Episode 315 John Suzuki Lessons from History Honoring Japanese American WWII Heroes Transcript

This transcript is from episode 315 with guest John Suzuki.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio.

And now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is John Suzuki. John is the author of the book, American Grit, uh, from a Japanese. American Concentration Camp Rises in American War Hero. Uh, this episode is going to be a little different than some of the other episodes, uh, that we’ve done in that we’re going to be looking at a piece of American history, uh, that doesn’t get talked about too much.

Um, but first, before we get into that, uh, I want to first welcome to you to you here.

John Suzuki: Hey, [00:01:00] Scott. Thanks for having me for sure.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. Um, for the listeners who aren’t familiar with you, your background, who you are, uh, can you tell us a little bit about

John Suzuki: yourself? Yeah. Well, you know, nobody’s familiar with me, so this will be new news for everybody.

But, um, I wrote this book, American Grit, And, um, I am a huge, huge fan of the military community. I, my, my dad fought in World War ii and this book is about World War II and a kind of a dark part of what happened back then. And, um, you know, my dad, uh, I’m Japanese American and my dad, uh, actually fought in the Pacific Theater during World War ii, and he fought, he fought in a, in a group called the Military Intelligence Service, and this was a group of 5,000 to 6,000 Japanese Americans.

uh, Top Secret Group. Their job was to be interpreters, code breakers, negotiators on behalf of the United States as they fought the Japanese Imperial Army. And, um, [00:02:00] and the amazing thing about them was that They served as, as the United States, in the United States Army, uh, fighting against the Japanese and the Japanese considered all Japanese around the world as Japanese nationals, the Japanese government did.

And so if these guys were captured by the Japanese army, they were. Executed for being traitors and um, and, but these guys were out there. And the other thing that’s really interesting about these guys in the Pacific was that they were the, they were the only group of men that I can think of that I’ve been able to find who actually required bodyguards, uh, by the United States Army to protect them from the United States Army because, you know, from being mistaken, Um, and the enemy.

And so I am a, I am a, I, I love the military community. I, I, I bleed red, white, and blue. Um, my name is John James Suzuki. My dad gave me the name John. He gave me [00:03:00] the two most American names he could think of. Um, and so it is, my name is John James. But yeah, and, and I wrote this book, um, because it is a, a part of American history that, uh, is, is becoming forgotten and worse yet, it’s not being taught.

Yeah. It’s not being taught, and it’s such a dark part of our history, but it’s such an amazing, amazing story. Everything about, about this is, is true. Um, I didn’t make anything up, it, it, it, it’s all true. And, um, and super, super inspiring. It was a dark time, but, but… You know, looking back at the lessons learned and how people responded, it really, it really is, uh, something that, uh, has been an honor for me, uh, to share with folks.

Um, and we got to make sure it never happens again. Well,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, I think first off, absolutely. We need to make sure that this does not happen again. Uh, definitely, uh, uh, Dark time in American history where, um, so many, [00:04:00] uh, Japanese Americans were rounded up and put in these concentration camps. And, um, like we can’t allow that to happen again.

Um, doesn’t, doesn’t matter what the person’s background is. Um, you know, if you’re. If you’re an American, you’re an American, right? And, um, you know, we’ll, we’ll get more into this in a little bit, but we’ll, we’ll talk about how some of these people who were rounded up and, and how they, they overcame this, uh, injustice and how they, they even went on, like your, your father, uh, went on and, and served in World War II.

Um, you know, despite the fact that they were, uh, being held in these camps and, and that. That to me is just such incredible, um, you know, selflessness, uh, that, that they were willing to put that aside, um, and, and still serve the country. Uh, but we’ll get more into that in just a second. Uh, when we get back, we’ll, we’ll talk about that.

So stay tuned.

Everybody, welcome back to Drive On. Um, John, [00:05:00] your book, American Grit, we talked about it a little bit earlier in, uh, the kind of introduction to this episode here, um, but it talks about the Japanese American concentration camps, um, in that, that, uh, existed in the U. S. after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Yes. Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted you to write this book?

John Suzuki: Yeah. So, so this, this is a book right here for, for those of you who can see it. It’s called American Grit. Um, but it was, it was a calling. It, it, it kind of, um, to make a really long story really short. Um, uh, my mom was living in a Japanese, uh, assisted living facility. And one day I went to visit her and she was, uh, and in the elevator, there was this flyer that said pilgrimage to Minidoka.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know what a pilgrimage was, and I didn’t know what a Minidoka was. And so I just, I just let it go. For the following two months, that flyer showed up everywhere. And literally the day before, and this was 15 years ago, uh, [00:06:00] literally the day before this pilgrimage, it showed up on my windshield.

