Rising Sons by Bill Yenne

Rising Sons by Bill Yenne tells the story of Japanese Americans who fought for their country in World War II despite the fact that their families were incarcerated in internment camps in the western United States.  Yenne covers the stories of these brave Americans who fought the Japanese and Germans – most fought in Europe in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT).  The book is a quick read at 262 pages.


The book generally covers the stories of the men from December 7, 1941 to the end of World War II – supplemented by what happened to some of the men after the war.  One chapter covers a black mark in American history.  Yenne chronicles how America turned its back on many Japanese Americans by putting those who lived on the West Coast in camps (not all of the internees were U.S. citizens – because of immigration laws for Japanese immigrants, only their children born in the U.S. could become citizens).  In addition, most Japanese Americans were kicked out of the armed forces within months following the attack on Pearl Harbor.


As a result of their treatment, most Japanese Americans wanted to prove their loyalty to their country by joining the fight against the Axis Powers.  However, they were initially denied this as well.  Many military and political leaders felt that the Japanese Americans could not be trusted with weapons.  Thankfully, as Yenne illustrates, smarter heads prevailed and the Japanese Americans were allowed to join the Army (the Navy, Marines, and Army Air Forces still refused to allow them to serve).


Yenne does a phenomenal job of telling a great story based upon interviews and written accounts of the participants.  Although not footnoted, he quotes many of the sources directly into the text.


Yenne successfully explains the actions of the 442nd RCT and those who served in military intelligence in the Pacific.  Although the story of the men who served in the 442 RCT takes a majority of the pages because most Japanese Americans who served fought in that unit, Yenne describes how the military intelligence men saved thousands of lives with their analytical skills.


The details on the actions of the 442nd RCT are superb.  Yenne explains the actions of the individuals and their units in their fight against the Germans in Italy and France.  The best chapter highlights the heroism and sacrifices of one of the battalions in its efforts to save a battalion that was surrounded by the Germans.  As a result of their actions, the 442nd RCT battalion won a Presidential Unit Citation and three of their members were awarded Medals of Honor.  In fact, the 442nd RCT, for its size and length of service, was the most decorated in the history of the U.S. Army – more than 21 Medals of Honor were awarded and 9, 486 Purple Hearts were awarded, and the unit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations.


After reading this book, I think you will have a new respect for the Japanese Americans who fought for this country when it imprisoned many of their families and friends.

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