Table of Contents
1 – Introduction
World War 2 veteran of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. A highly decorated US Army unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Japanese descent, including Medal of Honor recipient: George Sakato.
The 442nd Infantry Regiment, later 442nd Regimental Combat Team, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army and was the only infantry formation in the Army Reserve. The regiment is best known for its history as a fighting unit composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (Nisei) who fought in World War II. Beginning in 1944, the regiment fought primarily in the European Theatre, particularly in Italy, southern France, and Germany.
The story of the 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 442nd Regiment is the most decorated unit in US military history. Created as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team when it was activated February 1, 1943, the unit quickly grew to its fighting complement of 4.000 men by April 1943, and an eventual total of about 14.000 men served overall. The unit earned more than 18.000 awards in less than two years, including 9.486 Purple Hearts and 4.000 Bronze Star Medals. The unit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations (five earned in one month). Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor. In 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and associated units who served during World War II, and in 2012, all surviving members were made chevaliers of the French Légion d’Honneur for their actions contributing to the liberation of France and their heroic rescue of the Lost Battalion.
Arriving in the European Theatre, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, with its three infantry battalions, one artillery battalion, and associated HQ and service companies were attached to the 34th Infantry Division. On 11 June 1944, near Civitavecchia, Italy, the existing 100th Infantry Battalion, another all-Nisei fighting unit which had already been in combat since September 1943, was transferred from the 133rd Infantry Regiment to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Because of its combat record, the 100th was allowed to keep its original designation, with the 442nd renaming its 1st Infantry Battalion as its 100th Infantry Battalion. The related 522nd Field Artillery Battalion liberated at least one of the satellite labor camps of Dachau concentration camp and saved survivors of a death march near Waakirchen.
The 442nd saw heavy combat during World War II and was not inactivated until 1946, only to be reactivated as a reserve unit in 1947 and garrisoned at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The 442nd lives on through the 100th Battalion/442nd Infantry Regiment, which has maintained alignment with the active 25th Infantry Division since a reorganization in 1972. This alignment has resulted in the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment’s mobilization for combat duty in the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, in which the unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation. With the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment the last infantry unit in the Army Reserve, the 442nd’s current members carry on the honors and traditions of the historical unit.