HONOLULU (KHON2) — For the Nisei in Hawaii, and on the mainland, that day was the beginning of an era of hardship, isolation, and distrust.
Thousands of Nisei men signed up for military service to prove their loyalty.
That fervor was also felt by Japanese-American women, who also enlisted to help in the war effort and support their brothers, fathers, and sweethearts fighting overseas.
One hundred and forty-two served in the women’s army corps, mostly as clerical workers, but some were assigned to the military intelligence language school to train as translators. 350 went into the cadet nursing corps. Although not assigned to combat, they had challenges of their own.
“They still faced the racism of the 1940’s. They weren’t always seen as Americans, loyal supporters of our nation and they needed to demonstrate that to because in their hearts they knew they were,” said Mitch Maki of the GoForBroke National Education Center.
Like many of the Nisei men, the military experience for women, proved to be a stepping stone. The exhibit includes the oral histories of WACs who have since passed.
“When I think of what I went through in the military compared to my peers who stayed in the relocation centers languishing, I thought it was a wonderful choice. I wish more would realize that the military was not what people thought in those days,” said Maki.
That’s the message, not only to women, but to all Americans, to serve and be an American in whatever way you choose.