Letters from the 442nd

The World War II Correspondence of a Japanese American Medic

Minoru Masuda, Hana Masuda, and Dianne W. Bridgman
Foreword by Daniel K. Inouye

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 16 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

This is the first collection of letters by a member of the legendary 442nd Combat Team, which served in Italy and France during World War II. Written to his wife by a medic serving with the segregated Japanese American unit, the letters describe a soldier's daily life.

Minoru Masuda was born and raised in Seattle. In 1939 he earned a master's degree in pharmacology and married Hana Koriyama. Two years later the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, and Min and Hana were imprisoned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. When the Army recruited in the relocation camp, Masuda chose to serve in the 442nd. In April 1944 the unit was shipped overseas. They fought in Italy and in France, where they liberated Bruyeres and rescued a "lost battalion" that had been cut off by the Germans. After the German surrender on May 3, 1945, Masuda was among the last of the original volunteers to leave Europe; he arrived home on New Year's Eve 1945.

Masuda's vivid and lively letters portray his surroundings, his daily activities, and the people he encountered. He describes Italian farmhouses, olive groves, and avenues of cypress trees; he writes of learning to play the ukulele with his "big, clumsy" fingers, and the nightly singing and bull sessions which continued throughout the war; he relates the plight of the Italians who scavenged the 442nd's garbage for food, and the mischief of French children who pelted the medics with snowballs.

Excerpts from the 442nd daily medical log provide context for the letters, and Hana interposes brief recollections of her experiences. The letters are accompanied by snapshots, a drawing made in the field, and three maps drawn by Masuda.
Minoru Masuda was professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington. Hana Masuda was Minoru's wife. Dianne Bridgman is the former manager of the Washington State Oral History Program.

"One of the most powerful and affecting historical works I have encountered. The beauty, charm, and pervasive intelligence of Minoru Masuda's letters are nicely anchored by historical material provided by the editors."
-Arthur A. Hansen, Director, Center for Oral and Public History, California State University-Fullerton
Foreword by Daniel K. Inouye
Preface by Dianne Bridgman
Introduction by Dianne Bridgman

1. America and Algeria, August 1943-May 1944
2. Italy, June-September 1944
3. France, October-November 1944
4. France, November 1944-March 1945
5. Italy, April-May 1945
6. Italy, May-December 1945

Appendix: People Mentioned in the Letters
Note on Sources

"[Letters from the 442nd] offers..a unique and compelling account of what the men of the 442nd experienced on and off the battlefield. Thanks to army censorship and concern for his wife's feelings, Masuda put little blood and guts in his letters. But they richly and movingly detail the medic's everyday life."
-The Journal of Military History

"Min's poignant, but often amusing, wartime experiences, together with Hana's occasional commentary, enable us to gain a much fuller picture of WWII sacrifices by this young Japanese American couple."
-Asian American Comparative Collection Newsletter

"Minoru Masuda's Letters from the 442nd are priceless mementos of service and sacrifice from a man who, if he had been of lesser character, might feel entitled to act out understandable bitterness. Readers will cherish and find inspiration in his gentle humor, keen insights and colorful observations of America at war not only abroad, but at home against some of its own citizens."
-The Advocate