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Mar-31-2009 07:26printcomments

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team:
Most Decorated American Unit in WWII

In the 442nd Regiment they were awarded 9000 Purple Hearts (many doubles and triples), 18,000 individual decorations including 1 Congressional, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 600 Silver Stars, 5200 Bronze Stars, 15 battlefield commissions and many others.

442nd Regiment
Photos: custermen.com, njahs.org, bensakoguchi.com

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The Oregonian on March 27th had a front page story about a very belated effort to recognize this outfit by a postage stamp which so far has been prejudicially declined by the U.S. Postal Service. Why?

As a frontline Combat infantryman I hail the effort to finally recognize their unparalleled brave service but I decry this continuing prejudice. These were American citizens with their parents and families in American Concentration Camps and they were ALL VOLUNTEERS.

The Oregonian mentioned George Akyama of Hood River. I went to school with him. Kenny Namba I consider a friend. Roku Yasui was one of my closest friends and Ruth Iwakari took me to my first dance.

I knew most of the Hood River Japanese. Teddy Kawachi was named after my uncle and Mary Kawachi was named after my mother.

I was horrified and disgusted when in the spring of 1942 all Japanese were sent to concentration camps and their property taken over (almost stolen) by rapacious hate-filled locals who didn’t know the difference between honorable American Citizens and the hated Imperial Japanese.

I have the greatest respect for Paratroopers who jump out of planes to fight and Rangers, Marines and Special Forces Troops. The fact remains that the 442nd and attached 100th Battalion was the most decorated unit ever and forever in the American Army. If we can’t recognize and honor the best and bravest whom then do we honor?

In the 442nd Regiment they were awarded 9000 Purple Hearts (many doubles and triples), 18,000 individual decorations including 1 Congressional, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 600 Silver Stars, 5200 Bronze Stars, 15 battlefield commissions and many others.

They were called “little men of iron” by one attached white division and “Honorary Texans” by its Governor from their service with the Texas 36th Division.

They also had 680 Killed in Action, this is almost one-third of a Regiment.

The same day the war with Japan started 1500 American Japanese in Hawaii built coastal defense units on the beaches. Then they were incarcerated in an Army Stockade “for their safety”.

There were American Japanese in two Regiments of the Hawaii National Guard, they were discharged but soon after they were asked to volunteer for the Regular Army – 10,000 volunteered. They were first sent to Wisconsin where they made their first snowman and then Mississippi for Basic Training.

Some were transferred to special language schools to be interpreters, translators and interrogators. In Asia, these were called “American Samurai”. They served with outstanding distinction. Eventually 6000 served proudly against their once mother country. General McArthur’s Intelligence Chief General Willoughby said their service shortened the war by two years and obviously thousands of American boys are still alive because of their service.

They fought in Europe, Alaska, China, Burma and India. They served with Merrils Marauders and with General Stillwell in China. There were 18,000 in Europe.

In Feb ’43 the 442nd was formed from 1500 volunteers from American Concentration Camps and 3000 from Hawaii. They trained ‘til April ’44 and by May 1 they were on the way to Naples, Italy and joined the 100th which numbered 1300 Hawaiians and had 900 casualties since Sept. ’43.

Japanese officers in the 442nd reached the rank of full Colonel with several Lt. Colonels and Majors. One 1st Lt during the war became an honored U.S. Senator, Daniel Inouye, as did Senator Masayuki Matasunaga.

One Japanese I believe reached the rank of Admiral in the Navy Medical Service.

It is about time that we fully recognized the outstanding achievements of Japanese Americans in WWII.

CIB VETS SHOULD SUPPORT THIS!

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This article was originally published by Dr. Phil Leveque March 31st 2009.

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ricky garcia February 8, 2011 5:24 pm (Pacific time)

hi im a 13 year old student who is doing a report on the 442nd combat unit of wwII and i think that these men are great people and i was wondering if you have any imformation helpful for my reporti really want to learn about these soldiers and i have to give a speech about them if you have any more imformation i would be really happy

Tim King: Hey Ricky, the 442nd had more medals than any other American division.  Check it to be sure, all you have to do is type it into Google and visit the Wikipedia page, and I would think that they have at least one Website, should be easy to find. 

Understand that these men and their families were taken from their homes with their families and placed in 'internment' camps.  They were released after the war but the US took their assets and most no longer had homes and had to start over. 

