442nd Infantry Regiment (United States)

442nd Infantry Regiment (United States)
442nd Regimental Combat Team
442nd Infantry Regiment
Coat of Arms
Active August 1944–August 1946
July 1947–December 1969
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army Reserve
Type Separate Regiment
later 100th Infantry Battalion (United States)
Role Infantry
Size 3800
Motto Go For Broke
Colors Blue and White
Engagements World War II
Korean War[1] (Reserve status only)
Distinctive Unit Insignia 442RCT DUI.gif
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, hiking up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Japanese: 第442連隊戦闘団) of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944.[2] The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment. The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly–decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients. The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “Go for Broke.”



Most Japanese–Americans who fought in World War II were Nisei, Japanese–Americans born in the U.S. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese–American men were initially categorized as 4C (enemy alien) and therefore not subject to the draft. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing military authorities “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” Although the order did not refer specifically to people of Japanese ancestry, it set the stage for the internment of people of Japanese descent. In March 1942, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, issued the first of 108 military proclamations that resulted in the forced relocation from their residences to guarded relocation camps of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast.

In Hawai'i, martial law, complete with curfews and blackouts, was imposed. A large portion of the population was of Japanese descent (150,000 out of 400,000 people in 1937) and internment was deemed not practical, mostly for economic reasons. If the government had interned the Japanese–Americans and immigrants in Hawai'i, the economy would not have survived. When the War Department called for the removal of all soldiers of Japanese ancestry from active service in early 1942, General Delos C. Emmons, commander of the U.S. Army in Hawaii, decided to discharge those in the Hawaii Territorial Guard, which was composed mainly of ROTC students from the University of Hawaii. But, he kept the more than 1,300 Japanese–American soldiers of the 298th and 299th Infantry regiments of the Hawaii National Guard. The discharged members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard petitioned General Emmons to allow them to assist in the war effort. The petition was granted and they formed a group called the Varsity Victory Volunteers, which performed various military construction jobs. General Emmons, worried about the loyalty of Japanese-American soldiers in the event of a Japanese invasion, recommended to the War Department that those in the 298th and 299th regiments be organized into a “Hawaiian Provisional Battalion” and sent to the mainland. The move was authorized, and on June 5, 1942, the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion set sail for training. They landed at Oakland, California on June 10, 1942 and two days later were sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. On June 15, 1942, the battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)—the “One Puka Puka”.

While the Varsity Victory Volunteers proved their dedication to the United States, the 100th performed so well in training that, on February 1, 1943, the U.S. government reversed its decision on Japanese–Americans serving in the armed forces. It approved the formation of a Japanese–American combat unit. A few days later, the government required that all internees answer a loyalty questionnaire, which was used to register the Nisei for the draft. Question 27 of the questionnaire asked eligible males, “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?” and question 28 asked, “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power or organization?"

Nearly a quarter of the Nisei males answered with a no or a qualified answer to both questions; some left them blank. (Such refusal is the subject of No-No Boy.) But more than 75% indicated that they were willing to enlist and swear allegiance to the U.S. The U.S. Army called for 1,500 volunteers from Hawaii and 3,000 from the mainland. An overwhelming 10,000 men from Hawaii came forth. The announcement was met with less enthusiasm on the mainland, where the vast majority of draft-age men of Japanese ancestry and their families were held in internment camps. The Army revised the quota, calling for 2,900 men from Hawaii, and 1,500 from the mainland. Only 1,256 volunteered from the mainland during this initial call for volunteers. As a result, around 3,000 men from Hawaii and 800 men from the mainland were inducted. President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the "Go For Broke" regiment), saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Ultimately, the draft was instated to obtain more Japanese–Americans from the mainland and these made up a large part of the 14,000 men who eventually served in the ranks of the 442nd Regiment.

Training and organization

The 442nd in training: building then attacking across a pontoon bridge at Camp Shelby

The 100th Infantry Battalion relocated to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Eventually, the 100th was joined by 3,000 volunteers from Hawaii and 800 from the mainland camps. As a regimental combat team (RCT), the 442nd RCT was a self-sufficient fighting formation of three infantry battalions (originally 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, 442nd Infantry, and later the 100th Infantry Battalion in place of the 1st), the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 232nd Engineer Company, an anti-tank company, cannon company, service company, medical detachment, headquarters companies, and the 206th Army Band.

Although they were permitted to volunteer to fight, Americans of Japanese ancestry were generally forbidden to fight in combat in the Pacific Theater. No such limitations were placed on Americans of German or Italian ancestry who fought against the Axis Powers in the European Theater, mostly due to practicality, as there were many more German and Italian Americans than Japanese–Americans. Many men deemed proficient enough in the Japanese language were approached, or sometimes ordered, to join the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) to serve as translators/interpreters and spies in the Pacific, as well as in the China Burma India Theater. These men were sent to the MIS Language School at Camp Savage, Minnesota to develop their language skills and receive training in military intelligence. While the 442nd trained in Mississippi, the 100th departed for Oran in North Africa to join the forces destined to invade Italy.

