How do you serve a country that has stripped you of your rights, questioned your loyalty, and placed you in some of the harshest conditions known to man? For tens of thousands of Japanese-American soldiers in WW2, these were themes that haunted their time serving America. Those who served the United States during World War II did so admirably, even when the country they called home was not acting in good faith towards all of its citizens.
Japanese-American WW2 Soldiers Served Under Difficult Conditions
The months following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor did much to inspire patriotism throughout the United States. Unfortunately, patriotism left to run amok can all too often become nationalism, and where there are nationalists, there are racial overtones that can blind people from doing what is right.
Fear swept throughout the country after Pearl Harbor, and the effects were felt heavily on the western side of the U.S., where many Japanese-Americans were living. President Roosevelt would issue an executive order that plunged America and the many Asian-Americans effected by the order into a dark time in history. Around 120,000 Japanese-Americans were brought into internment camps and forced to give up their homes, possessions, jobs, and lives to live in prisons.
It is hard to say exactly how each individual felt, but complicated doesn’t even begin to explain what would go on within Japanese-American communities as a result of the internment camps. The government wanted to be sure that these people could be trusted, and at the same time, the U.S. was suffering heavy casualties in the Pacific theater. Surveys were conducted, and many prisoners were given the opportunity to test their loyalty through the draft and volunteering for service.
People like Joseph Ichiuji saw an opportunity to prove their loyalty, but many Japanese-Americans still faced issues in America that reached back from before the Second World War. To put things simply, America did not treat Japanese immigrants well, and the panic featured after the Pearl Harbor attack only amplified these sentiments. WW2 Japanese-American soldiers had to fight for America in Europe and Asia while fighting for a place in America back home.
The American Nisei Regiments
The word “Nisei” refers to the child of a Japanese immigrant that was born in America. It may also refer to a second-generation person of Japanese descent in Canada, as well. The American Nisei Regiments, specifically the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the U.S. Army, would go on to become some of the most decorated regiments in the history of the Armed Forces while winning battles all across the world.
Nisei were persecuted, harassed, banned, and arrested due to their race. Remember, while it’s a terrible proposition for anyone, these were American-born people who knew nothing of Japan other than through their lineage. America was their home, and many were inspired to defend it even though it meant pitting them against the nation responsible for their bloodline. Still, the Nisei would have to work much harder to earn a fair seat at the table and prove their loyalty and right to serve in the Armed Forces. In the end, these Japanese-American soldiers served in WW2 honorably and helped save the world from unspeakable evils.
Suggested read: 5 Asian-American War Heroes We Should’ve Learned About in School
How Many Japanese-American Soldiers Died in WW2?
The Japanese-American soldiers who fought WWII enemies abroad would suffer around 800 casualties out of the estimated 33,000 who served. WWII Japanese-American soldiers sacrificed more than they bargained for, and several hundred of them would even give their lives. Their sacrifices on the battlefield would help free the prisoners of Dachau, win battles in Italy, and help turn the tide of war in the Pacific theater.
Japanese-American WW2 Soldiers Defended Our Rights Even While Losing Theirs
Japanese-American soldiers in WW2 were tasked with defending freedom, justice, and liberty – all things that were wrongfully stripped of them during the war and not exactly provided equally even before any bullets were fired. We all owe the Veterans of WWII a debt that can never fully be paid, but those who were of Japanese-American descent deserve extra consideration for the pain they suffered at the hands of our government. There isn’t a way to go back in time to fix things, but hopefully, continued recognition can help heal some of the wounds caused by both the battlefield and conditions back home at the time.
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