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Nisei – conclusion – Nisei WACs

If you were asked to describe a “soldier,” what kind of image does that word conjure up in your mind? Popular media has generally portrayed the American soldier as a muscular white male, or sometimes a white female, and while they may have constituted the majority of the U.S. military force, history fails to give recognition to the Asian American women who contributed to the U.S.’s victory by taking on many different roles during World War II to assist the armed forces.

Starting in 1943, Japanese women, known as “Nisei” or (first generation born from immigrants), were accepted by the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) to work as nurses and doctors to provide medical care and as Military Intelligence Service officers and linguists.. Though Asian American women served many important functions in World War II, they are still overlooked or completely ignored in modern discourse.

This post focuses on the Nisei women who served as linguists and their struggles balancing their identities as an American woman and a Japanese woman, while studying their mother tongue under considerable pressure at the U.S. War Department’s Military Intelligence Service Language School in Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

Their histories and struggles during the war are just as valid as any other American war veteran’s experiences out on the field. Women began turning them away from their traditional societal roles as homemakers and caretakers towards more proactive roles opening up in the factories and the military.

Private Shizuko Shinagawa, 21, of the Women’s Army Corps, who was sent to Denver to recruit Japanese-American women for the WAC. May 22, 1944, Denver, Colorado. Courtesy of WRA no. G-563, War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement, BANC PIC 1967.014–PIC, the Bancroft Library

For Japanese Americans, on the West Coast, however, with Japan being the “enemy nation” after bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941, they were labeled as “enemy aliens” and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, forced from their homes into internment camps. The military recognized the need to improve intelligence operations and trained and recruited specialists in the Japanese language to serve as interpreters, interrogators, and translators, and so around 5,500 Nisei were assigned to the Military Intelligence Service.

Nisei soldiers in Oregon

With struggles against racism combined with normalized sexism in the military, Nisei women, and many other Asian American women, had a unique experience while serving their country. While Military administrators rationalized the idea of accepting women, especially Japanese American women, it was under gendered and racialized reasoning. The WACs were given assignments that “did not transcend the domestic sphere”, therefore stuck behind desks doing clerical work. Furthermore, they were expected to emphasize their femininity through their physical appearances, “feminine” meaning short skirts and makeup. Along with these demands, the Nisei WACS were also expected to act as “American women” but retain their Japanese linguistic heritage in order “to serve as role models as Japanese women.

Nisei WACs

Like many second or third-generation Asian Americans today, Nisei WACs did not all possess fluency in Japanese, especially not at the level needed to comprehend military-related documents, hence they were sent to MIS school to learn Japanese.

Difficulties:
“I wasn’t very strong in Japanese, coming from an area [Idaho] where there were no Orientals. We just didn’t speak the language… And so, when we were sent to Japan, I had an awful hard time working with [Japanese] military terms…Some of the girls from Hawaii used to work as radio announcers in Japanese. They had a lot more training and they could read and write [Japanese] fluently. At Fort Snelling, I was in one of the lowest classes, just learning the basics.

Nisei Women’s Army Corps, Ft. Snelling

After they graduated from MISLS, they were assigned to various military sectors and helped the military forces immensely. Many of the graduates worked at war crimes trials as translators and interrogators and helped link a number of atrocities to individual Japanese by the captured diaries and letters, written during wartime, that they studied. Maybe one of their most impressive contributions, in the Civil Affairs branch, was censorship- screening the press, inspecting the postal system, watching communications of all kinds, and helping to find out what “has gone on in Japan these many years.” These linguists classified approximately 2,000,000 Japanese documents according to tactical, strategic, or long-range value. In all, they translated some 20,000,000 pages.


