442nd infantry regimental combat team
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The 442nd Regimental Combat Team: Japanese-Americans during WWII
Japanese-American service in World War II
The nd RCT was made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers and was formed during a time when that ethnic group was banned from military service after the attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor. In September , the nd was reassigned to southern France where they helped liberate a few cities from German control. They were reassigned again in March and helped — along with the 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black unit — drive German forces out of northern Italy. Their accomplishments in battle inspired the U. The nd RCT was inactivated about a year after the war ended. It was only around for two years, but soldiers in the nd RCT and th IB earned seven presidential unit citations, two meritorious service plaques, 36 Army Commendation medals and 87 division commendations between them. On a more somber note, men from those two units were killed during WWII, 3, were wounded in action and 67 were declared missing in action.
War Department. It had taken all that time plus several key events to convince the Roosevelt Administration that these men should be allowed to enter combat for their country. Eventually, the nd, bolstered by the combat-hardened th Infantry Battalion , comprised of Japanese American draftees from Hawai'i, became the most decorated unit in U. The war heightened American prejudice against German Americans and Italian Americans but the racism directed against Japanese Americans was particularly vicious. The calculated response culminated in the forced removal and unconstitutional incarceration of , residents of Japanese ancestry, including the complete elimination of communities and individuals from the entire West Coast of the United States. This racism was precipitated by the attack on Pearl Harbor but it had deep antecedents in the nearly half-century of legal, social, and economic policies directed against Asians in general within the United States.
While their families were interned in camps at home, the th Infantry Battalion and the nd Infantry Regiment, both composed mainly of Nisei — American born children of Japanese immigrants — fought for the allies in the Western Front of World War II. Out of all units of similar size and length of service, the nd Regimental Combat Team RCT is the most decorated unit in American military history. They later became incorporated into the nd RCT, which drew most of its forces from mainland Nisei volunteers, after the regiment arrived in Europe. Although the Nisei knew that they would suffer heavy casualties, many saw the mission as a chance to prove their loyalty. The regiment was also critical in the breach of the Gothic Line. For some of the soldiers, the experience was a bittersweet one; although they were able to emancipate the prisoners of the camp, they could not help but remember their detained families at home.
Some of us have to go to the front.
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The motto was derived from a gambler's slang used in Hawaii to "go for broke," which meant that the player was risking it all in one effort to win big. It was an apt motto for the soldiers of the nd. As Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, and American-born sons of Japanese immigrants during World War II, they needed to put everything on the line to "win big. The Japanese represented the largest ethnic group in the small island community of Hawaii. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Nisei, like everyone else on the islands, responded to the emergency. They pitched in with other locals to aid the wounded, sort through the rubble, give blood, and bury the dead.
During the early years of World War II , Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their homes in the West Coast because military leaders and public opinion combined to fan unproven fears of sabotage. As the war progressed, many of the young Nisei , Japanese immigrants' children who were born with American citizenship, volunteered or were drafted to serve in the United States military. Approximately were killed in action. The nd Infantry Regiment became the most decorated unit in U. The th Infantry Battalion was engaged in heavy action during the war taking part in multiple campaigns. The th was made up of Nisei who were originally members of the Hawaii National Guard. Sent to the mainland as the Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion on June 5, , the 1, original members of the th were stationed first at Camp McCoy and later at Camp Shelby for combat training.
The regiment is best known for its history as a fighting unit composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry Nisei who fought in World War II. Beginning in , the regiment fought primarily in the European Theatre ,  in particular Italy , southern France , and Germany. Many of the soldiers had families in internment camps while they fought abroad. The nd Regiment is the most decorated unit in U. The unit earned more than 18, awards in less than two years, including 9, Purple Hearts and 4, Bronze Star Medals. The unit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations five earned in one month. Arriving in the European Theatre, the nd Regimental Combat Team, with its three infantry battalions , one artillery battalion and associated HQ and service companies , was attached to the 34th Infantry Division.