And so I’m like, okay, uh, I, I ought to take the hint. So I called him up and I said, you know, you’re probably sold out, but I’m, I’m one guy and wondering if you have space, and the lady said, This is pretty amazing. I just got a cancellation. Now it’s yours. And so next thing I know, I’m, I’m going, I’m on this bus, uh, on a 12 hour bus ride from Seattle to Twin Falls, Idaho, which is, uh, near where Minidoka was, going to a former United States concentration camp.

And I, I told everybody on the bus going there that I didn’t know why I was there, but I figured that I would know the reason why I was there on the trip coming home. And so, on the third day, they had a remembrance ceremony, and, um, we sat in front of this billboard, uh, it looked like a billboard, but it was called the honor roll, and this honor roll had the names of a thousand men who volunteered out of that concentration [00:07:00] camp to fight, and in many cases die, for the United States Army, which was the same army that put them and their families in those camps, and their families remained in prison while they went that while they went off to war by the United States Army.

It was just crazy. And I, I had heard about the, um, concentration camps. A lot of people call them internment camps and relocation camps, same thing. Um, um, but I’d never, and I, and I heard about these men who, who, um, fought in the European theater and the, and the Pacific theater. I never heard of guys who volunteered out of the camps to go to war.

Um, and uh, and that’s what, that’s what prompted me to say, Boy, this is a story that needs to be told. Not only to let folks know about, uh, you know, the concentration camps, and to make sure that those things never happen again, Um, but to let people know about these guys, you know, and, and how… It’s, I hope I, I, I hope I can say that, how kickass our veterans are, [00:08:00] right?

Sure. Yeah. And, um, yeah, and you know, it, it was j it is a story that, that I had to tell. And I started, I started off writing a screenplay because I, I thought that the fastest way to the American psyche was through, uh, a major motion picture. But I backed off over the years and it, it took me 15 years of research and going to the battlefields and, and just an amazing journey.

Um, but that’s what American grit’s all about.


Scott DeLuzio: it is an amazing story when you think about it, um, you think about this today, uh, to me, it feels like it would be unimaginable for something like this to happen here in the United States. But yet it did happen. Um, and it happened just as kind of like a knee jerk reaction, I think, right after, um, after the bombing in Pearl Harbor, right?

John Suzuki: It was, it was. There was a lot that led up to it, right? Because, because leading up to, to Pearl Harbor, um, the [00:09:00] Japanese were expanding across Asia and there was just a lot of fear, um, of, of what was, what was happening back there. And, um, Uh, but what happened was that, um, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, um, there was, there was a lot of widespread fear that they were going to attack the West Coast.

And there was a lot of fear of, I mean, legitimate fear of Japanese spies. And so, uh, one of the prevalent… Prevalent feelings of those days was that if they look like the enemy, they must be the enemy. And so consequently, that’s what led to a thing called Executive Order 9066, which authorized the United States Army to evict and evacuate 120, 000 people of Japanese ancestry, including 50, 000 children and babies, and put them into concentration camps way away from the West Coast.

And, um, and so much for civil liberties of the, of those times. Sure. [00:10:00] And yeah, and these camps were, were, were built in literally the badlands of America and the deserts and swamps of America where nobody wanted to be. Um, but yeah, it was, it was widespread fear and it was, um, It was, it was a war and, and people, people.

Feeling like you’re the enemy. We gotta, we gotta get you out of here. And they, so they, yeah, sorry. Yeah, no,

Scott DeLuzio: no, that’s fine. Um, was it primarily on the West coast of the, that these Japanese Americans were taken from? It wasn’t necessarily the East coast. It was more, more focused on the West coast,

John Suzuki: right? No, which makes it even weirder.

Right. I mean, you would think that if, if, if. I mean, a Japanese is a Japanese, right? Anybody with Japanese ancestry, whether it be on the East coast or West coast. Maybe a spy, um, but you know, the, the pro there were a lot of Japanese, Japanese folks, Japanese, uh, ancestry on the West coast. And, and, and the, the, the crazy thing about, about this was that they [00:11:00] did nothing wrong.

In fact, there was not a single person of Japanese ancestry that was, that was convicted of espionage in the entirety of World War II. And so it was, but it was, uh, they were, they were placed in these camps. So only for no other reason than their race. Wow.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. You know, I, I said earlier, you know, it’s kind of unimaginable that, that this type of thing would happen in the United States.

But then I, I, as, as you were talking, I was starting to think about, um, kind of the reaction after nine 11 when people were, were going in, it wasn’t the government necessarily going around rounding up people and putting them in camps and things like that, but there was this, this anti Muslim sentiment that was, was around and there were people were.

Attacking Muslim people or, or you know, the groups, uh, of people that might be congregating in certain areas. Um, they, they, there were these attacks. I remember watching on the news people, um, throwing bottles [00:12:00] and other rocks and things like that at people’s cars and, uh, you know, just trying to right. So, you know, these types of things do happen.