Reunion with the 100th

A 442nd RCT squad leader checks for German units in France in November 1944.

The 442nd Combat Team, less its 1st Battalion, which had remained in the U.S. to train Nisei replacements after many of its members were levied as replacements for the 100th, sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on May 1, 1944 and landed at Anzio on May 28. The 442nd would join the 100th Battalion in Civitavecchia north of Rome on June 11, 1944, attached to the 34th Infantry Division. The 100th was placed under the command of the 442nd on June 15, 1944 but on August 14, 1944, the 100th Battalion was officially assigned to the 442nd as its 1st battalion, but was allowed to keep its unit designation in recognition of its distinguished fighting record. The 1st Battalion 442nd Infantry at Camp Shelby was then redesignated the 171st Infantry Battalion (Separate) on September 5, 1944.

First contact

The newly–formed Nisei unit went into battle together on June 26, 1944 at the town of Belvedere. Although the 100th was attached to the 442nd, their actions earn them a separate Presidential Unit Citation. 2nd and 3rd Battalions were the first to engage the enemy, in a fierce firefight. F Company bore the worst fighting. A, B, and C Companies of the 100th were called into combat and advanced east using a covered route to reach the high ground northeast of Belvedere.[3] The enemy did not know that the 100th was flanking the German exit, trapping them in Belvedere. C Company blocked the town's entrance while A Company blocked the exit. As this was occurring the 442nd’s 2nd Battalion was receiving a heavy barrage by the Germans from inside Belvedere, and the Germans remained unaware of their situation. B Company stayed on the high ground and conducted a surprise attack on the German Battalion’s exposed east flank forcing the Germans to flee and run into C Company which then drove the Germans to A Company.[4]

All three companies went into action boldly facing murderous fire from all types of weapons and tanks and at times fighting without artillery support….The stubborn desire of the men to close with a numerically superior enemy and the rapidity with which they fought enabled the 100th Infantry Battalion to destroy completely the right flank positions of a German Army….The fortitude and intrepidity displayed by the officers and men of the 100th Infantry Battalion reflects the finest traditions of the Army of the United States.[5] Presidential Unit Citation Review

The 442nd, along with its first battalion, the 100th, kept driving the enemy north, engaging in multiple skirmishes until they had passed Sassetta. The battle of Belvedere showed that the 442nd could hold their own but showed them the kind of fighting the 100th had gone through in the prior months. After only a few days of rest, the united 442nd again enter into combat on July 1, taking Cecina and moving towards the Arno River. As the 442nd approached the Arno River, on July 5, 2 Battalion engaged in a hard–fought battle to take Hill 140, while on July 7 the 100th fought for the town of Castellina.

Hill 140 and Castellina

For the first three weeks of July the 442nd and its 1st Battalion, the 100th, was under constant attack against the German forces which led to 1,100 in enemy kills and 331 captured.

Hill 140 was the main line of enemy resistance. A single German Battalion held the hill and, along with the help of artillery, had completely wiped out a machine-gun squad of L Company of the 3rd Battalion and G Company of 2nd Battalion except for its commander.[6] A constant barrage of artillery shells were launched against the 2nd and 3rd Battalions as they dug in at the hill's base. The 442nd gained very little ground in the coming days only improving their position slightly. The 232d Engineers aided the 442nd by defusing landmines that lay in the 442nd’s path. The entire 34th Division front encountered heavy resistance. “All along the 34th Division Front the Germans held more doggedly than at any time since the breakthrough at Cassino and Anzio.”[7] Hill 140 had been dubbed “Little Cassino” as the resistance by the Germans was so fierce. “Hill 140, when the medics were just overrun with all the casualties; casualties you couldn’t think to talk about.”[8] The 2nd Battalion moved to the eastern front of Hill 140 and 3rd Battalion moved to the western front, both converging on the German flanks. It wasn't until July 7 when the last German resistance was taken down that the hill came under the 34th Division’s control.

On the day Hill 140 fell, the battle for the town of Castellina began. The 100th began its assault on the northwestern side of the town taking the high ground. Just before dawn, 2nd Platoon C Company moved into town, encountering heavy resistance and multiple counterattacks by German forces but held them off. In the meantime Company B moved north into Castellina, encountering heavy resistance as well. First they helped defend 2nd and 3rd Battalions in the taking of Hill 140. Then with the help of the 522nd Field Artillery, they lay down a heavy barrage and forced the Germans to retreat by 1800 hours on July 7.[9] The 100th dug in and waited for relief to arrive after spending an entire day securing the town.