The WAC’s and other Nisei linguists’ work for the United States should be honored and remembered. They wanted to serve in the U.S. military for various reasons, but mainly to show their loyalty to the United States. Some were also motivated by reasons that were rooted in their culture and status in their family and community. One former Nisei WAC, Grace Harada reveals her discussion with her parents on why she felt the need to serve in the military:
“They just felt that I shouldn’t be doing something like that, and going so far away from
home. But I told them that I just couldn’t stay home and do housework. I wasn’t accomplishing anything. [Harada’s brother had already joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.] I said [to my parents] “There is a war going on and he can’t do it alone.” …I said what I would be doing is replacing all these men to help end the war. I tried to talk with my parents into letting me go, and finally they released me and signed the consent for me to go in.”

Nisei female nursing cadets

With political circumstances so against them, the Nisei had made every effort to forget their Japanese heritage and prove they are “American.”  The experience of attending the MISLS was both a challenge and a chance for the Nisei, to balance both of their identities for a cause and prove their loyalty to their homeland, the United States. Furthermore, as Nisei women, they constantly had to navigate social norms and persevere against sexually and racially intertwined expectations to serve as model American women in Japan, yet maintain their “Japanese-ness” to be competent translators. Their experiences are invaluable in that they not only but also expand one’s perspective of what kind of people serve in the military but also add another complex layer to the Asian American narrative.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

Saturday Evening Post, 1943

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Marley Arthurholtz – KY; USMC, WWII, Pfc., USS Oklahoma, KIA, Pearl Harbor

Leonard Brink – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army, WWII, 110/28th Division

Last Flight

Carmen J. Covino (102) – Hamburg, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

Robert Hatch – Woods Cross, UT; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., D Co./6th Marines, machine-gunner, KIA Tarawa

Rosario Lindberg – Davao, P.I.; Civilian, WWII, PTO, Filipino guerrilla fighter, interpreter for Allies during Japanese trials

Miles Riley – Gooding, ID; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Joseph Rogers (101) – Royal Oak, MI; US Army, WWII, 95th Chemical Mortar Battalion / Korea, 24th Infantry, Col. (Ret. 31 y.)

Arthur Schaeffer – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 82nd Airborne Division

Edward Tyree – Lexington, NC; US Army, Vietnam, 173rd Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Maria Winship – brn: GER/Denver, CO; Civilian, WWII, ETO, translator

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Guest Post – Women of World War II by GPCox

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We must never forget the women around the world who served in so many ways to help win this war.

"Greatest Generation" Life Lessons

By: gpcox:  https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com

I want to apologize to gpcox because there are five pictures in this post and for some reason, they will not transfer when I post this article. I’ve tried it several ways and they just won’t come through.

As WWII unfolded around the globe, women were also affected.  Some found themselves pressed into jobs and duties they would never have previously considered.  Hitler derided Americans as degenerate for putting the women to work, but nearly 350,000 American females alone served in uniform voluntarily.  A transformation of half the population, never seen before, that began evolving in the early ‘40’s and continues today.

For the WASPs, 1,830 female pilots volunteered for Avenger Field outside Sweetwater, Texas alone and it was the only co-ed air base in the U.S.  These women would ferry aircraft coming off the assembly lines from the factories to the base.  They acted as…

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CBI November Round-up

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5 November – 53 B-29’s of the 20th US Army Air Corps made a round-trip of 3700 miles (5950 km) from Calcutta, India to bomb enemy installations around Singapore and the Pangkalan oil refinery on Sumatra, Dutch East Indies Indonesian).

Construction on Ledo Road

As shown by the photos, the Ledo Road was an ever-constant process of being built while it was used to deliver supplies.

Accurate supply drops in Burma.

10TH AIR FORCE HQ, in BURMA – You generally associate pin-point bombing with fighter and bomber planes. But then you’re not giving a fair shake to the gang who fly the 10th Air Force’s Troop Carrier and Combat Cargo planes, who have a remarkable record for accuracy in supply dropping.
Battle lines in Burma have been so fluid at times that the pilots’ instructions were out of date an hour after take-off. In many cases, they had to be briefed on new targets while in the air. But so fine has been their marksmanship, that seldom, if ever, have they ‘chuted a package to the wrong team in the jungle warfare.
Less than two hours before the picture at left was taken, the territory was in Jap hands. While the pilot was in the air, he was ordered to this point. Advance Allied patrols, left center, wait to pick up the packages.

