Military Service

& Conscience

When President Roosevelt called for volunteers for a segregated Japanese American unit of the U. S. Army, nisei in the internment camps debated serving the country that had imprisoned them. The immediate response in martial-law Hawaii, where issei and nisei lived free, albeit under martial law and local prejudice, was more positive. Nisei from the mainland and Hawaii stepped up to serve the ideals of their country and formed the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most highly decorated unit of the U. S. Army for its size and length of time served. The nisei also served bravely in the Military Intelligence Service, helping to turn the tide of war in the Pacific. Together, the nisei won more than 4,000 Purple Hearts and eight Presidential Unit Citations, including one awarded to the MIS in 2000. The soldiers also won twenty-one Medals of Honor, all but one presented by President Clinton, as well as the Nisei Soldiers of World War II Congressional Gold Medal (2011).

The resources linked below offer oral histories, documents, images, stories, bibliographies, and lesson plans to help you discover the remarkable story of the nisei soldiers, as well as the considerable deliberations of those who chose not to serve. *Accessible to younger readers

“I recognized so many of [the] small bits and pieces of my father’s experiences in the book…basic training at Camp Shelby and Camp McCoy, the ill-fitting uniforms, playing craps with the boys, the importance of nicknames, the tension between the “buddhaheads” and “kotonks” which eventually led to mutual respect, the military hospital in Naples, and the importance of Chicago. Thanks to this book, I finally saw how those pieces fit into a more complete, complex picture of what he and his fellow Japanese American soldiers went through….”

— Reader review


Japanese American Military History Collective comprises the Japanese American Service Committee, Military Intelligence Service Veterans Club of Hawaii, Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, Go for Broke National Education Center, and other partners.

National Veterans Memorial Center honors the nisei soldiers from Maui, has been involved in creating lessons plans about the nisei internees and soldier from Hawaii, and hosts afternoons with the author.

100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center offers military records, oral histories, memoirs, and photos of the battalion.

MIS: America’s Secret Weapon of the MIS Veterans Club of Hawaii presents the history of the MIS, with educational and community service programs in Hawaii.

442nd Regimental Combat Team Legacy Website focuses on F Company.

Japanese American Veterans Association is a fraternal group of Japanese Americans of all wars dedicated to preserving their history, assisting veterans, and preserving our freedoms.

Nisei Veterans Legacy is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the nisei soldiers and educating all generations, with special focus on Hawaii.

Sons and Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a chapter of the 442nd Veterans Club, is composed of relatives and friends of the nisei soldiers dedicated to support of the veterans, as well as education and preservation of their archival materials and legacy.

The Hawaii Nisei Story features stories and photos of soldiers from Hawaii.

The National Museum, United States Army is dedicated to telling the story of the US Army.

U.S. Army Center of Military History is dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. Army and sharing educational resources.

Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is dedicated to soldiers from Mississippi and those who trained there.

University of Hawaii at Manoa played an important role in the evolution of the 100th/442nd and offers valuable archives for researchers.

Veterans Memorial Court Alliance is the only place in the world to display all the names of U.S. military service members of Japanese ancestry who died in service to America, beginning with Japanese immigrants who died serving on the USS Maine in 1898. Founded by veteran groups from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, the VMCA is involved in educational projects to preserve the AJA legacy of sacrifice and patriotism.
VMCA Legacy Voices video

“I have always been horrified by the treatment of Japanese Americans in WWII. I wondered, if I were in their position, how could I contain my rage and not turn against a country that made an enemy of me. The title character maintains his loyalty, but not without a struggle. I was drawn in to the main character and his situation and touched by the kind of courage I could never have. I have bought another copy for my young nephew. I do not want any American to ever forget this.”

— Reader review


Going for Broke: Japanese Americans in World War II, narrated by George Takei. A cogent overview of the history.
Online. DVD.

The Registry. A PBS documentary about the Military Intelligence Service available online.

Armed with Language. A PBS documentary about the Military Intelligence Service, with a rare look at the nisei women who served in the MIS and WACs. Online.

*Go for Broke: An Origin Story. Dramatized history of the Hawaii origins of the 100th Battalion/442nd RCT. Hayashi, Stacey, writer/producer. Film. Vimeo.

*Citizen Tanouye. Documentary by Robert Horsting and Craig Yahata. Ethnically diverse high school students at Tech Sergeant Ted Tanouye’s alma mater investigate the Medal of Honor winner’s life and discover its personal, national, and universal ramifications. DVD.

*Witness: American Heroes. Film conceived by Robert Horsting as a thank you card from people who met the Japanese American soldiers in the field as they liberated towns and regions in Europe and the Pacific Theater during WWII. Produced by news anchor David Ono and Camera/Editor Jeff McIntyre.


Tsukano, John. Bridge of Love: The Story of the Japanese immigrants and their soldier sons, one of the most bizarre chapters in American jurisprudence.

Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board, ed. Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Personal Reflections of Hawaii’s World War II Nisei Soldiers. Two volumes.

Crost, Lyn. Honor by Fire: Japanese Americans at War in Europe and the Pacific.

Chang, Thelma. I Can Never Forget: Men of the 100th/442nd.

Duus, Masayo Umezawa. Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd.

Matsuo, Dorothy. Boyhood to War: History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
                                  Silent Valor: The Story of the 442nd Medics.

Asahina, Robert. Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad.

Moulin, Pierre. U.S. Samurais in Bruyeres: People of France and Japanese Americans: Incredible Story.

Harrington, Joseph. Yankee Samurai: The Secret Role of Nisei in America’s Pacific Victory.

McNaughton, John. Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service in World War II.

Shirey, Orville. Americans: The Story of the 442nd Combat Team.

Murphy, Thomas. D. Ambassadors in Arms: The Story of Hawaii’s 100th Battalion.

Steidl, Franz. Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944.

Yamasaki, Eddie, ed. And Then There Were Eight: The Men of I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

*Hayashi, Stacey. Journey of Heroes: The Story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Graphic novel. Manga illustrations by Damon Wong.

Malaghan, Michael. Picture Bride, A Question of Loyalty, and Proof of Loyalty (to come), a trilogy of novels about the ways Hawaii’s Japanese overcame bigotry and joined with mainland nisei from the internment camps to serve their country.

Hirahara, Naomi. Clark and Division.

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