Until July 25, the 442nd encountered heavy resistance from each town when they reached the Arno River, ending the Rome-Arno Campaign. The 100/442 lost 1,272 men (17 missing, 44 non-combat injuries, 972 wounded, and 239 killed) in the process, a distance of only 40 miles (64 km).[10] They rested from July 25 to August 15, when the 442nd moved to patrol the Arno. Crossing the Arno on August 31 was relatively uneventful, as they were guarded the north side of the river in order for bridges to be built. On September 11 the 442nd was detached from the Fifth Army and then attached to the 36th Division of the Seventh Army.

Antitank Company

On July 15 the Antitank Company was pulled from the frontlines and placed with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, First Airborne Task Force. They had trained at an airfield south of Rome to prepare for the invasion of Southern France which took place on August 15, landing near Le Muy, France. They trained for a few weeks to get used to, prepare, properly load, and fly gliders. These gliders were 48 feet (15 m) long and 15 feet (4.6 m) high, and could hold a jeep and a trailer filled with ammunition, or a British six-pounder antitank gun.[4] The Southern France Campaign, August 15 to September 14, led the 442nd to its second Presidential Unit Citation for invading in gliders and the Combat Infantryman Badge for fighting with the infantrymen of the 7th Army. The Antitank Company was the only unit in the 442nd to receive the Glider Badge.[11] After many rough landings by the gliders, hitting trees or enemy flak, they held their positions for a few days until relieved by Allied troops coming in by sea. For the next two months the Antitank Company guarded the exposed right flank of the Seventh Army and protected the 517th Parachute Infantry. The unit also cleared mines, captured Germans, and guarded roads and tunnels.[12] In mid to late October, the Antitank Company rejoined the 442nd during the tough battle to find the “Lost Battalion”.

Vosges Mountains

After leaving Naples, the 442nd landed in Marseille on September 30 and for the next few weeks they traveled 500 miles (800 km) through the Rhone Valley, by walking and by boxcar, until October 13. On October 14, 1944 the 442nd began moving into position in the late afternoon preparing the assault on Hills A, B, C, and D of Bruyères. Each hill was heavily guarded, as each hill was key in order to take and secure the city. Hill A was located Northwest of Bruyères, Hill B to the North, Hill C Northeast, and Hill D to the East. The 442nd had experienced mainly prairie in Italy, but the Vosges Mountains provided a very different terrain that the 442nd had never before experienced. The unit faced dense fog, mud, heavy rain, large trees, hills, and heavy enemy gunfire and artillery while moving through the Vosges. Hitler had ordered the German frontline to fight at all costs as this was the last barrier between the Allied forces and Germany. On October 15, 1944 the 442nd began its attack on Bruyères. The 100th Battalion moved on Hill A, which was held by the SS Polizei Regiment 19, as 2nd Battalion moved in on Hill B. Third Battalion was left to take Bruyères.


After heavy fighting dealing with enemy machine guns and snipers and a continuous artillery barrage placed onto the Germans, the 100th Battalion was eventually able to take Hill A by 3 a.m. on October 18. 2 Battalion took Hill B in a similar fashion only hours later. Once Hill A and B were secured, 3rd Battalion along with the 36th Infantry’s 142nd Regiment began its assault from the south. After the 232nd broke through the concrete barriers around town hall of Bruyères, the 442nd captured 134 Wehrmacht members including Poles, Yugoslavs, Somalis, East Indians of the Regiment “Freies Indien”, 2nd and 3rd Company of Fusilier Battalion 198, Grenadier Regiment 736, and Panzer Grenadier Regiment 192.[13] After three days of fighting Bruyères fell but was not yet secured. Germans on Hill C and D used that high-ground to launch artillery barrages on the town; Hills C and D needed to be taken to secure Bruyères.[14]

The 442nd initially took Hills C and D but did not secure them and they fell back into German hands. By noon of October 19 Hill D was taken by 2nd and 3rd Battalions, who then were ordered to take a railroad embankment leaving Hill D unsecure. As the 100th began moving on Hill C on October 20, German forces retook Hill D during the night.[15] The 100th Battalion was ordered back to Bruyères into reserve, allowing a German force onto Hill C, surprising another American Division arriving into position. Retaking Hill cost another 100 casualties.[16] Hill D fell back into Allied hands after a short time, finally securing the town. The 232nd Engineers had to dismantle roadblocks, clear away trees and clear mine fields all in the midst of the battle.[17] The 100th got some well-deserved rest, then were called to the battle for Biffontaine.


The 100th was ordered to take the high-ground but was eventually ordered to move into the town, leading to a bitter fight after the 100th were encircled by German forces: cut off from the 442nd, outside radio contact, and outside artillery support. The 100th were in constant battle from October 22 until dusk of October 23, engaging in house to house fighting and defending against multiple counterattacks. 3rd Battalion of the 442nd reached the 100th and helped drive out the remaining German forces, handing Biffontaine to the 36th.[18] On October 24 the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division relieved the 100th and 3rd Battalion who were sent to Belmont, another small town to the north, for some short-lived rest.[19] Nine days of constant fighting continued as they were then ordered to save T-Patchers, the 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry, the “Lost Battalion.”

