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One Thousand Days in Siberia The Odyssey of a Japanese-American POW by Iwao Peter Sano

One Thousand Days in Siberia The Odyssey of a Japanese-American POW


One Thousand Days in Siberia The Odyssey of a Japanese-American POW by Iwao Peter Sano

Iwao Peter Sano, a California Nisei, sailed to Japan in 1939 to become an adopted son to his childless aunt and uncle. He was fifteen and knew no Japanese. In the spring of 1945, loyal to his new country, Sano was drafted in the last levy raised in the war. Sent through Korea to join the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, Sano arrived in Hailar, one hundred miles from the Soviet border, as the war was coming to a close. In the confusion that resulted when the war ended, Sano had the bad luck to be in a unit that surrendered to the Russians. It would be nearly three years before he was released to return to Japan. Sano's account of life in the POW and labor camps of Siberia is the story of a little-known part of the great conflagration that was World War II. It is also the poignant memoir of a man who was always an outsider, both as an American youth of Japanese ancestry and then as a young Japanese man whose loyalties were suspect to his new compatriots.


Born in Brawley, California, Sano went to Japan in 1939 to become the adopted son (yoshi) of his childless aunt and uncle. In March, 1945, he was drafted into the Japanese army and sent to join the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Five months later, when Japanese forces had surrendered to the Soviet army, Sano became a prisoner of war. For nearly three years he labored in a Soviet munitions factory, on a collective farm, and in a Siberian coal mine. . . . [This] is a unique and fascinating account of mixed and divided loyalties, dismay and confusion, sacrifice and salvation-clearly told with an understated mixture of fatalism and hope. . . . A vivid, revealing memoir. -Japanese-American Veterans Newsletter * Japanese-American Veterans Newsletter * How does a one-time American farm boy become a Japanese Imperial Army prisoner of war in the Soviet Union after World War II? Iwao Peter Sano's tale of how this happened to him is remarkable enough. But equally remarkable is that he can speak of starving, nearly dying and catching malaria in Siberian POW camps with a voice that is quietly humorous and genteel. -Japan Quarterly * Japan Quarterly *

About the Author

Iwao Peter Sano was returned to Japan in 1948 and worked for the U.S. occupation forces before coming back to the United States in 1952. He is now a retired architect living in Palo Alto.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st April 1999


Iwao Peter Sano

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University of Nebraska Press


214 pages


Prisoners of war
Autobiography: historical, political & military
European history
Second World War
Asian history



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