This Week's Story

Japanese-American soldiers fight bravely and die in the U.S. 442 Regimental Combat Team, while many of their families are in U.S. internment camps.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

I am an American! part two

“Mom, do you remember hearing about Yasutaka? He was my student, when I taught at the Manzanar internment camp. He joined the army and was in a special unit for Japanese Americans. Last week he marched with the 442nd R. C. T. in Washington D.C., and President Truman presented them with a Presidential Unit Citation.”

“Whatever for? I should think your student would be glad the war is over, and go home. Did you know our former neighbors, the Hanadas, finally got their furniture out of our garage? Your dad and I stored it while they were held with other Japs at Manzanar for two and a half years.”

“Yes, Mom, I know.”

Mom drives me nuts the way she mixes kindness and prejudice. She thoughtfully stored the Hanada’s furniture, yet she uses words like “Jap” and has no interest in Yasutaka. When he was sixteen years old, the same age as my brother, the United States government treated him like an enemy, just because he was a Japanese American. She thought the forced internment of Japanese, whether or not they were citizens, was good. She’d say, “That should help keep America safe.”

Later, I told her that Yasutaka was serving proudly in the 442nd. She asked, “So, does that matter?”

I told her, “His unit was segregated to have almost only Japanese Americans. Many of their families were sent to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. Yet, the unit is famous for its bravery and effectiveness in combat amidst horrific casualty rates. The men fought proudly as Americans. It’s tragic what General DeWitt, head of the internment camps said to Congress about Japanese people living in the United States, ‘I don’t want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty….’

“Mom, Yasutaka was wounded in France when his unit rescued over 200 American soldiers from Texas. The Texans were trapped in the Vosges Mountains, and surrounded by German troops. After five days of hideous combat the 442nd broke through the German lines.”

Mom replied, “I’m glad the Texan soldiers were saved.”

Now I’m glad for news coverage of the parade and award ceremony. For its size and length of service the 442nd, which includes the amazing 100th Battalion, has earned more awards in the war than any other military unit in the history of the United States. The 100th is called the Purple Heart Battalion, because almost everyone in it was wounded.

I heard that the awards ceremony came close to being cancelled at the suggestion of White House aides. The President asked, “Why? Because it’s raining?”

“Yes, Mr. President. It is not weather for a parade. People packing the sidewalks will get soaked, even with umbrellas. The soldiers will be drenched as they march.”

With disgust President Truman replied, “The rain is nothing compared to what the boys had to endure in combat.”

The boys marched, about 500 of them before President Truman on July 15, 1946. To the soldiers of the 442 Regimental Combat Team/100th Battalion President Truman declared, “You have fought not only the enemy, but you’ve fought prejudice; and you’ve won!”

I agree. These men proved that they were not sneaking enemies living in the United States. They were American citizens, Japanese-American citizens, willing to fight for their country.

Yasutaka, the mother, and teacher in this story are fictitious. However, they are similar to people I researched through interviews, reading, and travel. Other historical details are accurate. A total of 33,000 Japanese-Americans, men and women, served in the United States Armed Forces in World War II.

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