It’s unfortunately, maybe it’s, I don’t know, is it human nature that these, that these things happen that we want to protect our own kind of thing or like where, where does this even come from?

John Suzuki: Yeah. You know, I, I think that where it comes from is it comes from the perfect storm of a number of things happening at the same time.

And, and, uh, what you, what you mentioned about 9 11, you know, somebody came up with a misguided idea that all. All Muslims must be terrorists. And so we have to, we have to round them up and put them away someplace because they’re a danger to us. Fortunately, cooler, cooler heads prevail. And I will tell you that the Japanese American community was a big part of folks who were saying, stop, stop.

This can’t happen again. Yeah. But, you know, I talked about widespread fear. It’s, it’s three things, I think. Um, first of all is widespread fear. Something [00:13:00] happening that causes people to become very, very fearful. The other part, another part of it is divisiveness. You know, right now we’re living in a world where we’re putting everybody in buckets, right?

We got the black bucket, we got the white bucket, we got the Christian bucket, the Muslim bucket, the gay bucket, the straight bucket. We got all these buckets of people and we have to stop, we have to stop with the divisiveness. And we have to come together, right? And, and my hope is that by, by informing people and helping people understand a little bit about our history and not letting this get stuck under the rug, right?

That maybe we can all come together. And when we see that happen with the divisiveness that’s happening, widespread fear and something really bad happening, that’s the third thing, right? It just, it just becomes a tsunami. And, and we have to be aware of that. So that we, we, we can get in front of it when it all happens, because it’s going to happen.

Scott DeLuzio: It is. And, you know, [00:14:00] inevitably bad things happen. I mean, that’s part of life. Unfortunately, I mean, I wish, wish I could wave a magic wand and just make that not happen, but bad things do happen. Um, there’s, there’s a perceived good guys and bad guys in a lot of situations. And, um, I think It’s kind of natural to want to protect what’s yours and the people that you care about and things like that.

But we also have to, like you said, have cooler heads and, uh, and take a step back and say, okay, not all Japanese people were bad during World War II. The people who were dropping the bombs on Pearl Harbor, yeah, I would say those people Yeah, go after those people all you want. Please don’t hold back. Um, you know, the, the people flying the planes on 9 11, those people were bad.

Um, you know, they kind of took care of themselves, but we don’t need to go attacking, you know, Muslim communities or anything like that or Japanese

John Suzuki: communities. Right. Even more recently, real quick, [00:15:00] even more recently during COVID was the Chinese. Sure. Right? The Chinese community, these, these folks in China, in the United States, who are of Chinese descent, they had nothing to do with COVID, right?

And yet they were being attacked. And so, you know, stuff like this, we just need to be aware, um, that bad things aren’t going to happen. But it’s, it’s, uh, it’s in our response that I’m, I’m trying to get in front of it.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And I think, you know, hindsight is 2020 is I guess the saying, right. And, and you can look back and say, obviously it was a bad idea to round up all these Japanese Americans and put them in these camps and, you know, uh, Just shouldn’t happen.

Right. But in the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to just flip that switch and be like, you know what, that looks like a threat. And let’s, let’s go take those people and put them away so that now I’m safe. Um, and, and you, you kind of forget about the fact that those are actual people with rights and everything like that, that those need to be protected as well.

John Suzuki: [00:16:00] Exactly. And, you know, it’s, uh, the other, another part of it is, is blame, right? We’re so, we’re, we’re so, uh, you know, it’s just our knee jerk reaction to blame somebody. Someone has to be to blame for things that, things that go wrong, right? Stop, stop. And, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re people. And, and, and so that’s where, you know, bringing in, bringing a little bit more understanding.

We have to stop living in so much fear and we have to, you know, it’s, we, Bring a little bit, a little bit more love into the world, you know, and if we do that, then, then maybe we’ll be okay.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Well, I want to talk more about this and more about the stories of some of these Japanese American soldiers who volunteered to serve, uh, after the break.

So stay tuned, everybody. Welcome back, uh, John, I want to. take a step back here a little bit. And I want to talk about some of the stories of some of these Japanese American soldiers who volunteered to serve during World War II to fight for, uh, for America. [00:17:00] Uh, but they were in these concentration camps when they volunteered.

Um, yes. And so how did they, how did they get to this point where they Uh, decided, Hey, this is something I want to do. These people locked me away and now I’m volunteering to, to help them out. Well, yeah,

John Suzuki: tell me some stories about those. Yeah, it was a crazy time. And you can imagine what it, what it might’ve been like inside the camps themselves.

where, um, some guys said, yeah, I’m, I’m going. And other people said, what are you doing? What are you stupid? Right. You know, because there, I mean, it literally, it literally pitted families against each other, um, even within families. Um, but this, this, this group of men, you know, they, they felt like. You know, left unattended, they may end up spending the rest of their lives in these camps.

