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tv   Daniel James Brown Facing the Mountain  CSPAN  August 31, 2021 1:07am-2:14am EDT

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>> i do notice differences in the questions as people come to the stories. >> so let's get into the making of the book. before he do that, i want to congratulate you that yesterday i was informed although is just the first week there is books is on "the new york times" bestseller list list. >> that's one of the things that you hope for in the first week or the first ten days. i was very happy to see that. >> you are so casual. [laughter] i want to share with the audience. and we met in seattle at a mayors award. and then i was excited to meet
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you. it's because of the style. but it's history. and i think those stories are compelling. but i was really excited because on that day when we were on the stage i was receiving an award for 25 years we collected to share that but i was genuinely surprised you are interested. >> i always have been my father worked in san francisco we had a lot of japanese-american friends and business associates even as a child i was interested in that piece of history. but it wasn't really until i
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went home and over the last 25 years tom has collected videotapes and curated and put it on —- put online the oral history of about 1000 and individuals the japanese americans a lot of them during the world war ii year. so i started to listen to these oral histories and there is good gripping stories and their so i'm drawn to good stories. so that in itself really drew me in. also there kinds of stories i was drawn to that i was particularly interested in the young man beginning of world war ii and drawn to them
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because stories of the same kind of earnest and goodhearted. with the great difficulty and to overcome the difficulty and the things they had to do to get through the difficult time. so i was drawn to the story. >> it's interesting as you are talking i remember the early days when we first tried to figure out what the story was. what you brought was perspective because i have been so focused so what you help me to see was actually japanese americans story
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earlier this week we had the question why did you spend so much time at this project? and then to not only go to the archives but to with hawaii in hamilton library so i just love the two of us sitting here talking about it but it got hard the story is so big so talk about how you decided the story would be quick. >> and there's so much material there and interesting stories.
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and what i alluded to before young men of the draft age immediately after pearl harbor. the situation for them was the families were being incarcerated, forced out of their home, having to sell possessions for pennies on the dollar. they had to walk away. but yet at the same time, and they are not able to fall on —- volunteer so what you do in a situation?
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it's important to note it's also about their families whether in the united states. >> so it is the nucleus of the story and other people come into play along the way. >> you mention these four young men. and we will show the first and age. >> and when we talk about the men. to serve in the 442. he took a very different path and in his wedding with esther but talk about gordon and why you included him. >> gordon was a really
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interesting man. his situation was at the beginning of the war he was a studio at one —- student at the university of washington. he was also clicker and a conscientious objector. when war broke out a curfew was imposed of any japanese ancestry. one of the things gordon did was not obey the curfew. we can talk about that in a minute but we began to document those locations. and then when time came from japanese americans to be taken away to the camp instead he sat down to write a very careful reason and statement about why he felt the curfew
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incarcerations were unconstitutional. he took that statement and went to downtown seattle and turned himself in. and of course that began the battle seeing him in and out of jail throughout the rest of the war. >> we will show a clip but i want to mention one of the things i really enjoyed is your use of oral histories. and it is about this time when he decided he would defy the curfew and the exclusion order and now figures out what he will do. >> and then one day.
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i grab my stuff in it takes five minutes to get home. dashing home. and it hit me. the question is should are faced earlier, it hit me why am i dashing home and all of your timekeepers are still there? i just needed a question to be raised i couldn't answer it to say i can do it. i turned around and went back hey. what's the matter? i said you guys are here. i decided if you guys are here
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i will work with you and go back when you guys are ready to go. nobody turned me and i did not take that intelligent me and then i knew i can do it. >> i really like that clip because you can see the principal stand that gordon took and it took a lot of courage. they exhibited a different type of courage and then to talk about the 442 so let's go from seattle to hawaii. so tell me why he was included. >> .
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>> and with the sugar and plantation of course the plantations were very racially stratified and the working conditions particularly for immigrants were brutal in the cane field. and looking at from pearl harbor and right across the street with the rotc. and then to run across the street and those other cadets on the campus. and then those hawaii territorial. but then they were issued
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guns. so then that night finding themselves down and waterfront can on —- patrolling the waterfront guarding what everybody expected would be the invasion by japanese imperial forces. unfortunately as we will see in a clip in a moment his time was cut short. >> go ahead and share the clip. >> and then two or three nights in a row with five
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rounds of ammunition. so what was that? and what we were referring to. and then a month and half later and then to say we word report down waking up at 2:00 o'clock in the morning. >> .
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>> and then commander and told us point-blank. and then to argue i'm pretty sure he refused to his japanese ancestors. so as of now you are being discharged. >> i really like that clip and i should mention at the center for oral history. and his wife and some of the
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things in your book came to mind and you describe him in the book. at the university of hawaii. and maui high. and allied leadership potential what a slap to the face they are doing something for the country discharged simply because there ancestry. and they were so shocked and so devastated. it did go online a year later
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the combat team of japanese americans military unit and then to sign up and join the unit. >> i remember that it is incredibly emotional and the hurt so let's go to the next mandate that you talk about and then the soldier in front but he grew up in california so talk about that.
