Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Go For Broke!"

 The Nisei Battalions of WWII

 The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the United States into the Second World War posed an interesting situation for Japanese-American citizens living in the United States. Many Americans believed that Americans of Japanese decent would assist the Japanese empire in its war against the United States by working as spies and committing acts of sabatauge. As a result of these fears, the U.S. Government decided to round up all Japanese-decent Americans living on America's Western coast and deport them to hastily built internment camps deep within the country. 

The Japanese American internment camps were
hastily constructed and located deep in the
U.S. interior, in nearly uninhabitable deserts.
"I am for immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don't mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd 'em up, pack 'em off and give 'em the the inside room in the badlands." ~ Hearst newspaper chain columnist

Despite the discrimination that befell the Japanese Americans, by 1942 the need for soldiers began to rise. New laws were passed, allowing minorities such as African Americans and Japanese Americans to enter the U.S. armed forces. However, prejudice still had a part to play; Asian and African Americans were placed in segregated all-black or all-Asian units. Further still, these segregated units were commanded by white officers.

In 1943, the 442nd battalion of second-generation (or "Nisei") Japanese American infantrymen landed with the Allies in German-held Italy.
In the first few weeks of fighting, the Japanese American soldiers proved themselves to be fiercely loyal to the United States. Many of the Battalion's white officers were highly skeptical about the performance of the Nisei troops; they thought that they were incapable of preforming as effective soldiers, and would fail in combat. But when the fierce fighting began in the forests and mountains of Italy, the Nisei soldiers proved themselves to be excellent fighting men with exceptional coolness and bravery under fire.
"Send me more of these men!" ~General Mark Clark, commander of the 442nd Nisei Battalion, commenting on the effectiveness of the Japanese American troops after their first large-scale engagement with the Germans

One Nisei soldier takes a drink from a canteen while
his comrade keeps watch  

A Nisei soldier in a field hospital. The only complaint the Army had of the
Japanese-American troops were multiple reports of soldiers who, once they had
recovered just well enough to carry a gun, would sneak out of the field hospitals without
an official release and join their comrades in the front where the fighting was.
The 442nd Infantry Batallion had to pay a high price for their bravery. their losses were so high, what remained of the unit was merged with the newly-formed 100th Nisei Batallion. Together they formed the 442/100th Nisei Batallion.

The Nisei often found themselves up against
a tough and determined enemy. Here a German paratrooper,
 fighting on the ground, defends a line
in Western Europe, 1944.  
In the months that followed, the 442/100th Nisei Batallion fought courageously in Italy until they were chosen to be transferred to Southern France, where their exceptional fighting skills were needed most. Their mission was to rescue a detachment of Americans, the 36th Texas Infantry Batallion, which had been surrounded in the woods by overwhelming numbers of German tanks and infantrymen. The 442/100th Nisei Batallion was selected to break through the German choke hold and rescue the trapped Texans. They fought in the forests, battling combat-hardened Germans and the new King Tiger I tanks that proved to be one of the most formidable of German armored vehicles. The Nisei lost many men in the fighting, but eventually they broke
 through the German lines and reached the trapped Texans, urged on by their famous battle-cry "go for broke!" a motto that had orgins in a traditional Japanese gambling game.  
"[The Germans] would hit us from one flank, and then the other, then from the front and rear...we were never so glad to see anyone as those fighting Japanese Americans."~36th Texas Infantryman recalls the rescue of his unit by the 442/100th Nisei Battalion

A German soldier in Italy.
Back in Italy once again, the Nisei battalion found themselves up against German resistance in the villages of Northern Italy.
A 442/100th Nisei soldier works
his way through one of the shattered Italian villages that
were caught in the fight to liberate
 the Italian peninsula from the Nazis.

A Nazi paratroop officer draws his pistol as a nisei patrol nears the German-held village. 

Soldiers fighting in Urban areas often relied on hand grenades to improve their firepower capabilities.