And so they needed to do something to prove their loyalty and to prove that they were just as deserving as anybody else to be Americans and to be recognized as [00:18:00] Americans. So when the, when the president, ironically, right, I mean, he put all these people in these camps, he then said, Oh, we need, we need guys from the camps to fight for the United States army.

And so these guys stepped up. And it was all about proving their loyalty and, and getting out there. And so one of the men, um, uh, was a guy named Sheryl Cushino. His nickname was Cash. And um, when I, when I had that experience going on that pilgrimage, I decided that I wanted to find somebody who volunteered out of the Minidoka concentration camp and went to war with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Now this. Combat Team, the 442nd, was a segregated army unit of Japanese Americans, and it was just Japanese Americans. And they went on, during World War II, to become the most decorated war unit in the history of the United States for its size and duration. [00:19:00] It’s just crazy stuff. And this guy, Shiro Kishino, He, uh, went to war with the 442nd, and he emerged one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II with a silver star, six purple hearts, a bronze star, and a whole bunch of, a whole host of other things.

And, um, and it was the, so these Japanese soldiers from the, of the 442nd came from the camps, and they also came from Hawaii. as well as other parts of the country that weren’t affected by, uh, by the camps. And they all came together in, in Mississippi. Um, and a bunch of the, there, there were two, what a lot of people don’t understand is that there were two groups of guys.

One, one group was from Hawaii. Another group was from, from the mainland and they hated each other because the guys in Hawaii spoke pidgin English. which the guys on the mainland didn’t understand. And so the guys from Hawaii thought that we were being disrespected and there were just massive, massive fights.

Um, what’s interesting was that, um, [00:20:00] The Hawaiian guys called the, called the Japanese from the mainland katonks, because when their head hit the ground it made the sound katonk. And the, uh, the guys from the mainland called the Hawaiian guys Buddha heads because Buddha is Japanese for pig. But anyway, they all came together.

when, um, when the regimental command sent some, some of the Hawaiian guys to, uh, one of the concentration camps for a party. And the guys never knew, they didn’t know anything about these Japanese American concentration camps. And they learned that the mainland guy, a lot of the mainland guys had their families in these camps.

And, um, and, and so it was, it was that night that they got back to Camp Shelby that, that, uh, they came together as a unit, and they became brothers. Um, so there’s just a really interesting backstory there of, of infighting just within this Jap, this regiment of Japanese Americans. But they went on [00:21:00] to, uh, fight a number of battles.

Um, two of the battles that I, that I talk about, uh, were called the Battle of the Lost Battalion. And this one battle was in the, in the Vge forest in France. It’s just out a little outside, a little town called Brewers, but the, um, but a battalion, um, of Texans had advanced too far ahead. And the Germans just came in between them and, and the rest of the rest of, um, uh, you know, rest of the division and surrounded them and they couldn’t get them out.

And the 442nd was called in to save these guys. Make a long story short. They, uh, the 442nd lost 800, over 800 guys to save 211 men. And, um, they never lost a battle. Uh, they never left a man behind. And, um, And it was, it was pretty crazy and, and from that battle, there were a number of eventual Medal of Honor recipients, [00:22:00] who, by the way, got their medal, Medals of Honor, almost 50 years after the fact.

And, and they were finally recognized. But Cash was wounded three times. And, and imagine, and your audience can, can imagine this more than anybody else, because I’m sure some of them have done this. But imagine… getting halfway blown up and being told to go to the aid station, going to the aid station, getting patched up and running away before they could stop you to get back into the battle.

Right? He did that three times. And the third time, He almost had his leg blown off. And this is when the guys discovered a thing called tree bursts, where the artillery was set to, the fuses on the artillery were set to detonate at treetop levels. So it wasn’t just the shrapnel. That came down, but it was trees that got mixed in with the shrapnel and created a much larger kill zone than if, [00:23:00] than, uh, when the artillery hit the ground.

And, uh, it was, it was just, it was just a massive, massive battle and, and these guys didn’t give up and it took them three days to get there, but they saved this guy, these guys from certain death. So, yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: that, that’s a incredible story of bravery getting out there and, and rescuing these people from, like you said, certain death.

Um, but I, I have to imagine not only the bravery. side of things, but just the, the practical, uh, side of having Japanese Americans fighting with the American army, um, had to be a big advantage, uh, especially in the Pacific theater where there, there were probably, You know, intercepted communications and, and things along those lines where the language would be useful to have that,

John Suzuki: you know?

Yeah, absolutely. And in the Pacific theater, um, and, and my book talks about the, the European theater, France and Italy, but in the Pacific [00:24:00] theater, you know, it was, there was a, the top Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy, his name was Admiral Yamamoto, and it was, it was our guys that intercepted. Um, uh, communications of his travel itinerary and they shot down his airplane and killed him.

