‘Facing the Mountain’ by Daniel James Brown

“The 442nd Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment of the United States Army. The regiment is best known as the most decorated in U. S. military history and as a fighting unit composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (Nisei) who fought in World War II.” – Wikipedia

Daniel James Brown’s highly readable, deeply researched, and illustrated with maps and photograps book Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II tells the heartbreaking and glorious story of second generation Japanese Americans who, though reviled by many Americans and thrown into concentration camps by the President while their homes and personal property were confiscated, rose up and did their duty, as they saw it, to become one of the United States’ most effective and feared regiments fighting the Germans. Their motto was “Go for Broke.”

The book is strongly personal because it follows an ensemble cast of characters throughout the shock of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the ordeal of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that relocated without probable cause 120,000 Japanese Americans, 2/3 of whom were native born American citizens, into POW camps, and the decision by over 12,000 of the men to join the Army and fight for their country in spite of that their country had done to them.

From the Publisher

They came from across the continent and Hawai‘i. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of America. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. And within months many would themselves be living behind barbed wire.

Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Daniel James Brown’s extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese-American families and their sons, who volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were deployed to France, Germany, and Italy, where they were asked to do the near impossible.

But this is more than a war story. Brown also tells the story of these soldiers’ parents, immigrants who were forced to shutter the businesses, surrender their homes, and submit to life in concentration camps on U.S. soil. Woven throughout is the chronicle of a brave young man, one of a cadre of patriotic resisters who stood up against their government in defense of their own rights. Whether fighting on battlefields or in courtrooms, these were Americans under unprecedented strain, doing what Americans do best–striving, resisting, pushing back, rising up, standing on principle, laying down their lives, and enduring.

This story falls into the rather large category of history that most of us did not learn in our high school American history classes. That adds insult to injury. In one sense, Brown’s book is an apolgy. In another sense, it sets the record straight for all who will listen.

Malcolm

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