An Intimate Portrait of the Life of a Nisei Soldier

USC Digital Library

This post is part of a series that shares highlights from the L.A. as Subject Community Histories Digitization Project, made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Hiroshi Sugiyama was a medic (technician fifth grade) in the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a World War II fighting unit nearly entirely composed of second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry (often referred to as Nisei). This photograph book taken by Hiroshi Sugiyama depicts life at the training barracks of Camp Grant outside Rockford, Illinois, in 1941. Clicking through the pages, we can see images of Sugiyama and his fellow trainees, as well as Sugiyama’s description of each photo. Sugiyama’s voice comes through clearly in his captions, and it is easy to tell which photos are of his friends, most notably an image of George “Geo” P. Jacinto carrying a knapsack and appearing to be scowling—Sugiyama assures us that “he’s not a sourpuss, [it’s] just a natural expression.” Other photographs in this book include Sugiyama with his own full pack, as well as images of Sugiyama in uniform outside his unit’s barracks in Illinois. 

Sugiyama would go on to serve in combat in Europe. In April of 1945 while serving in Italy, Sugiyama rushed out onto the battlefield to help a wounded soldier, and a sniper who ignored his medic armband hit him with a fatal shot. For his bravery in battle, Sugiyama posthumously received a Purple Heart. An affiliate of the Go for Broke National Education Center acquired Sugiyama’s personal effects from an auction in 2006, and subsequently donated the collection to the organization.[1] This subcollection paints an intimate portrait of the life of a Nisei soldier, an often less-remembered part of the community of World War II veterans. With support from a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the USC Digital Library has made the entirety of Go for Broke’s Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection publicly accessible.

[1]Gavin Do, “The Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection: Uncovering Layers,” Go for Broke National Education Center Archives, last modified July 23, 2016,