A few months before his death in 1953, HIDEO (BOBBY) TAKAHASHI, A Hawaiian Nisei, dictates his memoir to his lovely companion, AYAME. Bobby had always wanted to chronicle his thoughts and memories of Hawaii and of his time during the war as a member of the all Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He also wished to record for posterity his family’s unfair internment and to clear their name as well as his own, for he was labeled a traitor at the onset of the war with Japan.
Forty-seven years later, his son ROBERT TAKAHASHI, finds the memoir in the attic eaves of his late mother’s house in Pearl City. Robert, a heavy drinker and gambler, wants to end his life because of large debts and a failed marriage, so he plans his suicide to look like an accident. Out of respect for his father, he decides first to read the memoir that had been hidden from him by his cruel mother, CHIYOKO TAKAHASHI.
The memoir begins in 1935 Aiea, Hawaii, where Bobby, a plantation worker’s son, falls in love with an attractive white girl, MARY O’CONNOR, who is the daughter of a prominent physician, a man unable to hide his prejudice against the hundred thousand Japanese-Americans on the islands. Despite DR. O’CONNOR’s threats and protestations, Bobby and Mary continue to date secretly until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor abruptly ends their relationship as they are caught up in events surrounding the war.
Bobby and his family are sent to internment camps on the mainland because his father, HIDEAKI TAKAHASHI, still supports his Japanese homeland. The situation exacerbates when the FBI discovers sketches Bobby’s made of U.S. battleships in Pearl Harbor that were found on dead Japanese pilots.
While interned in Santa Anita Park, Bobby is forced to marry a dishonored geisha from Hiroshima, Chiyoko Matsumura, who claims to be carrying his baby. When the opportunity arrives, Bobby enlists in the Army and is assigned to the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. While training in Hawaii with the new regiment, Bobby visits Mary who has since married a naval officer while Bobby was in the interment camp. Mary and Bobby’s torrid but brief one-night affair results in a son she names Robert. Mary’s husband, CAPT. STEVE BRENNAN, forces her to give the baby to Chiyoko and Bobby for them to raise after the war.
Bobby is transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where after a year of training, he and the 442nd ship to Italy for their first test of combat against German forces in bloody battles at Livorno and along the Arno River. In September 1944, they ship to France to fight Hitler’s elite troops who are making their last stand in order to protect their homeland from the allies along the German-Belgian border.
Like all the Nisei, Bobby fights courageously and recklessly because he believes, as the others do, that it is better to come home in a box then to disgrace their family and come home wounded. The fierce fighting of the Nisei gives the regiment the distinction of being the most highly decorated unit in the war.
In October 1944, the unit is ordered to fight their way up the Vosges Mountains to rescue two hundred and eleven men of the Texas National Guard battalion of the 36th division, who, after being surrounded by five thousand German soldiers for five days, were now known as The Lost Battalion.
GENERAL DAHLQUIST, the 36th Division commander, throws the three thousand Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd at the German forces to break the siege while holding back his own white soldiers in reserve. Now nothing more than cannon fodder, the 442nd battles against tremendous odds and high ground while suffering eight hundred and forty casualties including one hundred and eighty nine dead in the successful rescue of the two hundred and eleven white soldiers of the Lost Battalion.
Severely wounded, Bobby returns to Hawaii regretfully accepting he cannot be with Mary and so instead lives with his wife Chiyoko and sons Robert and Danny.
After reading the memoir, Robert now knows his real mother is Mary O’Connor who he knows as Mrs. Brennan. He asks her why she and his father never told him the truth. She explains that his father asked her not to tell him until Chiyoko died. Mary confesses that she was Ayame and that she placed the memoir in his mother’s attic for him to find.
Robert leaves Hawaii and returns to his family, determined to change his life after reading of his father’s hardships and how he overcame them.
On June 21, 2000, President Clinton holds a ceremony at the White House to honor the soldiers of the 442nd. During the ceremony, thirteen veterans of the 442nd, including Bobby Takahashi, posthumously receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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J. J. WHITE has been published in several literary journals and magazines, including, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, The Grey Sparrow Journal, The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post 2016 and 2018 anthologies. He has had three novels published by Black Opal Books, Prodigious Savant, Deviant Acts and Nisei. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece, Tour Bus. His short story, “In Nobody We Trust,” won the St. Martin’s Press, “Who Can You Trust” contest. The story will be included in the back of the best-selling book, “A Divided Spy” by Charles Cummings. J.J. enjoys biking, surfing, bowling, writing words that end in ing, and lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife and editor, Pamela.