The story of another "Band of Brothers"
No Sword to Bury
Japanese Americans in Hawai'i during World War II
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Franklin S. Odo
When bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese American college students were among the many young men enrolled in ROTC and immediately called upon to defend the Hawaiian islands against invasion. In a few weeks, however, the military government questioned their loyalty and disarmed them.
In No Sword to Bury, Franklin Odo places the largely untold story of the wartime experience of these young men in the context of the community created by their immigrant families and its relationship to the larger, white-dominated society. At the heart of the book are vivid oral histories that recall their service on the home front in the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a non-military group dedicated to public works, as well as in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Illuminating a critical moment in ethnic identity formation among this first generation of Americans of Japanese descent (the nisei), Odo shows how the war-time service and the post-war success of these men contributed to the simplistic view of Japanese Americans as a model minority in Hawai`i.
"No Sword to Bury is a fascinating study of an often overlooked part of the story of Americans of Japanese ancestry in the World War II era. The Japanese American population of Hawai`i navigated its way through one of the most dangerous and transformational periods in U.S. history. Franklin Odo's use of personal stories of the men and women who made that journey reveals the choices that were made, the strategies that were used, and the lessons we all can draw from them."
"One of the strengths of No Sword to Bury is Odo's care in presenting a more layered, nuanced study of Japanese Americans and their role in Hawaiian history. What emerges is a portrait of a lively, diverse group of men who had mixed motives and feelings of what they did during the course of their lives."
"No Sword to Bury is a masterful contribution based on years of painstaking research. In fact, there is nothing quite like it written about the Japanese American experience. Franklin Odo presents a detailed history of the Varsity Victory Volunteers in the larger context of Hawai'i before and during World War II. He does an excellent job of marshalling data from the extant literature, rare archival sources, and most importantly, a plethora of original oral history interviews. The voices and biographies of key VVV members and the public figures in Hawai'i who supported their endeavors lie at the core of Odo's work. Captivating and informative, No Sword to Bury demonstrates the multicultural dynamics that have been so central in the formation of our 50th state."
"[A] significant addition ot the literature in western U.S. history...a fine book, [it] promises to be an important work for years to come."
"By drawing on oral records and archival materials, Odo provides a rich and detailed social history of the VVV members. He not only situates them in the racial dynamics of prewar and wartime Hawai'i, but also successfully allows them to tell their individual stories."
"The story is well told and carefully documented."
"...a deep and detailed look at an articulate and important group." The book was described as being "a good addition to the literature on Asian America, on WW II's transformation of American life, and on Hawai'I..."
"[This book] is a long-anticipated work that should not disappoint its readers.... Extending beyond the VVV experience, No Sword To Bury is a significant contribution to our understanding and analysis of Japanese American history in Hawai'i, particularly of the Nisei generation, and complements well other major works that appeared in the 1990s. Odo's achievement lies in detailing the diverse lives and viewpoints of the VVV members in their own words through many revealing oral history interviews."
"Seldom has a work drawn from military history provided such a rich assortment of provocative reflections on ethnic group identity, racism, and social forces.... [Odo's] notable success [is] in stimulating hard thinking about the history of Japanese Americans and of American society."
"...an important addition to an understudied aspect of Japanese American's wartime experience."
"...this book makes an important contribution by showing how the racial reformation of the Nisei contributed to the model minority myth."
"Thoroughly familiar with Hawai`i and Japanese American history, Odo recounts that past with confidence and grace, and illustrated by family stories the issei experience and nisei coming of age spring vividly to life....No Sword to Bury, accordingly, engages huge issues and themes while paying attention to the particulars of individuals and their everyday lives….[the book] deserves a wide and appreciative reading."
"Franklin Odo’s carefully researched, textured narrative examines a select group of second generation Japanese American, or Nisei men who volunteered to be manual laborers for the U.S. Army for approximately the first year of the war… Odo’s excellent book helps us begin to understand why."
"One of the strengths of Odo is among the best of historians who work backwards from the present, wanting to find explanations in the past to understand and solve the problems of present conditions….The main strength of this book are the life stories – a treasure trove of stories hitherto untold about the lives of Japanese Americans in Hawai’I during World War II."
Introduction: The Making of a Model Minority
In the series
Asian American History and Culture, edited by K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Cathy Schlund-Vials.
Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture, series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi and David Palumbo-Liu, series editors K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Cathy Schlund-Vials continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.