The U.S. 442nd Infantry Regiment: Background information when reading We Are Not Free

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

We Are Not Free

by Traci Chee

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee X
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2022, 400 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book

The U.S. 442nd Infantry Regiment

This article relates to We Are Not Free

Print Review

442nd Regiment with German POWsIn Traci Chee's young adult historical novel We Are Not Free, which follows 14 Japanese American teens from San Francisco through World War II, two young men in Topaz detention camp, Mas and Twitchy, decide to volunteer for the army. Japanese American men were unable to serve until early 1943; the American government had considered them enemy aliens since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Director of the Office of War Information Elmer Davis urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to reverse the ban on soldiers of Japanese descent in a 1942 letter, in part for propaganda reasons, but also because he believed most Japanese Americans were loyal citizens and deserved to serve if they wished.

But once they enlisted, Japanese American soldiers were not incorporated into other units; they were segregated in the 442nd Regiment. The unit was made largely of Japanese Americans from Hawaii, supplemented by over 2,000 men from the mainland detention camps. Among the 442nd's recruits was Daniel Inouye (1912-2012), former Senator from Hawaii.

In the chapter narrated by the character Twitchy, readers march with the Regiment to battlesites like Livorno, where the young Japanese Americans were lauded by their superiors: "They were superb! They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit. Everybody wanted them," said General George Marshall. Sent to France, the Regiment arrived in the Vosges Mountains in late October 1944. They anticipated a short break — but then word came that the First Battalion, made up largely of men from Texas, was in trouble. The Americans had been gaining ground against the Germans, but the battalion became separated from their fellow combatants and were soon surrounded and overwhelmingly outnumbered by German forces. A fighter squadron managed to airdrop supplies, but ground troops could not reach them. Soldiers later heard that Adolf Hitler himself had sworn that this was a battle he would not lose, no matter how many Germans died. After days of fierce fighting and high casualties, the Japanese American soldiers, outnumbered four to one, pushed through the enemy lines and rescued the "Lost Battalion," over 200 American soldiers.

Altogether, throughout the war, the 442nd Regiment lost 600 young men. For its size (18,000 soldiers), it was the most decorated unit in the history of the United States with 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, and seven Presidential Unit Citations. The Medals of Honor were bestowed in a ceremony in 2000 by President Clinton, who said of the 442nd soldiers: "They risked their lives above and beyond the call of duty. And in so doing they did more than defend America. In the face of painful prejudice they helped define America at its best."

The 442nd Regiment with German POWs, courtesy of Sons and Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to We Are Not Free. It originally ran in September 2020 and has been updated for the March 2022 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.25 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: We Had to Remove This Post
    We Had to Remove This Post
    by Hanna Bervoets
    It's not about money. Kayleigh, the protagonist and narrator of We Had to Remove This Post, a newly ...
  • Book Jacket: River of the Gods
    River of the Gods
    by Candice Millard
    The Nile River has provided vital resources for millennia, serving as a source of water, food and ...
  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, ...
  • Book Jacket: Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    by Alison Espach
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance will make you ache for a loss you didn't experience as you relate...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Hamnet
by Maggie O'Farrell
"Of all the stories...about Shakespeare’s life, [Hamnet] is so gorgeously written that it transports you."
The Boston Globe

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Fruiting Bodies
    by Kathryn Harlan

    A genre-bending debut collection of stories full of desire, wisdom, and magic blooming amidst decay.

  • Book Jacket

    One's Company
    by Ashley Hutson

    For readers of Ottessa Moshfegh this fearless debut chronicles one woman's escape into a world of obsessive imagination.

Win This Book!
Win Where the Crawdads Sing

Win a signed copy of Where the Crawdads Sing

In celebration of the movie release on July 15, we have three signed copies to give away.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T O Thing W H T F I F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.