And so, you know, I mean, it, it’s, uh, uh, on both sides, um, of, of in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Um, it was just, there was just all kinds of, by all men, every man, not only Japanese, obviously everybody, it was, it was, it was. Just heroism all over the place. Uh, and that’s why we call them the greatest generation,

Scott DeLuzio: right?

You know, that was actually going to be my next comment. It’s like, that is the reason why, because they, they did some incredible things, uh, that a lot of people was nowadays, they, they would consider it unimaginable that, that someone could do some of these things and, you know, and it’s a shame too, because like you said in the, uh, earlier in the [00:25:00] episode, um, that.

These Japanese American soldiers, they needed protection from the American army because they’re, you know, it was very easy to confuse them for the actual enemy, um, because they look so, so similar to the actual enemy. Um, and so, you know, I don’t, I don’t know that that is necessarily a prejudice type thing or anything like that.

It’s a protection kind of thing because it’s, You know, it’s very easy for an actual Japanese person, for someone from Japan fighting for Japan to find an American army uniform and put it on and pretend that he’s American. I can totally make, you know, understand that. Um, especially for the listeners who, who probably.

Uh, have, uh, a good portion of them probably have served in Iraq or Afghanistan where there were no uniforms. And so you didn’t know who the the bad guys were, um, you know, the, the enemy didn’t [00:26:00] wear a uniform that necessarily shouted, Hey, look, I’m the enemy. I’m the bad guy. Yeah. So I can really understand that mindset there.

Um, but even. During, so during, obviously the, those camps that everyone was rounded up into, uh, but even after the war, um, these Japanese American soldiers faced a lot of, uh, challenges, um, how did their experiences in the military affect the reintegration into society and what did they have any sort of support or, or were they looked at kind of poorly, uh, you know, in the American public?

John Suzuki: So, there’s a short term, long term aspect of that, right? Um, from a long term perspective, their heroism and valor, absolutely. You know, I mean, they were, they were recognized, they were recognized by President Truman when they, when the, you know, first transport ship came, came into, um, into the East Coast.

And, um, uh, and so, uh, but from the standpoint of being recognized as [00:27:00] deserving Americans, those guys, took that ball way, way forward. Um, what was really, really, uh, sad was that, um, the rest of the country still viewed them as the enemy, right? And, and as I mentioned to you. Uh, before the war, they were, if you look like the enemy, you were the enemy.

And in a lot of ways, um, after the war, it got worse because Japan lost. And so, you know how we feel about losers, right? And so not only were you the enemy, you were the losing enemy. Um, a gentleman named Daniel Inouye, who was a, who, who passed away in 2012. He was a United States Senator for 49 years of Hawaii.

And, um, as he was coming home, he walked into a, from World War II, um, uh, he walked into a barber shop and the barber said, hey, you need to read that sign. And the sign said, we don’t cut Jap hair. Now this man was wearing his American uniform and he was missing a right arm. And that was the kind of treatment they [00:28:00] got.

as they, as they came back. Um, you know, a bunch of guys coming back to the West Coast, uh, including Shiro Kishino, he, he returned back to Seattle. And, um, and the veterans of foreign wars would not accept Japanese Americans from being part of the VFW. Because, I mean, these guys, these guys were the most, right?

I mean, it was crazy. And so. There was, there was just that feeling, um, that, you know, you’re Japanese and it was hard for people to find housing. It was hard for them to find jobs. It was just really hard, uh, for decades, but you know, they, they stayed true to their American dreams of a better life for their families and they won.

And that’s a big part of where the American grit comes from.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. When we get back, uh, we’re going to talk a little bit more about, uh, some of the, these challenges. But. More importantly, I think we’re going to talk about, uh, how to prevent these things from happening again. Uh, we don’t want a repeat of these situations, [00:29:00] so stay tuned.

Hey everybody, welcome back. Uh, John, really, it’s an, to me, it’s an incredible story. Uh, thinking about the, the bravery and the… Heroism of some of these Japanese Americans who stood up despite the fact that their country, uh, rounded them up into these camps, uh, not just them, but their whole families, babies included, um, you know, rounded up into these camps, uh, treated like second class citizens, if you want to even call it that, um, and they still said, Hey, let’s, let’s go and.

serve this country, knowing that there, there is a better future here for them and their families, their children. Um, to me, it’s, it’s kind of inspiring hearing some of these stories that you were just talking about. Um, how can these challenges that these people overcame, in your mind, how did this inspire people today who might hear some of these stories?

John Suzuki: Yeah, you [00:30:00] know, um, there, the book is just, it is an incredible story. And I can say that because they’re not my stories. Um, I just wrote the book, right? Um, but it’s just amazing experiences. I mean, you think about these people who are put, who are put in these camps and, and, you know, they’re put in the middle of the deserts, right?

