The Eagles of Heart Mountain

A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America


“One of Ten Best History Books of 2021.” —Smithsonian Magazine

For fans of The Boys in the Boat and The Storm on Our Shores, this impeccably researched, deeply moving, never-before-told “tale that ultimately stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit” (Garrett M. Graff, New York Times bestselling author) about a World War II incarceration camp in Wyoming and its extraordinary high school football team.

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, they 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 “timely and utterly absorbing account of a country losing its moral way, and a group of its young citizens who never did” (Evan Ratliff, author of The Mastermind).

About the author(s)

Bradford Pearson is the former features editor of Southwest: The Magazine. He has written for The New York Times, Esquire, Time, and Salon, among many other publications. He grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and now lives in Philadelphia. The Eagles of Heart Mountain is his first book.


“[A]n absolutely stirring story…rigorous and important.”—The Washington Post 

"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, New York Times bestselleing author of The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11

"A marvelous book. Through dogged research and fluid storytelling, Pearson excavates an appalling chapter in U.S. history, and finds, in the story of the Eagles, a rousing parable of dignity in the face of adversity, of redemption, and of hope." —Patrick Radden Keefe, New York Times bestselling author of Say Nothing 

"This is an underdog story for the ages. Ripped from their homes by racist officials, Japanese-American kids learn to play football in a remote Wyoming concentration camp—and soon become an unstoppable force. Pearson is a brilliant storyteller, and The Eagles of Heart Mountain will have you rooting for its young heroes as they defy bigotry and barbed wire." —Jason Fagone, bestselling author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies

"A remarkable piece of storytelling, The Eagles of Heart Mountain manages to be simultaneously devastating and uplifting. Pearson delves deep into one of the great blights on American history, and emerges with a story of humanity and resilience, played out on the rocky football field of a concentration camp. This is a timely and utterly absorbing account of a country losing its moral way, and a group of its young citizens who never did." —Evan Ratliff, author of The Mastermind: A True Story of Murder, Empire, and a New Kind of Crime Lord

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