The story of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442-RCT) is rooted in the history of the Japanese in Hawaii and America itself. As the second generation of Japanese born abroad, or the first Japanese generation born in Hawaii and America through the early 1910s and 1920s, the Nisei were American citizens and part of the larger greatest generation to be of the right age to face the conflict of World War II. This generation of Japanese born abroad best personifies the blending of American and Japanese cultures that laid the foundation for a resolute, cohesive, and dedicated unit that accomplished every assigned mission without fail. The importance of Japanese immigration to Hawaii and the United States lies not in the fact that it did occur, but rather in how it occurred and in its consequences. Like many that came to America, the Japanese came for economic reasons. Unlike many Europeans, however, the bulk of the Japanese came to the United States not to escape the old country and settle in the new world, but rather with the intent to return home rich after a short period of contract labor, in what actually equated to indentured servitude. Many did not return and before long had established a solid and unique Japanese American culture ‘one that often faced severe prejudice’.
This immigrant culture and its challenges molded the subsequent Nisei culture and the values of the men of the 100/442-RCT. As far back as the thirteenth century, Hawaiian legend tells of Japanese fishermen lost at sea and carried by the Black Current, or Kuroshio, across the Pacific to the Hawaiian archipelago. Likewise, these easterly trans-Pacific currents possibly also carried shipwrecked survivors, much like the flotsam and jetsam of today, to the shores of North America, but with no more impact than the very same driftwood and debris brought by these currents.
The earliest recorded Japanese landings in North America occurred in 1610 and 1613, predating the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock by almost a decade. Some trekked from Acapulco to Mexico City, some ventured across Mexico and the Atlantic to Spain, while others settled in North America. Though Japs continued to arrive in Hawaii and America sporadically through the early nineteenth century, it was not until Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry’s Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854 and the restoration of the Japanese Emperor in 1868 that Japanese emigration began to have a noticeable impact on the United States.
What had been a trickle of Japanese traveling abroad turned into a flood of immigrants to Hawaii and the United States. The 153 persons of the Gannen Mono, the people of the first era of Emperor Meiji, arrived in Hawaii in June 1868 and another handful of Japanese arrived in San Francisco in May 1869, harbingers of the thousands to follow. Coming from varied backgrounds farmers unable to pay taxes, peasants pursuing dreams, now out-of-work samurai seeking new lives all sought quick fortunes on the plantations of Hawaii or in the businesses on the West Coast. In terms of business practices, Hawaiian and US businessmen were remarkably similar during the late 1800s and early 1900s, so much so that, fearing an overpopulation of Chinese immigrants, they had turned to importing Japanese to work in the sugarcane and pineapple fields of Hawaii and assume odd jobs on the West Coast. Ironically, the end result was that over the forty-plus years from 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act signaled a boom in the emigration of Japanese, to 1924, when the Japanese Exclusion Act ended Japanese immigration, over 180.000 Japanese arrived in Hawaii and over another 80000 in the United States, eventually outnumbering the Chinese. Concerns began to rise over the Issei, or the first generation of Japanese abroad, the first Japanese immigrants. Not only was there a dramatic growth in another Asian population, but also the new menial laborers, willing to work longer and harder for less, were displacing white American workers. Too, the Jap’s situation was further aggravated by the uniqueness of the culture imported in whole by immigrants who expected to eventually return home. As contract terms expired, few Japanese had made their fortunes, and as more began to look upon Hawaii and the United States as their home, measures were taken against them. Alien land laws that prevented Japanese land ownership were passed in 1913 and 1920.
A 1922 Supreme Court Ruling prohibited Issei from becoming naturalized citizens and the 1924 Exclusion Act ended Japanese immigration. Even as late as 1940, efforts were undertaken in Senate hearings to prevent the enlistment of minorities in the armed forces, including blacks and Japanese Americans. Thus, the Issei, who had imported their culture in whole expecting to eventually return home, instead ended up creating a unique culture melding the American concepts of freedom and opportunity with such Japanese cultural mores as familial piety, loyalty, obligation and on a deep sense of gratitude and indebtedness, ganbare a never quit attitude, and haji an almost fatalistic drive to avoid shame and disgrace. While their heritage set them apart from other Americans, it also united them as a people by providing common ideals and values amidst growing anti-Japanese sentiment. Further tempered by the early events of World War II, these traits formed the bedrock of the character of the entire combat team. As the Nisei came of age and struggled to prove the loyalty of their people, the regiment’s shared values formed a solid base for the cohesion among the Nisei in uniform. This cohesion, along with the nearly unanimous goal of having to prove themselves and their people, gave great motivation to the men of the 100/442d RCT.
Formation of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT
As America readied for war in 1940, Nisei in uniform faced a precarious situation. In Hawaii, the Selective Service Act brought much needed manpower to the defense of the islands, but over one-half of the 3000 inductees in the now-federalized Hawaii National Guard’s 298th and 299th Regiments were AJAs and a seizable number also served in various Reserve Officer Training Corps : ROTC detachments. By the time of the attack against Pearl Harbor, Nisei in uniformed service and registered with the selective service numbered in the thousands.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II, all persons of Japanese ancestry throughout the services were at once branded disloyal and given restricted duty, removed from active service, or reclassified by the selective service as IV-C, ineligible for military service due to ancestry. The University of Hawaii’s ROTC detachment, after initially being activated and called to supplement the active and reserve forces in defense of the Hawaiian Islands was soon disbanded, its Japanese American members discharged from service. The 298th and 299th Regiments were forced to release or, in many instances, even incarcerate its Nisei soldiers. As severe as was the treatment of the Nisei in uniform, the plight of the AJAs not in uniform was worse. Almost 400 Issei, Nisei, and Kibei AJAs educated in Japan were interned in Hawaii, and many more targeted for surveillance and – or investigation. Those in military related, sensitive, or otherwise vital labor positions were placed under armed escort and were issued special black restricted identification badges – loosely reminiscent of the Star of David worn by Jews in Nazi occupied Europe. Eventually, 1444 Japanese, 979 aliens, and 525 other AJAs were interned in Hawaii, and another 981 were sent to mainland internment camps. Beyond the regulations targeting the Nisei, the most visible example of anti-Japanese frenzy following the attack on Pearl Harbor was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order (EO) 9066. Signed on 19 February 1942, EO 9066 suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, essentially stripped the Nisei of their Fifth Amendment right that no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and incarcerated over 120.000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry in ten mainland relocation centers.
Justified as military necessity by Lt Gen John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Command and head of security for the West Coast, this action ran contrary to the reports from adviser, the FBI, and even the US Army counterespionage section in Hawaii. Yet, Lt Gen DeWitt concluded himself that the AJA population posed a significant threat on the West Coast. Likewise, his claims that A Jap’s a Jap and an exact separation of the sheep from the goats was impossible personified Nisei persecution in the Mainland and exemplified the prejudicial challenges faced by the mainland AJAs. Against this backdrop of discrimination the concept of an all-Japanese American unit was born. The first unit began as AJAs in the 298th and 299th Regiments were dispersed and reassigned to non combat units. It was soon apparent that another option was needed as combat support and combat service support units soon filled to authorized strength. Lt Gen Delos C. Emmons, CO of the Army’s Hawaiian Department, then decided to group all AJA soldiers into a single unit. Army Chief of Staff Gen George C. Marshall, acting on these recommendations, authorized the formation of an over strength all-Nisei battalion to be transferred to the mainland at the earliest opportunity and trained as an infantry combat unit. Thus was created the all Nisei Hawaii Provisional Battalion, a unit born not of lofty ideals but of the simple necessity to determine what to do with the Japanese Americans already in uniform. Initial composition of the Hawaii Provisional Battalion when it left Hawaii for the mainland in June of 1942 was about 29 officers and 1300 enlisted men. Over 95% were sons of immigrants Nisei, 35% were dual citizens, and 2% were Kibei. At twenty-four years, the average age of the battalion was higher than the army average, but then so was the average of their Army intelligence scores, which at 103 was only seven points below the minimum required for entrance into the Officer Candidate School.
En route to its new training site at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, the battalion was officially re-designated the 100th Inf Bn Separate. This was a distinctive unit designation in that the Army’s regimental designation system during the period designated battalions assigned to parent regiments consecutively as first, second and third. Since the Nisei unit was separate, without a parent unit, it was given the unique battalion designation of 100 or as the Hawaiians called it in their Pidgin English Pidgin English vernacular : One Puka Puka. As the separate battalion adjusted to life in the mainland and the Midwest through late 1942, Army and political officials were still wrestling with the issue of what to do with the Nisei in the internment camps. The successful performance of the 100th Bn could pave the way for the formation of a larger Japanese American unit. Reactions to the employment of AJAs in combat were mixed. The AJAs themselves were enthusiastic for any opportunity to prove their patriotism and loyalty. But upon hearing of the possible formation of a larger Nisei unit, public outcry by individuals, as well as groups, was still high. Citizen’s groups, such as the Native Sons of the Golden West, Santa Monica Bay Parlor Number 267, as well as high-ranking officials, including Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Mississippi Senator John L. Rankin, opposed the enlistment of AJAs.
Ironically, what turned the tide for the formation of a larger Nisei regiment was propaganda. Imperial Japanese propaganda in Southeast Asia maintained that the war against Japan was a war based on racial discrimination and used EO 9066 and the relocation camps as evidence. Elmer Davis, director of the Office of Wartime Information, brought this matter to President Roosevelt, arguing that the formation of an AJA unit would discredit the enemy and have great propaganda value in itself. The propaganda value of the segregated regiment was dual purposed. In addition to discrediting enemy propaganda, the formation of an all AJA unit would serve as a sort of friendly propaganda to also prove the loyalty of the AJAs to the American people. When questioned by prospective volunteers about the logic behind the segregated unit, recruiters explained :
If your strength were diffused through the Army of the United States as has already been done with many other Americans of your blood relatively little account would be taken of your action. You would be important only as manpower nothing more. But united and working together, you would become a symbol of something greater than your individual selves, and the effect would be felt both in the United States and abroad. All other Americans would long remember you for what you had done for the country, and you would be living reproach to those who have been prejudiced against you because of your Japanese blood.
With the argument out in the open, others weighed in to argue that the formation of an all-Nisei unit was good for the AJAs and for America. Proponents included Lt Gen Delos C. Emmons, Gen George C. Marshall, and Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, who were astounded at the contributions of the Nisei Varsity Victory Volunteers to Hawaii’s defenses during a mid-1942 visit to the islands. Unencumbered by the racism of the West Coast or of the South as we shall see, and since most members of the separate battalion were former National Guardsmen with previous military training, the 100th Bn’s training at Camp McCoy progressed rapidly, well beyond expectations. Comments were highly positive from all corners. The 6th Service Command noted that the 100th was one of the best trained outfits encamped in the Mid-West and visiting generals and observers were routinely impressed with the battalion’s proficiency with weapons and tactics. The proficiency of the 100th added immensely to the argument for the formation of the AJA regiment. The matter was finally settled on 22 January 1943 when the War Department directed the formation of the AJA 442d Regimental Combat Team, composed of the :
442nd Infantry Regiment
522nd Field Artillery Battalion
232nd Engineer Combat Battalion
Cannon Company and additional service and support units
President Roosevelt endorsed the move saying :
The proposal of the War Department to organize a combat team consisting of loyal American citizens of Japanese descent has my full approval. No loyal citizen of the United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of his ancestry. The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry. A good American is one who is loyal to this country and to our creed of liberty and democracy. Every loyal American citizen should be given an opportunity to serve this country.
