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.

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