Home Never Like This
BUT PIPELINERS NOT STUMPED

BURMA – Ferrying supplies into camp on an improvised raft of empty gasoline drums was never taught at Camp Claiborne to the SOS Engineers who operate the CBI Pipeline. Nor was the proper way to manage a rubber life boat a part of their Field Manuals. And certainly, checking for leaks in the pipeline daily in an assault boat was not prescribed as SOP. All three of these amphibious operations, however, comprise normal “daily dozens” for certain members of the Engineer Petroleum Distribution Companies under Engineer Division No.1.
With the roads washed out and almost surrounded by water, the men of one pumping station devised a raft, using four empty 55-gallon gasoline drums lashed together. Propelled by bamboo poles, this craft crosses the “River Styx,” as the body of water has been locally nicknamed, several times daily to bring in supplies.
Farther along the line lies “Twin Islands,” another pumping station. The station itself is on “Island Number One,” while on “Island Number Two” a mile or more away live the men. An assault boat, powered by a 22 horsepower Johnson outboard motor, plies back and forth between the islands, carrying tools and equipment and the men who work at the pumps. This detachment of men is the proud possessor of a second boat in their boathouse, this one being an inflated rubber one of the type carried in aircraft for emergency use! It is a “personnel carrier” only, and serves as a ferry between the home island and nearby solid ground.
Another assault boat with an outboard motor is used at one point to make the daily pipeline patrol for leaks. As gasoline is easily detected on the surface of the water a leak is quickly spotted. This group of men is the envy of all the pipeline walkers who walk many weary miles a day looking for leaks.
These “Amphibious Pipeliners” are seriously considering designing a shoulder patch of their own, complete with rampant motorboats, crossed bamboo poles, and quartered gasoline drums.

US Army WAC’s in the CBI

WAC’s In China
CHUNGKING – Two WAC’s, members of Maj. Gen. A. C. Wedemeyer’s staff, reached the never-never land of China this week, strengthening the tiny contingent of Army nurses and Red Cross girls already serving on the far side of The Hump.
Wedemeyer declared: “I visualize bringing in more WAC’s, nurses and Red Cross members. It will be done gradually, of course, and the women will relieve men now employed on secretarial and other posts.”
The new commander of U.S. troops in China explained: “In my opinion it will improve the morale of the men.”
(You have something there, general – Ed.)

Some articles and all of the photos are from the CBI Roundup newspaper published during the war.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – C.B.I. Style 

“NO! NO! EUNICE! DON’T GET SO UPSET JUST BECAUSE A G.I. FORGETS TO SALUTE!”

“BUT IT WON’T GET THERE BY CHRISTMAS IF IT GOES BY BOAT!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Peter Atkinson – Berkley Springs, WV; AVG (American Volunteer Group), WWII, CBI, “Flying Tigers”, KIA

Luis Armendariz – El Paso, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 27th Infantry Division

Daniel Davis – Lowell, IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Bobby Finestone – Chelsea, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII, ETO, USS Bayfield

Bartley Furey – Tampa, FL; US Army, Vietnam, West Point graduate, Field Artillery, 1st Air Cavalry Div. (Ret. 28 yrs.), Silver Star

Berna Kowalski – Blakley Island, WA; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO, Lt., nurse

James Lenahan – Indianapolis, IN; US Navy, WWII & Korea, Pharmacist mate

Frank Nash – Mobile, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 433rd Troop Carrier Group, pilot

Eleanore Quatrano – Asbury Park, NY; US Army WAC, WWII

Freda Lee Smith – Temperance, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

William Tomko – Westfield, NJ; US Navy, WWII

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