Lost Battalion

After less than two days in reserve, the 442nd was ordered to attempt the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” two miles east of Biffontaine.[19] On October 23 Colonel Lundquist’s 141st Regiment, soon to be known as the “Alamo” Regiment, began its attack on the German line that ran from Rambervillers to Biffontaine. Tuesday morning, October 24, the left flank of the 141st, commanded by Technical Sergeant Charles H. Coolidge, ran into heavy action, fending off numerous German attacks throughout the days of October 25 and 26. The right flank command post was overrun and 275 men of Lieutenant Colonel William Bird’s 1st Battalion Companies A, B, C, and a platoon from Company D were cut off 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) behind enemy lines.[20] The “Lost Battalion” was cut off by German troops and was forced to dig in until help arrived. It was nearly a week before they saw friendly faces.

At 4 a.m. on Friday October 27, General Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to move out and rescue the cut-off battalion. The 442nd had the support of the 522nd and 133rd Field Artillery units but at first made little headway against German General Richter’s infantry and artillery front line.[21] For the next few days the 442nd engaged in the heaviest fighting it had seen in the war, as they elements combined with the Germans, to slow their advance. Dense fog and very dark nights prevented the men from seeing even twenty feet. Many men had to hang on to the man in front of him just to know where to go. Rainfall, snow, cold, mud, fatigue, trench-foot, and even exploding trees plagued them as they moved deeper into the Vosges and closer to the German frontlines.[22] The 141st continued fighting—in all directions.

“When we realized we were cut off, we dug a circle at the top of the ridge. I had two heavy, water-cooled machine guns with us at this time, and about nine or ten men to handle them. I put one gun on the right front with about half of my men, and the other gun to the left. We cut down small trees to cover our holes and then piled as much dirt on top as we could. We were real low on supplies, so we pooled all of our food.” SSgt. Jack Wilson of Newburgh, Indiana.[23]

Most airdrops with ammo and food for the 141st were called off by dense fog or landed in German hands. Many Germans didn’t know that they had cut off an American unit. “We didn’t know that we had surrounded the Americans until they were being supplied by air. One of the supply containers, dropped by parachute, landed near us. The packages were divided up amongst us.”.[24] Only on October 29 was the 442nd told why they were being forced to attack the German front lines so intensely.

The fighting was intense for the Germans as well. Gebirgsjager Battalion 202 from Salzburg was cut off from Gebirgsjager Battalion 201 from Garmisch.[25] Both sides eventually rescued their cut-off battalions.

As the men of the 442nd went deeper and deeper they became more hesitant, until reaching the point came that they would not move from behind a tree or come out of a foxhole. However, this all changed in an instant. The men of Companies I and K of 3rd Battalion had their backs against the wall, but as each one saw another rise to attack, then another also rose. Then every Nisei charged the Germans screaming, and many screaming “Banzai!”[26] Through gunfire, artillery shells, and fragments from trees, and Nisei going down one after another, they charged.

Colonel Rolin’s grenadiers put up a desperate fight, but nothing could stop the Nisei rushing up the steep slopes, shouting, firing from the hip, and lobbing hand grenades into dugouts. Finally the German defenses broke and the surviving grenadiers fled in disarray. That afternoon the American aid stations were crowded with casualties. The 2nd platoon of Company I had only two men left, and the 1st platoon was down to twenty.”[27] On the afternoon of October 30, 3rd Battalion broke through and reached the 141st, rescuing 211 T-Patchers at the cost of 800 men in 5 days. However, the fighting continued for the 442nd as they moved past the 141st. The drive continued until they reached Saint-Die on November 17 when they were finally pulled back. The 100th fielded 1,432 men a year earlier, but was now down to 239 infantrymen and 21 officers. 2nd Battalion was down to 316 riflemen and 17 officers, while not a single company in 3rd Battalion had over 100 riflemen; the entire 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team was down to less than 800 soldiers. On October 13, 1944 when attached to the 36th Infantry, the unit was at 2,943 rifleman and officers, but in only three weeks 140 were killed and 1,800 were wounded, while 43 were missing.[28]

General Dahlquist and Legacy of the Rescue

General Dahlquist’s actions and orders received mixed reviews. Many Nisei veterans disliked or disrespected General Dahlquist believing that Dahlquist only saw the Nisei as cannon fodder, or expendable soldiers. Although they respected his courage, seeing him stand in the open issuing orders while a battle ensued, even though his aide Lieutenant Lewis—the eldest son of Nobelist Sinclair Lewis—was killed, his command ability was questioned.[29] Lt. Allan Ohata was ordered to send his men straight up the hill, but refused to send his men into a suicide charge. Dahlquist demanded compliance but Ohata risked loss of rank and decorations and court-martial, insisting on attacking "their way".[30] Dahlquist's order to take Biffontaine was also questioned, because it was a farming town with only a few hundred inhabitants, was out of reach of artillery protection, and outside radio contact with command.

