The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was created in 1942 for Japanese-American soldiers in the US Army. It was a self-suffiicient fighting force of the US 5th Army. The 442nd is most decorated Unit in the History United States Military with 21 medal of honors and over 14,122 other medals.Background.
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 removal of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast from their homes and their relocation to guarded relocation camps.
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 construction jobs for the military. 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”.
Along with the Varsity Victory Volunteers being able to prove 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 males eligible to register for the draft, “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, thus creating the No-No Boy. But, more than 75% indicated that they were willing to enlist in the U.S. armed forces 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. In the end, 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.”
The 442nd in training: building then attacking across a pontoon bridge at Camp ShelbyThe 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 compared to 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 improve 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.
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 Regimental Combat Team 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.
The newly formed Nisei unit would go into battle together on June 26, 1944 at the town of Belvedere. Although the 100th was attached to the 442nd, that did not slow them down one bit as their actions would earn them a Presidential Unit Citation. 2nd and 3rd Battalions were the first to engage the enemy which would end up being a fierce firefight; F Company receiving the worst of it. 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. Little did the enemy know, the 100th was flanking the German exit, trapping them in the town of Belvedere. C Company blocked the entrance of the town 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 of Belvedere, and still the Germans were unaware what was going on. B Company would stay on the high ground and would eventually make a surprise attack on the German Battalion’s exposed east flank forcing the Germans to flee and run into C Company which would then drive the Germans to A Company.
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. Presidential Unit Citation Review
The battle wouldn’t end there as the 442nd along with its first battalion, the 100th, would keep 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 made them realize what kind of fighting the 100th had gone through in the past months. After only a few days of rest, the united 442nd would again enter into combat on July 1 as they would take Cecina and move towards the Arno River. As the 442nd would approach the Arno River, on July 5, 2 Battalion would engage in a hard fought battle to take Hill 140 while on July 7 the 100th Battalion would end up fighting for the town of Castellina.
For the first three weeks of July the 442nd and its 1st Battalion, the 100th, would be under constant attack against the German forces which would lead to 1,100 in enemy kills and capturing 331 soldiers.
Hill 140 was the main line of enemy resistance and would prove to be a difficult challenge for the 442 to overcome. A single German Battalion held the hill but were able to hold it so well, along with the help of their artillery fire, that they had completely wiped out a machine-gun squad of L Company of the 3rd Battalion and G Company of 2nd Battalion entirely except for its commander. A constant barrage of artillery shells were being launched against the 2nd and 3rd Battalions as they dug in at the base of the hill. The 442nd moved forward gaining very little ground in the coming days only improving their position slightly. The 232d Engineers aided the 442nd in gaining the little ground they were able to obtain by defusing the many landmines that laid in the 442nd’s path. But it wasn’t just the 442nd that was encountering heavy resistance but the entire 34th Division front. “All along the 34th Division Front the Germans held more doggedly than at any time since the breakthrough at Cassino and Anzio.” Hill 140 had been dubbed “Little Cassino” as the resistance by the Germans was so fierce that the casualties began to mount as the 442nd pushed even harder against the German front. “Hill 140, when the medics were just overrun with all the casualties; casualties you couldn’t think to talk about.” The 2nd Battalion would eventually move to the eastern front of Hill 140 and 3rd Battalion would move to the western front, both converging on the German flanks. It wouldn’t be until July 7 when the last German resistance would finally be taken down and the hill would end up under the 34th Division’s control.
On the same 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 forward into town encountering heavy resistance and multiple counterattacks by German forces but would eventually be able to hold them off. In the meantime Company B moved north into Castellina encountering heavy resistance as well but with the help of the 522nd Field Artillery, after taking part in defending 2nd and 3rd Battalions in the taking of Hill 140, were able to lay down a heavy barrage against German forces and force the Germans to retreat by 1800 hours on July 7. The 100th would end up having to dig in and wait for relief to arrive after spending an entire day securing the town.
