Extreme Web Surfs!
Saturday, July 17, 2004
 
ASIAN AMERICANS IN U.S. MILITARY 
  
  

 
 
Continuing with this project, we now move to consider the contributions of Asian Americans, as well as the unique struggles of Japanese Americans in particular, during the Second World War. A note to regulars: I haven't abandoned the 'webcam' idea, just don't have it ready yet!
 
This article provides an interesting overview of the subject, and this timeline accomplishes the same ..
 
The first Asian people to settle in the United States in any number were the Chinese. Until I started my research, I was unaware of the extent of their involvement in the Civil War.
 
World War II marked the end of the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act, perhaps so Chinese Americans could be drafted in good conscience, and perhaps because Japan was perceived as a common enemy. In any case, fight they did, as these photos and this story illustrate..
 
Japanese Americans faced a much worse time of it during the WWII. Now, I am not going to engage in a great deal of handwringing here. Compared to the atrocities Japan enacted upon civilian populations in China, Korea, the Phillipines and elsewhere, our record is not TOO bad. However, it was bad enough. These were American citizens, many born here, who because of their ethnicity were considered enemy combatants, rounded up, dispossessed of their property and placed in dreary confinement in the wastelands. If you don't think this speaks to us today, visit this site maintained by Muslim Americans in the Armed Forces. Many of us are deeply concerned about terrorism and security. But we can't take the lazy route of making suspects out of people based upon ethnicity. It was wrong in the 1940's , and is wrong today.
 
This site tells the story of the internment ,and this site views it from a rather extreme Marxist perspective.. .Perhaps the best material, however, is available from the admirable Densho site, which seeks to pass on the experiences of past generations to Japanese Americans of today..
 
Photo galleries of the Topaz and Tule  camps..
 
Despite this oppression, young Japanese Americans were given the opportunity to enlist in the Armed Forces. They served with great distinction in the European theatre. This site refers to them as Nisei Marauders.. among their other feats was the Rescue of the Lost Battalion .
 
The 232nd Engineering Company was composed entirely of Japanese Americans, and served in a superb manner, often attached to the most famous Nisei unit of all, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
 
Time for a look at Asian American recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor..
 
Finally, I'd like to mention an Asian people whose service, in effect, preceded their immigration to these shores. The Hmong people ( also called 'Meo') are a Southeast Asian mountain tribe ('Montagnards' in the French Indochina War) who fought fiercely alongside of Americans during the Vietnam War. When we withdrew, their position became desperate indeed. Some of the fortunate ones were able to escape, reach refugee camps in Thailand, and eventually immigrate to the US or other places. Providence was one of the cities chosen for their resettlement, and I have met some of these folks. They were literally taken from an environment that can only be called primitive, and forced to adapt to modern urban life. And of course, the locals passed around stories of chickens in  third floor apartments, with snickers and condescension. Yet these folks could tell stories of heroism and struggle which would curl your hair. And in one generation,  they have children who are graduating from college, becoming teachers, doctors, bankers. For those left behind, however, there has been no such happy ending. See here.  
 
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
Sun-tzu


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