Where it got to over a hundred degrees and in the summer times and at zero and maybe a little bit below zero during the winter times. Um, and they were, they were placed in these basically shacks made of lumber and tar paper. I mean, literally, that’s all they were made out of. Um, there was no plumbing.

There’s just a potbelly stove, uh, for warmth and, and a single light bulb in each one of the barracks. It was crazy. And, and yet, you know, they, you think about how they, how they survived. You know, they came together. They, there’s a Japanese saying that goes, Shikata ga nai. Shikaraganai. And loosely [00:31:00] translated, it means there’s nothing you can do about it, so suck it up and get on with it, right?

Um, and, and they did. And they came together as a community. They came together and they built schools, and, and, and they built hospitals, and they built stores, and, and they even had their own police department. And they came together as, as a community. They even brought, amazingly, they brought irrigation.

to some of these, some of these areas that did, that were just barren wasteland. And now you go to them and they’re fertile farmland. Um, the Japanese brought that, brought that to, to those areas. And, um, and so, you know, I kind of look at the world today and I think to myself, you know, we’re, we’re missing some of that.

We’re missing that spirit of community and coming together and understanding. And, um, Uh, and it just, it’s just, you, you think about the people who are in the camps. and what they did to survive and how they came to that. I mean, [00:32:00] that’s super inspirational. And then after they came home and reviewed, I mean, they kept, they kept fighting for 25 years after the war into the sixties, they kept fighting, you know, because the.

There’s, there continue to be really bad feelings towards Japanese, Japanese, uh, Americans. Um, and then, and then you think about these guys who volunteered out of the camps and, and went to war. I mean, you, you read, I, I told you about the Battle of the Lost Battalion. I did not mention the Battle of the Gothic Line.

Um, and I’ll just give you two sentences. What the entire fifth army of 200 men couldn’t do in Italy, the 442nd gate came in and did in 48 hours. It was, it was an epic, epic battle, um, up in the mountains where, uh, they decided to climb the backside of the mountains, which was basically a cliff. Um, and, uh, and within 48 hours, they, they took, they took.

They took the top of the mountain range. Um, but [00:33:00] you know, you, you think about, you think about it and you just go, wow. And for me, I love it because, you know, these guys are, these guys and a lot of your audience, these guys are superheroes, right? They’re super here. And they’re the, they’re the people that I want my kids to look up to, um, versus.

A lot of folks, kids, look up to these things, and I just kind of wonder why. Right. And so, um, my hope is that sharing this and, and, you know, giving people the understanding will inspire folks, um, uh, to understand what they did and, and how they won. And, um, and, you know, you know, in this world of inclusion, you know, we’re trying to, we’re trying to figure out how to include everyone.

Well, this is a story of. De inclusion and re inclusion, and um, and so it’s just a, it’s just a wonderful, you know, it’s not your typical, this is the [00:34:00] camps. It’s a story. It’s a true story that talks about what people went through, what their experience was like, what they did, how they thought. And it just makes you go, wow, you know, and, uh, and, and appreciate, uh, appreciate what they went through.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And, and you mentioned the, the, the mindset that they had is like, you can’t change this situation. Uh, and I, I would totally butcher the Japanese translation of this, but, you know, you can’t control the situation. Um, but. You know, just deal with it because this is the situation that you, you have to, to deal with.

And for the, for the listeners, the military is probably very familiar with the phrase, embrace the suck, which to me is, is like the same idea. Um, like you can’t change the fact that this sucks. Um, it, it, and it did in that, in that situation, that, that really sucked for those people who are going through what they were going through.

Um, You know, it, it was a, a terrible situation should [00:35:00] never have happened. Um, but it did, and they made the best of this bad situation. Um, you can sit there and whine and feel sorry about it. All you want, not going to change anything. So they did what they could to make the best of it and they embrace that suck.

And yeah, you know, I think that’s, that’s really the takeaway I think from, from this. Yeah.

John Suzuki: Yeah. They not only embrace the suck, they did something with it. Yeah. Yeah. And they, and they, and they, they, they made the, you know, it’s the, the old stupid making lemonade out of lemons. Right. But literally, I mean, life’s, life’s not fair.

It just isn’t, um, for anybody. It’s not fair. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Right. And how are you going to make the best of it? And, um, and these folks, these folks came together, um, out of love, out of community, out of survival, right? And, and they pull together. And, and that’s, that’s the kind of spirit that I’m, you know, I’m, I’m [00:36:00] hoping that sharing this will bring back a little bit more of, right?

Um, they didn’t blame the United States government, although they did, right? But setting aside the, setting aside the blame and the unfairness, Um, and they did, they did, uh, go to court, a lot of them, and later it was, it was determined by this, decided by the Supreme Court that that whole experience was unconstitutional.