On November 12 General Dahlquist ordered the entire 442nd to stand in formation for a ceremony, and seeing K company's 18 men and I company's 8, demanded of Colonel Miller, “I want all your men to stand for this formation.” Miller responded, "That's all of K company left, sir." (of 400, originally)[31]

General Dahlquist was so disliked as a person that when Lieutenant Colonel Singles ran into Dahlquist a few years later, Singles was not willing to shake his hand. “After returning the salute, General Dahlquist offered his right hand saying, “Let bygones be bygones. It’s all water under the bridge, isn’t it?” Lt. Col. Singles maintained his salute, ignoring the General’s extended hand. Although he rendered proper military protocol by maintaining his salute, he could not forget what he considered the General’s blatant waste of Japanese-American soldiers.”[32]

Following the war, the 442nd was repeatedly commemorated for efforts at the Vosges Mountains. A commissioned painting now hanging in The Pentagon depicts them as they fought to reach the “Lost Battalion”.[33] A memorial was erected in Biffontaine by Gerard Henry, later the town mayor. Another memorial was established in Bruyeres to commemorate the liberation of the city. At first a narrow road led to that monument but today the road named “The Avenue of the 442nd Infantry Regiment is wide enough to fit 4 tour buses.”[34]

Champagne Campaign

Following the tough battle through the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd was sent to the Maritime Alps and the French Riviera. It was a walk in the park compared to what they had experienced in October. Little to no action occurred in the next four months as they rested.[citation needed] The 442nd guarded and patrolled a twelve to fourteen-mile front line segment of French-Italian border. This part of the 442nd’s journey gained the name "Champagne Campaign" because of the available wine, women and merry times.[citation needed] The 442nd experienced additional losses as patrols sometimes ran into enemy patrols, or sometimes soldiers stepped on enemy and allied land mines. Occasionally, soldiers of the 442nd captured spies and saboteurs.

The 442nd is also known for accomplishing what no other U.S. Army unit had done before: the capture of an enemy submarine.[citation needed] A Nisei soldier noticed what looked like an animal in the water but upon closer look it was actually a one-man German submarine. The German and the submarine were captured and handed over to the U.S. Navy. On March 23, 1945, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team sailed back to Italy and returned to the Gothic Line.[citation needed]

522nd Field Artillery Battalion

From March 20 to 22, the 442 and the 232 shipped off to Italy from France but the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion was sent to another part of Europe. They traveled 600 miles (970 km) through the Rhone Valley and stopped at Kleinbittersdorf on the east bank of the Saar River. The 522nd aided the 63rd Division on the Siegfried Line defenses south of St. Ingbert from March 12-21.[35] The 522nd became a Roving Battalion, supporting nearly two dozen army units along the front traveling a total of 1,100 miles (1,800 km) across Germany and accomplishing every objective of their fifty-two assignments.[36] The 522nd was the only Nisei unit to fight in Germany. On April 27 scouts of the 522nd located a Dachau concentration camp next to the city of Augsburg. Scouts from the 522nd were among the first Allied troops to release prisoners from Dachau —or, more specifically, from one of its 169 sub-camps, where more than 3,000 prisoners were held.[37]

“As we came around the way, there were a lot of Jewish inmates coming out of the camp, and I heard that the gate was opened by our advanced scouts. They took a rifle and shot it. I think it was a fellow from Hawaii that did that. I think it was a Captain Taylor, Company B was one of them, but another person from Hawaii, he passed away. They opened the gate and all these German, I mean, Jewish victims were coming out of the camp.”[38]

“Then, when we finally opened the Dachau camp, got in, oh those people were so afraid of us, I guess. You could see the fear in their face. But eventually, they realized that we were there to liberate them and help them.”[39]

“They were all just skin and bones, sunken eyes. I think they were more dead than they were alive because they hadn’t eaten so much because, I think, just before we got there the S.S. people had all pulled back up and they were gone. But, we went there, and outside of the camps there were a lot of railroad cars there that had bodies in them. I had the opportunity to go into the camp there, but you could smell the stench. The people were dead and piled up in the buildings, and it was just unbelievable that the Germans could do that to the Jewish people. I really didn’t think it was possible at all actually.”[40]

The only thing the Nisei could really do was give them clothing and keep them warm. Nisei soldiers began to give the Jewish inmates food from their rations but were ordered to stop because the food could overwhelm the digestive systems of the starved inmates and kill them.[citation needed] As they continued past the subcamp, they discovered the path along which Jewish inmates had been driven to another camp.