For the coming weeks until July 25, the 442nd would encounter heavy resistance from each town they encountered until 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 push towards the Arno River from Rome, a distance of 40 miles. Rest would last from July 25 to August 15 until the 442nd was ordered to patrol the Arno River. Crossing the Arno River on August 31 was relatively uneventful for the 442nd, encountering little resistance, as they were ordered to guard the north-side of the river in order for bridges to be built to allow the Allied advance to move forward. On September 11 the 442nd would be detached from the Fifth Army and then attached to the 36th Division of the Seventh Army.
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 was to take place on August 15, landing near Le Muy, France. They would train for a few weeks to get used to, prepare, properly load, and fly gliders. These gliders were 48 feet long and 15 feet high, and could hold a jeep and a trailer filled with ammunition, or a British six-pounder antitank gun. It would be during the Southern France Campaign, August 15 to September 14, which the 442nd would receive its second Presidential Unit Citation for making the invasion in gliders and fought with the infantrymen of the 7th Army and were given the Combat Infantryman Badge. The Antitank Company was the only unit in the 442nd to receive the Glider Badge. Upon rough landings by the gliders whether it be hitting trees or due to damage done by enemy flak, the Nisei of the Antitank Company were ordered to hold their positions for a few days until they were relieved by Allied troops coming in by sea. For the next two months the Antitank Company guarded the exposed right flank of the 7th Army and gave antitank protection to the 517th Parachute Infantry. The unit also cleared mines, captured Germans, and guarded roads and tunnels. It would not be until mid to later October when the Antitank Company would finally rejoin with the 442nd during the tough battle to find the “Lost Battalion.”
After leaving Naples, the 442nd landed in Marseille on September 30 and for the next few weeks they would travel 500 miles 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 getting ready to begin the assault on Hills A, B, C, and D of Bruyeres. Each hill was heavily guarded by German defenses as each hill was key in order to take and secure Bruyeres. Hill A was located Northwest of Bruyeres, Hill B to the North, Hill C Northeast, and Hill D to the East. Before the assault, the 442nd experienced very different terrain in Italy as it was mainly prairie but the Vosges Mountains provided a very different terrain that would place hardships onto the 442nd that they had never experienced before. Dense fog, mud, heavy rain, large trees, hills, and heavy enemy gunfire and artillery were what the 442nd had to deal with while moving through the Vosges. Each battle the 442nd encountered was with extreme intensity for Hitler had ordered the German frontline to hold back the enemy at all costs as it was the last barrier between the Allied forces and Germany. On October 15, 1944 the 442nd began its attack on Bruyeres. The 100th Battalion moved on Hill A, which was held by the SS Plizei Regiment 19, as 2nd Battalion moved in on Hill B. Third Battalion was left to take Bruyeres. 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 would take Hill B in a similar fashion only a few hours later. Once Hill A and B were secured by the first two battalions, 3rd Battalion along with the 36th Infantry’s 142nd Regiment began its assault onto the town of Bruyeres from the south. After three days of fighting Bruyeres would fall into the hands of the 442nd and 142nd Regiment but Bruyeres was not secured as Hill C and D were the high-ground to Bruyeres making Bruyeres an easy target for artillery units to fire on; Hills C and D needed to be taken under control in order to secure Bruyeres. After the 232nd broke through the concrete barriers around town hall of Bruyeres, 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.
Hill C and D would eventually be taken by the 442nd but because of the lack of being able to secure the hills they would eventually fall back into German hands. By noon of October 19 Hill D was taken by 2nd and 3rd Battalions then were ordered to take a railroad embankment east of Bruyeres leaving Hill D unsecure. As the 100th began moving on Hill C on October 20, German forces retook Hill D during the night. The same story happened after the 100th took Hill C on the same day. Once the 100th Battalion was ordered back to Bruyeres into reserve, a German force moved onto Hill C surprising another American Division arriving into position. It would cost another 100 casualties to retake Hill C. Hill D would also fall back into Allied hands after a short time. Bruyeres had finally been secured by the 442nd but it wasn’t just the three battalions that faced a huge test at hand but also the 232nd Engineers as well as they had to dismantle roadblocks, clear away trees and clear mine fields all in the midst of the battle that was taking place. Although Bruyeres was finally secured and the 100th was taking in some well deserved rest, they would immediately be called back into action; the battle for Biffontaine.
