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Review of EYES OF THE EMPEROR by Graham Salisbury

by Becky Laney

Salisbury, Graham. 2005. EYES OF THE EMPEROR. New York: Wendy Lamb. ISBN 0385729715

EYES OF THE EMPEROR is the companion novel to Salisbury's UNDER THE BLOOD-RED SUN (1995). Eddy Okubo is a sixteen-year-old Japanese American living in Hawaii in the fall of 1941. A few months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eddy falsifies his birth certificate and joins the United States Army. He is home on his first leave since boot camp when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Eddy and his friends Cobra and Chik rush back to their base in the midst of all the chaos. He is shocked when the U.S. Army repeatedly shows their distrust of the Japanese-American soldiers. While the other soldiers are given weapons and assignments both in Hawaii and elsewhere, the Japanese-American soldiers are kept on the base under guard. At one point, they are not even let outside of their barracks. They face verbal abuse at the hands of their superiors who accuse them of being the enemy. Eddy and his friends don't seem themselves as "Japs," a derogatory term used throughout the novel, they see themselves as patriotic Americans who took the same pledge to defend their country as everyone else. Eventually, Eddy and his fellow Japanese-American soldiers are sent to the U.S. mainland for further training and assignments. Eddy, Cobra, and Chik end up as part of twenty-five Japanese Americans assigned on a "special mission" on a private island. Their assignment? To be bait for the K-9 division of the army--a.k.a. dog bait. Eddy and his fellow soldiers are to be used to train a division of dogs how to smell out and attack the Japanese army. This is a draining assignment in many ways--physically, emotionally, and mentally. Their job as "American" soldiers were to pretend to be the Japanese enemy. This experiment ultimately failed. Upon further investigation, the army realized that "Japanese" soldiers did not smell differently from "American" ones.

EYES OF THE EMPEROR is a historical novel based on a true story. Graham Salisbury interviewed eight of the fourteen men that were involved in this project that were still alive. He also did extensive research including touring the island where they were assigned. He provides a glossary in the back to help explain his use of Japanese, Hawaiin, and Hawaiin Pidgin English words.

EYES OF THE EMPEROR is a wonderful novel, and I highly recommend it. I would love to find a nonfiction book published on this subject as well.


Graham Salsibury's Official Site

National Geographic's Pearl Harbor site

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