In January 1943, the 100th Bn moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for battalion and higher level collective training. Shortly after, in February, recruiting began to fill the initial requirement for 4500 volunteers for the Nisei regiment. Reactions to the call were mixed. Hawaiian Nisei, or Buddhaheads, were elated with the decision. They would finally have an opportunity to prove themselves. The Mainland Nisei, previously subjected to blatant racism and having suffered through the internment centers, had different views. Many were bitter and angry. This was not the only source of disagreement between the two Nisei groups within the 442nd RCT. The War Department had hoped to fill the 442nd’s initial call for Nisei volunteers with roughly 3500 from the mainland relocation centers and 1500 from Hawaii. The Mainland Nisei, feeling betrayed, were reluctant to volunteer; only about 1200 were recruited from the internment camps. In stark contrast, more than 10000 volunteered from Hawaii, and 2600 were accepted during the initial call. This imbalance would also be a source for continued friction between the Mainland-born kotonks and the buddhaheads from Hawaii. Too, the Hawaiian Nisei, who were part of the largest ethnic group in the islands and had not known prejudice or racism, were generally gregarious and outgoing. But the kotonks, raised as minorities in the mainland, were frequently more reserved and less outgoing than their counterparts from Hawaii. The difference in attitudes between the jovial buddhaheads and mainland-born kotonks caused minor scuffles between the two groups early on. Fights broke out during training at first, but subsided as the men bonded under combat. Still, the terms buddhahead and kotonk jokingly persisted throughout the war.
HQs & Headquarters Company
Infantry Regiment (100th)
– 1st Bn : Abel, Baker, Charlie, Dog Cos
– 2nd Bn : Easy, Fox, George, How Cos
– 3rd Bn : Item, King, Love, Mike Cos
Field Artillery Battalion
– Hqs & Hq Battery
– Battery A
– Battery B
– Battery C
– 1 Engineer Company
– 1 Anti-Tank Company
– 1 Cannon Company
– 1 SVC Service Company
– 1 Medical Detachment
Despite minor, mainly colloquial differences, the men bonded together and the Nisei’s proficiency continued to impress onlookers, including every unit to which the unit was attached. Still, the 100th Bn and soon the 442nd Regt were subject to prejudice, not only from GIs already stationed at Cp Shelby, but from the surrounding Southern populace, who seemed confused and sometimes hostile towards the blur in the segregation between black and white caused by the brown-skinned Nisei. In addition to the prejudice of other GIs and the locals, Army investigations continued to the extent that an inspector at Cp Shelby at one point was checking fingerprints on tableware ! Another blow to the AJAs’ fight against racism was the loyalty test administered in the internment camps at the direction of Dillon S. Myer, director of the War Relocation Authority. While well intentioned to simply determine the willingness of Mainland AJAs to serve in the military, the loyalty test instead provoked riots. The Nisei were United States citizens by birth, but now, on top of being imprisoned by their own country, they were being asked to forswear an allegiance to an enemy country to which they had never belonged. This slap in the face was enough to further hamper recruiting efforts in the relocation centers. No such test was administered to Hawaiian Nisei.
While the 100th’s collective training continued, recruiting for the 442nd concluded and individual, or basic, training for the regiment began in May 1943 and lasted through October. Training for the 442nd progressed rapidly too, though not quite as rapidly as had the 100th Battalion’s, due primarily to the fact that the 100th Battalion’s men had more military experience to start with and were, generally, older and more mature than the 442nd’s complement.
While the regiment was still undergoing basic training, the call for deployment came for the 100th Bn. Departing Camp Shelby on 11 August, it arrived in Oran, North Africa, on Sept 2 and moved on to Italy shortly thereafter. Following basic training, the 442nd completed advanced unit training or Series D exercises by March 1944, and after successful inspection and review by Gen Marshall, the commander of the 442nd RCT, Col Charles W. Pence, was directed to prepare the unit for overseas movement. By the time the 442nd Regiment reached the battlefront, the 100th Battalion had been in the combat zone for almost nine months, attached to the 34th Infantry Division of Gen Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army. It received its baptism of fire at Salerno and fought at Cassino and Anzio. Despite a warm reception and an in-theater integration, familiarization, and training program hosted by the seasoned 34th Infantry Division, initial losses were extremely heavy. Suffering over 900 casualties out of its complement of 1300, the 100th earned the moniker, The Purple Heart Battalion. Replacements were received from the 442/1st Bn still in training at Camp Shelby. Still, the AJAs of the 100th Bn fought well. Gen Mark W. Clark remarked :
I should mention here that a bright spot in this period was the performance of the 100th Bn, which had recently been assigned to the 34th Infantry Division. This battalion was made up of Japanese-Americans and was to become one of the most valuable units in the Fifth Army Except for several months in southern France, the 100th Bn fought magnificently throughout the Italian campaign. It won the Presidential unit citation for the destruction of a German SS Bn on Mount Belvedere. These Nisei troops seem to be very conscious of the fact that they had an opportunity to prove the loyalty of many thousands of Americans of Japanese Ancestry and they willingly paid a high price to achieve that goal. I was proud to have them in the Fifth Army.
Following the 100th’s participation in the Naples-Foggia Campaign from September 1943 to January 1944, which included action at Salerno, the Volturno River, Cassino, and Anzio, the regiment caught up with the 100th Battalion and the 34th Infantry Division at Civitavecchia, Italy, on 10 June 1944. Upon arrival, the regiment, less the 1st Bn, was attached to the 34th Infantry Division and the 100th was attached to the 442nd RCT. The 100th was not actually assigned to the 442nd RCT until August 1944, and even then, due to its distinguished record, it was allowed to keep its distinctive numerical designation. The official title of the Japanese American outfit then became the 100th/442nd RTC. The remainder of the 1st Bn remained at Cp Shelby as training cadre for more Nisei replacements.
The first action of the combined 100th Bn and the 442d RCT was on 26 June 1944, at the battle of Belvedere. The regiment’s 2nd and 3rd Bns led the attack but were soon pinned down. Before the 442nd’s first action became a rout, the veteran 100th Bn, initially tasked as the 34th Infantry Division reserve, took the lead from the less experienced 2nd and 3rd Bns and captured the town with renewed vigor. As a tactical objective, Belvedere had slowed the advance of the entire 34th Infantry Division. For this achievement, the battalion was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation.
