They were Americans with Japanese names…
February, 1942. Los Angeles, CA.
TAKASHI “TAK” SENZAKI tugs on his Hollywood Stars baseball cap. He wears a white T-shirt with rolled up sleeves and blue jeans. He’s an all-American boy. Except that he’s not. He’s a Nisei: a 2nd generation Japanese-American. And he’s just hit the game winning home run.
As he rounds the bases, something catches his eye. A posted notice on a nearby telephone pole. It reads: EVACUATION ORDER TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY. His destination: An internment camp somewhere in desolate America. The life he once knew is over.
When their freedom was taken, they became soldiers…
October, 1944. Europe.
Tak, now a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, is trapped in a small town with the rest of his unit: the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Comprised entirely of Japanese-American volunteers and Caucasian officers, the brave soldiers are sent in to fight against the surrounding German forces. After his commanding officer is killed, Tak takes charge of first platoon and against all odds, overwhelms the enemy taking countless prisoners in the process. While reporting the platoon’s losses to his Captain, JOE BYRNE, Tak learns that the company is finally being offered a break from the front lines.
In the small French town of Belmont, we meet the rest of first platoon. A headstrong HANK NAKADA and his fun-loving buddy, MUTT SAKUMOTO who can never get anyone to play cards with him. The nineteen year-old NOBUO AMAKAWA escapes ridicule thanks only to the innocent and naïve BILL KOCHIYAMA who spends most of his time reading love letters from his girl who is still back in the internment camps.
The much needed break is cut short when the men learn of a battalion of Caucasian soldiers trapped two miles behind German lines. The 442nd is called upon to reach them. No matter the cost. To make matters worse, the regimental troublemaker, BARNEY HAJIRO, is transferred to the platoon following his second court-martial. Determined to make good on his now permanent role as first platoon leader, Tak pairs Barney up with the young, but stubborn ONAGA TAKEYASU. The men, crestfallen by the new orders, march through the night in ankle-deep mud. The sounds of war grow ever closer.
When their loyalty was questioned, they became heroes…
For three grueling days, Tak, Byrne and the rest of the platoon struggle against a reinforced German army determined to keep them from the trapped battalion. Each night, Tak does his best to keep things peaceful between the feuding Barney and Onaga while fighting his own growing fears that his life and the lives of his men are somehow worth less to the army than the lives of the Caucasian soldiers. Slowly, Tak also learns that Byrne has long been unable to write to the parents of the Nisei soldiers killed in action. He can’t find words that justify the sacrifices these men have made. It has become a burden too great for him to bear.
As the losses continue to mount, the men find themselves pushed to the brink, unable to justify their immense sacrifice. With time running out for the trapped battalion, Tak, Byrne and the men of first platoon face a crucial moment on the battlefield.
Suddenly, a battle cry sounds from within the ranks of the Nisei soldiers. As if united against a common cause, they begin to yell “Banzai” and charge uphill. Guns blazing. Bayonets glinting. Within minutes, decades of prejudice and injustice would be broken and a generation would find a hero with a new face…the face of a Japanese-American.