If you don't know anything about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II, you should!
The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “go for broke.” It’s a gambling term that means risking everything on one great effort to win big. The soldiers of the 442nd needed to win big. They were Nisei - American-born sons of Japanese immigrants. They fought two wars: the Germans in Europe and the prejudice in America. [source: goforbroke.org]
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment. The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly–decorated regiment in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients. [source: wiki]
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese–American men were initially categorized as 4C ("enemy alien") and therefore not subject to the draft. More than 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry (including 60 percent who were American citizens) were forcibly “relocated” from their homes, businesses and farms in the western states. They were incarcerated in crowded, tarpaper barracks, in the desolate wind-swept desert.
In Hawaii, martial law, complete with curfews and blackouts, was imposed. A large portion of the population was of Japanese descent (150,000 out of 400,000 people in 1937) and internment was deemed not practical, mostly for economic reasons. If the government had interned the Japanese–Americans and immigrants in Hawaii, the economy would not have survived.
Nisei cadets in the University of Hawaii’s ROTC petitioned the military governor: “Hawaii is our home; the United States our country. We know but one loyalty and that is to the Stars and Stripes. We wish to do our part as loyal Americans in every way possible, and we hereby offer ourselves for whatever service you may see fit to use us.”
The “Varsity Victory Volunteers” picked up shovels and hammers. From January to December 1942, they built barracks, dug ditches, quarried rock and surfaced roads.
On January 28, 1943 the War Department announced that it was forming an all-Nisei combat team and called for 1,500 volunteers from Hawaii. Ten thousand men volunteered, including men from the Varsity Victory Volunteers.
From May 1943 through February 1944 the men trained for combat. The men excelled at maneuvers and learned to operate as a team.
As a regimental combat team (RCT), the 442nd RCT was a self-sufficient fighting formation of three infantry battalions (originally 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, 442nd Infantry, and later the 100th Infantry Battalion in place of the 1st), the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 232nd Engineer Company, an anti-tank company, cannon company, service company, medical detachment, headquarters companies, and the 206th Army Band.
Although they were permitted to volunteer to fight, Americans of Japanese ancestry were generally forbidden to fight in combat in the Pacific Theater. Instead they were shipped to Europe to fight the war there.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit, for its size and length of service, in the entire history of the U.S. Military. The 4,000 men who initially came in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 3.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations. Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor. Members of the 442nd received 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 a second award), 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 9,486 Purple Hearts.
On October 5, 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Nisei serving in the Military Intelligence Service.
The stellar record of the Japanese Americans serving in the 442nd and in the Military Intelligence Service (U.S. Pacific Theater forces in World War II) helped change the minds of anti-Japanese American critics in the U.S. and resulted in easing of restrictions and the eventual release of the 120,000 strong community well before the end of World War II.
However, the unit’s exemplary service and many decorations did not change the attitudes of the general U.S. population to people of Japanese descent after World War II. Veterans were welcomed home by signs that read “No Japs Allowed” and “No Japs Wanted”, denied service in shops and restaurants, and had their homes and property vandalized.
Anti-Japanese sentiment remained strong into the 1960s, but faded along with other once-common prejudices, even while remaining strong in certain circles. Conversely, the story of the 442nd provided a leading example of what was to become the controversial model minority stereotype.
Unit fight song: "Four-Forty-Second Infantry — We're the boys of Hawai'i nei — We'll fight for you And the Red, White and Blue, And go to the front... And back to Honolulu-lulu. Fighting for dear old Uncle Sam Go for broke! HOOH! We don't give a damn! We'll round up the Huns At the point of our guns, And vict'ry will be ours! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! And vict'ry will be ours!"
I think it is very good that Soldier Story chose to honor these fighting Americans with the release of this fine figure, a fitting tribute to the fighting men of the Four-Forty-Second!