From left, Terry Shima, Director Junichiro Suzuki, and Noriko Sanefuji, take part in a panel discussion following a screening of the film “442nd: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity.” (Photo by Sandra Vuong, courtesy of JAVA)
Washington, D.C. (February 25, 2010) – The Smithsonian Institution held a special preview screening of the film, the 442nd: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity”, with surviving veterans and Japanese American community present to discuss actual events.
“Very moving,” “great,” “brought tears,” “well done,” “powerful,” “educational,” “informative,” were some of the remarks the audience wrote on their survey questionnaire following the showing in the Smithsonian’s Carmichael Auditorium, on February 19, 2011, sixty-nine years after President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, now observed as the Day of Remembrance.
Featured in the film were Senator Daniel Inouye, Steve Shimizu, Nelson Akagi, Lawson Sakai, George Sakato and George Takei of Star Trek. The production was possible by a grant from Dr. Paul Terasaki.
The narrator of the film was Lane Nishikawa, an American Sansei who produced and directed his own feature film about the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a blend of Hawaiian and mainland Japanese Americans, that fought a five day battle against German infantry, artillery and tanks, to rescue the trapped 1st Battalion of the Texas 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division in the Vosges Mountains of Northern France in October 1944.
Following the showing of 442nd: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, a three person panel that included director Junichi Suzuki, Terry Shima, a 442nd veteran, and moderator Noriko Sanefuji, a Smithsonian staffer who discussed the film as it related to Executive Order 9066.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program was the principal sponsor of the program and the co-sponsors were the National Museum of American History, National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Veterans Association.
When Nisei were recruited for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, over 2,500 Nisei who had been forcibly relocated to barbed wire enclosed internment camps volunteered to prove their loyalty – the only ethnic group that went into combat for that purpose in WWII.
As told by the veterans themselves and skillfully interspersed by US Army Signal Corps footage, 442nd: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, a 97-minute film provides rare insights of 442nd combat achievements and human nature. It also delves into the post-war effects on family life, the anguish of loss of loved ones, patriotism to the land of their birth, optimism and hope for future generations, the dilemma of shooting or saving a 15 year-old enemy soldier, and the defining of the question of loyalty with unmistakable finality.
Director Suzuki, a Tokyo University graduate, served as assistant director at Nikkatsu Studio, oldest film studio in Japan. The first of Suzuki’s trilogy was Toyo’s camera: Japanese American History during WWII, a compilation of photographs of internment camp life as seen through Toyo Miyatake’s camera, a home-made box camera made of parts smuggled into camp and pieces of scrap wood.
The movie, 442nd: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, is the second; and Suzuki has already began filming interviews with MIS veterans and Washington officials for the third, a feature length film on Nisei who served in the Military Intelligence Service in the Asia Pacific Theater.
“The Nisei story must be told in America and Japan and our goal is not to make a profit,” said Suzuki, addressing the next MIS film project.
The Nisei experience of WWII is compelling and I am challenged and honored to bring the trilogy, as a public service, to the widest audience,” he added. “After the trilogy, I believe I need to work on films that will produce income for me to live.”