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