“No, my first encounter was these lumps in snow, and then I didn’t know what they were, and so I went and investigated them and discovered that they were people, you know. Most of them were skeletons or people who had been beaten to death or just died of starvation or overworked or whatever. Most of them I think died from exposure because it was cold.”[41]

They discovered more subcamps and former inmates wandering the countryside. Following the German surrender, from May to November, the 522nd was assigned to security around Donauwörth, which consisted of setting up roadblocks and sentry posts to apprehend Nazis that were trying to disappear. The 522nd returned to the United States in November 1945.[35]

The Gothic Line

On March 23, 1945 the 100/442 shipped out from Marseille and traveled to Leghorn, Italy, attached to the 92nd Division. The Fifth Army had been stalemated at the Gothic Line for the prior five months. The 442nd faced extremely tough terrain, where the saw-toothed Apennines rose up from the Ligurian Sea. Starting from the northeast, the peaks hugged the east coast of Italy and stretched diagonally southward across the Italian boot. To the west, on the other side of the mountains, was the wide flat Po River Valley that led to the Austrian Alps—the last barrier to Germany. For nine months German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring directed the construction of the Gothic Line along the top of the Apennines. The Todt Organization (known for its fortifications at Monte Cassino) used 15,000 Italian slave laborers. They drilled into solid rock to make gun pits and trenches, which they reinforced with concrete. They built 2,376 machine gun nests with interlocking fire.[42]

On the Italian front, the 442nd had contact with another segregated American unit, the 92nd Infantry Division, as well as troops of the British and French colonial empires (West and East Africans, Moroccans, Algerians, Indians, Gurkhas, Jews from the Palestine mandate)[43] and the non-segregated Brazilian Expeditionary Force[44] which had in its ranks ethnic Japanese.

General Mark W. Clark welcomed the 442 and presented his plan to break the Gothic Line. General Clark had a disagreement with Supreme Commander Eisenhower. Clark had to negotiate for the return of the 100th and 442nd because Eisnehower wanted them for the Battle of the Bulge and General Devers, commander of the Sixth Army Group, needed fresh troops.[45] General Clark got his wish. The 442nd and 100th, minus the 522nd, along with the 92nd Division, mounted a surprise diversionary attack on the left flank. They intended to shift enemy attention to it from the interior, allowing the Eighth Army to cross the Senio River on the right flank and then the Fifth Army on the left.[46][47]

In front of the 442nd lay mountains code-named Georgia, Florida, Ohio 1, Ohio 2, Ohio 3, Monte Cerrata, Monte Folgorita, Monte Belvedere, Moente Carchio, and Monte Altissimo. These objectives hinged on surprising the Germans. The 100th went after Georgia Hill and the 3rd Battalion attacked Mount Folgorita. On April 3 the 442nd moved into position under the cover of nightfall to hide from the Germans who had good sight lines from their location on the mountains. The next day the 442nd waited. At 0500 the following morning they were ready to strike. A little over 30 minutes later objectives Georgia and Mount Folgorita were taken, cracking the Gothic Line. They achieved surprise and forced the enemy to retreat. After counterattacking, the Germans were defeated. During this time, 2nd Battalion was moving into position at Mount Belvedere, which overlooked Massa and the Frigido River.

The 442nd made a continuous push against the German Army and objectives began to fall: Ohio 1, 2, and 3, Mount Belvedere on April 6 by 2nd Battalion, Montignoso April 8 by 3rd Battalion, Mount Brugiana on April 11 by 2nd Battalion, Carrara by 3rd Battalion on April 11, and Ortonovo by the 100th on April 15. The 442 turned a surprise diversionary attack into an all-out offensive. The advance came so quickly that supply units had a hard time keeping up.

The Nisei drove so hard that beginning on April 17 the Germans decided to destroy their fortifications and pull back to make a final stand at Aulla. The last German defense in Italy was Monte Nebbione, directly south of Aulla. San Terenzo lay East of Mount Nobbione and became the launching point for the Aulla assault. The final drive of the 442nd began on April 19 and lasted until April 23, when the 3rd Battalion finally took Mount Nebbione and Mount Carbolo. Following the fall of San Terenzo, 2nd Battalion hooked right around the mountains and Task Force Fukuda (consisting of Companies B and F from 2nd Battalion) flanked left from Mount Carbolo creating a pincer move onto Aulla.[48] On April 25 Aulla fell and the German retreat was cut off. In the days that followed, Germans began to surrender in the hundreds and thousands to the Fifth and Eighth Armies. This was 442nd's final World War II action. On May 2 the war ended in Italy followed six days later by Victory in Europe.

The 442nd is commonly reported to have suffered a casualty rate of 314 percent, informally derived from 9,486 Purple Hearts divided by some 3,000 original in-theater personnel. The official casualty rate, combining KIA (killed) with MIA (missing) and WIA (wounded and removed from action) totals, as a fraction of all who served, is 93%, still uncommonly high. Many Purple Hearts were awarded during the Vosges Mountains campaign and some of the wounded were victims of trenchfoot. But many trenchfoot victims were forced—or willingly chose—to return to their unit even while classified as "wounded in action". Wounded soldiers often escaped from hospitals to return to the fight.[citation needed]

Service and Decorations

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit, for its size and length of service, in the entire history of the U.S. Military. The 4,000 men who initially came in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 3.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations.[49] Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor.[50] Members of the 442nd received 18,143 awards, including:

President Barack Obama and his guests applaud after signing S.1055, a bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal.

