I’ve decided to spend this month tracking down Asian American Awesomeness and sharing it with you. Though I started out as a history major in college, I know very little of the contributions that Asian Americans have made to society. So this will be a learning experience for you and me. Today, we take a look at the 442nd.

“Go for broke!”

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our government questioned the loyalty of citizens with Japanese backgrounds. Japanese American men including immigrants and Nisei, second generation Japanese born in America, were classified 4C, enemy aliens. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized the military to relocate Japanese Americans to internment camps. More than 110,000 Japanese Americans are interred in camps across the United States.

Despite the distrust of their government, young Nisei men were eager to fight the Axis Powers and defend the American way of life. Though the War Department barred Japanese Americans from military service, in June of 1942, a unit made up of Japanese American men serving in the Hawaiian National Guard was formed, the 100th Battalion. The 100th Battalion performed so well during its training exercises that the War Department eventually reversed its decision to exclude Japanese Americans from military service and in 1943 began to recruit volunteers from the internment camps.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was activated on February 1, 1943 by President Roosevelt who declared “Americanism is not and never was, a matter of race and ancestry.” Though barred from serving in the Pacific theater for fear of confusion, the 442nd fought with distinction in the European theater during World War II and went on to become the most decorated US military unit in history.

On a personal note, I’m always a little disappointed when a new World War II video game comes out. You always get to stomp Nazis and sometime you even get to fight against the Japanese, but you never get to play as anyone from the 442nd. These games strive to depicting real combat as it was in that era and they do an amazing job with the graphics, the way the weapons behave, uniforms, military units, all of it. But they always leave out the 442nd. I know in the grand scheme of things, video games and historical accuracy are not common bed fellows, but some day, I’d love to play as Daniel Inouye in his Axis-fighting prime.

The information for this post came from the Go For Broke National Education Center in Torrance, California. The Center provides source material and resources to those interested in learning more about the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Their website has an extensive collection of oral history videos.

Source: Go For Broke

  • Ayle

    Well, we never get to play as a soldier of the Buffalo company either and that is arguably more known than the 442nd…

    On another note, I love your comic.

  • http://www.devinwolfe.com Devin

    That’d be really interesting to see the 442nd in the next Call of Duty or Medal of Honor… I bet it’s not far off though!

  • http://ypcomic.com Jamie

    @Ayle, that’s a huge oversight as well! We need more diverse teams in Call of Duty!!

  • http://www.el-cuervo.com Drezz

    That’s gotta be an awkward question to ask someone after being put into a camp.

    Our people are afraid of you, and our government wants you to stay in this corral like livestock, but if you want, we’ll let you fight on the frontlines against the enemy.

    I think Big Brother was missing a few chromosomes.

  • http://ypcomic.com Jamie

    @Drezz, yeah, I have no idea how I would have responded. I’m really good at holding a grudge and I don’t know if I’d be patriotic enough to overcome that. I hope I never have to make that decision.

  • hswoolve

    The 442nd was featured in a movie called (predicably) “Go for Broke!” (1951). In common with the movie “Red Ball Expresss” (about the convoy drivers associates with Patton’s 3rd Army), there were “too many white boys in that movie”, at least according to a friend of mine.

    I believe American Experience featured a story about Nisei and Isei soldiers in the Pacific Theater, where they mainly served as translators.

  • Lusus Naturae

    Although it was years later, I went to the same middle school/intermediate school as Inouye (Washington Intermediate School, on King Street, in beautiful Honolulu.)

    The father of one of my best friends there was born in an internment camp, and eventually served (post-war) in the 442. They are some of the most friendly, egalitarian, hard working men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I don’t know if you’d be able to present their work, or backgrounds, in a game in a meaningful way.

    But still, GO FOR BROKE!

  • Sam

    If you ever get a chance to meet anyone from the 442, it’s quite amazing. I get teary every time I think of what they did.