manoa, I learned about many of the high points of his illustrious life. This wonderfully written account of his life fills in many of the details and gives me an even greater appreciation for his contributions to our lives here in Hawaii today.
Reviewed by S&D member BY.
Sept 2017 edition
Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd.
Masayo Duus (translated by Peter Duus). University of Hawaii Press, 1987 (English translation).
Based on extensive research in War Department archives and nearly three hundred interviews with veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the book focuses on the war experience of these units in Europe during World War II. It originally appeared in serialized form in Japanese. It was subsequently translated into English and printed in the U.S.
The author begins her story with the formation of these Japanese American Army units and recounts their experiences in training and during the early battles in Italy. The final part of the story focuses on the battle in the Vosges forest of France where the 442nd fought fiercely to rescue the “Lost Battalion” of Texans cut off by the enemy.
The Nisei soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, as sons of Japanese immigrants, were not trusted to fight in the Pacific and were sent instead to the European theater where they demonstrated great heroism and bravery in winning battle after battle. In doing so, they provided ample evidence of their patriotism to a country that had questioned their loyalty. This book is a tribute to those men, who by their heroism reestablished for all Japanese Americans their personal dignity as full citizens of the U.S.
About the Author: Masayo Umezawa Duus was born in 1938 in Hokkaido, Japan and graduated from Waseda University. She has lived in the U.S. for many years and authored several books and was a regular contributor to Japanese newspapers and magazines. She is an Honorary Member of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club. You can see her picture on the wall of honor at the 100th clubhouse. She resides in Stanford, California.
Reviewed by S&D member BY.
July 2017 edition
Boyhood to War: History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Authored by Dorothy Matsuo, Mutual Publishing of Honolulu, 1992.
This is a “must read” for descendants of Nisei soldiers, especially for those whose fathers or grandfathers didn’t like to talk about their war experience. The book provides an insight into the early social history of the Japanese immigration to Hawaii and the early life experiences of the Nisei leading up to World War II. Then it chronicles the early days of war and the strong sentiment that developed among most of the Nisei in Hawaii that they wanted to prove their loyalty to the United States.
There are many first person accounts of the Nisei soldiers’ experiences during the training at Camp Shelby and the various battles and campaigns that the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team experienced. The overarching story is supplemented by these personal vignettes. The project contributors are listed at the back of the book by unit so you can easily find if your family member participated or perhaps which ones of his chapter buddies did.
Through this approach, the reader gets a very personalized view of the war experience, whether seen through the eyes of a frontline infantry man or from the perspective of an artillery man or jeep driver.
The author provides an organizational chart of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team which clearly shows the command structure and where all the sub-units belonged in the chain of command. The last sections of the book cover each of the major sub-units and describes what their roles were along with providing stories of the individuals within those sub-units. It provides an insight into why the veterans had such a strong affiliation with their units after the war due to their common experiences and why their esprit de corps lasted for the rest of their lives.
I came away with a deepened appreciation for what these men did during the war and how their experiences helped shape the rest of their lives. We descendants are the lucky ones whose fathers got to come back. Otherwise most of us wouldn’t be here. Reviewed by S&D member BY.
About the Author: Dorothy Matsuo, Ed. D., was a sansei teenager in Honolulu when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. She experienced the desperateness of being Japanese American in those early days of World War II. For her doctorate in educational administration, she researched the value orientation of Japanese American educational administrators, and compared them with those of white administrators. Being married to a 442nd medic, she attended numerous 442nd functions, heard their war stories and became determined to document this incredible story.
Dedication: “This book is dedicated to the sons and daughters and the generations to follow, who inherit the Nisei’s legacy built with blood and sweat. Many men died to establish Americanism, not as a matter of skin color, but of mind and spirit. We hope the younger generations will be inspired by the history of their Nisei forefathers to protect and enhance the legacy they have inherited…and keep the torch of racial equality and harmony burning brightly and eternally for all races.”
An Internment Odyssey – Haisho Tenten. Authored by Suikei Furuya, translated by Tatsumi Hayashi, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, 2017.
Kumaji Furuya was one of the Hawaii Issei arrested by the FBI on December 7, 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a leader in the Japanese business community and an officer of the Honolulu United Japanese Society and of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. First held at the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) station in Honolulu, Mr. Furuya then was moved to the Sand Island detention camp. From Hawaii, he was transferred to the mainland along with other Hawaii incarcerees and was to spend over four and a half years at incarceration sites in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri and New Mexico before beginning the journey back to Hawaii.
From 1961 to 1963, Mr. Furuya wrote close to 200 short articles in Japanese about his experiences under the pen name Suikei Furuya that were printed in the Hawaii Times publication. The articles were the basis for a book called Haisho Tenten that was published in 1964. This book is now translated into English by Tatsumi Hayashi through the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
The writings of Mr. Furuya provides you the reader an intimate and detailed look into the experiences of a man incarcerated on Dec. 7, 1941 up to his return to Honolulu in November 1945. Being led by flashlight to be locked in a room at the INS office in Honolulu; descriptions of life at the Sand Island detention camp; softball games at Camp McCoy and other camps; and troubles with younger incarcerees who exhibited loyalty to the militaristic policies of wartime Japan. This is a very readable book for anyone with interest in the history of Hawaii and the experiences of Hawaii Issei and Nisei who were incarcerated during World War II simply for being of Japanese ancestry. Reviewed by S&D member JI.