The American Soldiers

Vosges Forest, France, 11/14/1944: Bob Yorita, Shigeru Suekuni, Lefty Ichihara, Michio Takata, and Capt. Joe Hill of F Company, 2nd Bn, 442nd RCT. Their unit is holding a section of the front lines. (Signal Corps photo.)

Vosges Forest, France, 11/14/1944: Bob Yorita, Shigeru Suekuni, Lefty Ichihara, Michio Takata, and Capt. Joe Hill of F Company, 2nd Bn, 442nd RCT. Their unit is holding a section of the front lines. (Signal Corps photo.)

 

when japan attached pearl harbor...

on December 7, 1941, mass hysteria erupted in America against all persons of Japanese ancestry. Nisei (American-born children of Japanese immigrants) were viewed as innately disloyal and were barred from enlisting in the armed forces. The 1,432 Nisei who were already in the US Army in Hawai'i were placed in the 100th Infantry Battalion, shipped to Wisconsin for training, and subsequently deployed to Italy for combat.

In response to Nisei petitions to Washington, DC, to allow them to serve in combat to serve their loyalty, the impressive training record of the 100th Battalion and for other reasons, Washington approved the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in early 1943. The 442and RCT was comprised of 4,000 Nisei volunteers from Hawai'i and the mainland US--including men from incarceration camps. Following training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the 442nd RCT, with the motto Go for Broke, was shipped to Italy where the 100th Bn had been fighting for the previous nine months. The 100th merged into the 442nd RCT and continued executing tough assignments successfully. When the war ended, the US Army declared that the 442nd RCT combat performance record was "unsurpassed" and that it was the most highly decorated unit for its size and period of combat. Over 650 Nisei perished on the battlefields of Italy and France.

While over 10,000 Japanese Americans served in the 442nd, approximately 4,000 Nisei linguists served in the Asian Pacific war zone fighting soldiers of their parents' homeland. These Military Intelligence Service (MIS) members served as translators of captured documents, interrogators of prisoners of war, and monitors of enemy communications. They entered caves to persuade Japanese soldiers to surrender. They served in Special Forces, working behind enemy lines to sabotage enemy operations. They were in the first or second wave of nearly every infantry or marine invasion to provide tactical intelligence obtained from translating enemy documents and interrogating prisoners. They were vulnerable to being shot at by the Japanese or the Americans. They served in every unit that needed a linguist, including those of Australia and Great Britain. The intelligence information they passed to their unit commanders turned potential defeat into victories. Following the war, these Nisei served in the demobilization and occupation of Japan with zeal to build a new Japan.

congressional gold medal

On November 2, 2011, the US Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor this nation can bestow, on the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Nisei who served in the Military Intelligence Service. Over 300 veterans of the 100th, the 442nd, and MIS from across the country, many in wheelchairs, received the honor at the US Capitol Building. Eight members of Congress, led by former Speaker John Boehner, paid high tribute to the military role played by Nisei during WWII. National press coverage was extensive.

For an extensive narrative of the Nisei legacy, with dozens of photos, visit the Japanese American veterans association page here.