Sacramento Bee Editorial
Editorial: A story worth telling - widely
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, June 10, 2008
In the recent spate of movies about the World War II Greatest Generation, one story has not been told to a large audience. That's the story of second-generation Japanese Americans who volunteered for military service, even as their families were forced from their homes into internment camps.
There is a beautiful feature-length film of this experience, and it had one showing in Sacramento on Saturday. But no national distributor has picked up the film for mass distribution.
Sacramento's Japanese American community brought "Only the Brave" to town as a benefit for the renovation of the Nisei War Memorial Hall at Fourth and O streets, in Sacramento's long-gone Japantown. All proceeds will go to the renovation, thanks to Mikuni restaurant's underwriting of the sold-out showing, a fine start on raising funds and a fine tribute to the World War II-era Nisei veterans who attended.
When these soldiers returned home from the war, the American Legion wouldn't accept them. The Veterans of Foreign Wars welcomed them, but said they'd have more impact if they formed their own post. So they did. But now the hall needs renovation.
Filmmaker Lane Nishikawa spoke at the showing. The movie is based on the experiences of his three uncles, giving the movie a personal touch. It's also the story of women and children on the home front. Even in harsh scenes, the film has a light touch that makes a point without dwelling on it; from an encounter with white soldiers at a Mississippi training camp to goodbyes from an internment camp.
The center of the movie is the Battle of Bruyere in France, where Japanese American units were ordered to rescue the Texas "Lost Battalion" surrounded by German forces. The Japanese American 100th/442nd Combat Team suffered more than 800 casualties to save 211 out of 270 Texans. In the film, the leader of the Texas forces thanks Sgt. Jimmy Takata, and Takata replies, "You'd have done the same for us." Just think about that one for a minute.
Through their great sacrifice, the Nisei helped reverse deep-seated hostility at home. That great American story deserves a wide audience. It's a shame that this film will have only limited theatrical release in the United States.
Pia Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org