Friday April 18, 2014
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team:
Dr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com
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!
This article was originally published by Dr. Phil Leveque March 31st 2009.
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