On October 5, 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Nisei serving in the Military Intelligence Service.[51]

Unit fight song

Four-Forty-Second Infantry— We're the boys of Hawai'i nei— We'll fight for you And the Red, White and Blue, And go to the front... And back to Honolulu-lulu. Fighting for dear old Uncle Sam Go for broke! HOOH! We don't give a damn! We'll round up the Huns At the point of our guns, And vict'ry will be ours! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! And vict'ry will be ours!

The song may have originally been written for the 100th Battalion and entitled One-Puka-Puka in place of Four-Forty-Second, thus explaining the reference to Hawaii nei (Beautiful Hawaii) and the vow to go back to Honolulu.

After the war

The stellar record of the Japanese Americans serving in the 442nd and in the Military Intelligence Service (U.S. Pacific Theater forces in World War II) helped change the minds of anti-Japanese American critics in the U.S. and resulted in easing of restrictions and the eventual release of the 120,000 strong community well before the end of World War II.

However, the unit’s exemplary service and many decorations did not change the attitudes of the general U.S. population to people of Japanese descent after World War II. Veterans were welcomed home by signs that read “No Japs Allowed” and “No Japs Wanted”, denied service in shops and restaurants, and had their homes and property vandalized.

Anti-Japanese sentiment remained strong into the 1960s, but faded along with other once-common prejudices, even while remaining strong in certain circles. Conversely, the story of the 442nd provided a leading example of what was to become the controversial model minority stereotype.

Revolution of 1954

According to author, historian Tom Coffman, men of the 442nd dreaded returning home as second-class citizens. In Hawaii these men became involved in a peaceful movement. It has been described as the 442nd returning from the battles in Europe to the battle at home. The non-violent revolution was successful and put veterans in public office in what became known as the Revolution of 1954.

One notable effect of 442nd's service was to help convince Congress to end its opposition towards Hawaii's statehood petition. Twice before 1959, residents of Hawaii asked to be admitted to the U.S. as the 49th state, but each time Congress was fearful of having a co-equal state that had a majority non-white population. The exemplary record of the Japanese-Americans serving in the 442nd and the loyalty showed by the rest of Hawaii's population during World War II overcame those fears and allowed Hawaii to be admitted as the 50th state (Alaska was granted statehood just prior).

In post-war American popular slang, the phrase "going for broke" was adopted from the 442nd's unit motto "Go for Broke", which was derived from the Hawaiian pidgin phrase used by craps shooters risking all their money in one roll of the dice.

Demobilization and rebirth

The 442nd RCT was de-activated in Honolulu in 1946, but reactivated in 1947 in the U.S. Army Reserve. It was mobilized in 1968 to refill the Strategic Reserve during the Vietnam War, and carries on the honors and traditions of the unit. Today, the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, is the only infantry unit of the Army Reserve. The battalion headquarters is at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, with subordinate units based in Hilo, American Samoa, Saipan, and Guam. The only military presence in American Samoa consists of the Battalion's B and C companies[2]

In August 2004, the battalion was mobilized for duty in Iraq, stationed at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in the city of Balad, which is located about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad. Lt. Colonel Colbert Low assumed command of the battalion only a few weeks after the battalion arrived at Logistical Support Area Anaconda. As of January 2006, the 100th had returned home with the exception of some 100 artillery personnel. One soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device attack. A total of 4 members of the battalion were killed in action before they returned home in January 2006. During the year long deployment one of Charlie Company's attachment platoon, call sign, Cobra Black 2 distinguished themselves by discovering over 50 weapons caches. Their proven techniques in plotting the enemy's likely caches sites allowed Cobra Black 2 to systematically detect and destroy some of the largest stores of mortars, rockets, IED's and ammunition in the Area of Operation in and around LSA Anaconda. Their success led to a dramatic decrease in IED attacks and indirect fire into LSA Anaconda. Unlike the soldiers of World War II who were predominantly Japanese Americans these soldiers came from as far away as Miami, Florida, Tennessee, Alaska and included soldiers from Hawaii, Philippines, Samoa and Palau.

California has given three state highway segments honorary designations for Japanese American soldiers:

A nationwide campaign to urge the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative postage stamp to honor the contributions of the Japanese American soldiers of World War II was begun in 2006 in California.

