“Tears of Honor” recounts internment and heroism of Japanese Americans during WW II
Artblog contributor Michael Lieberman reviews newly published book "Tears of Honor" by James A. Ardaiz, former prosecutor and judge in California. Michael says the book-- a historical fiction about an entirely Japanese American division of the U.S. army during World War II-- is artfully authored, but detailed to a fault.

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Book cover for "Tears of Honor" by James A. Ardaiz
Tears of Honor by James A. Ardaiz. Pace Press, an imprint of Linden Publishing, February 16, 2021. ISBN 978-1-61035-900-9. FICTION / Historical / World War II

As is well known, after Pearl Harbor, the United States government imprisoned over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent, the majority of them United States citizens, in internment camps – more accurately characterized as concentration camps — in the west.

I was surprised to learn that during World War II there was a division of the U.S. army composed entirely of Americans of Japanese descent — the 100/442nd Regimental Combat Team — and that many of its members were recruited from those camps.

The 100/442nd fought against the German army in North Africa, Italy and France. As James A. Ardaiz details in his new book, “Tears of Honor,” the 100/442nd was “the most decorated, the most wounded, and the fiercest fighting unit of World War II.”

Mr. Ardaiz, a former prosecutor and judge in California, takes the reader through the ignoble process that led our government to create the camps. He then recounts the personal stories of a handful of individuals and families as they were removed from their homes along the west coast and relocated to the camps. Finally, he tracks a number of those individuals to the 100/442nd. By personalizing the narratives, Ardaiz deftly illuminates their experiences and enlivens what might otherwise be a monotonous historical novel.

The decision to create the camps was effectively made by the military, specifically by Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, and it was rubber stamped by President Roosevelt, and even by the Supreme Court in an infamous case captioned “Korematsu v. United States” (1944). There was plenty of opposition to the plan, but in the end, the opposition was ignored in deference to the judgment of the military.

General DeWitt’s rationale for the mass relocation was his assertion, based upon absolutely no facts or evidence, that Japan was likely to invade the west coast, and that Japanese Americans who lived along the coast were likely to engage in sabotage and espionage on behalf of Japan. It is quite clear from the evidence adduced by Mr. Ardaiz that General DeWitt’s instinct was driven primarily by racial hatred, prejudice inflamed, of course, by Pearl Harbor.

Conditions in the concentration camps play a lesser role in the book. They are no less horrifying. Those relocated were allowed to bring with them only what they could carry, leaving the remainder of their possessions and property behind. And the camps themselves were isolated and crowded, often resembling tar-papered army-style barracks. The families driven from their homes and imprisoned in the camps overwhelmingly demonstrated a dignity that one wonders whether other Americans would display under similar circumstances.

The majority of the book is devoted to battlefield scenes. I would characterize them as “standard” battlefield scenes, which is not to diminish their horror. They are bloody, and they are skillfully drawn by the author. Some of the most moving of such scenes involved orders issued by officers located far from the battlefield, commands those on the field were helpless to countermand, though they knew the result would be mass casualties. Mr. Ardaiz also captures a not insignificant degree of prejudice within the ranks of the military directed towards the soldiers of the 100/442nd.

Ardaiz is a stickler for detail, and that underlies both the strength and weakness of the book. For my taste, there is an excess of gratuitous description throughout the narrative. There were too many moments in which I just wanted him to get on with it. Perhaps I was too much in a hurry. Nevertheless, the history is fascinating, and we are well advised to remember the danger posed by the abandonment of constitutional rights during times of peril.

“Tears of Honor” by James A. Ardaiz. Available for purchase in-person at Barnes & Noble; online from the publisher; or as an e-book. Published by Pace Press, an imprint of Linden Publishing, February 16, 2021. ISBN 978-1-61035-900-9. 

Tags

100/442nd, book review, california, concentration camps, internment camps, Italy and France, James A. Ardaiz, japan, Japanese, Japanese American, John L. DeWitt, North Africa, Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt, Tears of Honor, United States politics, World War II

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