New Book Details Real-Life Story of Japanese-American Brothers Who Served in World War II while Family Forced into Internment Camp

The newly released non-fiction book, “When the Akimotos Went to War: An Untold Story of Family, Patriotism and Sacrifice during World War II,” captures the story of three Japanese-American brothers—Victor, Johnny, and Ted Akimoto—who volunteered for military service while their family members were forced into an internment camp. Despite the nation-wide fear of the Nisei—the first generation of Japanese children born in the United States who were American citizens—the Akimoto brothers pledged their loyalty and bravery to the U.S. military, wanting to prove that being an American ran deeper than race.  

Through the use of photographs, letters, and original documents, the voices of these three brothers are heard throughout the book. “One of the things we agreed on was neither of us had the slightest fear of death and so if it was God’s will that we should give our lives to our country, we wanted you folks to be proud and not mourn; for this is the greatest cause a man can give his life for, as we are fighting on the side of God,” wrote Victor in a letter to his parents about a conversation between himself and Johnny. From stateside training to fighting in Europe, the Akimoto brothers served proudly, hoping to help change public perception of Japanese Americans. But ultimately, not all of the brothers return after the war, proving that bullets and disease do not discriminate. 

Author Matthew Elms, a middle school teacher, wrote this book as part of the Understanding Sacrifice teacher education program created by the American Battle Monuments Commission, National History Day® and by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.  

“When the Akimoto’s Went to War peels back the pages of history and allows the reader an insight into the human side of war, told through a single family.  Before the war, they were a typical American immigrant family,” said Elms. “Pearl Harbor changed their lives profoundly—splitting them up and forcing all to adapt.  By utilizing their photographs, letters, and compelling WWII documents, the Akimoto family have lessons to teach all of us about life and death.”  
 
Through his research, Elms uncovered pieces of the Akimoto story that had never been known by members of the family—including details of Victor’s time in a German prisoner of war camp. Written for young adults, this book aims to give students a better understanding of the Japanese-American experience during World War II.  

“When the Akimotos Went to War” is available for sale through the Government Printing Office, or a free PDF copy of the book can be downloaded from ABMCeducation.org. 

About the American Battle Monuments Commission: 
The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) is a U.S. government agency charged with commemorating the service, achievements and sacrifice of the U.S. armed forces. Established by Congress in 1923, ABMC administers, operates, and maintains 25 permanent American military cemeteries and 27 federal memorials, monuments and markers located across the globe. These cemeteries and memorials, most of which commemorate the service and sacrifice of Americans who served in World War I and World War II, are among the most beautiful and meticulously maintained shrines in the world. For more information, visit www.abmc.gov, or connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.  

About National History Day®:
National History Day® (NHD) is a nonprofit education organization in College Park, Maryland. Established in 1974, NHD offers yearlong academic programs that engage over half a million middle and high school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. These research-based projects are entered into contests at the local and affiliate levels, where the top student projects have the opportunity to advance to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD also seeks to improve the quality of history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators. These take the form of webinars, professional development training, online courses for graduate credit, and summer institutes. NHD coordinates the Albert H. Small: Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom® Student & Teacher Institute. For more information about NHD, visit www.nhd.org

About the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University:
Since 1994, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University has used digital media to advance history education, preserve and present history online, and transform scholarship. RRCHNM is a democratic, collaborative space where scholars, developers, designers, and researchers work together to advance history education and digital humanities. For more information, visit chnm.gmu.edu. 

About the Author: Matthew Elms  
“When the Akimotos Went to War” is Matthew’s first published book. He wrote the book to highlight the true story of one Japanese-American family for young adult readers. The Akimoto tale brings together stories of the 100TH Infantry Battalion, 442ND Regimental Combat Team, Japanese internment policies, and World War II.  

Matthew, a social studies teacher at Singapore American School, lives with his wife, Dr. Deborah Elms, daughters Callie and Alicia, and son Cameron. He enjoys traveling around the world and sketching various people, places, things while waiting for dinner in restaurants. For extra fun, he enjoys making the lives of his eighth grade students difficult.