The combat team continued in the Rome-Arno Campaign through September 1944, fighting at Hill 140, Leghorn, and across the Arno River. Detached from the 100/442d RCT on 15 August 1944, the AT Co glider-landed in Southern France during Operation Dragoon, foreshadowing the later move of the entire regiment into the Southern France Theater. The regiment also gained credit for participation in the Rhineland Campaign, September 1944 to March 1945, where it rescued the Lost Battalion. The 522-FAB was detached from the regiment to participate in the Central Europe Campaign, March to May 1945, where it was attached to no fewer than five divisions, including the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division, and helped liberate the camps at Dachau. The regiment’s final campaigns were back in Italy, in the Northern Apennines Campaign from September 1944 to April 1945 and in the Po Valley, April to May 1945, where, less the 522-FAB, it was attached to the 92-ID and played a crucial part in capturing Mount Folgorito, Mount Belvedere, Pariana, Mount Pizzacuto, Bologna, and helped shatter the western defenses of the Gothic Line. By war’s end, the 100/442d RCT had fought in seven major campaigns in Italy and France and suffered over 9500 casualties, including 650 killed in action. It became the most highly decorated Army unit of its size, having earned seven Presidential Unit Citations, two Meritorious Unit Plaques, an Army Unit Commendation the equivalent of a DSC for the entire unit and over 18000 individual awards for valor, including :
21 Medals of Honor
52 Distinguished Service Crosses (DSC)
1 Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)
28 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Silver Star
560 Silver Star Medals (SSM)
22 Legion of Merit Medals (LOM)
15 Soldier’s Medals (SM)
Approximately 1500 Oak Leaf Clusters for the Bronze Star Medal
Approximately 4000 Bronze Star Medals (BSM)
12 (French) Croix de Guerre
2 (French) Palms to the Croix de Guerre
2 (Italian) Croce Al Merito Di Guerra
2 (Italian) Medaglia Di Bronzo Al Valore Militaire
1 Air Medal
468 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Purple Heart
9486 Purple Heart Medals (PH)
26 Army Commendations
87 Division Commendations
ABCS Army Battle Command System
AFATDS Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System
AJA American(s) of Japanese Ancestry
AMDWS Air and Missile Defense Workstation
AO Area of Operations
ASAS All-Source Analysis System
ATCCS Army Tactical Command and Control System
BOS Battlefield Operating System(s)
C2 Command and Control
COG Center of Gravity
CSS Combat Service Support
CSSCS Combat Service Support Control System
DOW Died of Wounds
EO Executive Order
FFI French Forces of the Interior
FEBA Forward Edge of the Battle Area
FLOT Forward Line of Own Troops
IPB Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
KIA Killed in Action
LD Line of Departure
LOC Line of Communications
MCS Maneuver Control System
METT-TC Mission, enemy, terrain, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations
MIA Missing in Action
OAKOC Observation and fields of fire, Avenues of approach, Key terrain, Obstacles and movement, Cover and concealment
RCT Regimental Combat Team
SS Schutz Staffel
V-E Victory in Europe
VVV Varsity Victory Volunteers
WIA Wounded in Action
The Lost Battalion
Of the seven campaigns in which the 100/442-RCT (100th Battalion 442nd Regimental Combat Team) participated, the most noteworthy was the Rhineland Campaign in France, while assigned to Lt Gen Alexander M. Patch’s 7A. Of these seven months, the deadliest, most demanding month was October 1944, the first full month in theater, spent attached to Maj Gen John E. Dahlquist’s 36-ID in the Vosges Mountains. This was the defining moment for the Japanese American 100/442-RCT. It was the culminating point, both militarily and figuratively, in the existence of the unit and when it was over, the unit required dedicated recovery and reconstitution. By the end of the month, the regiment had earned three more Presidential Unit Citations; liberated Bruyères, Belmont, and Biffontaine; and rescued the Lost Battalion, but at a cost of over 800 casualties. Like most rescues, the rescue of the Lost Battalion itself was not a planned operation, but an unforeseen development in the base operation, the Seventh Army’s advance through France and the VI Corps’ drive on St Dié following the 7A’s landing on the French Riviera on Aug 15 1944, Operation Dragoon had Maj Gen Lucian Truscott’s VI Corps race through southern France to seize the Belfort Gap near the French-German-Swiss border.
By Sep 19, the 7A had reached the Moselle River but was then slowed, like Bradley’s 12AG and Montgomery’s 21AG to the north, by severe supply shortages and also by stiffening German resistance as they approached the German frontier.On Sep 29 1944, 7A issued new orders, changing the easterly direction of attack to a northeasterly one headed for Strasbourg. Before Strasbourg could be taken, however, the 7A needed to breach the Vosges Mountains. Severely restricted terrain and worsening weather aided the German’s defense. Where the 7A had advanced over 350 miles from the riviera to the Moselle River in just under four weeks, advances in October were more accurately measured in yards. In the face of one Panzer, one Reserve, and four Infanterie Divisions, the VI Corps needed to seize St Dié, the industrial center of the region, which controlled the mountain passes and straddled German defenses along the Meurthe River. To the 36-ID fell the task of seizing Bruyères, controlling one of the approaches to St Dié.
The 100/442-RCT arrived in France on Sep 30 and closed on the front lines by Oct 13. The regiment went into the line the following day and seized Bruyères on Oct 19 after bitter, often house-to-house, fighting. The 36-ID, with the 100/442-RCT attached, pressed on, in support of the 3-ID’s attack to seize St Dié. Biffontaine fell on Oct 23. Although on the line for only ten days, the stress was unrelenting due to the continuous combat, wet and frigid weather, and the steep, densely wooded hills, factors totally unfamiliar to the Nisei, who had just come from the relatively warmer, more hospitable climes of summer in southern Italy. The 2/442-RCT, came off the line and moved into Belmont for rest and recovery on Oct 23, followed by the 100/442 and 3/442 on the 24-IR. The respite was short lived for as the Nisei combat team came off the line, the 141-IR (36-ID) was beginning its attack that would lead to the encirclement and the rescue of its lead battalion.