Boom! A German soldier is hit by a grenade in
the bitter fighting in Italy

The fighting in Italy would last for only a few more months before all the German resistance would be mopped up. When the allies reached the German capitol of Berlin in April, 1945, the Nazi regime had collapsed and with it, German resistance in Italy ground to a halt with the end of the war in Europe. 

By the wars end, the 442/100th Nisei Battalion had earned 18,143 medals.
1 Congressional Medal of Honor,
47 Distinguished Service Crosses,
350 Silver Stars,
810 Bronze Stars,
and more than 3,600 Purple Hearts.

During the Presidency of Ronald Reagen (1981-1989), twenty-eight additional Nisei veterans who fought in the Second World War were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military award for conspicuous bravery.

Friday, July 27, 2012

After D-Day:

The Battle of the Hedgerows

After the successful Allied invasion of the German-held French coast of Normandy, the armies of the Allied forces in Europe began moving inland toward Germany. 
Although the German army lost their holdings on the coast, they put up a fight further inland. But rather than fight one pitched battle, the Allied armies fought a series of sporadic engagements in rural France in a campaign that became simply known as the battle of the Hedgerows. The name for the culminated effort was derived from the extensive cultivated hedge systems that laced the French countryside. 
A U.S. Paratrooper observes the surrounding French countryside after a summer rain.
   It was a common practice for soldiers to dig "fox holes" for protection against enemy fire when their unit temporarily halted their advance.
A U.S. Soldier digs his fox hole using a folding shovel. A hastily dug fox hole could average about four feet deep, and could accommodate one person; with a little more time, a soldier usually dug a two-man position.  

A newly dug fox hole!

The Allies were not the only ones to dig in. Here are two German soldiers (also paratroopers) in their fox hole. Note their "stick" hand grenades readily accessible laid out in front of them.

 To take a village
Scores of French towns and villages found themselves caught up in the fighting as American, British and Canadian forces clashed with the German armies for possession of Western Europe. 
Two American officers discuss operations in a tent serving as a temporarily headquarters.
The German Panther tank, an effective weapon designed to fight Soviet T-34's.
"The town is well defended by a battalion of German tanks, as well as infantry." 
Attack! Allied troops attack the village from the South side.
The Allies press steadily onward, taking over the German positions.

Take Cover! A U.S. Infantryman just escapes from the blast of a German tank shell.

Direct Hit! The German tank is in turn hit by an anti-tank rocket launcher, known commonly as the "Bazooka". The slang term comes from a musical instrument by the same name that many believed had a strong resemblance in appearance to the weapon.
 The battle of the Hedgerows, an Allied victory, lasted from late June 1944 to December 1944.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Field Atillery:

The U.S. 155mm howitzer

A U.S. howitzer in action

Two soldiers carry a crate of
artillery ammunition

In the second World War, artillery was beginning to get more advanced. The day of the classic cannon-on-wagon-wheels was over; and the age of modern artillery had begun. 

A U.S. howitzer in the Pacific Theatre,
Second World War

 One common piece of artillery in WWII was the 155 millimeter howitzer. A howitzer is a multi-purpose gun; it can fire direct, shooting strait ahead at a visible target, or it can fire indirect, firing upwards into the air so the shell can come down on top of a target. 
Allied artillery giving indirect fire
in France, 1944
Direct fire was commonly used against walls or in defense; indirect fire could attack enemy-held hilltop positions. That made it a very popular weapon.

Two U.S. Artillerymen load and prepare to
fire their 155 mm howitzer

 Artillery pieces were often named according to what size of ammunition it used. The shell (bomb) fired by this particular gun had a diameter of 155mm. Hence it's name, the 155mm howitzer.
Securing the fold-out legs of a 155mm howitzer in
preparation to fire

Bombs away! A 155mm howitzer in the
Korean War

Artillery position, South Pacific Theatre, WWII