Nisei WACs (Women’s Army Corps) pose for their graduation from the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, prior to their departure to occupied Japan in late 1945. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)
After the war, 11 Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) WACs, one Chinese-American WAC and one Euro-American WAC, all skilled Japanese translators who had trained at the Military Intelligence Service Language School, accepted assignments to the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section of General Douglas MacArthur’s Headquarters in the Army of Occupation in Tokyo, Japan. There they worked as clerks, secretaries and translators.
The Nisei WACs, Americans “with Japanese faces,” were expected to show the Japanese what Americans of Japanese ancestry were like, and to help build bridges across a cultural gap. MacArthur, however, did not approve of enlisted WACs serving overseas. He gave the women a choice of returning to the United States as WACs or being discharged from the Army and serving one-year contracts in Japan as civilians with US federal civil service status. All 13 agreed to stay in Japan as civil servants.
South Bay Glass of National City was the main sponsor for this winning Nisei bowling team team.
Early-20th-century settlers in Los Angeles County’s South Bay region found fallow rancho land worthy of cultivation, as well as roads and railways to move produce to markets. First-generation Japanese Issei immigrants became pioneering strawberry, vegetable, and flower growers and cannery fishermen. Their fields blanketed the landscape between oil derricks and along sloughs and the dry-farmed coastline. Families pooled resources and built Japanese language schools for their Americanborn Nisei children that doubled as meeting halls. Small mom-and-pop businesses and services sprang up in Gardena and elsewhere, catering to Japanese neighborhoods. The evacuation, detention, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II devastated their sense of belonging and livelihoods that had taken 40 years to establish.
Nisei soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion guarding captured German troops in Italy.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the loyalty of all Japanese Americans were questioned. When they were finally allowed to enlist for military service, they were placed in segregated units. The 100th Battalion were the first group of Japanese American World War II combat infantry soldiers originating from Hawaii. The 100th carved out an exemplary military record during their service in the European Theater, paving the way for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which arrived later.
For its size and length of service, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were the most decorated US military unit. However, it took fifty years for the United States to acknowledge Nisei soldiers for their service and sacrifice to their country. On June 21, 2000, President Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to 22 Asian Americans, 20 of whom were Japanese American WWII veterans.