Early on Oct 23 1944, the 141/36-ID, began to advance eastward from Belmont through the Forêt Domaniale du Champ de Fen to assault German positions near La Houssière. The regiment advanced in column along the ridge line almost seven kilometers long, but not even two kilometers wide, directly towards La Houssiere. The 1/141-36-ID, in the lead, advanced quickly, creating a salient and outdistancing itself from the rest of the regiment. Its A and B Cos, as well as platoons from C and D Cos, were soon cut off from the battalion headquarters and the rest of the regiment by elements of the German 16. VolksGrenadier Division, 716. VolksGrenadier Division, GrenadierRegiment 933, Schnellabteilung [Mobile Unit] 602, GebirgsjagerBataillons [Mountain Battalions] 201 and 202, and ReserveBattalion 285. It attempted a breakout from the encirclement with no success. The Alamo Regiment’s 2nd and 3rd Bns tempted to break through to their sister unit, also without success. The Lost Battalion’s 275 soldiers, six kilometers behind enemy lines, were now led by 1/Lt Martin Higgins, voted into command by his peers in the perimeter.
With fewer than two days recovery following the battles at Bruyères and Biffontaine, the 100/442-RCT was ordered to rescue the Lost Battalion. The 2/442-RCT, relieved the 3/141-36-ID, early on the morning of Wednesday, Oct 25, and immediately engaged a German infantry company reinforced with machine guns, heavy mortars, and self-propelled guns. The 100/442 and the 3/442 were ordered into the operation on the following day. As the main effort, the 100th Bn advanced on the right – south – with an attached medium tank company, elements of a TD Co, and elements of a 4.2-inch chemical mortar company. 3rd Bn was in the center also with an attached medium Tank Co and a 4.2-inch chemical mortar company. The 2nd Bn was on the left – north -, maintaining contact with the 3-ID. The 133-FAB reinforced the 100/442nd’s organic 522-FAB.
The fighting was fierce, progress slow, and casualties heavy. The dense woods and craggy, rugged terrain of steep hills provided excellent cover and concealment for the German defenses, which were centered around machine gun emplacements and company-sized reinforced road blocks on the few ragged logging trails in the area. Artillery fired into the high trees caused tree bursts that increased its lethality as fragments rained downward. Additionally, weather significantly impacted operations as the rains, snow, and mud signaled the onset of the worst winter in the region in forty years. The Lost Battalion’s situation was grim. Forced to defend an area less than 350 by 300 meters in size, it had only one radio, no food, and little ammunition. Water, while obtainable, was from a muddy hole that was also used by the Germans.
Resupply was impossible over land. Instead, artillery shells and aircraft drop tanks were loaded with emergency D rations, radio batteries, and medical supplies in an effort to resupply the Lost Battalion. These efforts met with mixed success as the shells buried themselves deep into the French hillsides and the P-47s initially missed their drop zones inside the small perimeter. Patrols from the surrounded unit had no success in contacting outside units; one thirty-six-man patrol was destroyed and another fifty-three-man patrol returned to the perimeter with only five men. The 100th and 3rd Bns attacked abreast to the east without letup through the thick forests, battling the frigid weather, as well as snipers, roadblocks, machine-gun nests, air bursts, mines, and booby traps.
By Friday, Oct 27, the 100/442’s Bns were on line heading slowly for the Lost Battalion under heavy clouds and freezing rain while the 2nd and 3rd Bns of the 141-IR (36-ID), as well as the sister 143-IR (36-ID), balked and remained static. The 2nd Bn, to the north, attacked Hill 617 to secure the flank of the main effort to the south. The narrow, restricted terrain at this point along the main ridge line leading to the Lost Battalion forced the 100th and 3rd Bns to converge and allowed only enough room for two companies to advance abreast. The 100th Bn swung right, down the ridge in an attempt to outflank the German defenses, while the 3rd Bn moved forward along the ridge.
On Oct 28, after gaining 350 yards, it was stopped by another heavily defended roadblock, which required direct-fire tank support to reduce. As another freezing night fell, the 100/442d RCT established defenses, unable to continue the attack in the pitch black of the deep forests. On Sunday Oct 29 1944, the Nisei renewed the attack. Maj Gen Dahlquist continued to press the 100/442d to rescue the Lost Battalion at all costs. His presence at the 100th Bn’s and the 442nd’s CPs throughout the crisis underscored the criticality of the situation. Not only was the momentum of the 36th Inf Div slowed now that it was in the Vosges, but he was also in danger of losing one of his battalions. Finally, overcome with anger and frustration, the Nisei of the 3/442, spontaneously fixed bayonets and conducted a classic bayonet charge which, together with a heavy artillery barrage, broke the German defenses.
Early on the thirtieth, the 211 survivors of the 1/141 Inf were relieved. The cost was high. The 100/442 arrived in France on 12 October with 193 officers and 3313 men. By the end of the rescue on 31 October, it had suffered over 800 casualties in two weeks of action through the seizure of Bruyeres, Biffontaine, and the rescue of the Lost Battalion, including 117 killed in action, 639 wounded in action, 40 missing in action, and 18 injured. In contrast, the 36th Inf Div started October with 730 officers and 12785 soldiers and battle casualties for the division for the same month numbered 1785, including 218 killed in action, 1432 wounded, 154 missing, and 38 died of wounds. Most companies, usually about 200 strong, were down to between forty and fifty men. Still, following the rescue of the Lost Battalion, the 100/442 was directed to continue the attack. Finally pulled from the line on 8 and 9 November, the regiment was at less than half strength. Senator, then – 2nd Lt Daniel K. Inouye best describes their situation following the rescue of the Lost Battalion :
When Gen Dahlquist called the regiment out for a retreat parade to commend us personally, he is reported to have said to the CO : Colonel, I asked that your entire regiment be present for this occasion. Where are the rest of your men ? And Col Charles W. Pence, as bone-weary as any dog face in the outfit, replied, Sir, you are looking at the entire regiment. Except for two men on guard duty at each company, this is all that is left of the 442nd. And there we were, cooks, medics, band, and a handful of riflemen, a ragged lot at rigid attention, without a single company at even half its normal strength. One had only 17 men and was commanded by a staff sergeant. My outfit, E Co, with a normal complement of 197 men, had exactly 40 soldiers able to march to the parade ground. Gen Dahlquist looked at us for a long time. Twice he started to speak and choked on the overpowering feelings that took hold of him. And in the end, all he could manage was an emotional : Thank you, men. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And the saddest retreat parade in the history of the 442nd was over.
