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Happy Veterans Day, America Afghan Women

“Go For Broke” : 442nd Regimental Combat Team, U.S. Army

21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 9,486 Purple Hearts, much more . . .

The U.S. Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team was an infantry regiment composed of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry that fought primarily in Italy, France, and Germany during World War II.

During the last twenty-four months of the war in Europe, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated fighting unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States. These exceptional soldiers suffered extremely heavy casualties fighting for the United States. By April 1943, the 4,000 Japanese American soldiers who made up the unit had been replaced nearly 2.5 times. Their motto was “Go for Broke” – there has never been another fighting unit like the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the history of the United States.

About 14,000 Japanese American soldiers served in the 442nd RCT during World War II.

They earned 18,143 awards, including:

21 Medals of Honor
52 Distinguished Service Crosses
1 Distinguished Service Medal
560 Silver Stars (plus 28 Oak Leaf Clusters for second awards)
22 Legion of Merit Medals
15 Soldier’s Medals
4,000 Bronze Stars (plus 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters for second awards)
9,486 Purple Hearts
8 Presidential Unit Citations (5 earned in one month)

In 2010, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Nisei serving in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II were awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

In 2012, surviving members of the 442nd RCT were made chevaliers of the French Légion d’Honneur for their actions that contributed to the liberation of France during World War II.

When I was an advisor in the Vietnamese Navy river forces in 1969 and 1970, the senior chief of my naval advisory team was from Hawaii. His ancestors were immigrants from Japan. During World War II, his Japanese relatives were forcibly removed from their homes in California and interned in a relocation camp in Wyoming, while his father and uncles fought in Europe in the all-Nisei (second generation Japanese) 442nd Regimental Combat Team that became the most decorated military unit in the history of the United States.

Most Japanese Americans who fought in World War II were Nisei, second generation children born in the United States to Japanese immigrant parents. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese American men were initially categorized as 4C (enemy aliens) and were not subject to the draft.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that resulted in the forced relocation of more than 110,000 Japanese American citizens, two thirds of them born in the USA, from their homes in California, Oregon, and Washington. These Japanese American citizens were interned in guarded, barbed wire relocation camps in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and other states until March 20, 1946.

In Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, the military imposed martial law, with curfews and blackouts. Since a large portion of the Hawaiian population was of Japanese ancestry (150,000 out of 400,000 people in 1937), internment was not practical, and was strongly opposed by the Hawaiian business community, which was heavily dependent on Japanese American workers, unlike businesses on the mainland. Internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in Hawaii would have been a catastrophic disaster for the Hawaiian economy.

In addition to the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, more than 1,300 Japanese American soldiers of the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments of the Hawaii National Guard were reorganized into a “Hawaiian Provisional Battalion” that went to fight in Europe. On June 15, 1942, the battalion was redesignated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) — the “One Puka Puka” — and, like the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, they became one of America’a most highly decorated and most respected fighting units of World War II.

There is always far more to people than what you see on the outside. I tell you truly, if I should ever be called again to serve in war, I would want to be with guys like those of the 442nd, men like Senior Chief Yoshi, our advisory team senior chief in Vietnam. When I think of Pearl Harbor, my heart hurts. When I think of the 442nd, my heart hurts all the more. When I think of Senior Chief Yoshino, I know for sure — his uncles were the kind of guys who just couldn’t help but “Go For Broke.”