This American Story
When the world discovered that Japan was to blame for the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, misguided outrage was directed against Americans of Japanese heritage. Two-thirds of them were American citizens, born and raised in the U.S. Whole families, mainly in west coast states, were forced into war detention camps, also called “internment camps.” Overall, 120,000 were forced from their homes by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under his Executive Order 9066, enacted on February 19, 1942. This has become known as “the Internment.” Despite such harsh treatment, over 33,000 enlisted in the U.S. Army. They mainly served in segregated units made up of Japanese Americans. They are often referred to as the “Nisei” [a Japanese word pronounced, KNEE-say] which means Americans born to parents who were from Japan.
The Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), including the 100th Infantry Battalion, became the most highly-decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. These men fought for the U.S. and its allies across southern and central Europe in many key battles.
Their Rescue of the Lost Battalion is legendary. The Nisei soldiers took heavy casualties to free 211 surviving soldiers of the Texas 36th Infantry Division which became completely surrounded by some 6,000 Germans. The Nisei soldiers were later named “Honorary Texans” in 1963 by Texas Governor John Connally for their actions. The Nisei troops also broke through the German “Gothic Line” in Italy, which had repelled repeated assaults for months by Allied Forces. Members of the 100/442nd RCT took just one day to do this using a daring frontal assault under the cover of night straight up a key mountain where German forces were entrenched. The Nisei from the 100th led the drive against the Germans at Monte Cassino. Towns such as Bruyeres, Biffontaine, and Belvedere were freed by the Nisei troops. The Nisei also helped to liberate and care for Holocaust victims from the Dachau. They would help the Jewish people, ironically, while their own families and friends were behind barbed wire back in the U.S.
Japanese Americans also served with great distinction in the Pacific Theater in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The MIS is credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by at least two years, and saving countless lives through their use of the Japanese language to support Allied war efforts. They served as key members of “Merrills’ Marauders,” infiltrating Japanese controlled areas in Southeast Asia. They translated documents that were intercepted from the Japanese, revealing dates and times of attacks. The MIS soldiers served as interrogators of Japanese prisoners of war, and helped ease tensions between Japanese and American occupiers following Japan’s surrender. MIS translators were critical during the surrender of Japan, serving as official language and cultural translators, which aided in the rebuilding process during America’s occupation of Japan. The Nisei of the MIS are considered the founders of today’s US Armed Forces Defense Language Institute.
Among over 18,000 awards, the Japanese American soldiers of World War II earned 21 Medals of Honor, 9 Presidential Unit Citations, and 9,486 Purple Hearts for their sacrifices in Europe and the Pacific. The Japanese American soldiers of World War II have been singled out by a number of our nation’s presidents for their outstanding service and immense sacrifices, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and even George W. Bush (See Famous Quotations page).
Japanese American women enlisted in the US Army as well. They served in the Women’s Army Corps, freeing up men who were working clerical jobs so they could serve on the front lines. They also served in the Army’s Nurse Corps.
The testimony of the Nisei veterans before Congress was key in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law, admitting wartime bias against Japanese Americans, and setting an example for wartime protections of Americans in the future.
What does “Go For Broke” mean?
“Go For Broke” is the motto of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. This phrase means “Go for your goal with all of your effort, and all you have.” Our campaign uses this motto as inspiration to keep going despite all of the hurdles we face.
Help us “Go For Broke” for this national stamp today! Thank you!
For more detailed information on their inspiring story, here are a few suggested websites to visit: