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100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry

The 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, is the only remaining Infantry unit in the Army Reserve force structure. Its headquarters is located at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and its units are located in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and Saipan. Under the command and control of the 9th Regional Support Command, the 100th/442nd's wartime mission is to be one of the maneuver battalion's of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade, Hawaii Army National Guard.

It is important to recognize the contributions of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. Army's 100th Battalion and 442nd Combat Infantry group. History speaks for itself in documenting that none have shared their blood more valiantly for America than the Japanese Americans who served in these units while fighting enemy forces in Europe during World War II. The records of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry are without equal.

Because young Japanese men of the second generation [nisei] were often eager to fight against the Axis Powers Japanese-American units were created in the Army. In order to eliminate the confusion that might arise in the Pacific, the nisei units were to be employed only in the Mediterranean and European theaters of operation. The 442nd Infantry Regiment was the largest nisei unit. Fighting in Italy and southern France, the unit was known for its bravery and determination, as reflected by the unit motto, "Go for broke!"

The first all-Japanese American Nisei military unit was the 100th Battalion, which was the designation for the unit which was formed from the Japanese Americans who comprised a large part of the Hawaiian National Guard. These Nisei were sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for combat training and later were moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for additional training. They adopted the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" as their motto.

In 1943, the War Department in need of manpower reverse itself and sent recruiters to the relocation camps asking for volunteers to form a new Japanese American combat unit the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Volunteers were also accepted from Hawaii where 12,500 men had volunteered. The Nisei volunteers were combined with Japanese Americans still in the military and were sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for combat training.

At Camp Shelby, they were formed into the 442nd Infantry Regiment, consisting of three battalions plus support companies, the 522nd Artillery Battalion and the 232nd Combat Engineers. The unit designation was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and most of its officers were Caucasians. The 442nd chose "Go For Broke", a Hawaiian slang term from the dice game craps. "Go For Broke" meant to risk everything, give everything you have--all or nothing!

While the 442nd was being formed and trained, the 1,432 men of the 100th battalion had entered combat in Italy, September 26, 1943. The Italian campaign bloodied the 100th battalion and it suffered heavy casualties earning it the nickname "Purple Heart Battalion" as it was depleted down to 521 men by 1944. Replacements came from men who had finished training with the 442nd at Camp Shelby.

On June 2, 1944 the 442nd had landed at Naples and pushed to the Anzio beaches. On June 15th the 100th Battalion and the 442nd were merged into a single unit. The 100th battalion became the first battalion of the 442nd because the original first battalion of the 442nd had been used for replacements for the 100th. They were attached to the 133rd Regiment in the 34th Division.

After heavy fighting at Belvedere, Luciana, and Livorno, the 442nd was pulled back for a rest and was presented with a Presidential Unit Citation. After fighting at the Arno River in August, 1944, the 442nd moved to France for an attack in the Vosages Mountains. While in France, the 442nd was detached from the 34th Division and attached to the 36th Division of the Seventh Army. Given the assignment to capture the town of Bruyeres, the 442nd fought a bitter house to house battle and captured over 200 German soldiers.

Their bloodiest battle occured during their rescue of the "Lost Battalion". The First Battalion of the 36th Division had been given the assignment to clear a ridge deep in the Vosages, but had been cut-off by the Germans. The battalion, the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment (a former Texas National Guard unit), had been cut off since October 24,1944. The other two battalions of the 141st were unable to break through. The 100th /442nd, was ordered to rescue the Lost Battalion in a real-life "Saving Private Ryan" mission (More men were lost in the 100th/442nd in the rescue operation than there were to save in the 1st of the 141st.).

The 2nd Battalion jumped off at 0300 on the 26th. Before dawn on the 27th, the 100th and 3rd Battalions were called in, too. Fire support came from the 522nd FA Battalion. Enemy resistance was fierce; captured German prisoners revealed that orders from Hitler were to prevent any relief of the trapped battalion. The soldiers of the 100th/442nd fought in dense woods and heavy fog in freezing temperatures. Late in the afternoon of October 30, scouts from the Lost Battalion spotted soldiers in olive-drab uniforms and with Japanese faces approaching and knew the 442nd had broken through.

In five days and nights of continuous combat, the 100th/442nd RCT had suffered more than 800 casualties. In the 3rd Battalion, Company K had 17 riflemen left and Company I had eight riflemen left. Sergeants commanded both companies; all the officers had been killed or wounded. The 2,000 men on the casualty list included 140 killed.

In spring, 1945, the 442nd was sent back to Italy. The 442nd was made part of the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division, which also included the all-African American 370th Infantry and the all-white 473rd Infantry. 1 Mounting a diversionary attack in the Appenine Mountains, the 442nd took their assigned objectives cracking ther German defensive line. By May 2, 1945 the war was over in Italy.

These Japanese American units suffered an unprecedented casualty rate of 314 percent and received over 18,000 individual decorations. Many were awarded after their deaths for bravery and courage in the field of battle. Among the decorations received by the 100th/442nd soldiers were one Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 28 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Silver Star, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Bronze Star and, perhaps most telling of the sacrifices made by these gallant soldiers, 9,486 Purple Hearts. The 442nd Combat Infantry group emerged as the most decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the United States Army. For its service in eight major campaigns in Italy and France, the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team earned eight Presidential Unit Citations.

Second Lt. Daniel K. Inouye, who received a battlefield commission in November 1944, was one of those brave men. On April 21, 1945, while leading his platoon in an attack on enemy positions on Mount Musatello in Italy, Lieutenant Inouye was wounded in the right arm by an enemy grenade and in the right leg by another bullet. For his bravery in leading the attack while wounded, Lieutenant Inouye received the Distinguished Service Cross. His arm proved to be more seriously wounded than first realized and required amputation. Inouye was promoted to captain but not released from the hospital until February 1947.

President Truman was so moved by their bravery in the field of battle, as well as that of African American soldiers during World War II, that he issued an American order to desegregate the Armed Forces.

Although their impeccable service earned the 442nd the respect of their fellow soldiers, they were not perceived in the same way by American society when they returned to the West Coast. It is a shameful legacy in the history of the country that when the patriotic survivors of the 100th Battalion 442nd Infantry returned to the United States, many were reunited with their parents, their brothers, and their sisters who were locked up behind barbed wire fences living in concentration camps. Immediately following their return, the 442nd realized that the attitudes of many Americans had not changed. World War II veterans of Japanese ancestry were welcomed home by signs that read, "No Japs Allowed," and "No Japs Wanted." In many cases, veterans were denied service in local shops and restaurants, and their homes and property were often vandalized or set on fire.

Following post-war occupation duty in Italy, the soldiers of the 100th/442nd -- who had once been suspected of disloyalty because of their Japanese ancestry -- came home as heroes in the summer of 1946. President Harry Truman, in a ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington on July 15, 1946, personally pinned the 100th/442nd's seventh Presidential Unit Citation on the unit's colors. A month later, the 100th/442nd was inactivated in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1947, the 100th/442nd was reactivated in Hawaii as an Organized Reserve unit.

On June 21, 2000, twenty-two Asian Pacific American U.S. Army World War II veterans (or their surviving family members for those deceased) received the nation's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. This action corrected their not receiving these decorations in World War II, when the prejudice of the time kept them from receiving their just recognition then. Twenty of the 22 recipients were members of the 100th Infantry Battalion or the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This unit (The 100th was attached to the 442nd in June 1944 and fought as the 442nd's first battalion for the rest of the war.) was already considered the most highly decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. The June 21 ceremony added a new statistic to the 100th/442nd's history: it has 21 Medal of Honor recipients on its roles, the 20 now added to its one earlier recipient.



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