FOUR-FOUR-TWO, F Company At War A Documentary Film by Peter Wakamatsu
This documentary film was first broadcast on PBS stations nationwide in May 2015. Six years in the making, filmmaker Peter Wakamatsu has created a compelling new story of the heroic Japanese Americans who fought in Italy and France during WW II.
This is the story of "F" Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the all Japanese American regiment of WW II. This film follows the exploits of F Company through the letters of First Sergeant Jack Wakamatsu and interviews of five F Company veterans who recall in vivid detail their wartime experiences from witnessing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to the Banzai charge up a hill in France where F Company completely annihilated a German infantry company.
In archival footage from the National Archives, F Company is seen moving up to the frontline the day before they launched their attack for the French town of Bruyeres. Filmmaker Peter Wakamatsu, son of 1st Sergeant Jack Wakamatsu, has produced a unique war documentary in which the story is told through the eyes of the men who fought in combat.
My father was the First Sergeant of F Company. I made this film to tell the untold story of the courageous actions of my father and the men of F Company. One of the best soldiers in F Company was also my dad's best friend, Tech. Sergeant Abraham "Abe" Ohama. Abe was killed in action in France on October 20, 1944. My dad never got over Abe's death, and there wasn't a day in his life when I can't remember my father not mentioning "the war."
In most other films about the 442nd, the focus of the films centers on the internment of the Japanese Americans—the exploits of the 442nd take second place. I made this film so that the story of my father and his men could take center stage. For my father the "main event" of the war was "the war", not the internment camps. Even though his family was interned at Manzanar Relocation Center in California, fighting the war left far deeper scars. The injustice of the camps paled in comparison.
For the Nisei soldiers from Hawaii, the internment of Japanese Americans was relatively unimportant—only a small number of the Japanese Americans living in Hawaii were interned. During the war my father had little time to ponder the legal aspects of the internment since he would say many times in the post-war years, "There was something else going on at the time called 'the war.' " He had an infantry company of recruits to train and then he had to fight a war, he had no time for pondering things that he couldn't change. He had more important things to do. In regards to his family's situation, he concentrated on helping his parents and siblings and in 1944 they left Manzanar and relocated to Idaho where they worked on a farm. The fact that many Japanese Americans left the camps during the war has been a largely overlooked fact.
Winning the war was the primary goal for my father and his men. This film reflects that reality of the time. For those who were fighting the war, it was far from certain that victory was assured or what the ultimate price of victory would be.
When I interviewed the veterans for this film, I told the vets that I wanted their recollections of what happened during the war. I was interested in getting a "record of events"—I wasn't really interested in their reflections of the war. This film is about what happened during the war, and only at the very end of the film does one veteran reflect on how the war affected his life.
About The Film
•The film opens with Army Signal Corps footage from October 14, 1944 where 1st Sergeant Wakamatsu is seen leading his men as F Company is filmed marching to the frontline a few miles from town of Bruyeres in France. The next day the 442nd began its assault in the Vosges Mountains.
•The film takes place in chronological order. The content of the veteran interviews, letters, images and historic film footage are presented accurately in chronological order.
•There is virtually no "B-roll" content in this film. Only F Company members are shown in photographs. When there is a photo of a relocation camp, it is accurate to the film narrative. When there is historic Signal Corps film footage, it is film of F Company or the 2nd Battalion (except for a brief clip of the recruits arriving by train to Hattiesburg from Hawaii).
•Using historical records and the personal notebooks of 1st Sergeant Wakamatsu, the filmmaker was able to locate the hill where T/Sgt Abraham Ohama was killed and F Company made its Banzai charge wiping out the German company on top of the hill. This is the first time that video images of this battleground have been featured in a film.
•Jack Wakamatsu completed an Associate's degree in Engineering Sciences from Santa Monica Jr. College in 1940. Even though he wanted to work for one of the local aircraft companies, at that time no aircraft company would hire a person of Asian descent. This was his first real encounter with racism and prejudice. So Jack went back to work on the family farm in Venice, California.
•Jack Wakamatsu was drafted into the Army on January 31, 1941. Even though his draft number was 322 which should have protected him from being called, many draft age men living in the Venice California draft board area received deferments because they worked in the local airplane factories—Douglas, North American, Lockheed and Northrop were all ramping up critical aircraft production for the government.
•Jack Wakamatsu was sent to Fort Ord, California where he was assigned to "F" Company, 53rd Infantry Regiment. By December 7, 1941, he had already been promoted to sergeant in the regular Army.
•F Company sustained over 300 battle casualties during the war including 49 men killed in action. At the end of the film all 49 men who died are listed by their date of death.
About the Filmmaker This film was made entirely by Peter Wakamatsu. He is the sansei (third generation Japanese American) son of 1st Sergeant Jack Wakamatsu. This is his first film. Peter conceived the idea for the film, researched the historical records for the film which included three visits to the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. He conducted the interviews and shot the video himself traveling solo to Hawaii and Northern California. He also traveled to France and shot video of the actual battleground locations in and around the town of Bruyeres.
Peter worked as a biostatistician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles where he was involved in pediatric cancer research for 19 years. He has been a biostatistician for over 27 years during which time he has worked at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Kaiser Permanente and Amgen. He has a master's degree in biostatistics from UCLA and received his Bachelor of Arts in Geography from California State University Northridge (CSUN).