And it was in the midst of this terrible treatment from the US government that the 442nd came into existence.  I love the stories about how shocked the Germans were to see Japanese guys fighting against them.  Anyway, they were so honorable that they redefine the meaning to me. 

I had a rare gift in the summer of 2008; the present day 442nd in California was headed to Iraq when I was going over to report from the war.  I was able to talk with them and hang out for a while, it was super cool. 

This is a story of strength and triumph in time of dire adversity; a deadly world war, and anti-American racist treatment of Japanese-Americans at home.  These men had to have a lot to do what they did.  They paid and fought and bled and died and some came home, thankfully.  I hope this helps you, go get 'em Ricky.  Oh, and here is the Wiki link to get you started: Japanese American internment - Wikipedia  Also look at Google images under the 442nd.


Brad August 26, 2010 8:24 pm (Pacific time)

the truth is this none of us were there during the war. We dont know exactly what happened we cant say oh they were a violent race because authors are biased and are going to write what sells, just because something is written doesnt make it a fact. My uncles fought for the 442. They told me that it was horrible and that they lost really good friends. My uncles were born here in the US just as I was. Were Americans just as everyone else who lives here. Everyone in the world has bad histories everyone has been violent in their history. Not one of us is better than another were all created by God. We can all say that war is hell.


Son of a 442 volunteer August 5, 2010 12:18 pm (Pacific time)

What most of the above poster just don't "get" is that people from another country and their children who were born in the U.S. who became U.S. citizens were placed in Internment camps because they posed (wrongly) as a national threat to the U.S. security. How many of the above posters would volunteer to be a segregated unit that would be placed in the most dangerous missions (because they were considered expendable) after your parents and loved ones were locked in these camps along with all of your possessions taken from you? The 442/100 Regimental Combat unit was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history with U.S. citizens (of a different color skin) fighting for their country. This was taken from the website and I encourage the above poster to take the time to review it: http://www.homeofheroes.com/moh/nisei/index8_cc.html "In January, 1945 the American Legion Post in Hood River Oregon removed the names of 16 Nisei servicemen, including one who had earned the Bronze Star Medal and another killed in action in the Philippines, from its honor roll of Veterans. And such acts of prejudice and hatred were not limited only to Oregon. Despite the sacrifice, many Americans refused to recognize the courage of our Japanese citizens."


Hal February 11, 2010 4:47 am (Pacific time)

Vic, the military took over Japan in the early 20th Century. The fact that the Japanese soldiers and people were prepared to die rather than surrender speaks to this. Further, of all US men and women who were guests in prison camps in WW II, 90% of the POW deaths of Allied servicemen were in Japanese POW camps. They were used as slave labor. Additionally, German companies who profited by the slave labor of Allied POWs are still paying reprations to those surviving POWS. NOT ONE Japanese company who used Allied POWS as slave labor has paid a cent of compensation to any Allied POW, particularly American, that after the brutality of their POW camps. If anyone in Japan today is angered about what happened to their country during WW II, their anger should be focused on those who brought the wrath of the US down on their country, not the USA who was responding to the invasion and brutality of the Japanese Military. Attitudes like yours only encourages attacks like Pearl Harbor, the attacker thinking, they won't respond! Teddy Roosevelt said it best when he said, "Walk softly but carry a big stick." Unfortunately, attitudes such as yours takes away the big stick.


Chris September 30, 2009 8:33 am (Pacific time)

Vic, the difference is they started the war we didn't. If they would have surrendered then we would not have used these methods to end the war. I don't agree with your comments that we are a murderous andracist country. That's simply not true. If we were we would not have the most multicultured country in the world and we would also use the most powerful military to do things like Hitler and other conquerors before him.


Carrick April 1, 2009 10:32 am (Pacific time)

Tim King I had the opportunity to have a visiting Japanese professor lecture on the historical violence of Japan in an Asian Studies Program (I took a six unit semester sequence some time ago). Rather than providing a huge list of my sources I ran across a site (link below) that provides a very brief historical outline that you and others might find interesting. There is also a nationalist movement that comprises millions of Japanese who desire to return to a previous time of their domination in that part of the world. We, most of the rest of the planet's population, do not have a place in the world they desire. The Koreans would be their whores and if they allowed the Chinese to survive it would be as slaves. This militant group has been growing over the years. In response to an earlier poster regarding American-Japanese killing Japanese during WWII (they mostly fought in Europe), please note that Italian-Americans, German-Americans, etc. were also killing there own ethnicities. A sad comment on man's inhumanity, but it is what it is. War is insanity, but we must do what we need to do to survive when we are attacked. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A19773624


Carrick March 31, 2009 1:19 pm (Pacific time)

Tim King you state that the Japanese did not comprehend war prior to our navy arriving there? You are wrong. This was a very violent race.

