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Soldiers of Conscience
Japanese American Military Resisters in World War II
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Soldiers of Conscience
Japanese American Military Resisters in World War II

By Shirley Castelnuovo
2008, 162 pages, Hardback.

Book Description from Back Cover
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About the Author

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Book Description from Back Cover

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor unleashed rampant racism and distrust towards "all things alien," and it raised perplexing questions of national identity that still reverberate. Persons of Japanese ancestry' were the victims of frequent racist acts and culturally biased governmental loyalty investigations, and, finally, of exclusion and imprisonment. The majority of Japanese Americans complied with government actions during this period, including the drafting of Japanese Americans into military service. Many loyal Japanese Americans saw such service as an opportunity to display their allegiance to the United States. However, some 200 Japanese Americans drafted into the Army refused to serve in combat while their families languished in internment camps.

The history of Japanese Americans in World War II does not record the stories of these resisters. It does not mention the War Department Special Organization, to which many of them were transferred, or the individuals who were tried and sentenced by military courts to long prison terms. The 200 conscientious military resistors felt betrayed by the government and viewed the decision to imprison Japanese Americans as an immoral acquiescence to West Coast racism.

Though their actions were frowned upon at the time by many of their own families, and certainly by the military, the draft resisters are now positively recognized in the Japanese American community. Yet, their story remains largely untold, overshadowed by the heroic stories of those Japanese Americans who served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Here, for the first time, the resistors' story is related in vivid detail.

Castelnuovo does not abandon the narrative with the end of World War II. Instead, she follows many of the resistors into the postwar years, assessing the ramifications of their actions on their lives as individuals and within the broader context of the Japanese American community. Happily, most of the resisters were eventually re-embraced by that community, but, until now, they have been forgotten by students of World War II. That is an oversight Soldiers of Conscience will certainly remedy.

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Comments from Back Cover

"Do U.S. military personnel have the right to resist orders if these violate domestic or international law? This passionate and scholarly account of Japanese American solders during World War II both stuns and compels. Castelnuovo assesses a hidden chapter in American history and asks: Are we mistaken to ignore 'Objectors of Conscience' in the U.S. Armed Forces?"
- Lane Ryo Hirabayashi
Recipient of the George and Sakaye Aratani Professor of the Japanese American Internment, Redress & Community endowed chair at UCLA

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Background on Shirley Castelnuovo

SHIRLEY CASTELNLOVO is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, and Adjunct Professor of Social and Behavioral Science at Saddleback College. For twenty years, her work has focused on equal rights for women and the disabled, and the resistance of Japanese Americans to their imprisonment during World War II.

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