Author Bruce Henderson awarded 10th annual Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize for book Bridge to the Sun

by Contributed Content on October 26, 2023

Menlo Park-based author Bruce Henderson has been awarded the tenth annual Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize for Bridge to the Sun: The Secret Role of the Japanese Americans Who Fought in the Pacific in World War II (Knopf). The $50,000 prize is bestowed in recognition of the best English language book published in 2022 in the field of American military history, distinguished by its scholarship, its contribution to the literature, and its appeal to the broadest possible general reading public. 

This is the first year in which the focus of the prize is on American rather than global military history, in keeping with the mission of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history. An event celebrating the winner and the shortlisted authors will take place on Monday, December 4, hosted by the New-York Historical Society. Tickets to attend this free program — in person or via livestream — are available online.

In his report to the prize board, jury chair Craig L. Symonds wrote: “No one . . . has looked into the . . . complex issue of Japanese-Americans who fought against the country of their parents or grandparents, and for many of them the country where they attended school. It is a story with many facets and one that is difficult to tell since the author has to maintain a dozen story lines while providing sufficient context for their actions. Yet, Mr. Henderson brings it off magnificently.”

“It is an honor to receive the coveted Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize, and I am humbled and most grateful to the jury members, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the New-York Historical Society,” said Henderson.

He continued: “I set out to write the little-known history of the several thousand US Army Japanese American soldiers who fought in the Pacific during World War II. Their service as translators, interpreters and interrogators was among the best-kept secrets of the war with Japan. As Americans of Japanese descent, they were, in effect, fighting two wars simultaneously. One, overseas against their ancestral homeland, and the other, against racial prejudice at home, where their families, facing suspicion and racial hatred, were rounded up and held in government internment camps. The story of the courage and patriotism of these Nisei soldiers comes, I believe, at a pivotal time in our history, as too often people are pre-judged based on race and ethnicity.”

Henderson is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books, including Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the US Army to Fight Hitler and True North: Peary, Cook, and the Race to the Pole. He is the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller And the Sea Will Tell (with Vincent Bugliosi). 

Henderson is also an award-winning journalist who has taught reporting and writing at USC School of Journalism and Stanford University and has worked as an investigative reporter for several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. He attended college on the G.I. Bill and served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War.

The purpose of the Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize is to draw public attention to military history not only as an important staple of education in the areas of international relations, diplomacy, and conflict studies, but also as a subject in which any educated citizen should be interested. 

Photo by Steve Castillo taken at Kepler’s

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