Susumu Satow was born in 1923, in Mayhew, California and grew up on his family’s 20 acre farm in Sacramento. One of nine children born to Japanese immigrants, his parents sent him and his siblings to Japanese language school after church on Sundays, but he didn’t much like it. He loved baseball and played on his high school team.
Satow was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He asked his father, “What is going to happen to us?” His father replied, “it is not going to be good.” In the following weeks, a number of the fathers in his neighborhood were rounded up and taken away, suspected of being enemy agents. Satow’s father kept a small bag packed just in case he was arrested. One day that winter, Satow came home from school to discover FBI agents combing through his family’s home, looking for evidence of subversion. They came upon a book in Japanese which aroused their suspicion – the Satows tried to explain that it was a Japanese translation of the bible. They were finally able to convince the agents by pointing to a picture of Jesus at the Last Supper that hung in the living room. One month before he was to graduate from high school, Satow and his family learned that they, along with all the Japanese Americans on the West Coast, were going to be sent to inland relocation camps. They were given one week’s notice, and asked some neighbors to harvest their crop of strawberries in their absence.
After more than a year in camp, Satow volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was inducted into the Army in July of 1943. He was put in as an 81mm mortar section of Company H and was assigned to lay telephone wire from the gun position to the forward observers’ positions. Satow and the rest of the 442nd arrived in Italy in June of 1944 and went into combat just north of Rome on June 26th. He fought with the 442nd in Italy through the summer and early fall of 1944, and then went with his unit to the Vosges Mountains in France. In October, he was wounded in the back from shrapnel, and was therefore recuperating in a hospital when the Lost Battalion campaign decimated the 442nd. Satow and the men who were left in the 442nd were then sent back to Italy and he fought there until the war in Europe ended.
After the war, Satow returned to Sacramento and found work at McClellan Air Force Base. The climate was far less hostile than it had been before and during the war, but Satow did still encounter prejudice and discrimination. One night in 1952, he took his family to a restaurant in town, and although they were seated, they were never served, and eventually walked out.