Tim King: Carrick, based on the book "Flyboys" which I read a couple of  years ago as well as other sources, Japan was completely at peace when we arrived.  I'm not saying that they were a perfect society or totally free of violence, but they were living well.  About 20 years after Perrry's arrival, the Japanese were wearing dark blue uniforms which looked a lot like U.S. Navy and Cavalry uniforms.  It didn't do any good for Japan to catch the 'western' bug,  


Vic March 31, 2009 12:23 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for the input ,Tim ! If you havent already, check out the book "A Torch to the Enemy" by Martin Caidin. It is about the American firebombing campaign against Japan. Tokyo lost over 100,000 people in two nights, two weeks later, another 51,000.. cities like Toyama and Kawasaki were 90% destroyed. In ten days, March 9-19, 1945, the American airforce wiped out 31 square miles of densely populated urban areas in Japan with an appx kill rate of 330,000 CIVILIANS, not combatants. These were firebomb attacks, which worked so well at Dresden (135,000 killed in three days) that Curtis LeMay, USAF decided to incinerate Japanese cities the same way. Hopefully LeMay is burning in Hell right now. I have to ask, since you brought it up, what did Japan do that was more barbaric than that? They did things that make the burning alive of half a million civilians look like a walk in the park?? This is not counting the atomic bomb attacks. Face it, we are an evil society of murderous racists.

Tim King: Vic, have you ever watched "Grave of the Fireflies?"  It is the 1988 cartoon movie by Isao Takahata about Japanese children trying to survive the firebombings.  You need to pay attention to the way they are treated by the Japanese citizenry, up to and including the death of the little girl.  Takahata was the lieelt boy in the cartoon.  I'm not making excuses fro Dresden; that is a tragedy of indescribable proportions.  The point is that the Japanese were sold down the road so far by their own government and convinced that they would all be murdered after the war ended, that they couldn't see anything else.  They had become a 100% war-bent country.  Eating our pilots and aircrewmen; that is the kind of distinguishing thing that sets the sides apart on this one.  All war is bad, if there is ever another way it should be taken.  It is worthy to note that he firebombings killed more people than the two atom bombs.  The thing is, and I know this is true for you also, that we would defend our people agains anyone with murderous intent.  While we have to be self-critical, we also have to be honest and acknowledge that there are two sides to many stories.  I absolutely will no more vindicate the Japanese for their behavior than I do our own people. 


Retired military March 31, 2009 11:10 am (Pacific time)

God bless the 442nd, the bravest soldiers of WWII!


Vic March 31, 2009 10:15 am (Pacific time)

Wow...so if I move to a different country and fight and kill my former countrymen I will be a hero? I always thought that was called being a traitor. Would any of you reading this take up arms against America? I wouldnt, and if I did, and got caught, Id expect to be executed, not exalted. Did these guys cheer when they heard of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? They should have because they were part of it.

Tim King: Vic, you are right about a lot of things, but if you want to know who the reciepients of  propaganda were, study the Japanese of WWII.  Better yet, study the senseless invasion of China and all of the sexual brutality toward women and little girls that happened just before WWII.  I agree that we have to be critical of ourselves, but this is not the example of where that works.  I know doc specifically talks about the tragedy of  prejudice toward them.  I think it helps greatly if we pick our battles better.  Doc Leveque's late wife is a Holocaust survivor and no matter how you attempt to describe it, he was on the right team as an American during WWII.  I can seriously open this one up because it makes me so sad to consider the atrocities committed by the Japanese during this time period.  Talk about barbaric; the officers ate our fliers on Chichi Jima.  There are stories that make the worst deeds of Americans look like a walk in the park.  Finally, I educated myself on this subject a couple of years ago.  I love the Japanese of today but abhor their tactics of the 1930's and 40's.  The saddest part is that until Admiral Perry went sailing into Yokyo Bay in the 1800's, their society didn't even really comprehend war.  It didn't take long and they were in the Russo-Japanese War in the very early 1900's and it just went from there.  National pride can be a killer.  

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