The Eagles of Heart Mountain
A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in WWII America
Atria, January 2021
The impeccably researched, deeply moving, never-before-told tale about a World War II incarceration camp in Wyoming and its extraordinary high school football team—for fans of The Boys in the Boat and The Storm on Our Shores.
In the spring of 1942, the United States government forced 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona and sent them to incarceration camps across the West. Nearly 14,000 of them landed on the outskirts of Cody, Wyoming, at the base of Heart Mountain.
Behind barbed wire fences, they faced racism, cruelty, and frozen winters. Trying to recreate comforts from home, many established Buddhist temples and sumo wrestling pits. Kabuki performances drew hundreds of spectators—yet there was little hope.
That is, until the fall of 1943, when the camp’s high school football team, the Eagles, started its first season and finished it undefeated, crushing the competition from nearby, predominantly white high schools. Amid all this excitement, American politics continued to disrupt their lives as the federal government drafted men from the camps for the front lines—including some of the Eagles. As the team’s second season kicked off, the young men faced a choice to either join the Army or resist the draft. Teammates were divided, and some were jailed for their decisions.
The Eagles of Heart Mountain honors the resilience of extraordinary heroes and the power of sports in a sweeping and inspirational portrait of one of the darkest moments in American history.
“Colorful, richly detailed, and deeply human, The Eagles of Heart Mountain mixes a fascinating history of the Japanese in the United States with a uniquely American story about one of the darkest chapters of our modern history. Brad’s storytelling weaves together politics, race, and a wide cast of characters to show how sports carried a community of mistreated prisoners through World War II, a tale that ultimately stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.”
—Garrett M. Graff, author of the New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11
“Pearson succeeds in unearthing a feel-good story from a dark chapter in U.S. history. The result is a worthy portrait of triumph in the face of tragedy.”