Friday, April 20, 2012

Nisei soldiers

Coincidently, our discussing of Japanese internment has coincided with a reading I did for my Women in US History course here at Scripps. The book was Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone, and it's about the author's experience growing up as a first generation Japanese women in Seattle; including her experience during World War II and internment. Not only did I find a connection between the general themes and context of this book with the material we have looked at, but there have also been smaller details in the book that connect with our readings. For one, there is the idea of young Japanese- American men fighting for the US. In our discussion yesterday on the two short stories by Hisaye Yamamoto, Professor Delmont mentioned that the author had a brother who died fighting for the US army in Italy. Interestingly, in Sone's autobiography, her brother is recruited into the army while her family is living in an internment camp. However, in the book, it is clear that this "recruitment" is not voluntary. Sone describes the experience as officers entering the camps and giving the young men the option of enlisting, but that if they didn't it would be proof of their loyalties to Japan. Because of this, many young men felt as if they had either no choice, or (in the case of Sone's brother) they wanted to prove their patriotism.  As Sone's brother is overseas fighting, his family remains locked up in an internment camp. To me, this further proves how outrageous this exclusion really was. For the US government to allow these men to risk their lives, and end others' for our country, and yet their parents remain trapped - their homes and possessions acquired by the state- is mind-blowing. 

Although Nisei men were welcome into the army, they were separated into their own combat unit called the 44nd Regimental Combat Team. Ironically, they were the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces. 486 Purple Hearts, among hundreds of other awards. 

Cue the educational video

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