By mid-November, the combat team was reassigned to what would later be called the Champagne Campaign in and around Nice and the Riviera. For four months replacements filled in and the wounded returned to duty, while the regiment patrolled the Alps and took advantage of the recreational opportunities offered by the region before heading back to Italy and the Fifth Army.
By the beginning of World War II, Americans of Japanese Ancestry could look back to the arrival of the Gannen Mono in Hawaii in 1868 upon a history that spanned over seventy years. At first hardly intertwined with American life, the contract laborers brought their customs to America whole and intact, fully expecting to return to their homeland. But as their prospects of returning to Japan faded, they quickly assimilated into American culture blending their strong family ties and feelings of obligation – on – with the American concepts of freedom and equality. This produced a unique Japanese American Culture that, regardless of geographical origin, bonded the Nisei together when anti Japanese hysteria turned the country against them and instilled in them the drive and perseverance to face adversity.
The 100th Infantry Battalion Separate, composed first of Nisei in uniform, paved the way for the formation of the all-volunteer 442-RCT and preceded them into combat as part of Lt Gen Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army. The cohesion and dedication of the unit shined through as the Nisei battalion proved itself in the Italian Campaign. The 442-RCT continued the exemplary record upon entering the theater, again showing the dedication and esprit of the Nisei soldiers. Thus, when the 100/442-RCT was committed in the Vosges Mountains of France in the rescue of the Lost Battalion during the fall of 1944, Maj Gen John E. Dahlquist had at his disposal a well-trained, battle-seasoned, supremely cohesive unit that, quite literally, would not quit. It was employed rescuing a surrounded battalion, the result of an operation gone awry, in the face of determined enemy resistance defending in difficult, unforgiving terrain and harsh weather. Actions by the division and the regiment, its leaders and their men illustrate both good and bad examples of leadership and command during World War II, what today is termed battle command.
Therefore I say : Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory then will be total. (Sun Tzu, The Art of War) The first requirement of successful battle command is visualization. In the context of military operations, visualization encompasses seeing, understanding, and, most importantly, appreciating the situation surrounding the mission. It involves determining the mission, end state, and tasks to be accomplished. It requires an accurate assessment of the enemy forces and capabilities involved, as well as an appreciation of the restrictions and limitations created by the terrain and weather in the region. It demands a frank and honest assessment of the capabilities and limitations of the friendly troops and forces available. It necessitates a realistic estimation and expectation of what can be done in the available time. Visualization also requires that civil factors that affect and shape the operation be addressed to minimize the impact upon the local area and inhabitants. Once the situation and end state are understood and appreciated, battle command visualization employs the elements of operational design to design and develop a plan that achieves the desired end state. The envisaged plan addresses decisive points and objectives. Actions are arranged simultaneously, sequentially, or both, with the limitations of operational reach buttressed by realistic limits of advance. If necessary, operational pauses are planned to prevent culmination. During the rescue of the Lost Battalion, visualization was haphazard and often less than thorough from the division down to the battalion level. This was primarily due to the unplanned nature of the operation, but also due to the command styles of the key leaders. This, in turn, made an arduous mission more difficult and increased the challenges encountered by the Nisei regiment in their operations in the forests of the French Vosges Mountains.
By late September 1944, the Allied advance through France slowed as combat units over-stretched logistical support and German resistance stiffened with the Allies approach to the Fatherland. In support of Lt Gen Patch’s goal to enter Germany prior to winter, Maj Gen Truscott’s VI Corps, consisting of the American 3-ID, 36-ID and 45-ID, was tasked with breaching the Vosges Mountains and securing the Saales Pass running from St Dié to Strasbourg. The 36-ID, with the 100/442-RCT attached, was initially designated the main effort and advanced on this axis with the 45-ID supporting on its left (north) and the 3-ID Division in reserve. By mid-October, the 3-ID had been brought out of reserve and assumed the main effort between the 45-ID and 36-ID for the push on St Diè. The 36-ID, had seized Bruyères, but the advance slowed in the Vosges Mountains, a few miles past the town. In his bid to be the first into Germany, Maj Gen Dahlquist was anxious to breach the mountains and press forward.
On Oct 23, the division sent an ill-defined order to the 141-IR to send a patrol of company or battalion strength to work down a trail through the Forêt Domaniale du Champ de Fen to the high ground (350570) north of La Houssière. The regiment set out in column with its 1st Bn in lead and was soon heavily engaged. By the evening of the 24, elements of the 1st Bn were cut off from support, nearly a kilometer short of their objective, and dubbed by the press as the Lost Battalion.
By the time the 100/442-RCT was given the mission to relieve the Lost Battalion on Oct 25, the Texans had been cut off from their parent regiment for nearly thirty-six hours. Efforts by the battalion’s two sister units had proved futile. At the division level, the mission was clear : rescue the Lost Battalion. As part of visualization, the commander determines the mission, focusing on identifying and specifying the tasks that must be accomplished, as well as the mission’s overarching purpose. The determination of the mission also specifies which units will accomplish the tasks, as well as where and when the operation is to take place.
Since these elements will be more thoroughly addressed through the remainder of the METTTC analysis, this discussion of the mission at hand focuses on the tasks and the purpose of the operation. Missions originate from orders from higher command or are developed from ongoing operations. Missions that follow other missions, or plans that follow the conclusion of a given mission are sequels. Branches are options built into the original base plan. Since the rescue originated neither as a planned outcome sequel nor as an anticipated option branch, it was a wholly new, though hastily defined, mission. Yet, although hastily developed, the task was unambiguous : the cutoff unit needed to be rescued. Less clear was the purpose behind this task.
Plainly, the relief of an isolated force is tactically necessary to minimize the loss of lives and preserve combat power, to maintain morale, and to maintain the momentum of the advance, but the Lost Battalion episode had additional and arguably less noble motivations. At the start, the Lost Battalion comprised only some 275 men commanded by a lieutenant; it was not a battalion, but only the size of a reinforced company. Additionally, the commander of the 1/141, Lt Col William Bird, as well as his staff, was not even located with the cut off force. Thus, the losses suffered by the 100/442-RCT through the six-day effort to rescue the trapped men raise the question as to the actual worth of the entire operation : was the relief of 211 men worth the culmination of an entire regiment ? Tactical considerations notwithstanding, the consensus among the veterans of the rescue is that Maj Gen Dahlquist needed to rescue the trapped battalion to save his career, the assumption being that the loss of one of his nine infantry battalions would surely have cost him his command and prevented him for reaching his eventual four-star rank. That Maj Gen Dahlquist repeatedly ordered the Nisei regiment to effect the rescue -at all costs- adds a further element of doubt to the motivations behind this mission also, especially in light of the fact that the rest of the 141st Regiment sat idle during the fight. Still, regardless of the purpose and personal motivations behind the formulation of the mission, the task was clear and it stood : rescue the Lost Battalion.
