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Tanaka, Chester. Go for Broke. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1997. (Reprint of 1982 edition originally published by Go For Broke, Inc.)
Order of Battle; Author's Note; Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross; Acknowledgments; Introduction; photos; maps; photos; References.
Crost, Lyn. Honor by Fire: Japanese Americans at War in Europe and the Pacific. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1994.
Acknowledgments; Preface; photos; maps; Endnotes; Selected Bibliography; Index.
This pair of titles from Presidio goes far toward offering a complete picture of the wartime military record of Japanese Americans, both in the relatively well-known 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe as well as service in the more obscure Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific.
The first book, Tanaka's Go for Broke, focuses entirely on the 100th and 442nd while Crost's Honor by Fire takes a broader view of Japanese Americans in the military. (Neither title covers in more than passing the forced relocation of Americans of Japanese ancestry to internment camps.)
Tanaka, a decorated veteran of the 3rd Battalion of the 442nd, has written a rather nostalgic, affectionate account of his old unit with a large number of photos and many sidebars contributed by his old comrades in arms.
Crost's is more of a journalistic account, although she occasionally slips into familiarity and reminisces about the men she has known for over half a century.
Both books discuss the formation of the Japanese American units, the suspicions and prejudice they had to overcome, their training, and their sterling record in combat in Italy and France. Both distinguish between the "buddaheads" from Hawaii and the "kotonks" from the mainland, although the accounts are not always entirely in synch.
The 442d Combat Team left Anzio on the 9th and arrived at Civitavecchia, north of Rome, on the 10th. The Germans were dug in a few miles away. The 442d was attached to the 34th "Red Bull" Division. The 100th Infantry Battalion, which had been assigned to the 34th Division, now became attached to the 442d Regimental Combat Team, taking the place of the 1st Battalion left behind in Camp Shelby.
Because of its distinguished record through nearly nine months of bitter fighting, the 100th Battalion was allowed to retain its original designation in this new combination. The Nisei fighting unit was officially known as 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team....
Crost devotes more than half of Honor by Fire to MIS operations in the Pacific. Japanese Americans in these units were responsible for a variety of important tasks such as interrogating POWs, translating enemy documents, preparing Psychological Warfare material, eavesdropping on Japanese communications frequencies, and so on.
By the time the 100th Infantry Battalion reached the U.S. mainland in June 1942 to train at Wisconsin's Camp McCoy, Japanese Americans of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) had begun spreading through the Pacific to fight with a special skill of crucial importance: knowledge of the Japanese language. Hundreds were termed Kibei-- American-born Japanese who received their education in Japan but returned to the United States. Most of these men were also Nisei-- the first generation of Japanese born in the United States. They would be the eyes and ears of Allied forces around the world. Those who claimed that Japanese Americans would never fight "their own people" had never heard about the MISers, as they called themselves. Japan never guessed they existed, and they remained an American weapon of utmost secrecy.
While neither of these volumes qualifies as rigorous, scholarly history, both are quite interesting, popular accounts and complement each other very nicely in presenting the story of the fighting Japanese Americans.
Available from mail order booksellers, local bookstores, or directly from Presidio.
Thanks to Presidio Press for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 19 June 1997
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