And so they won that. Um, but in the meantime, you know, there weren’t riots. They didn’t, you know, it, it, it just, they just. figured out how do we make the best of this? How do we come together? Um, how, and, and, and the soldiers, you know, the, the, the, the guys in Europe and, and the Pacific theater, how do we kick ass?

Right. How do we, how do we show that we’re, that we’re just as good as anybody else? And they did, and they went out, they went off and did it. And so I’m, I’m hoping that it’ll, it’ll offer some [00:37:00] inspiration in different ways for, for people, um, who, who read or listen to, listen to the book.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. You know, for me, I, I look at the situation and.

Look at it like any bad situation that can happen to anybody. Um, now obviously this is a big, much bigger scale cause you have so many people all in one, uh, one place at one time who are going through this type of thing. But you look at any one of those individuals who is in one of those camps, whether they are one of the people who decided to go and serve in the, uh, in the army or they, um, were, you know, uh, a wife or a child or somebody who’s just.

They’re stuck there, right? Look at that one individual and they got dealt a bad hand. They could sit there and whine about it and bitch and moan and all this kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, that wasn’t going to improve their situation any. So they looked at it and said, how can I make this [00:38:00] as good as it can be?

It, it sucks a hundred percent. It’s terrible. Uh, it’s probably not the words that they use. They probably use some other, other words, but, uh, yeah, probably the same, same sentiment was there. Right. It sucks. But how do we make this as good as possible? Uh, how do we, how do we figure this out and, and have as good of a outcome as we Possibly can given the situation.

And I think that’s the, the mindset, that’s the attitude. They didn’t look at themselves necessarily as victims. They, they looked at as the, okay, there’s an injustice done here. We’ll deal with that later, but let’s make the best of this bad situation. And, and that’s, I think what they ended up doing, I think it’s a wonderful thing that they, that they did, um, that they, that they kind of took it in stride and they, they came out, um, you know, better off, uh, you know, afterwards.

Um, now we obviously. Oh, go

John Suzuki: ahead. No, certainly better off than in the camps, right? Sure. Um, but you know, it was, it was really tough. It was especially tough for them because when they, when, [00:39:00] when the order first went out, you know, a lot of people, a lot of them, most of them lost everything. Right, they lost their farms, they lost their businesses, they lost their homes, they lost their belongings.

They were only allowed to carry what, uh, to bring what they could carry. And they had no idea where they were going, whether it be the desert or to Southern California or you know, to the beach, well, they knew they weren’t going to the beach, but, um, you know, they, you know, they, they didn’t know for how long they were going.

They didn’t, they didn’t even know if they were going to be shot. taken out to the desert to be shot. I mean, you think about it. So this is, this is the beginning of World War II. And the only reference point they have of people being rounded up because of their race and losing everything. were the Jews in Europe.

Yeah. And so that was the only reference point they had. I mean, can you imagine how scary that was for them? And, you know, uh, it was obviously very different because, because nobody was purposely shot, [00:40:00] um, or executed or, or tried to be exterminated. They, they were all released after the war, but nonetheless, um, there, there were, uh, There was a lot, a lot to be fearful of.

Um, and so once they, once they got over it, once they got over that initial shock and said, okay, now what are we going to do? Like you said, these are the cards that were going to be dealt. And you know, it’s, it’s very It’s, it’s an example or it’s a story of the concentration camps, but it’s a story of life, right?

It’s a story of life. We are all the only the, you know, I like to tell people because I really really do I’ve dedicated my life to helping people make their lives better and however, I can do that and I tell people, you know the the one thing that you need to understand that will change your life forever is responsibility and taking responsibility is the most empowering thing you could ever do with your life.[00:41:00]

Because once you take responsibility and you don’t blame somebody else for your circumstances, and you realize that your life is a result of the decisions that you’ve made. I mean, that’s a really hard thing for people to take responsibility for, right? Because everybody wants to, everybody wants to blame somebody, but it’s the most empowering and liberating thing you could possibly give yourself, right?

Because now all of a sudden it is, you know what? I can, I can. Change my life. I

Scott DeLuzio: do have

John Suzuki: that power. Absolutely. Yeah. If I take responsibility for my decisions and if I take responsibility for how I’m going to respond to certain situations and give myself the responsibility on responding appropriately and in a way that’s going to help me and not hurt me.

Right? I mean, when you, when you get into the blame game, you’re hurting yourself. And so, [00:42:00] yeah, this is, this is kind of a story of, you know, these folks took responsibility and, and they, they continued fighting well after World War II, but you know what? They won. They won, and they won. Yeah. It’s

Scott DeLuzio: funny because, so the way you just phrased it is, um, you know, they, they took responsibility, right?