To avoid encirclement and annihilation by the Allied 3A and 7A, Gen der Inf Heinrich Friedrich Wiese’s 19. Armee began Operation Herbstzeitlose [Meadow-Saffron] in mid-August to withdraw across France and establish defenses along the French-German border. By mid-October, the 36-ID encountered stiffening resistance in the High Vosges. It directly faced elements of :
– Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter’s 716. Vlks Gren Div
– Generalleutnant Ernst Haeckal’s 16. Vlks Gren Div
– Oberst Walter Rolin’s 933. Grenadier Regiment
– 602. Schnellabteilung
– 201. Gebirgsjäger Bataillon
– 202. Gebirgsjager Bataillon
– 285. Reserve Battalion
German forces defending in this area of France also employed troops from the
– Légion des Volontaires Français [LVF Waffen SS]
– Milice Française [French Militia]
– Reich Security Police [SIPO-SD]
– 19. SS Polizei Regiment.
Prisoners taken by the 100/442-RCT during this period indicate that they were fighting the
– 933. VolksGrenadier Regiment
– 201. Gebirgsjäger Battalion
– 202. Gebirgsjäger Battalion
– 388. Infanterie Division
– 198. Pionniere Battalion
in their area of operations during the rescue. While the forces facing the 36-ID seem impressive, closer scrutiny reveals that the divisions were severely undermanned with the approximate strength of a regiment, or about 2000 men, and utilized significant amounts of less-capable older men and teen-aged boys, or Volksturm, to fill ranks depleted through the retreat across France. To overcome these deficiencies in the face of the American VI Corps advance through the Vosges, Operation Dogface, the Germans bolstered their meager defenses with an additional 3000 reinforcements and established a defense in depth well integrated with the terrain. Plans were developed to utilize dedicated kampfgruppen and fire brigades, as well as alarm units composed of rear-echelon support troops to counterattack any significant breakthroughs.
In addition to the available typical infantry small arms, German armament included additional machine guns (twenty additional battalions to the Army Group), mortars, and larger assets, such as Nebelwerfer multiple rocket launchers, self-propelled artillery, and tanks. To further strengthen the defenses, vast quantities of mines and artillery were employed. Mines of all types, including Bouncing Betties and the difficult-to-detect, nonmetallic schuh mine, were employed to great effect. Artillery fire was incessant, the effects of which were magnified by the tree bursts caused by the dense forest and tall trees. If the strength and quality of the forces facing the Allies and the 100/442-RCT in their efforts to relieve the Lost Battalion were less than intimidating, the Americans also had to face defenders fighting with the fervor inspired by decrees from higher command. The first Fuehrer befehls, issued by Hitler as the Allies approached the German frontier, mandated that German forces hold at all costs. The enemy would be fighting to defend his homeland, with his back to the wall. A second decree later demanded a battle to the death to capture the Lost Battalion and prevent its rescue for morale and, undoubtedly, propaganda purposes.
By early October, this enemy situation at the start of the rescue by the 100/442-RCT was vague and, unfortunately, misinterpreted. This poor grasp of the enemy situation contributed directly to the predicament of the Lost Battalion and continued to hinder the Nisei in their efforts. Since the seizure of Bruyères on the 19, resistance had apparently lightened and the 36-ID was generally optimistic. Maj Gen Dahlquist erroneously assumed that the German defenses were broken or were located at least another fourteen kilometers further to the east, as evidenced in his orders to the 141-IR :
We’ve taken six hundred German prisoners in the past six days, not counting the number of men we have killed or wounded. We have either broken his line, or he has completed another one here – pointing to the Meurthe River. Gen Truscott is trying to make up his mind this morning about the attack. If we break through, we will not have to fight terrain and enemy, we’ll just have to fight terrain.
His intelligence section mirrored his assessment and, without any mentionable reconnaissance efforts, told the 141-IR to expect only light to moderate resistance in their advance on Oct 23. This error contributed heavily to the 1/141 being cut off as its formation, advancing in column along a single, narrow trail, easily lent itself to being enveloped. Additionally, further errors in judgment surfaced once the 100/442-RCT was committed as rates of advance were overestimated in the face of the mistaken assessment of the enemy’s strength and disposition. These errors would have to be disproved through direct action and the intelligence gained through close quarters combat, action that would see Maj Gen Dahlquist’s aide, Lt Wells Lewis, killed. Yet, even when the information was gained, it was often distrusted or written off by the division as the general openly questioned the integrity and judgment of his subordinates on the line. Often, too, what little intelligence was known was not passed down to the troops on the line, although to many of the men, the intelligence information would have seemed superfluous anyway. Thus, the enemy forces facing the 100/442-RCT in their task to aid the trapped battalion had been in retreat for over two months and had suffered massive losses. Unit strengths and capabilities were low, but were soon bolstered by additional units and manpower. While outnumbered, the Germans were motivated and had to their advantage a significant ally in the terrain of the Vosges Mountains. Still, faulty intelligence and an incorrect assessment of the enemy situation, based solely on the number of captured prisoners and unsupported by reconnaissance, were the overriding factors that magnified the problems faced by the 36-ID and the Nisei regiment. It was this poor visualization of the enemy situation that led to the predicament of the Lost Battalion and made the 100/442-RCT’s task more difficult.
