Nisei



 

You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won,”

 

President Harry Truman 15th July 1946 at the Presidential Unit Citation Ceremony. 

                             

NISEI IN WORLD WAR TWO


Ten weeks after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The mandate resulted in more than 110,000 Japanese Americans being evacuated from the West Coast and placed into internment camps. The federal government initially barred Nisei from military service due to their racial heritage but eventually decided to allow them to serve in an all-Nisei battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the creation of which President Roosevelt shared publicly on Feb. 1, 1943. The Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), including the 100th Infantry Battalion, became the most highly-decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. These men fought for the U.S. and its allies across southern and central Europe in many key battles. 

In June 1942, the Hawaii Territorial Guard’s 298th and 299th infantry regiments were reformed into the first all-Nisei unit, the 100th Infantry Battalion. They chose as their motto “Remember Pearl After training on the mainland, the 100th was sent to Oran, Algeria. By early September 1943, it was attached to the 133rd Regt., 34th Inf. Div. From there, 1,432 soldiers of the 100th landed at Salerno, Italy, on Sept. 22. Harbor.” Combat with the Germans came seven days later and

The 100th helped push the Germans northward, fighting along the Volturno River to Monte Cassino and Anzio. Cassino was remembered as the toughest of all the battles in the Italian campaign.  

By May 1944, the newly trained “Go For Broke” 442nd RCT had arrived in Naples, Italy. The 100th became its first battalion, though retaining its 100th designation. By then, nine months of heavy casualties had reduced the unit to 521 men, thus earning its famed nickname, “Purple Heart Battalion.”

Military historians remember the 442nd regiment for its bravery. The regiment liberated three French cities from Nazi control and initiated the Rescue of the Lost Battalion in October 1944. The latter mission involved saving the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment after Nazi soldiers cornered its 275 members in France. To save the Lost Battalion, the 442nd regiment had to traverse a dangerous landscape and face the Nazi troops. After four days, the all-Nisei regiment saved the Lost Battalion, but lost up to 800 members in the process.

The 442nd was ordered back to Italy in March 1945. Its mission now was to help crack the German’s Gothic Line protecting the Po Valley. Employing a diversionary tactic, the 100th led a frontal charge against a well-fortified hill while the other battalions flanked the Germans. The battle lasted only 32 minutes. A massive U.S. offensive followed the breakthrough that eventually led to the end of the German army in Italy. By the war’s end, the 100th had earned eight Medals of Honor, 24 Distinguished Service Crosses, 147 Silver Stars, 1,703 Purple Hearts and three Presidential Unit Citations.

Collectively, the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team received seven Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals, and more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, according to the White House. On Oct. 5, 2010, President Barack Obama signed legislation to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th battalion and 442nd regiment to honor their service during World War II.


NISEI AT THE BATTLE OF CASSINO  

On January 24, 1944, the 100th was put in the offensive to take Cassino, Italy. Facing them on the Gustav Line was the 1st German Parachute Division. Below the German position, the German army had demolished every building and cleared away the trees so that any movement could be spotted. In addition, the Rapido River had flooded, and for 200 yards, it was nothing but mud and mines.

Companies A and C of the 100th moved to the river wall. During the night, Maj. George Dewey, Maj. John Johnson, and Capt. Mitsuyoshi Fukuda made a further reconnaissance of the area. During the recon, they were caught in artillery and machine-gun fire and were forced into a minefield where a mine blew up beneath them. Maj. Johnson died, and Maj. Dewey was wounded. B Company tried to follow A and C to the river wall but were caught in artillery and machine-gun fire. Out of 187 men, 14 made it to the wall. Depleted of their top command, the battalion was ordered to San Michele for reorganization.

After the battalion was refitted, the 100th returned to fighting. They secured Hill 165 with light resistance. However, the right and left flanks were unable to keep pace. The 100th dug in and waited for four days but resistance was fierce and made their position perilous. The 100th was ordered to fall back behind the hills adjacent to Cassino to join the regimental reserves. On September 22, 1943, the 100th Battalion had 1,300 men. After five months of fighting, it could only muster 521. Because of the sacrifices of the "Original" 100th Battalion, the unit became known as "The Purple Heart Battalion" and "the little iron men"

On February 18, 1944, the 34th Division launched its final attack on Cassino. The 100th Battalion was over-powered – one platoon moved into line with 40 men, and came back with 5. The 100th regained the ground halfway up to the stone Abbey, but was ordered back when their flank support collapsed. They were sent to Alife for replacements and new equipment.

The 34th Division, with the 100th, almost took Cassino in one day, but before they could, they ran out of men and material. Army records later noted that five fresh divisions finally were required to take Cassino along with aerial bombardments. The 34th almost succeeded alone.