By P.C. Staff
Manzanar? The 442nd? The internment? At one time, these were just vaguely familiar names to Tom Graves, the San Francisco photographer and author of “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea,” which earned the 2014 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award in history. For a limited time, JACL members can order the book at a discount.
The history of the internment of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II is not taught in public schools on the East Coast, where Graves grew up. He first heard of Manzanar from a book by photographer Ansel Adams that featured photographs taken in the internment camp. Graves had heard of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, but he knew little more than that.
It was not until 2001, when he met 442nd veteran Lawson Sakai, that his curiosity was piqued. Since then, curiosity has grown into a passion for telling others what he has learned, and Graves now travels around the country making presentations at museum and universities to educate audiences on the meaning and the role of the veterans in the Japanese American experience.
Portraits of 98 veterans grace the oversize nine-inch-by-12-inch pages of “Twice Heroes,” along with dozens of interviews of MIS, 100th and 442nd veterans from the Mainland and Hawaii, including the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Sec. Norman Y. Mineta and Gov. George Ariyoshi. Four Medal of Honor recipients also appear in book, along with “regular GIs” — the husbands, fathers, uncles and grandfathers of the many families Graves now considers good friends. Each veteran tells his own story.
A member and supporter of the JACL Watsonville-Santa Cruz chapter, Graves can’t say if he will publish another book, but he will never stop telling the story.
“A book is a tremendous commitment of time, with a real risk of losing a lot of money,” said Graves. “But I get nice kudos, like the Benjamin Franklin Award this year, and an email from an MIS veteran in Hawaii, who told me his granddaughter is reading ‘Twice Heroes’ to his great-granddaughter — four generations sharing their family’s history! That is why I do what I do.”
To order “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea,” visit www.TwiceHeroes.com and enter the coupon code JACLHEROES at checkout.