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"They decided America was their country and they wanted to fight for it and improve their reduced position by virtue of their service." (Video Interview, 11:47)

   Milton Zaslow
Image of Milton Zaslow
Milton Zaslow [2004]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: Military Intelligence
Service Location: Hawaii; Mariana Islands; Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Japan; Pacific Theater
Rank: Captain
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After taking an intensive college course in Japanese in 1942, Milton Zaslow found himself in charge of Japanese-American soldiers translating captured documents in hopes of gaining a strategic edge in the intense fighting in the Pacific Theater. In reading his men's mail for censorship purposes, Zaslow was touched by an irony: those with families in the internment camps back in the States were writing letters to boost the morale of their loved ones, instead of the other way around.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview  (37 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
After taking a Japanese-language course, recruited by the Army; total immersion in another course at the University of Michigan; assignment to Camp Savage in Minnesota to work with Nisei soldiers; attitude of Nisei whose families were in internment camps. (05:55) Forming his ten-man team; spending one night in San Francisco before shipping out and getting around a curfew law restricting his men. (02:38) Assigned to the Navy Command in Pearl Harbor, where no Japanese were allowed; separate offices set up; working on captured diaries and other material; night life for his men. (01:48)
Captured materials they worked on in Hawaii; first assignment in the Pacific Theater, on Tinian, attached to the Marines; his men mistaken for enemy soldiers; taking over for the Civil Affairs people, who had no language skills to work with the natives. (04:50) Marines as a different breed of men; trying to persuade Japanese soldiers to surrender; defusing land mines. (01:58) In Okinawa on the day Hiroshima was bombed; celebrating the end of the war; reading mail of his soldiers for censorship purposes. (03:29)
Two classes of Nisei, those from Hawaii and those from the mainland; recognizing one of his men fifty years later at a large gathering of Japanese American veterans; his gratitude for working with them. (02:32)  
  
 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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