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Service
Ironies of Service

During the war, a gold star sewn on a service flag meant that a family member had been killed in service. Few images of America's participation in World War II are more poignant than that of the Japanese gold star mother or wife locked away behind barbed wire. The irony that Nisei soldiers were dying to preserve the world's freedom while their families were imprisoned is harrowing testament to their humanity in the face of prejudice.

Masao W.: Be a Part of Society (oral history transcript)




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"I was in uniform and went to visit friends in a relocation center. We checked in at the barbed-wire gate when…this guy pulls out his bayonet…mounts it on his gun and says, 'Okay Corporal, march.'... I took five steps, turned and said, ... 'You know I am in American uniform.' He said, 'Yes, I know that, but these are my orders.' So I took a swing at him…Miyamoto and the other guy held me back." —Speaker Unknown, Go For Broke






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The original patch designed by War Department artists for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team showed a yellow arm holding a blood-red sword aloft. Dissatisfied with the racial overtones of the design, the Nisei volunteers produced one of their own. It depicted a silver hand holding the torch of liberty aloft. By August 1945, 18,000 Japanese American soldiers wore the patch with pride.






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"I think we all felt that we had an obligation to do the best we could and make a good record. So that when we came back we can come back with our heads high and say, Look, we did as much as anybody else for this country and we proved our loyalty; and now we would like to take our place in the community just like anybody else and not as a segregated group of people. And I think it worked." —Speaker Unknown, Go For Broke






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"Most of the Nisei want to fight in the Pacific. They believe that, raised in the institutions of democracy, they are better soldiers than Japanese of their own generation...Thus far they have won every fight they have been in. But their hardest fight of all is still ahead and may outlast the war. It is the fight against prejudice roused by color of skin and slant of eye. It is easy to admire them while they are still in uniform. It would be kinder to remember and reward them when the battle is over." —Editorial, Pacific Citizen, April 1945


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Smithsonian - National Museum of American History - Behring Center
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