Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence

Coming Home to Hood River

Linda Tamura

  • Published: August 2015
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; History / Western History
  • Bibliographic information: 360 pp., 34 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence is a compelling story of courage, community, endurance, and reparation. It shares the experiences of Japanese Americans (Nisei) who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, fighting on the front lines in Italy and France, serving as linguists in the South Pacific, and working as cooks and medics. The soldiers were from Hood River, Oregon, where their families were landowners and fruit growers. Town leaders, including veterans' groups, attempted to prevent their return after the war and stripped their names from the local war memorial. All of the soldiers were American citizens, but their parents were Japanese immigrants and had been imprisoned in camps as a consequence of Executive Order 9066. The racist homecoming that the Hood River Japanese American soldiers received was decried across the nation.

Linda Tamura, who grew up in Hood River and whose father was a veteran of the war, conducted extensive oral histories with the veterans, their families, and members of the community. She had access to hundreds of recently uncovered letters and documents from private files of a local veterans' group that led the campaign against the Japanese American soldiers. This book also includes the little known story of local Nisei veterans who spent 40 years appealing their convictions for insubordination.

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Linda Tamura is professor of education at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. She is the author of The Hood River Issei: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon's Hood River Valley.

"An important book about significant wartime events, a group of heroic World War II veterans, and the anguished experience of a community coming to grips with its own social sins. It is a superb oral history, a compelling community history, and a cautionary story about what happens when a democracy goes to war."
-William L. Lang, Portland State University

"Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence speaks to contemporary concerns about multiculturalism and diversity with an absorbing and powerful story that encompasses both U.S. military and civilian life and strategically links the past with the present in a manner that vivifies what William Faulkner meant when he said that 'the past is not dead, it is not even past.'."
-Arthur A. Hansen, Professor Emeritus of History and Asian American Studies, California State University, Fullerton

Oral History Methodology


Part 1 Early Years
1. "Growing Up in Two Worlds" Balancing Japanese America
2. "Nice People So Long as They Are in a Minority" The Japanese American Community in Hood River

Part 2 World War II
3. "Why Didn't You Tell Us the War Was Coming?" Community Fallout from Pearl Harbor
4. "Fighting for Good Uncle Sam" Nisei Enter the Military
5. "The Two-Sided Sword" Wartime Changes for Japanese American Families
6. "Getting Shot from Ahead of Us and Behind Us" War in the South Pacific
7. "From Somewhere in Europe" War Europe
8. "I've Got a Lot of Fighting to Do Right Here" Charged with Willful Disobedience
9. "Discard My Uniform for Good" The End of the War

Part 3 After the War
10. "No Japes Wanted in Hood River" The Hood River Situation
11. "Ninety Percent Are Against the Japs!" Veterans and Their Families Return
12. "You Could Feel It" Resettling in the Community and Elsewhere
13. "Time is a Good Healer" Rebuilding
14. "Guilty of Courage" Discipline Barrack Boys' Appeals

Part 4 Today
15. "Opening the Closets of History" The Community Today
16. No "Ordinary Soldiers" The Patriot Test

Selected Bibliography

"Nisei Soldiers touches deeply into America's reckoning with race and bigotry and deserves a wide reading. The author offers a persuasive and compelling account of the treatment of Japanese Americans in peace and wartime."
-William G. Robbins, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Summer 2013

"Tamura's Nisei Soldiers is an interesting, solidly researched, and well-written piece of history, one that fills a gap in the literature on the American war experience."
-Thomas Saylor, Oral History Review, September 2013

". . . an excellent history of the Hood River Nisei who served during WW II. Her book is backed by all of the expected (and nicely utilized) sources . . . what helps to distinguish the book as unique are the multitude of rare interviews . . . Highly recommended."
-Choice, March 2013

"An important book about a shameful era in the history of the Columbia gorge. . . . Tamura uses interviews and newly uncovered documents to tell a shocking story."
-Jeff Baker, The Oregonian, December 2012

"Tamura has done well to write this book, which strikes a blow at historical amnesia and resonates in Puget Sound country."
-Mike Dillon, City Living, October 2012

"This important chronicle of the community's wartime contributions interweaves fact and anecdote . . . Tamura provides an engaging outlet for a hidden voice . . ."
-Publishers Weekly, June 2012

"Linda Tamura's revelatory community history, Nisei Soldiers, exposes the racism experienced by Japanese American soldiers from Hood River, Oregon during World War II and the postwar years. . . .Her poignant case study fills a necessary gap in the social history of Japanese American postwar resettlement."
-Melanie English, Pacific Northwest Quarterly,

"A superb read, an excellent source of Northwest social history, and a welcome addition to the literature on Japanese internment."
-Eric Cunningham, Columbia

"Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence is a much-needed account of a crucial period in Japanese American history. . . . Linda Tamura's clearly written, discerning, and engaging book deserves careful study by both specialists and general readers interested in Japanese Americans' contributions during and after the Second World War."
-Brian Casserly, Michigan War Studies Review