Episode 8: When You Look Like the Enemy…

Ep 8 - Lawson Ichiro Sakai, Army

With Lawson Ichiro Sakai, Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Connecting service and sacrifice of the interred Japanese farmers and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

We are so thankful we got to spend some time with Lawson — for his stories, his service, and the history he worked so hard in his final years to make sure was captured for future generations. Please support the Japanese American Veterans Association and the Japanese American National Museum.

Ep 8: Jan 27, 2020

Think success in farming has nothing to do with sacrifice on the front line? 

At the start of World War II, Japanese American farmers controlled 40% of California farm production, dominating crops like tomatoes, celery, and snap beans made newly available nationwide with the success of refrigerated railway cars. 45% of Japanese Americans held agricultural jobs on the west coast as a result. 

In this episode, we follow Japanese American veteran Lawson Ichiro Sakai’s Service story, from his family farm in Montebello, California through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese immigrants, and the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s sacrifice as they proved their patriotism in the European theatre. 

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Misti Boettiger assisted with transcription of this episode. Coby McDonald and Andrew Stelzer engineered interviews with Lawson. Thank you to the Japanese American Veterans Association for connecting us with Lawson for this interview. Learn more at their website, and on Facebook and Instagram

Behind The Episode:

Extra Audio Clips:

How did “Lawson” become Ichiro’s name?

On the Japanese migration and “shikata ga nai”

  • Read about the Japanese American Experience During WW2 and Its Legacy at JAVA (the Japanese American Veterans Association)
  • Watch video interviews with Issei and Nisei (veterans) at Discover Nikkei to hear more about the various opinions to Mike Masaoka’s offering of a “suicide squad”. Learn more about Masaoka in this biography at Densho.
  • Learn more about the Rhineland Campaign for Bruyères and the Lost Battalion at Go For Broke, and in this book chapter at The 442.
  • Check out the commendations of the “Purple Heart” 442 at Go For Broke
  • A mother and her sons live through internment and post-war racism in this article in the LA Times.
  • Read through Lawson’s remembrances in this interview from Tessaku.
  • How do farming and racism and battle fatigue go hand-in-hand? It starts with this Quartz article, The Dangerous Economics of Racial Resentment During World War 2. And then you can read more at NPR and this Twitter feed by crop scientist and Farm to Table podcast host Dr. Sarah Taber. There are more fascinating (and appalling) stats in this post at the Museum of San Francisco.
  • Read up on the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans at Archives.gov, A Brief History of Japanese Relocation During WW2 from the National Park Service, and 12 Facts about Japanese Internment in the United States at Mental Floss.
  • Check out artist Wendy Muruyama’s ‘The Tag Project’ – a recreation with the tags used to identify Japanese during relocation and internment.
  • For some striking photos of Japanese internment and closed businesses, check out Densho. For photos of interred Japanese, head to this article in The Atlantic.
  • Not every state issued ordered for internment. Here’s a map of Japanese internment zones at Britannica and camps at History.com
Watch Lawson!
Fascinating vintage footage of the 442nd
Learn more about Lawson in this video from the Department of Veterans Affairs


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