Bridge to the Sun: The Secret Role of the Japanese Americans Who Fought in the Pacific in World War II

Knopf. Sept. 2022. 480p. ISBN 9780525655817. $35. MILITARY HISTORY
In this clearly written tale of patriotism and resilience based on archival research and interviews, Henderson (Rescue at Los Banos) sketches the life stories of Japanese Americans who waged a war against racial prejudice at home and fascism abroad by serving as interpreters, translators, and soldiers. Among the 31,000 Nisei (U.S.-born children of Japanese immigrants) who actively participated in World War II, mostly in Europe (see James McCaffrey’s Going for Broke), Henderson emphasizes the often forgotten 3000 (including several hundred WACs and Army nurses) who fought in the Pacific Theatre. In spite of FDR issuing a decree that established concentration camps for Japanese Americans, the U.S. still used the Nisei for their language skills. Meanwhile, in Japan, the Nisei were viewed as traitors. Illogical prejudice kept many Nisei from becoming officers, although they figured in iconic units such as Merrill’s Marauders in Burma. The reluctance of so many Japanese soldiers to surrender resulted in linguistic talents used more for translating captured documents than in interrogating prisoners.
VERDICT Lay readers will appreciate the vignettes on courage, culture, and the intricacies of the Japanese language.
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