The 100th was ordered to take the high-ground of Biffontaine but would eventually be ordered to move into the town, an order that would lead to a bitter fight that the 100th would have to deal with as they would be encircled by German forces: cut off from the 442nd, outside radio contact, and outside artillery support. The 100th would be in a constant battle from October 22 until dusk of October 23 engaging in house to house fighting and defending against multiple counterattacks by the Germans. 3rd Battalion of the 442nd would finally reach the 100th and drive the remaining German forces out of town securing Biffontaine and placing it into the hands of the 36th. It wouldn’t be until October 24 when the 100th and 3rd Battalion would finally be relieved from Biffontaine by the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division and sent to Belmont, another small town to the north, for some needed rest but of course this was short lived. Nine days of constant fighting would continue with the 442nd only receiving very little rest as they were ordered to save T-Patchers, the 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry, the “Lost Battalion.”
Less than two days in reserve, the 442nd was pulled from their rest and ordered to attempt the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” which was located two miles east of Biffontaine. On October 23 Colonel Lundquist’s 141st Regiment, soon to become known as the “Alamo” Regiment, began its attack on the German line that ran from Rambervillers to Biffontaine. It was a Tuesday morning on October 24 when the left flank of the 141st, commanded by Technical Sergeant Charles Henry Coolidge, began to run into heavy action fending off numerous German attacks throughout the days of October 25 and 26. However, the worst was yet to come, as the right flank was encountering so much German resistance that the command post became 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 two kilometers behind enemy lines. The “Lost Battalion” was cut off by German troops and were then forced to dig in until help arrived. Little did those men know that it would be nearly a week until they would finally see friendly faces.
It was 4 a.m. on Friday October 27 when 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 would make little headway against German General Richter’s infantry and artillery frontline. For the next few days the 442nd ended up engaging in the heaviest fighting it had seen in the war as they would go up against a tough and determined enemy; not just the Germans but also the elements. Dense fog and very dark night fall prevented many men of the 442nd from seeing twenty feet in front of them. Many men had to hang onto the man in front of him just to know where he was going. Rainfall, snow, the cold, mud, fatigue, trench-foot, and even exploding trees all plagued the men of the 442nd as they all moved deeper and deeper into the Vosges and closer to the German frontlines. The 141st were dealing with German forces as well as they had been forced to maintain their position for it didn’t matter what direction they went there was always German resistance.
“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.
Airdrops were sent in to the 141st but many, if not nearly all, of the drops, if not called off by dense fog, landed in German hands giving them ammo and food. What many Germans didn’t know, including German Airman Schwieters, was that there was even a cut-off 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.”. It wouldn’t be until October 29 when the men of the 442nd would finally be told why they were being forced to attack the German frontlines so intensely. The fighting was not just intense for the 442nd but the Germans as well as Gebirgsjager Battalion 201 from Garmisch tried to locate Gebirgsjager Battalion 202 from Salzburg as it was cut off as well. Both sides of the fighting experienced a rescuing of a cut off battalion. As the men of the 442nd went deeper and deeper they became more hesitant until the point where they would not leave from behind a tree or from out of a foxhole. However, this would all change in an instant. When the men of Companies I and K of 3rd Battalion had their backs against the wall, one by one began to assault the hill and as each one saw another rise to attack, then another would also rise up to the point where every Nisei began to charge the Germans screaming and many of them screaming “Banzai!” Although gunfire, artillery shells, and fragments from trees were everywhere and a Nisei being taken down one after another, the men of the 442nd still charged up the hill regardless.
