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"I Am An American!"

The true story of the Nisei Warriors of World War II

 

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"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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"WHEREAS the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to nation-defence...I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War...to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he...may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Executive Order No. 9066, Feb 19, 1942


Innocently sounding enough, Executive Order No. 9066 granted military Authorities the power to declare entire regions to be "military areas" and to take whatever steps were necessary to "remove" from the area any persons thought to be a sabotage or espionage threat.   It was a "relocation" provision designed to move Japanese American citizens from their homes, mostly in Hawaii and on the west coast, to controlled areas... specifically, hastily constructed camps surrounded by barbed wire, gun towers, and guards with orders to shoot anyone trying to escape.

The headlines in the "San Francisco Examiner" aptly interpreted the true meaning of Executive Order No. 9066 with headlines that read:

"Ouster of All Japs in California Near!"

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"I am an American" became the cry of thousands of citizens of Japanese origin, many of them posting signs on their homes and businesses to combat the hysteria and prejudice following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The cry went largely unheeded.  From March to May more than 110,000 American citizens were uprooted from their homes and moved to "relocation camps" in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, California, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.   Businesses were lost, homes sold quickly and far below market value, families were separated, privacy and dignity stripped from men, women and children...all because of the color of their skin and the origin of their ethnic heritage.  Persons with as little as one-sixth Japanese heritage...even Japanese children raised in white foster homes...fell into the category of "potential threats to national security."   During one Congressional hearing on the matter a Japanese-American asked,

 

"Has the Gestapo come to America?"

.

 

October 30, 1944
France

 

Sergeant Edward Guy knew how it felt to be a prisoner...had lived the life of confinement for the last seven days.   There was no barbed wire to confine him, no gun tower to prevent his escape...only 700 German soldiers that had built a wall of death around his unit, the 1st Battalion, 141st Regiment, 36th Infantry Division.

A week earlier the 275 man battalion had dug in on the heavily wooded hillside in the rugged Vosages Mountains.   Suddenly surrounded, they were cut off from all support, alone, and without food and water.  That first night a message had been sent to regimental headquarters to report their situation.  The coded message read:

"No rations, no water, no communications with headquarters...four litter cases."

A 36-man patrol had been sent out early on, only 5 of the men came back.  The soldiers were hungry, thirsty, cold, and alone.  The battalion had been whittled down to 211 men who would become known as the soldiers of the "Lost Battalion".

The men of the 36th Infantry were no strangers to heroism.  Their campaign in Italy had yielded heroes the like of Commando Kelly, Jim Logan, and William Crawford.  Perhaps it was the example of men of valor such as these that had sustained the 211 survivors of the "Lost Battalion" for a full week.  But time was running out as quickly as was ammunition.  Sergeant Guy knew that his beleagured soldiers needed more than courage if they were to survive...they needed a miracle.

 

 

Peering through the early morning mist from his outpost, Sergeant Guy noticed movement.  He gripped his rifle firmly and strained his eyes against the fog, prepared to go down fighting.   Slowly the image of a soldier approaching his position began to take shape.   In the distance the man seemed quite small.  Even as he continued up the hill, closer to Sergeant Guy's position, his stature grew only slightly. 

The approaching soldier was close enough now for Sergeant Guy to recognize the uniform.  Then he noticed the eyes, the oval eyes of oriental heritage.  It was a Japanese soldier in an American uniform.  A feeling of euphoria swept over the exhausted sergeant.  He'd seen these soldiers before, Nisei warriors of the Japanese-American unit that lived by the motto "Go For Broke". 

The Lost Battalion had got its miracle...all the way from Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The greatest degree of courage comes out of adversity.   Rising from the pain of prejudice, American citizens of Japanese heritage demonstrated their love for their Country in World War II with unprecedented patriotism and valor.  On June 21, 2000...more than fifty years after the end of World War II, President Clinton presented Medals of Honor to 22 of them...most from the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team that had established a historic record of military accomplishments including the rescue of the Lost Battalion. 

This Is Their Story.

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