Dr. Andrew Lam Pens WWII-era Novel “Repentance” | Connecting Point | July 11, 2019


A
RETINAL SURGEON, A FATHER AND AUTHOR. DR. AN LOU LAM HAS PENNED A NEW
BOOK, A FICTIONAL ACCOUNT WHICH EXPLORES THE PERSONAL STORIES
AND SACRIFICES OF THOSE OF THE 442 REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM
DURING WORLD WAR II. A SEGREGATED UNIT OF JAPANESE
AMERICAN SOLDIERS. DR. LAMB JOINED ME IN THE STUDIO
TO DISCUSS HIS BOOK AND WHY HE CHOSE THE TOPIC.>>THE BOOK IS HISTORICALLY
BASED ON AN INCREDIBLE GROUP OF AMERICAN HEROES CALLED THE 442ND
COMBAT TEAM. THESE WERE JAPANESE MEN WHO
BASICALLY VOLUNTEERED AND FOUGHT HEROICALLY IN EUROPE DURING
WORLD WAR II. WHEN MANY OF THEM HAD FAMILY
LITERALLY INCARCERATED IN INTERNMENT CAMPS. SO IT’S HISTORICAL FICTION AND
THE STORY IS BASED ON A JAPANESE AMERICAN WAR HERO WHO HAS A
REALLY BIG SECRET. A SECRET SO BAD THAT HE REFUSES
TO SPEAK OF THE WAR OR HOW HE GOT HIS MEDAL AND IT’S KIND OF A
DUAL TIMELINE STORY. THERE ARE SCENES FROM WORLD WAR
II INTERSPERSED WITH SCENES FROM THE LATE 1990s WHEN WE MEET THIS
WAR HERO’S SON WHO IS LIKE THIS WORLD FAMOUS CARDIAC SURGEON BUT
HE’S HAD A STRAINED RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FATHER AND THEY HAVEN’T
SPOKEN FOR DECADES. SOMETHING REALLY BAD HAPPENED IN
FRANCE AND IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE THEY ARE WILLING TO LOOK INTO IT
UNTIL THEY FIND OUT WHO DID WHAT AND IT GETS THE SON INTERESTED
AND HE EMBARKS ON THIS JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY, IT TAKES HIM TO
THE BATTLEFIELDS IN FRANCE AND HE BEGINS TO LEARN SECRET AFTER
SECRET AFTER HIS FATHER, HIS PARENTS AND HIS OWN LIFE THAT
HAVE KIND OF EARTH SHATTERING CONSEQUENCES. I DON’T WANT TO GIVE AWAY ANY
SPOILERS BUT IT’S ESSENTIALLY LIKE THIS DRAMATIC JAPANESE
AMERICAN WORLD WAR II FAMILY DRAMA THAT’S VERY CLOSELY
INTERTWINED WITH THE HISTORY OF THE 442ND.>>I KNOW YOU INCLUDE SOME IN
THE BOOK. THIS WAS A HIGHLY DECORATED
UNIT.>>THE MOST DECORATED IN U.S.
MITT HISTORY. THESE WERE VOLUNTEERS FROM
HAWAII AND THE INTERNMENT CAMPS AND THEY WANTED TO PROVE BEYOND
A SHADOW OF A DOUBT DURING WORLD WAR II THAT THEY WERE LOYAL
AMERICANS. IF YOU WERE LOCKED UP IN AN
INTERNMENT CAMP HOW LIKELY WOULD YOU BE TO FIGHT FOR THE COUNTRY
AFTER THEY HAVE TAKEN AWAY ALL OF YOUR RIGHTS BUT A LOT OF THEM
DID. THEY WON 21 MEDALS OF HONOR, 52
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSSES, 560 SILVER STARS. OF THE 14,000 GUYS WHO SERVED,
THEY WON 9,46 PURPLE HEARTS. SO THAT’S A VERY STRONG RECORD
OF SACRIFICIAL FIGHTING AND THEY DID IT BECAUSE THEY JUST WANTED
TO PROVE THEMSELVES.>>THIS IS A PART OF WORLD WAR
II HISTORY THAT WE DON’T OFTEN HEAR ABOUT.>>THAT’S RIGHT. THAT WAS ONE OF MY GOALS. AS A WRITER, I LIKE TO FIND
ASPECTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY THAT AREN’T THAT WELL KNOWN BUT
DESERVE TO BE.>>IN WRITING THIS BOOK, THAT
WAS ONE OF YOUR POINTS, BUT YOU’RE A BUSY FATHER, YOU HAVE
FOUR CHILDREN. HUSBAND, AND YOU’RE A DOCTOR AND
A SURGEON.>>YEAH.>>HOW IS IT THAT U CARVED OUT
THIS ALMOST SECOND CAREER WRITING THIS BOOK AND GOING INTO
HISTORY? WHAT MOTIVATED YOU, TO START
DOING THIS?>>I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK
ME ABOUT THIS, AND TO BE HONEST, WE ALL HAVE PASSIONS, AND IF
YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING YOU JUST MAKE TIME FOR
IT. I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT AMERICAN
HISTORY AND MILITARY HISTORY. IT’S WHAT I STUDIED IN COLLEGE
BEFORE I WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. WHEN YOU GET AN IDEA YOU JUST
GROW WITH IT ESSENTIALLY. I FIND MYSELF WRITING WHEN I’M
WAITING FOR MY KIDS AT SPORTS PRACTICES, AFTER I PUT THEM TO
BED.>>IT’S A PASSION. YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
FAMILY HISTORY AND HOW COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE
ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT COMBAT AND ESPECIALLY WHEN
YOU’RE LOOKING AT OLDER VETERANS, WORLD WAR II. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO
GET LIKE THESE DETAILS RIGHT ABOUT THOSE RELATIONSHIPS?>>YEAH, VERY CRITICALLY
