Free to Die for their Country: The Japanese American Draft Resisters of World War II
By Eric L. Muller, with a Foreword by Senator Daniel K. Inouye.
In the spring of 1942, the federal government forced West Coast Japanese Americans into detainment camps on suspicion of disloyalty. Two years later, after stripping them of their livelihoods, liberty, and dignity, the government demanded even more by drafting them into the same military that had been guarding them as subversives. Most of these American citizens grudgingly complied with being drafted, but several hundred refused and practiced a different sort of American patriotism, the patriotism of protest.
Free to Die for Their Country is the first book to tell the powerful story of the men who rejected the government's demands. Based on years of research and personal interviews with the resisters, their families, and their supporters and detractors, Eric L. Muller's work re-creates the welter of emotions and events that followed the arrival of the draft notices in 1944: the untenable situation of the Japanese American men caught between national loyalty and personal indignation; the hypocrisy of the government in asking men to die for their country when it had denied them their rights as citizens; the shoddy trials of the protesters that produced convictions and imprisonment; and the treatment of the resisters by the Japanese American community, who looked upon them as pariahs who were hindering progress toward assimilation.
Muller looks behind the horrible story of the internment camps to find a tale less well known and even more troubling, illuminating a dark corner of American history during World War II. Affecting and clear-eyed, Free to Die for Their Country reveals, in almost cinematic fashion, an untold chapter of our recent past.
Paper: 232 pp.