Colonel Rolin’s grenadiers put up a desperate fight, but nothing could stop the Nisei rushing up the steep slopes, shouting, firing from their hips, and lobbing hand grenades into dugouts. Finally the German defenses broke, and the surviving grenadiers fled in disarray. But 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 men.” In the afternoon of October 30, 3rd Battalion finally broke through and reached the 141st rescuing 211 T-Patchers at the cost of 800 men in 5 days. However, the fighting would continue for the 442nd as they would move past the 141st continuing their advance to drive the Germans further away. The drive would continue until they reached Saint-Die on November 17 when they would finally be pulled back. The 100th was at 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 three weeks time 140 were killed, 1800 wounded Nisei scattered in different hospitals throughout Europe, and 43 were missing.
There are mixed reviews when discussing General Dahlquist’s actions and orders. Many Nisei veterans today dislike or disrespect General Dahlquist because of the belief that Dahlquist only saw the Nisei as cannon fodder, or expendable soldiers. Although the Nisei knew he was courageous enough as he stood in the open issuing orders when a battle ensued, which led to the death of his aide Lieutenant Lewis - the eldest son of Sinclair Lewis, the first American to receive the Nobel Literature Prize - his command ability was brought into question. Lt. Allan Ohata was given orders by General Dahlquist to send his men straight up the hill but Lt. Ohata refused to obey that order as it would send his men into a suicide charge. General Dahlquist demanded he send his men forward but Ohata didn’t care if he was stripped of his rank and decorations and court-martialed, he was not sending his men up that hill unless they did it their way and not the General’s. There was also question as to why General Dahlquist ordered to have Biffontaine taken for it could have been passed by as there was little to no German resistance: it was a farming town with only a few hundred people, it was out of reach for artillery protection, and outside radio contact with command. Following the rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” on November 12 General Dahlquist ordered the entire 442nd to stand in formation for a ceremony but the General wasn’t pleased as he fired back to Lieutenant Colonel Miller, “I want all your men to stand for this formation.” Miller responded, “This is all there is.” General Dahlquist was so much disliked as a person that Lieutenant Colonel Singles, an officer of the 442nd, ran into Dahlquist a few years later and 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 many considered the General’s blatant waste of Japanese-American soldiers.”
Following the war, the 442nd was commemorated in several ways to recognize what they had done during their efforts at the Vosges Mountains. A painting was commissioned to depict the soldiers of the 442nd in battle as they forced their way through to reach the “Lost Battalion” and hangs in The Pentagon. A memorial was also erected in Biffontaine by Gerard Henry, later the mayor of Biffontaine, because he wanted to commemorate what the 442nd had done in saving his people. Another memorial was also established in Bruyeres to commemorate the liberation of the city by the 442nd. There was only one narrow road that led to that monument but today the road is wide enough to fit 4 tour buses is now named “The Avenue of the 442nd Infantry Regiment.”
At the end of the battle General Dahlquist ordered a full regimental review to see how many men he had. When it was K company and I companys turn, K company only had 18 men, just I company 8 men. General Dahlquist yelled at the officer in command of the 442nd saying, "I ordered the entire regiment to pass in review!" The Officer said crying "Thats all thats of K company left sir." out of over 400 men K company and I company returned with only 26 men in all.
Following the tough battle through the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd was sent to the Maritime Alps and the French Riviera. It would end up being a walk in the park compared to what they had experienced in the month of October. Little to zero action occurred in the next four months as they enjoyed their much needed rest. The 442nd was not pulled back into the reserve but were actually on the front line guarding and patrolling a twelve to fourteen-mile French-Italian border. The reason for calling this part of the 442nd’s journey the "Champagne Campaign" is because of the available wine and women and the merry times they had. Although it was a much enjoyed time, the 442nd still experienced losses as patrols would sometimes run into enemy patrols and a small fire fight would ensue. Other times, soldiers would inadvertently step on enemy and allied land mines killing or severely injuring soldiers. Spies and those to commit sabotage would be caught by the 442nd but that was on occasion. However, the 442nd is known for accomplishing what no other U.S. Army unit had done before, capture a submarine. Upon notice, a Nisei soldier noticed what looked like an animal in the water but upon closer look it was actually a one-manned German submarine. The German and the submarine were captured and would end up being handed over to the U.S. Navy. Although the Nisei had some good times, it would eventually come to an end as the Nisei troops would soon be sent back to Italy for the final push. On March 23, 1945 the 442nd Regimental Combat Team would sail back to Italy and sent to the Gothic Line.
