Unlikely Liberators is the action-filled story of the men of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Not trusted to fight in the Pacific, these sons of Japanese immigrants were sent instead to the European theater. In the eyes of their own government and the Europeans they liberated, they were an unlikely group of fighting men. They nevertheless engaged the enemy with astonishing heroism, winning battle after battle at Anzio, Salerno, Cassino, and in the Vosges Mountains. At the end of the war, the 100th and the 442nd emerged as America’s most decorated units. They provided ample evidence of their patriotism to a country that had questioned their loyalty. Masayo Duus begins her story with the formation of the Japanese American units, which were an outgrowth of America’s ambivalent attitude toward the entire Japanese American community at the outbreak of the war. She recounts their experiences in training and during the early battles in Italy, including the conflicts between Japanese American and Caucasian troops. The final part of the story focuses on the battle in the Vosges forest, where the 442nd fought fiercely to rescue the "lost battalion" of Texans hopelessly cut off by the enemy. Based on extensive research in War Department archives and nearly three hundred interviews with veterans of the 100th and 442nd, Unlikely Liberators first appeared in serialized form in Japan, where it won the Bungeishunjusha Reader’s Prize. It is an absorbing and personalized account of young men suddenly separated from their families and friends, often confused and sometimes suspicious about what the army wanted from them. It portrays them as individuals confronting the multiple crises of war and social rejection and it shows that their greatest achievement was not their victory over a foreign enemy, but over prejudice at home. This book is a tribute to those men, who by their heroism reestablished for all Japanese Americans their personal dignity as full citizens in the country of their birth.
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