May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and May 8th is the 71st anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). If there ever was a good opportunity to talk about a Japanese-American family’s experience during World War II, it would be right now, in this blog post. The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and author Matthew Elms retell the saga of three brothers who nobly fought alongside one another in World War II.
Hardworking and California-bred, brothers Victor, Johnny, and Ted Akimoto grew up with the sparkle of the American dream in their eyes. Then the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor happened. It got under their skin and into their heads. One by one, they joined the fight.
Victor, the eldest brother and first to enlist, reported to duty in frosty Fort Warren, Wyoming. He eschewed anti-Japanese hysteria and sent cheering letters to his devoted family. Despite stacked odds, Victor was eventually promoted to infantryman. Younger brothers Johnny and Ted soon joined him in the 100th Infantry Battalion, a mostly first generation Japanese-American, or Nisei, unit.
The Akimoto clan battled two enemies: the Axis Powers and racial tension. Suspicion of Japanese-Americans grew. When the government froze the family bank accounts, they lived off remittances from their soldier-sons. Then they were forcibly confined to internment camps around the country. The family was split up but not beaten. They remained resolute in the hope that if men like their Victor, Johnny, and Ted “could serve bravely in the armed forces, then perhaps America would finally move beyond seeing people of Asian descent as a different people, a different race, and just see them as patriotic Americans.”
On the fields of Europe and in military camps, three brothers gave themselves to “the greatest cause a man can give his life for,” as Victor wrote in a letter to his family. While their family sat in internment camps, the brothers ducked the whoosh of artillery. Pinned in by Germans on all sides, they steered their G.I. brethren to safety. In the face of crushing loss, as Ted wrote, “no matter what the cost, we have to make this world a better place.”
The Akimotos lived out the belief that there is no more important role than citizen, no more important act than service.
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About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.