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>> his family was incarcerated. and then sent to a camp and then there was discussion and then to sign up for the all japanese americans. and then to incarcerate them in their family. and then to wind up fighting it was an interesting character he was punchdrunk
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and tended to get in trouble a lot and didn't always follow the rules. he's an interesting guy with an enormous heart and that's what drew me to him. >> we will show a clip but before we go there, talk a little bit. so this was a segregated so talk about that and in particular the fighting we did in the mountains october 1944. >> so it was the first and they fought their way back to the river. it always fighting uphill.
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and then suddenly they were sent to northern france at the french german border it was very dark almost impenetrable on the french german border. they were liberating at town of the juncture of some roadways and tenaciously over several days but they did liberate that town they did go into a town called belmont they were given an opportunity to rest for a night or two. in the middle of the night they were awakened and told
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they had to go back into battle. the commanding general had ordered what they called the texas position. and then they said those out on the ridge line. and then cut off and surrounded by the germans many were wounded. and they began to die and no medical supply place or food or water so then their situation turns very dire. there is a number of units into the mountains trying to get them out. but none of them were able to do. >> and then they send them up the mountain with the
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battalion. two other guys and then another man fought under those conditions up to the mountain and then dead one —- and did reach but it was a staggering cost with enormous casualty and it was the apex of the battle of the lost battalion. >> it was so difficult for me to read those passages. but with those they should be pulled off the line but to rescue that lost battalion and
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even then they were ordered to keep pushing for over a week. and then had the retreat parade and then to address the troops. and then 4000 men and on that day after all that fighting less than a battalion left standing so the next clip is the retreat parade. let's show the clip. >> the 36 division commander and he said all personnel of the full 42nd will have review.
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and then back to headquarters they don't even have a battalion out there. and said to the colonel ordering everyone to pass a review the crooks and everybody would pass a review. and then they said the first time and then said this is all i have left. >> . >> and dozens and dozens of times i spent many hours with him.
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and then it surprised me so much when he started crying. and then she reminded me. and then early on in the process. and then to decide i would do this book if i cannot pull it off she had the same reaction. just watching that clip we both teared up. and to have a big heart. and so that clip was the genesis of the book. and then to confirm it was sharon. >> .
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>> so now let's go to the fourth man in spokane washington and briefly and then to divide the states inhofe and western washington closer to the ocean japanese americans were removed and incarcerated japanese americans were allowed to stay in their homes and but fred grew up in spokane which was not exclusive. >> fred's family ran a laundry in the neighborhood by the railroad tracks called hilliard and they lived in an apartment. it was largely immigrants from all over the world.
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and because it was very ethnically mixed a lot of racial slurs got turned around. and then gentle soft-spoken man but he could not abide racial slurs. and when they were hurled at him he would fight you. and got in scraps with the neighborhood kids. and then to keep going to his father. that he had another pair by glasses. so when the war broke out fred immediately tried to enlist. >> which utterly shocked him.
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and because all the other young man in spokane had gone on to war. and then those that went up that mountain. >> the clip we will show is the war has ended in europe and he is on his way back to spokane and he is on a train and he stops at union station in washington dc where he meets another soldier. >> i was on the train i myself we stopped in washington dc and from that railroad station you can see the capital building.
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sitting there working out the window and he stopped and looked at me and said you are with 442. we the lost battalion? yes. i was there. >> he was one of the 200 men. >> it's one of those things. i could just feel myself getting angry do you know how many men we lost how many men died in their? he said if you guys were in their we would come rescue you and he said anyway i want to thank you and then i turned away and looked out the
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window. >> i like that clip because it surprised me when fred turned away. i asked him about this because he is a very proud man and very principled. he did talk about he was ashamed and said it was so raw and so hard. talk about that and how he suffered after the war. >> like a lot of these guys they came home with psychological ones as well in many cases and then to move back in to the apartment over the laundry for a while and his mother had to awaken him in the middle of the night because he was screaming obviously he had ptsd from his
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experience. he carried a lot of pain back on with him that took a lot of time to work through that came to peace with that but unfortunately he passed away a few weeks ago which is bad for me because i had the opportunity and are you spent time with him i also had the opportunity to get to know him personally a little bit and i will never forget when a first met him i went to the retirement home where he was living and i stuck out my hand and said i'm so proud to meet you and i'm so honored to meet you he shook my hand and said no no no i'm honored to meet you. i cannot believe this decorated war hero was responding to me that way with humility and graciousness.
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>> such a humble guy. and with the gratitude part and then i've told this story before but i just found out this week with my dad so one of the things the book has done for me has created a dialogue my dad got the book and read it in three days he was proud of that but we started talking about that and share the story in his way as a world war vet and was training in texas a few months after the last battalion. and maybe doubting whether or not how much gratitude and when my dad was in texas she noticed my dad had a loose
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button. and she looked at my dad and said are you japanese americans? and said take your coat off of me fix your button and she told my dad she was so grateful because of what the 442 did the closest relative was in the last battalion. that my dad got really choked up about that. and to recognize and the gratitude what other people did. >> now between texas and those 442 i don't remember what year it was but the governor eventually proclaimed all 442 battalion men and honorary citizens of texas it is a big deal i think.
