This Japanese-American Took Over 1000 Photos During WWII While Drafted in the US Army

He was the only one with a camera in the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team

C Battery gun crew near Rosignano, Italy, Summer 1944.© Susumu Ito Collection—Courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum via American Photo

During World War II, 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the United States we held in internment camps. But a select few who were drafted into the U.S. army before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and before America’s direct involvement, ended up serving in Allied forces, albeit in segregated regiments, on the battlefield of the European front. Incredibly, one Japanese American, Susumu Ito, who grew up in California, managed to sneak in a camera against regulation, and captured over 1000 photos as a Lieutenant in the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

According to American Photo who spoke with the now 96-year-old veteran, he used an AGFA 'Ansco' 35mm camera, which had foldout bellows and a F 6.3 lens, but no focus ring. "It had portrait, intermediate, and distance. That was it," Ito said.

From the streets of Paris to the ruins of Germany, the photos show both casual portraits and quiet moments in the trenches, as well as combat. One striking silhouette showing German soldiers in retreat on hilltop in Spring of 1945, is not only an amazing historical document, but a beautiful image. It shows what can be accomplished even by a non-professional photographer, working with the most basic gear, in the most difficult of circumstances.

See more images and insight from Ito at American Photo Magazine.

During World War II, 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the United States we held in internment camps. But a select few who were drafted into the U.S. army before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and before America’s direct involvement, ended up serving in Allied forces, albeit in segregated regiments, on the battlefield of the European front. Incredibly, one Japanese American, Susumu Ito, who grew up in California, managed to sneak in a camera against regulation, and captured over 1000 photos as a Lieutenant in the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

According to American Photo who spoke with the now 96-year-old veteran, he used an AGFA 'Ansco' 35mm camera, which had foldout bellows and a F 6.3 lens, but no focus ring. "It had portrait, intermediate, and distance. That was it," Ito said.

From the streets of Paris to the ruins of Germany, the photos show both casual portraits and quiet moments in the trenches, as well as combat. One striking silhouette showing German soldiers in retreat on hilltop in Spring of 1945, is not only an amazing historical document, but a beautiful image. It shows what can be accomplished even by a non-professional photographer, working with the most basic gear, in the most difficult of circumstances.

See more images and insight from Ito at American Photo Magazine.

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