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Blue Skies and Thunder: Farm Boy, Pilot, Inventor, TSA Officer, and WWII Soldier of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (book)

Creators: Virgil W. Westdale, Stephanie A. Gerdes

Book cover. Courtesy of iUniverse
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Mixed race Nisei shares his story, from a tough childhood growing up on a farm in the Midwest to his experiences in combat with the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion during World War II.


The memoir begins with prefaces by Westdale and his co-author that explain the genesis of the memoir. Then the memoir shifts to Westdale's recollections of his childhood growing up on a farm in Michigan near the Indiana border. His father, an immigrant from Japan, was a tough and exacting father, while his mother, a white woman, showed him more affection. When his mother died, he and his siblings continued to have a difficult relationship with their father.

Westdale volunteered for the Army Air Corps, and was nearly done with his training when he was transferred to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . He recounts in detail his experiences in combat, and reflects on the guilt he feels for taking lives. He also describes coming upon the prisoners of Dachau.

After he was discharged from the army, he went back to school, getting multiple degrees from Western Michigan University and enjoying a successful career as an engineer. Although he retired from his main profession, he had a second career as an airport security officer, retiring from that career when he was 90.

Author Background

Virgil Westdale (1918- ) was born Virgil Nishimura to a Japanese immigrant father and a white mother from Indiana as the fourth child and first son. He changed his name from Nishimura to Westdale after his pilot's license was taken away in May 1942; he assumed this was due to suspicions about his loyalty because of his Japanese heritage. After serving in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion in Europe, he returned to Michigan, where he became an engineer specializing in paper research. He has over 100 patents to his name. When he retired from a successful career, he began a second, working in airport security at the airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Authored by Emily Anderson

Might also like Memoirs of a Certain Nisei, 1916-1985, Aru Nisei No Wadachi by Thomas Taro Higa; Letters from the 442nd: The World War II Correspondence of a Japanese American Medic by Minoru Masuda; A Taste for Strawberries: The Independent Journey of Nisei Farmer Manabi Hirasaki by Manabi Hirasaki

Media Details
Author Virgil W. Westdale, Stephanie A. Gerdes
Pages 281
Publication Date 2009
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