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"I Am An American!"
The true story of the Nisei
Warriors of World War II
"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."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
"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!"
"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,
the Gestapo come to America?"
October 30, 1944
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.