Prominent members

Works about the 442nd

  • American Pastime While the film is fiction, it depicts life inside the internment camps, where baseball was one of the major diversions from the reality of the internees' lives. Location scenes were filmed in bleak, desolate land, not far from the site of an actual camp. Lane Nomura, the oldest son enlists in the Army, as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, described as the famed "Purple Heart Battalion". The unit motto, "Go for broke!" provides inspiration at a climactic moment, and reference is made to the losses taken by the 442nd during the rescue of the Lost Battalion.
  • Go For Broke! This 1951 film dramatizes the lives and wartime heroics of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The film stars Van Johnson as a young officer, reluctant about his assignment to the 442nd. He comes to respect the Nisei troops, eventually refusing a transfer back to his original Texas unit. The movie starred a number of veterans of the 442nd.
  • The "One Puka Puka" episode of The Gallant Men television series featured the unit with guest stars Poncie Ponce and George Takei.
  • The James Michener novel Hawaii features a chapter detailing the 442nd's experiences, although its designation is changed to the 222nd and many of the members appear under fictionalized names.
  • Ed Sakamoto wrote a play about the 100th/442nd entitled Our Hearts Were Touched by Fire, which was performed in Honolulu and Los Angeles.
  • In the series of four Karate Kid movies, Keisuke Miyagi is a main character portrayed as a World War II veteran who had fought in the 442nd and received the Medal of Honor. The fourth film, The Next Karate Kid, begins with a reunion of the 442nd, in which Sen. Daniel Inouye gives a speech and Mr. Miyagi wears his Medal of Honor for the only time in any of the four films.
  • In 2005, Lane Nishikawa directed and starred in the independent film, Only the Brave, which is a fictional account of the rescue of the Lost Battalion.
  • "Family 8108", the December 9, 2007 episode of the CBS TV show Cold Case centers around the Japanese internment camps and discusses the 442nd Regional Combat Team.
  • Ken Burns' 2007 PBS World War II documentary The War explores the stories of four American towns' experiences with the war. Burns' 15 hour documentary goes in depth in describing the many battles of World War II, including those of the 442nd Infantry Regiment.
  • 99-nen no Ai—Japanese Americans—In 2010 TBS produced a 5 part, 10hr fictional Japanese-language miniseries featuring many of the major events in Japanese-American history. Episode 4 features a key character who serves in the 442nd and portrays the rescue of the Texas Battalion.
  • "Valor With Honor"— is an 85 minute independent documentary film on the last interviews of veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Dozens of detailed interviews, WW2 film footage, rare photos, etc. are edited into a single film without narration.[57]

See also


  1. ^ "Asian-Americans i the United States Military during the Korean War". State of New Jersey. http://www.state.nj.us/military//korea/factsheets/asian.html. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry". GlobalSecurity.org. 23 May 2005. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/100-442in.htm. Retrieved 27 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 34
  4. ^ a b http://goforbroke.org/history/history_historical_maps.asp
  5. ^ Crost 1994, p. 149
  6. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 36
  7. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 37
  8. ^ Go For Broke National Education Center video archive. Harry Abe, Film #348, Tape 2, 28:00 min.
  9. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 38
  10. ^ Go For Broke - Maps
  11. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 56-57
  12. ^ http://goforbroke.org/history/history_historical_campaigns_southern.asp
  13. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 43
  14. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 60
  15. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 57
  16. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 62
  17. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 51, 54
  18. ^ Crost 1994, p. 182, 183
  19. ^ a b Remembrances 1992, p. 139
  20. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 61-62
  21. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 66
  22. ^ Crost 1994, p. 185, 187
  23. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 80
  24. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 83
  25. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 72
  26. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 83
  27. ^ Steidl 2000, p. 89
  28. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 83, 85
  29. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 82
  30. ^ Crost 1994, p. 190
  31. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 95
  32. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 91
  33. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 89
  34. ^ Crost 1994, p. 201
  35. ^ a b Shirey 1990, p. 99
  36. ^ Crost 1994, p. 239
  37. ^ Go for Broke - Central
  38. ^ Joseph Ichiuji testimonial
  39. ^ Tom Kono testimonial
  40. ^ Minoru Tsubota testimonial
  41. ^ George Oiye testimonial
  42. ^ Go For Broke - Gothic
  43. ^ Ready 1985a
  44. ^ Ready 1985b
  45. ^ Shirey 1990, p. 249-250
  46. ^ Remembrances 1992, p. 145
  47. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 107
  48. ^ Sterner 2008, p. 117
  49. ^ Go For Broke - Veterans
  50. ^ 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, globalsecurity.org.
  51. ^ Steffen 2010
  52. ^ Williams 2008
  53. ^ Scott, John L. (3 October 1967). "Japanese Actor No Longer Villain". Los Angeles Times. p. C1. 
  54. ^ Chang 1985
  55. ^ Tanaka 2005
  56. ^ "About USIP: History: Selected Biographies: United States Institute Of Peace". Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080709024954/http://www.usip.org/aboutus/history/bios.html. Retrieved 23 September 2008. 
  57. ^ [www.valorwithhonor.com Valor With Honor]


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