The lights flickered on at the Hawaii Theater’s premier showing of the documentary, “The First Battle,” revealing why most Japanese in Hawaii were not interned in WWII. An Eureka moment. Only two weeks earlier, Mike Malaghan had decided to write an historical novel. While Mike spent a lifetime in the corporate world on four continents, in his heart he always thought of himself as a writer. Married to a Japanese and living in Hawaii he already knew the story of the Nisei Territorial Guard. The Guard were stripped of their uniforms weeks after Pearl Harbor only to enlist a year later when allowed. That was the stuff of a good story.
BUT these American-Japanese warriors did not just drop out of the sky on December 7th, 1941. They had mothers and fathers who had left an impoverished country to come to America. An immigrant story as rich as the Irish, the Italians, the Jews etc. Yet Mike Malaghan could not find a single novel that told their story. Why? Picture Bride is volume 1 in a planned trilogy honoring the Japanese-Americans who fought for America in WWII.
A lover and reader of history, Mike Malaghan has been fortunate to visit 200 countries and territories starting in 1966 with the Peace Corps in Africa.
Born in 1943 and later raised in Florida, Mike paid his way thought the University of Florida by selling books door-to-door. After college he began a career in business, one that he concluded 41 years later as president of a Walt Disney licensee. In 2005, McGraw Hill published his legacy business book “Making Millions in Direct Sales”.
As a consequence of Mike and his wife Tomoko’s passion for travel, they have ridden canoes in tribal Laos, “African Queen” river tugs down the Mekong, and cruise ships meandering along the Danube, the Nile, the Amazon, and the Yangtze rivers. They have climbed the mountains in Kinto Balu and the Japan Alps. Their live-on train experiences include South Africa, China, Tibet, India, and the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia. They also bungee jumped over the bridges of Taiwan, white water rafted on the Zambezi, and hot air ballooned over the game reserves of South Africa and Spanish ranches.
Much of the recent travels have centered on book research. Mike and Tomoko visited the island of Amakusa where the major export for two generations were their daughters to the brothels of Asia. They walked through the cemetery in Sandakan, Borneo were many of those unfortunates were buried in their teens and twenties. From this experience our picture bride Haru, who escapes this fate to become the mother of three Nisei soldiers, was born in Mike’s imagination.
Mike and Tomoko later visited Hiroshima’s Fudoin Temple to better understand the Hiroshima of 1905. This temple is Haru’s home for 4 years. They rode mules up the mountain side in Kalaupapa, Molokai to feel the life of lepers in 1912. They also toured sugar cane plantation housing sites that were home to two generations of Japanese immigrants.
Still later they drove to Camp Shelby, Mississippi where the 442nd trained for a year. In near-by Hattiesburg, they interviewed the Mississippi woman who married a Japanese American in 1942. They visited the Japanese-American museums in Los Angeles and San Francisco and walked through their haunting recreation of internment camp housing. They climbed the battlefields in Italy and France where the Nisei fought and died to take their place in the American pantheon of heroes.
No moment doing research for Picture Bride was more rewarding than lunch with Sue Isonaga, the 1939 au pair to FBI agent Robert Shivers. Sue’s quiet Americanism created grave doubts about Shivers’ assigned role to prepare the Japanese for internment in Hawaii. Sue has since passed away. Mike trusts that “Picture Bride” will help memorialize her contribution in preventing most Japanese in Hawaii from living in internment camps during WWII.