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>> so we have those stories but also in the book we talk about issues of racism and i went to frame it in the last five or five and half years a lot was going on in our country. i remember when we first started talking. we had things going on that aligned with the racism during world war ii for example the muslim travel ban where a whole segment of people were denied access to the united states primarily because of the religion and while this was because of natural security into the rationale against japanese americans to say it is a necessity to round them up to put them behind barbed wires and later on when i saw the detention and
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separation of families with the southern border again it was reminiscent of the concentration camps and i should mention my terminology i use that term american concentration camp but that was used by people like president roosevelt or politicians or supreme court justices when they ruled on korematsu not until people learned more about the death camps that they moved away from that terminology. >> going back to my question so how does that impact your writing in the book quick. >> the entire time i was writing echoes of the past and
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what i was seeing on the evening news and reading about the hard-working families from japan to make their way into america after the same time was a travel ban. but always the rhetoric about immigrants. and when as you say families were 20 part on the southern border we were timeout families being 20 part by the incarceration and then there were with four and a half years to the book but it was powerful for me. i thought i knew quite a bit about the history of the antiaging sentiment in the country growing up in california but i didn't realize the extent until i was doing research for this book. i learned about for instance
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the violence directed against chinese immigrants in 1850 there were lynchings and burnings and people driven out of their homes then there was the era called the yellow peril at the turn of the 20th century where they were perpetuating these images of locust in rats and snakes. and then researching pearl harbor and immediate aftermath those same images and tropes were brought out again so that in itself was interesting to
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me to be embedded in the american consciousness for so long and then to be recycled and then and then recently in the last four or five months we see the same thing in regards to covid and association to be weaponize. they are already there that has been in the american consciousness. >> i love in your book you bring the issues up you don't necessarily hit people over the head with that but you get so interested in the personal stories but then take a step back and then to liberate those death camps will they
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are in the united states or the issue around hiroshima. so if you have any questions , go ahead and put into the chat or the q&a and we will try to get to it so going back to the 442 they were highly decorated. during the war there was one man who received the medal of honor and there is in l.a. connection i thought i could have you talk about during world war ii those that receive the medal of honor. >> an incredible young man who
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took a tour of the battlefield and battlefield. and then there is a statue so he is the only one who has the medal of honor so why it was awarded to him it came point where the 442 was trying to break out of northern italy. so as part of that is part of the infantry battalion along
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with the 442 the infantry battalion was an all japanese-american unit that had already been in the service at the beginning of the war. so he crawled forward almost impenetrable position to take out several machine-gun and then began to crawl back with a were sheltering and almost made it back to the shell crater when a grenade bounced off of his helmet and bounced into where the companions were
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taking a shelter. he got up and hurled himself on top of the grenade and the grenade detonated and he was killed. it was a moment of complete selflessness and he gave himself entirely to saving his companion. >> i read accounts from his older sister when they were growing up. i guess the sister could beat him up a little bit. so there was a time when he was pretty upset and said one day they will name the ship after me. but after he was killed, one of the ships returning to
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hawaii and how touched she was. >> it came very slow despite those heroics in many cases for the 442 to be given the honors they were do for a variety of reasons. there are some absolutely amazing stories of your wisdom to come out of those incidents. but yeah, he was the first. it's something to contemplate. >> a question from the audience that you covered quite a bit. when we talk about hawaii and
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from the mainland but what people don't realize there is tension between the hawaiians called the mainlanders the sound like the coconut hitting the head. and the japanese americans on the mainland called them names. and what were some of the things that changed over time? >> and when they all came together with camp shelby in mississippi it was like mixing oil and water and fist fights broke out all over campus the first few days. part of the problem was there were cultural differences growing up in a plantation town in hawaii or los angeles
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and going to ucla. but the kids from hawaii only spoke tension english and the mainlanders cannot understand what they were saying that made the guys from hawaii feel disrespected so attention arose so they could not communicate they had an attitude of participating in the war but a lot of the men felt they had a righteous cause and they were serious about what they were doing in terms of wanting to prove their loyalty to japanese americans in general. by and large the hawaiian guys were oblivious. they knew they camps existed that they did not internalize
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it and the two groups are having such a hard time getting along that the commanders were considering disbanding the 442 and tell actually i believe the chaplain who got the idea let's take the hawaii guys to another camps and show them what is happening there. the army began to put busloads of the men from hawaii there are two camps in arkansas nearby they took busloads to the camps and they were horrified on these men women and children in uniform. they were first first and they were just horrified and disgusted by what they saw. they came back to life was on
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the mantle for the fireplace is pretty state i pray having to bestow the best of blessings upon this house and all who will hereafter inhabit it. they none but wise and honorable men ever serve under this roof. and that today is in the white house. think that's part of the great vision of george washington. and his extraordinary efforts. he's political acumen his vision, his creativity and just getting this capitol city founded and built to ensure the survival of our


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