Terrain and Weather
Terrain and weather for an operation are usually assessed in terms of the factors of OAKOC, observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach, key terrain, obstacles and movement, and cover and concealment. These factors are interrelated. For example, many of the conditions that limit observation and fields of fire may conversely enhance cover and concealment. These same factors may also amplify obstacle effects and obstruct movement. In general, the terrain and weather in the Lost Battalion area of operation favored the defenders and proved to be serious hindrances to the Nisei. The Vosges Mountains, separating Alsace from Lorraine in eastern France, run generally from the cities of Saverne and Strasbourg in the north to Belfort in the south, and are the last natural barrier in this region before encountering the Rhine River and the German border. As the 36-ID approached Germany, it was operating in the Epinal region and sought to seize the Saales Gap in support of the 3-ID’s attack on St Dié. When the 1/141 began its advance on Oct 23 1944, the Alamo Regiment had passed through the 100/442-RCT and begun operations in the Forêt Domaniale de Champ du Fen east of the town of Bruyères, about 10 kilometers southwest of St Dié. The exact operational area of the 100/442-RCT and the Lost Battalion thus encompassed roughly 60 square kilometers, dominated by the Forêt Domaniale de Champ du Fen and the towns of Belmont, Biffontaine, and La Houssière. The entire region, heavily wooded, with steep mountains and ridges and few roads, combined with the miserable wet and cold weather to give a decided advantage to the Germans, who fought from well-prepared positions in a defense in depth well ahead of and along their main line of resistance at the Meurthe River Winter Line. The region is mountainous, with the highest peaks in the Vosges reaching over 1400 meters. The terrain in the 100/442-RCT’s sector itself is rough and undulating, with peaks reaching almost 700 meters in elevation and with numerous steep ridges with between 45 and 60 percent slopes. The actual ridge line along which most of the fighting occurred runs about seven kilometers from the west to the east and southeast and is characterized by numerous fingers and draws extending north and south off the primary ridge line. The forests, too, are forbidding. At the time, the primary industries in the region were forestry and logging, with the result that some areas were thick, managed forests while other areas were overgrown and jungle like, with considerable underbrush. The few roads in the area were mostly on low ground and high-speed approaches were limited by the canalizing effect of the narrower streets in the numerous towns and villages strewn along them. The forest itself had only a few firebreaks and one or two logging roads. Only a single trail ran the length of the single ridge line from the units’ line of departure to the Lost Battalion and their objective.
Additionally, the early onset of the worst winter in forty years, which brought blustery winds, freezing temperatures, and a steady, penetrating rain, turned the ground to mud and made conditions miserable for the soldiers and nearly impossible for vehicles. Taken together, these factors conspired with the Germans’ defenses to constitute a formidable obstacle, which was not thoroughly appreciated by the 36-ID or higher echelons, as evidenced by the demands of the VI Corps to press on and maintain the momentum of the September advance through southern France. In this area, the hilly terrain, heavy forests, and thick vegetation combined to limit observation and fields of fire, provide abundant concealment, restrict avenues of approach, and acted as a huge obstacle, drastically hindering movement. Whereas the Nisei had been accustomed to the vast stretches of Italy that offered observation measured in kilometers, the dense foliage of the Vosges proved challenging, obscuring enemy positions until within only a few meters. As Colonel (retired) Young O. Kim, then-S3 for the 100-Bn, described it :
Vosges were Tommy gun country versus the M-1 country of Italy. The steep, rugged terrain and heavy forests severely limited the number of avenues of approach in the region in general, and in the 100/442-RCT’s area in particular. What roads and trails that did exist in the area soon became impassable either due to the incessant rain, the enemy’s strongpoints and roadblocks, or both.
As mentioned in the Seventh Army History :
For six weeks, from Oct 1 to Nov 15, their advances might be more easily measured in yards than in miles indicative of the obstacle effect of the terrain and vegetation.
The dense forests also had an adverse psychological factor on the men. The unknown enemy disposition and darkness created by the tall trees proved more intimidating than previous conditions and compounded the problems of advancing through these obstacles. Said another Nisei soldier : These forests would be garden spots for summer camping but they’re no place to fight a war. I would rather take Italy’s barren rocks than these damned trees where it’s never dry and the sun shines through only once a week. Where the little iron men of the 100/442-RCT once seemed without nerves and without fear, the cold and the unending shelling and tree bursts began inflicting shell shock and combat fatigue on a few of the Nisei.
Key terrain is defined as any locality, or area, the seizure or retention of which affords a marked advantage to either combatant. Inasmuch as the objective of the operation of both sides centered on the Lost Battalion, any terrain that directly influenced its rescue or destruction could be considered key. The remnants of the 1/141 were isolated on high ground immediately north of La Houssière, and while no single terrain feature in the immediate vicinity offered a marked advantage to the German defenders or the Nisei rescuers, the very ground occupied by the Lost Battalion was key to its continued existence and eventual rescue. Had the Lost Battalion been located on less defensible terrain, it might have been easily overrun and the employment of the 100/442-RCT might well have been superfluous. Other than the location of the Lost Battalion itself, the ridge upon which the fighting occurred possesses no one location that offers any greater advantage to either side.
The art of war is subjected to many modifications by industrial and scientific progress. But one thing does not change, the heart of the man. In the last analysis, success in battle is a matter of morale. In all matters which pertain to an army, organization, discipline and tactics, the human heart in the supreme moment of battle is the basic factor. It is rarely taken into account; and often strange errors are the result.
(Ardant du Picq, Battle Studies)
Once forces are engaged … winning comes from the courage and competence of our soldiers, the excellence of their training, the confidence in their equipment, the soundness of their doctrine, and above all, the quality of their leadership.
(General Eric K. Shinseki)
War is timeless. As long as men have ranged the face of the earth and have fought each other, and despite dramatic advances in weaponry, technology, and tactics, the very earliest recorded battles are comparable to present-day operations around the globe in the need for leadership and competent command. Whether undertaken with stone or sword, rifle and machine gun, or tank and helicopter, close combat requires leaders to instill motivation and direction to the troops who will do the fighting. In this regard, lessons can be drawn from the past that still have relevance today.
Combat Team’s Rescue of the Lost Battalion
A Study in the Employment of Battle Command
A thesis presented to the Faculty of the US Army Command and General Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE Military History by NATHAN K. WATANABE, MAJ, USA B. S., U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, 1988 Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 2002
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.