Nisei Japanese American

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The Nisei Japanese Americans (二世 pronounced , lit. second generation) are American-born citizens of the United States of Japanese ancestry who generally reached adulthood by the outbreak of World War II. In American history, Nisei means specifically Japanese Americans who lived on the West Coast, but not on Hawaii and not on the East Coast, who were interned during WW2 because the government feared that they would support Japan in the war.

Americans of Japanese ancestry living in the western United States, including the Nisei were, forcibly interned with their parents (the Issei Japanese Americans) and children (the Sansei Japanese Americans) during WWII.

Most Japanese Americans who fought in WWII were Nisei. The 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, fighting in the European theatre, became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, earning it the title, the "Purple Heart Battalion."

Americans of Japanese ancestry were generally forbidden to fight a combat role in the Pacific theatre. No such limitations were placed on Americans of German or Italian ancestry who fought against the Axis Powers in Europe. However, about 6,000 Nisei did serve in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as linguists and in other non-combative roles, interpreting captured enemy documents and interrogating POWs. The initial training facility for the Nisei to prepare for their function was at Camp Savage in Savage, MN. This decision was to locate them in a region where there was less racial prejudice towards the Japanese as compared to the West Coast. MIS linguists translated Japanese documents known as the "Z Plan," which contained Japan's counterattack strategy in the Central Pacific. This information led to Allied victories at "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," in which the Japanese lost most of their carrier planes, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. An MIS radio operator intercepted a message describing Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's flight plans, which led to P-38s downing his plane over the Solomon Islands. General Douglas MacArthur stated, "Never in military history did an army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement." General Charles Willoughby, MacArthur's intelligence chief, said, "The Nisei saved countless Allied lives and shortened the war by two years."

The story of the Nisei is a topic unto itself. There are books written about it and museums devoted to it. It is considered one of the most horrific human rights violations in the U.S. in the twentieth century. The topic of Nisei (and not Japanese Americans per se) is part of the mandated high school history curriculum of many states, including New York State, New Jersey, and California.

See also


Savage in World War II [1] (


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