From March 20-22nd the 442nd Infantry and the 232nd Engineers shipped off to Italy from France but one particular group was held back and sent to another part of Europe, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. These men would travel 600-miles through the Rhone Valley and placed into position at Kleinbittersdorf on the east bank of the Saar River. It would be here the 522nd would aid the 63rd Division on the Siegfried Line defenses south of St. Ingbert from March 12 to March 21. However, this would not be the final destination as the 522nd would end up becoming a Roving Battalion as they would supply supporting fire for nearly two dozen army units along the front traveling a total of eleven hundred miles across Germany and accomplish every objective of their fifty-two assignments. The 522nd would end up being the only Nisei unit to enter and commit itself to battle in Germany. On April 27 scouts of the 522nd located a Dachau subcamp next to the city of Augsburg; it was a concentration camp. Scouts from the 522nd were among the first Allied troops to release prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp - or, more specifically, from one of its 169 sub-camps, where more than 3000 prisoners were held .
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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 little did they know that giving them food could kill them. Being malnourished, lack of medical attention, and left to starve put the Jewish inmates in a position that if they eat certain food and too much food at once could lead to sickness and eventually death because their bodies weren’t used to it and wouldn’t be able to handle it. This was the story for all Jewish inmates all throughout Europe that were treated by allied forces. But the discovery of what the Germans did to the Jewish population didn’t end there for as they continued their trek passed the subcamp, they had discovered the path the Germans had taken while marching other Jewish inmates 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.”
As the Nisei would travel even further away from the original camp they had discovered, more subcamps would be found and former Jewish inmates would be caught just wandering the countryside. Following the surrender of Germany, from May to November, the 522nd was assigned to security around Donauworth, Austria which consisted of setting up roadblocks and sentry posts to apprehend Nazis that were trying to disappear. The 522nd did this until they were sent back to the United States in November 1945.
On March 23, 1945 the 100/442, without the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, shipped out from Marseille and traveled to Leghorn, Northern Italy. As the 442nd returned to Italy on March 27 and attached to the 92nd Division, they had come to the realization that nothing had changed as the Fifth Army had been stalemated at the Gothic Line for the past five months. The 442nd knew they had a tough challenge ahead as they would have to face an extremely tough terrain with the enemy using the terrain to their advantage. 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 up to the Austrian Alps - the last barrier to Germany. For nine months German Field Marshall 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 the solid rock to make gun pits and trenches, which they reinforced with concrete. They built 2,376 machine gun nests with interlocking fire.
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 mandated territory) and the non-segregated Brazilian Expeditionary Force which had in its ranks ethnic Japanese.
After welcoming the 100th back to Italy, General Mark W. Clark had come up with a plan to break the Gothic Line. Prior to the arrival of the 442nd, General Clark was fighting his own little confrontation with General Eisenhower. General Clark had to negotiate with General Eisenhower for the return of the 100th and 442nd but Eisnehower wanted to keep them for the Battle of the Bulge and General Devers, commander of the Sixth Army Group, needed fresh troops. General Clark did not want 100th and the 442nd to be taken away from him while on the Italian front to go to France and now he demanded them back. General Clark got his wishes and received the 442nd and 100th, minus the 522nd, and were to use them, along with the 92nd Division, in a surprise attack along the west coast of Italy. It was believed by high command that if the 100/442 were used as a diversionary move on the left flank and was strong enough, enemy attention would move from the interior to the left flank allowing the Eighth Army to cross the Senio River on the right flank and the Fifth Army on the left.
