What inspired me to write Becoming American
Having lived in the Midwest all my life, I’ve always been amazed at how little Mid-westerners know about the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II and how one of the most successful battalions in the fight against the Nazi Regime secretly trained in Wisconsin. This Hawaiian battalion was almost entirely Japanese-American, most having never left the island of Hawaii before being sent, secretly by train, to Fort McCoy. Coinciding with this, because most of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were sent to camps, the Military Intelligence Secret Language School, once located at the Presidio in San Francisco, was relocated to Savage and then Fort Snelling to avoid the arrest and removal of the MISLS agents (whom most were Japanese-American). Both of these groups were critical in winning the war, yet most people know nothing about them, nor their local connection to this area.
It’s been a passion of mine to bring to light the heroism of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regiment, along with awareness of Executive Order 9066 and how it impacted those sent to camps. A few years back, I decided to research and write a young-adult historical fiction depicting these events so that they may be remembered and not lost in history books.
There are several accounts of World War II, but of the few targeted to young adults, even less include the voice of a silent culture who was encamped within their own country. As I tell our kids, imagine waking up tomorrow to find you must sell all of your belongings for little to nothing, before being sent to live in a camp at an unknown location, with your freedom revoked. Why? Because you are Norwegian or Irish or whatever it may be and they have become the enemy of the US in war. But we’ve never even been there. We’re American, they say. Yes, I tell them, but your ancestors came from there and so you are now not to be trusted.
I can see the kids lost in thought, which is exactly what I wanted. I hope for this book to evoke emotion, creating awareness and empathy among its readers.
“Indeed, the smear of injustice forced upon Americans of Japanese decent during World War II was and remains a dark time in United States history. Amazingly, the victims chose honor and immeasurable sacrifice over revenge in their quest to prove their loyalty to the USA. Callie Trautmiller’s ‘Becoming American‘ is an engaging and important addition to the literature preserving this difficult — and inspiring — time in our history. Highly recommended!“
Graham Salisbury, author of multiple award winning Under the Blood-Red Sun, including the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.