Choice gifts that educate about difficult choices made by Nisei during World War II


Congressional Gold Medal. courtesy of the United States Mint

World War II brought some difficult choices for Japanese Americans, especially young Nisei men whose citizenship and idea of “America” was called into question.

Some felt they had to prove their loyalty in the battlefield, and did so gallantly, and with high honor.

Others felt compelled to prove their loyalty in the courts on constitutional principle, and in doing so fought for clarification of their citizenship status and challenged the legality of their wartime incarceration.

Several new educational items were recently produced to help preserve the histories of these two groups, which were once characterized as being diametrically opposed to each other but in essence proved that loyalty to one’s country comes in various forms.

The following products, which help to preserve and educate about these honorable groups, could make for enlightening gifts for the holiday season.

Congressional Gold Medal. courtesy of the United States Mint

Your Own Congressional Gold Medal … Well, Sort Of
Did you miss the historic ceremony on Nov. 2 in the nation’s capital, honoring Nisei veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal? Are you a relative of a Nisei veteran of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team or Military Intelligence Service, or just a fan? Through the U.S. Mint, you can get a three-inch bronze medal. This medal, which features Nisei soldiers of both the Pacific and European theaters and is inscribed with “Nisei Soldiers of World War II” and “Go For Broke,” is the same diameter and thickness as the Congressional Gold Medal. A perfect conversation piece to educate your friends on the heroic exploits of the Nisei soldiers during World War II.
Cost: $44.95 plus shipping and handling
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Shedding More Light on Little-Known History
When it came out 11 years ago, “Conscience and the Constitution” was a groundbreaking film on the little-known history of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, a group that resisted the military draft imposed upon young Nisei men imprisoned in barbed wire prison camps. Once shunned as traitors — taking an unpopular stand during a popular war — the Nisei draft resisters are now heralded for their civil rights stand. Frank Abe’s film was among those that helped in this community education process, which led to the National Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) honoring the resisters in 2002 after years of ostracism. The recently-released two-disc collector’s DVD (190 min. total) encapsulates the JACL ceremony, as well as further analysis by noted historians such as Roger Daniels, Art Hansen and Michi Weglyn. War hero Ben Kuroki shows regret for denouncing the resisters during the war, while famed Nisei veteran Sen. Daniel Inouye shares his thoughts. The real find in the DVD: a gripping interview with wartime JACL leader Mike Masaoka by Abe, back when he was a working as a reporter. This is a must-have for anyone who cherishes civil liberties and standing up for your rights.
Cost: $29.95 plus $3 for shipping and handling in the U.S. and Canada
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Valor with Honor

Honoring Valor
What first-time independent filmmaker Burt Takeuchi’s “Valor With Honor” may lack in production value, it makes up for with sheer raw and emotionally powerful video testimony by Nisei veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In “Valor,” Takeuchi pieces together hours upon hours of oral histories conducted with the heroes of the 442nd — the most decorated U.S. military unit of its size and length of service. Although a third of the interview subjects have since passed on, thanks to Takeuchi’s film, their stories are preserved for generations to come. A perfect gift for friends and family members of Nisei veterans, or anyone interested in Japanese American history. This is a story that will surely inspire.
Cost: $25 for California residents ($23 for non-residents) each plus $3 shipping
More info: Torasan Films, P.O. Box 640831, San Jose, CA 95164;

Understanding Civil Disobedience
In her new book “Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory,” California State University, San Bernadino Professor Cherstin M. Lyon gives an account of some 41 young Nisei men who were sentenced to a federal labor camp near Tucson, Ariz. for resisting the military draft. Mostly unsophisticated farm boys from the Granada (Amache), Colo. and other wartime concentration camps, they called themselves the “Tucsonians.” She also parallels their story with that of civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, who also resisted the draft and was sentenced to the camp. “Prisons and Patriots” fills some holes not covered by Eric Muller’s 2001 book “Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II.”
Cost: $30.95 paper, $84.50 cloth
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