The 442nd would have to look forward to, if the upcoming surprising attack would work, facing numerous mountains in their path; Code names Georgia, Florida, Ohio 1, Ohio 2, Ohio 3, Mount Cerrata, Mount Folgorita, Mount Belvedere, Mount Carchio, and Mount Altissimo. But, taking all of these objectives would hinge on the importance of surprising the Germans and taking Georgia Hill by the 100th and Mount Folgorita by 3rd Battalion. On April 3 the 442nd moved into position under the cover of nightfall so Germans did not know what kind of military activity was going on as they could see for miles what was closing in on their positions because of their elevated location on the mountains. The next day the 442nd did not move during the day but waited until the next night. By 0500 they were finally in position and were ready to strike. The order came to attack and a little over a half-hour later objectives Georgia and Mount Folgorita were taken finally cracking the Gothic Line. The Germans were immediately surprised at how close the enemy was and would be forced to retreat, regroup, and counterattack the Nisei but it would eventually end in defeat for the Germans. During this time, 2nd Battalion was moving into position at Mount Belvedere as it overlooked Massa and the Frigido River.
In the coming days the 442nd made a continuous push against the German Army as each objective began to fall to the 442nd; 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 surprise diversion attack turned into an all-out offensive by the 442nd. The advance was happening so quickly that supply units had a hard time keeping up with the advancing units.
The Nisei were driving so hard that beginning on April 17 the Germans had decided to destroy their fortifications and pull back to make a final stand at Aulla. The only obstacle that stood in the way of Aulla was Mount Nebbione which was located directly south of Aulla and was the final defense the Germans had in having a piece of Italy. San Terenzo laid East of Mount Nobbione but if taken, would be the launching location for the final assault on Aulla. The final drive of the 442nd would begin on April 19 and would last until April 23 when the 3rd Battalion finally took Mount Nebbione along with 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. April 25 saw the fall of Aulla and the cutting off of German retreat from the Gothic Line as the Eighth and Fifth Armies were driving north. In the days that followed, with the cutoff of German retreat north, Germans began to surrender in not just the hundreds but also the thousands to the Fifth and Eighth Armies as they advanced north. The final push through German forces would end up being the final action the 442nd would see in World War II as May 2 saw the end of the war in Italy and six days later the war in Europe would end as well.
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. U.S. Army battle reports show the official casualty rate, combining KIA (killed) with MIA (missing) and WIA (wounded and removed from action) totals, is 93%, still uncommonly high. Many of the Purple Hearts were awarded during the campaign in the Vosges Mountains and some of the wounded were soldiers who were victims of trenchfoot. But many victims of trenchfoot were forced by superiors—or willingly chose—to return to the front even though they were classified as "wounded in action". Wounded soldiers would often escape from hospitals to return to the front line battles.
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 would have originally had 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.
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.
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 would become known as the Revolution of 1954.
One notable national effect of the service of the 442nd 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.
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
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.
- State Route 23 between U.S. Route 101 and State Route 118 is named the Military Intelligence Memorial Freeway;
- State Route 99 between Fresno and Madera is named the 100th Infantry Battalion Memorial Highway;
- State Route 99 between Salida and Manteca is named the 442nd Regimental Combat Team Memorial Highway.
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.
- Asian-Nation: 442nd RCT Rescue of the Lost Battalion
- Go For Broke National Education Center
- The 442nd Regimental Combat Team
- 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry
- Hawaii Star Bulletin article on Hawaii Statehood passage
- "U.S. Samurais in Bruyeres" by Pierre Moulin
- The Story of the 442nd Combat Team compiled by members of the 442nd Combat Team, Mitsuye Yamada papers, Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, via Calisphere.
- "From a Quiet American, a Story of War and Remembrance". The New York Times. 16 August 2008.
- Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato on Veterans Chronicles produced by the
- Japanese American Veterans Collection, Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
- Most information copied from http.442nd Infantry Regiment (United States)-Wikipedea, the free encyclopedia-Windows Internet Explorer.com