Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BRIDGE TO THE SUN by Bruce Henderson


The Secret Role of the Japanese Americans Who Fought in the Pacific in World War II

by Bruce Henderson

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-525-65581-7
Publisher: Knopf

In the life-and-death struggle of the Pacific War, the U.S. had a crucial secret weapon: thousands of Japanese Americans.

Henderson, a journalist who has written more than 20 books, many of them dealing with World War II, brings a great deal of investigative acumen to his latest. He follows the stories of several “nisei—first-generation American citizens born in the United States whose parents were immigrants from Japan”—to give personal depth to the bigger picture. At the end of the book, the author includes a 50-page list of the names of those nisei who served and those who were killed in action. Many of them fought in combat roles while doubling as translators and prisoner interrogators—in one case, a soldier shouted out false orders to the Japanese, resulting in a crucial victory—while others worked as intelligence analysts and codebreakers. “They knew the enemy better than anyone and were highly motivated to defeat them,” writes Henderson. The Japanese had entered the war believing that their language was too complex for others to understand, so they often neglected encryption and left crucial documents where they could be captured. In the combat theaters, the nisei quickly gained respect, and even Gen. Douglas MacArthur made a special acknowledgement of their important contributions. The irony is that their families in America continued to languish in internment camps, and even Japanese soldiers in uniform suffered discrimination when on leave. Many of them felt a strong need to prove themselves and their loyalty but worried about encountering relatives or old friends on the battlefield. There were several nisei present for the Japanese surrender, and even after hostilities ceased, they continued to play critical liaison roles. This book is an important step in providing much-needed recognition for these brave Americans.

A fascinating piece of history with threads of courage and poignancy, brought to life by an accomplished storyteller.