During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military. Nearly 80 years later, as the number of Nisei veterans with firsthand memories of this history dwindles, we are immensely grateful for the many veterans and their families who have contributed their personal collections and testimonies to be preserved in our digital archives. This Veterans’ Day, we offer a look at some of the photos, oral histories, and other artifacts in the Densho Digital Repository that help keep this story alive today.

Lawson Sakai attempted to enlist in the U.S. Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor, on December 8, 1941, but was rejected due to his Japanese ancestry. He went on to join the 442nd when military service was reopened to Japanese Americans in 1943, and would earn a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and a Congressional Gold Medal.
Tosh Yasutake’s father was arrested by the FBI after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and held in DOJ internment camps while the rest of the family was forcibly removed to Minidoka concentration camp. Tosh volunteered for the 442nd hoping it would help with the release of his father.
Francis Mas Fukuhara was one of thousands of Japanese Americans who joined the Military Intelligence Service during WWII. He describes the irony of the military recruiting Nisei and Kibei as linguists after branding them as untrustworthy because of their knowledge of Japanese language and culture.
Three Nisei soldiers posing in front of a sign that reads "Danger - Mines."
Soldiers of the 442nd posing in front of a sign that reads “Danger – Mines.” Italy, c. 1944-1945. Photo courtesy of the Iino Family.
Nisei soldier Tak Kondo sitting on the front steps of a barrack in Heart Mountain with a group of women.
Soldier Tak Kondo with a group in front of the USO in Heart Mountain concentration camp. Photo courtesy of Marjorie Matsushita and the Manzanar National Historic Site Collection.
Japanese American soldiers sitting on a cot playing cards at Camp Savage, Minnesota.
Japanese American soldiers playing cards at Camp Savage, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of the Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library.
Japanese American Military Intelligence Service linguists posing for a group photo. Seven men sit behind a table with stacks of paper and heavy books, while another row of men stand behind them.
Tokeo Tagami (standing, second from left) and other Military Intelligence Service linguists, c. 1945. Photo courtesy of the Tagami Family Collection.
Nisei soldier Toshikuni Taenaka performing a hand salute while wearing a helmet and military uniform.
Japanese American soldier Toshikuni Taenaka performing a military hand salute outside his parents’ home in Brighton, Colorado. Photo courtesy of the Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library.
A group of 442nd soldiers pose in front of a canal in Italy. Three men are sitting on a wall along the canal, wrapping their arms around three men standing in front of them.
A group of 442nd soldiers pose in front of a canal in Italy, c. 1944-1945. Photo courtesy of the Iino Family.
A Nisei soldier crouching to shave next to his tent at a military encampment.
442nd soldier shaving outside his tent at a military encampment in Italy. Photo courtesy of the Iino Family. 
A group of 442nd soldiers sitting on the ground eating watermelon during a break from training. They are wearing military uniforms and helmets.
A group of 442nd soldiers taking a break during training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of the Saul Collection.
Two Japanese American soldiers crouch down next to a grave in a military cemetery. There are flowers on the ground next to the grave.
Two Japanese American soldiers crouch down next to a military grave with flowers. Photo courtesy of the Masao Sakagami Collection.
Japanese American and white soldiers in military uniforms looking out the window of a train.
Soldiers on a train. Photo courtesy of the Masao Sakagami Collection.
Veterans marching in a parade in Honolulu for the 50th anniversary reunion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. A veteran in the center of the photo is smiling and waving at the camera.
A veteran waves while marching in a parade along Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu, Hawa`i for the 50th anniversary reunion of 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Photo courtesy of the Iino Family.
Purple Heart awarded to Nisei veteran Min Tsubota, next to a "Go For Broke" pin.
Purple heart awarded to Min Tsubota of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Tsubota was wounded in Cerebia, Italy on August 24, 1944. Courtesy of the Tsubota Family Collection.
Senninbari, or thousand-stitch belt, made by Min Tsubota's mother to protect him in battle. On the belt is stitched Min's Buddhist name, the traditional Buddhist chant of "Namu Amida Butsu," and a dedication in English that reads "Minoru Tsubota from Mother."
Senninbari, or thousand-stitch belt, made by Min Tsubota’s mother to protect her son in battle. Each of the thousand knots was sewn by a different woman in Tule Lake concentration camp. On the belt is stitched Min’s Buddhist name, the traditional Buddhist chant of “Namu Amida Butsu,” and a dedication in English. Courtesy of the Tsubota Family Collection.
Front page story on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in The Washington Post on July 16, 1946. The headline reads, “Nisei Regiment Receives Banner of Honor,” and there are three photos of the Nisei soldiers marching and others attending a parade in their honor.
Front page story on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in The Washington Post. The headline reads, “Nisei Regiment Receives Banner of Honor.” July 16, 1946. Courtesy of the California State University Japanese American Digitization Project.

[Header: Japanese American soldier Toshikuni Taenaka performing a military hand salute outside his parents’ home in Brighton, Colorado. Photo courtesy of the Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library.]