No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'I during World War II

No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'I during World War II

No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'I during World War II

No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'I during World War II

Synopsis

When bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese American college students were among the many young men enrolled in ROTC and immediately called upon to defend the Hawaiian islands against invasion. In a few weeks, however, the military government questioned their loyalty and disarmed them. In No Sword to Bury, Franklin Odo places the largely untold story of the wartime experience of these young men in the context of the community created by their immigrant families and its relationship to the larger, white-dominated society. At the heart of the book are vivid oral histories that recall their service on the home front in the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a non-military group dedicated to public works, as well as in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Illuminating a critical moment in ethnic identity formation among this first generation of Americans of Japanese descent (the nisei), Odo shows how the war-time service and the post-war success of these men contributed to the simplistic view of Japanese Americans as a model minority in Hawai'i. Author note: Franklin S. Odo is Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and editor of The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience.

Excerpt

Very early on the morning of December 7, 1941, Akira Otani was helping prepare the banners, flowers, and food for the gala reopening of his family's fish market in downtown Honolulu. But the festivities would have to wait—for years, it turned out—because the Japanese Imperial Navy had just bombed the United States into World War II. “I was scared. You know, I didn't know what to do. Of course, the radio announcer was very excited and we looked toward Pearl Harbor, where there was nothing but black smoke;… y ou finally realize that it was war and we were being attacked. I started driving home, but I couldn't drive because I shook so much. I was nervous and scared and—but I made it back home…. I wasn't thinking about anything, just trying to get home.”

Soon after eight o'clock in the morning, radio announcers issued an urgent call for all members of the University of Hawai`i Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to report for duty. Akira Otani was one of several hundred undergraduates, many of them second-generation Japanese Americans, who donned uniforms and made their way to the armory on the campus in Manoa valley overlooking Honolulu. Amid frantic rumors that Japanese paratroopers had landed on St. Louis Heights, adjacent to the campus, Sergeant Bob Hogan issued each youngster an old Springfield . . .

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