Post written by Alan Hino, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center
I am currently working on Mr. Saburo Nishime’s Hanashi Project Oral History interview clips. I was really impacted by a quote from Mr. Nishime when he was discussing how often his Captains were being replaced. One Captain delivered a very powerful quote. This quote was so powerful that I had to copy it down verbatim in order to deliver it just as Mr. Nishime had recited it. Here is the following quote:
“Nisei soldiers, we have to get into combat, to make the necessary sacrifice as common soldiers, before we can hold our heads up as Americans. That would affect us even when we get back to Hawaii, we can hold up our head because we were in combat. We have to get into combat to get the status, we can up hold ourselves as Americans.”
That quote really had an impact on Mr. Nishime, since it had stuck with him after all of these years. The weight and responsibility of that quote must have been humbling to hear as a young man entering combat. The “necessary sacrifice” was such a bold statement, I had to rewind it a few times to fully understand its meaning. For these men, it was not enough to defend our country – their Captain demanded sacrifices so they can all call themselves Americans. This was such an awe-inspiring quote for me. It stuck with me throughout the rest of the day, and I felt a renewed patriotism. This quote tied directly into another quote that Mr. Nishime had discussed.
While describing his family history, he mentioned that, although his parents did not offer him this advice before he left, he had heard that many Japanese families telling Nisei soldiers to “not shame the family name.” This quote really showed how important pride, honor, and family were to Japanese American soldiers. Rather than focusing on the individual and the danger the soldier would be facing, the family focused on their name. This reminded me of the old saying that “wounds heal, scars fade, but glory is forever.” Your actions will be forever attached to your name, and your name is something that cannot be so easily forgotten. This quote was something I just quickly glossed over the first time I heard it. But when I took the time to really pay attention, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Although they were never spoken to me explicitly, my family has always preached this sense of pride. This pride comes with being courageous and doing what is right. Like the Captain’s quote, the actions and sacrifices of the soldiers ties into their status as Americans. So, too, does the actions of the soldier tie into the family name.