And it’s like, well, they didn’t put themselves there. And I could, I could see some of the audience might be thinking of themselves. They didn’t put themselves in there. So what, what are they responsible for? They’re, they’re responsible for like what we were just talking about. They’re responsible for.

That outcome, that end result, and that’s where the responsibility lies. You can sit there and you can point your finger and blame, you know, this person did this, this person did that. This group that the government, whoever the, the boogeyman is in the, in the story, you could point at them and say, Hey, these people did, did me wrong.

Okay. So what, what’s next? How are you going to, how are you going to get you better? Because [00:43:00] clearly they’re not the ones who are looking out for your best interest. You are right. How do you get you better? And I think that’s the importance

John Suzuki: there. And, and I’ll, I’ll just say this, just one last thing. You know, I tell people that fear is born of weakness.

Yeah. Fear is born of weakness, right? Love is born of strength. And, um, I’ve heard, I’ve heard one of your, uh, one of your podcasts about self defense, right? Um, you know, the stronger you are, the less fearful you become. Sure. So take responsibility, figure out how to build that mental and physical strength.

And, you know, and, and you’ll become part of our own army, uh, that keeps Bad stuff like this from happening

Scott DeLuzio: again. Absolutely. We’ll be right back after this short break. Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. Um, if you’ve missed the last couple episodes of Drive On, you might’ve missed that we’re trying to close out each episode with a joke.

Try to keep things light. a little bit humorous here. Uh, laughter can be the best medicine. And I [00:44:00] want to be able to share some of that humor and laughter with the audience. Uh, but before we get to that, uh, and, and the joke, John, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today. Um, where can people go to get a copy of your book and find out a little bit more information about these, uh, Japanese Americans who II?

John Suzuki: Yeah, thank you, Scott. I have to say I am so honored to be here, uh, and that you’ve given me an opportunity to speak, especially to this audience. Um, uh, all my love, all my love, all my respect. Um, and thank you and my gratitude. Um, so the book is called American Grit. From a Japanese American concentration camp arises an American war hero.

But you just have to remember American Grit. Um, and, um, you can go to Amazon. Amazon’s the easiest place. Or, or, a lot of bookstores actually are carrying it now. Um, and go to Amazon and just search on American Grit and you’ll see John Suzuki. Um, and I’ve [00:45:00] got, uh, the hardback, uh, the hard copy I’ve got, I’ve narrated.

My book, um, so it’s on audio and also on Kindle, obviously, um, and for more information about me and about, uh, about the book, you can go to John Suzuki. com and, um, and there you have my website and, and there’s all kinds of stuff there. Um, but yeah, it’s been, it’s been wonderful being here, Scott, and, uh, thank you again for, for having me.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, you bet. Um, you know, I, I like this, this, uh, story that you shared. I obviously, I don’t like the situation, but I like, like the fact that we are able to look back into our history, see this, this. Dark time in our history and learn something from it and potentially grow from it and come out better, uh, from the situation.

And I think that’s what we all are aspiring to do is we want, we want better for, for our kids, for our grandkids and future generations. We want, we always want. to improve and get better. And so this, this [00:46:00] was, I think, an important story. Um, definitely, I think will resonate with some of the audience here, uh, that we have, you know, given the military history and the context there, but, um, but just important story

John Suzuki: overall.

Yeah. One thing real quick is that if you do pick up the book, um, when you finish it, don’t put it in your bookshelf. I ask that you give it to somebody. Give it to somebody and share it with them so that they can learn about this as well. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s about, you know, so I don’t want you to tell them to go buy it.

I’d prefer that you just give it to them. Sure. Make it easy and, and, and, and share the, share the

Scott DeLuzio: story. Absolutely. All right. So time for the humor section of this show. Um, so I don’t know if you have a joke or not that you’d like to share, but if you do, uh, by all means,

John Suzuki: I think I got a dad joke, which is probably so bad.

It’s probably going to be called a grandpa joke, but what do you call a fish? What do you, what do you call a fish with no eyes?[00:47:00]

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, uh, I don’t know. A fish.

John Suzuki: And what did the sushi say to the bee? I don’t know. Wasabi.

I’m laughing at my own joke. It’s so stupid. Anyway, I’m

Scott DeLuzio: sorry. That’s okay. That’s okay. My jokes probably not much better. So, so my, my joke, uh, when a soldier loses the rifle in the army. The army is going to charge them like a thousand dollars or whatever the cost is to replace the rifle. And that’s why in the Navy, the captain always goes down with the ship.

John Suzuki: That’s a big

Scott DeLuzio: bill. That’s a big bill. Yeah. You don’t want to, you don’t want to be putting that bill. So John, again, thank you [00:48:00] so much for taking the time to join us. I really do appreciate it. My honor. Thank you, Scott. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son, on Amazon.

All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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