IMPORTANT TO ME. AS SOMEONE WHO STUDIED HISTORY,
GOT A DEGREE IN HISTORY THAT’S ACTUALLY THE BIGGEST THRILL WHEN
I CAN INCORPORATE THE TRUE HISTORY IN BOOKS LIKE THIS. I SHOULD MENTION, THERE WAS ONE
VERY WELL KNOWN 442ND VETERAN WHO WAS HELPFUL TO ME. HE WAS A GUY WHO, HE WON THE
BRONZE STAR. HE WAS — HE TRAINED TO BE AN
AUTO MECHANIC BEFORE THE WAR BUT AFTERWARDS HE WENT TO COLLEGE ON
THE G.I. BILL. ENDED UP GOING TO HARVARD
MEDICAL SCHOOL. HE READ THE BOOK, LIKED IT,
ENDORSED IT, FELT LIKE THE COMBAT SCENES WERE VERY TRUE TO
ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENED, PARTICULARLY IN FRANCE, WHERE
THEY WERE FIGHTING IN THE MOUNTAINS, ONE OF THE MOST
DIFFICULT AREAS TO BE FIGHTING IN, ESSENTIALLY, DURING THE WAR.>>YOU TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
AS WELL, YOU KNOW, THESE MEN WANTING TO PROVE THEMSELVES,
WHICH IS HEARTBREAKING KNOWING THAT THEY ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS.>>THAT’S RIGHT.>>THAT WE WERE ALL IN THIS
TOGETHER. HOW HAS THAT SORT OF NARRATIVE
PLAYED OUT IN YOUR OWN LIFE AS YOU’VE LOOKED BACK AT WHAT
PEOPLE WENT THROUGH? HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET THAT
MESSAGE OUT TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND?>>IT’S A GREAT QUESTION. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME IN
INTERVIEWS LIKE THIS BEING CHINESE AMERICAN MYSELF, DID
THAT HAVE ANY RELATIONSHIP? I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE
ASIAN AMERICAN AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A MINORITY. IT’S NOT VERY HARD FOR ME TO
IMAGINE WHAT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE TO BE IN THE SITUATION. FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT IF WE WENT TO
WAR WITH CHINA? IF THAT HAPPENED I WOULD
SUDDENLY FEEL LIKE A BRIGHT SPOTLIGHT HAD BEEN SHINED ON
MYSELF AND MY FAMILY. I WOULD WONDER IF ALL THE
FRIENDS I HAD MADE IN MY WORK AND TOWN WOULD SUDDENLY LOOK AT
ME WITH SUSPICION. I’M A THIRD GENERATION AMERICAN,
BUT HOW MUCH WOULD THAT COUNT FOR IF WE WENT TO WAR WITH
CHINA? SO IT’S EASY FOR ME TO
APPRECIATE WHAT KIND OF SACRIFICE THESE GUYS MADE, YOU
KNOW. IT’S EXTRA ORDINARY.>>AND I THINK YOU BRING UP A
VERY INTERESTING POINT. PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT STILL HAVE
DIFFERENT VIEWS SO IF THERE WAS SOMETHING LIKE THAT HOW DOES
THAT SHAPE THE CONVERSATION AS WE TALK TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
ABOUT HOW WE TREAT EACH OTHER AS AMERICANS?>>AS SOMEONE WHO LOVES HISTORY,
I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE REMEMBER THIS HIS COUNTRY. OBVIOUSLY, WE’RE DOOMED TO
REPEAT IT IF WE DON’T. I HOPE MY BOOK IN SOME SMALL WAY
HELPS US AT ALL TO APPRECIATE WHAT TIMES CAN BE LIKE TODAY AND
IN THE PAST FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT, MINORITY GROUPS, ET
CETERA.>>OBVIOUSLY A BIG PART OF THIS
WAS THE INTERNMENT CAMPS BECAUSE MANY OF THOSE MEN HAD COME FROM
THAT SITUATION. IF YOU COULD BRING US UP TO DATE
ON THAT.>>YOU KNOW, THE 442ND IS
CLOSELY ENTWINED WITH JAPANESE INTERNMENT. BASED ON RACE HIS STEYER YEAH, I
AM — HYSTERIA, 20,000 JAPANESE WERE TAKEN AND INCARCERATED, 2/3
OF THEM WERE AMERICAN CITIZENS AND HALF WERE CHILDREN, OKAY? AND IT’S VERY CLEAR THAT THIS
WASN’T BASED ON ANY MILITARY RISK FROM THIS POPULATION. DURING THE ENTIRE WAR THERE WAS
NOT ONE INSTANCE OF JAPANESE AMERICAN SABOTAGE OR ESPIONAGE. AMERICA HAS DEFINITELY
ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THIS WAS A MISTAKE. AT THE BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
IN 1976, PRESIDENT CARTER CALLED IT A NATIONAL MISTAKE. DURING THE REAGAN ERA THERE WAS
A CIVIL LIBERTIES ACT THAT BASICALLY GAVE REPARATIONS TO
FAMILIES WHO HAD BEEN INTERNED BUT IT WAS A VERY TRAGIC MOMENT. FAMILIES LOST EVERYTHING. THEY WERE GIVEN LESS THAN A
WEEK’S NOTICE TO BASICALLY LEAVE EVERYTHING THEY HAD. THEY TRIED TO SELL THINGS TO
PRED TEAR BUYERS FOR PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR. IT WAS A TRAGIC TIME AND IT
AFFECTED FAMILIES FOR GENERATIONS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *