HP073: 442RDT

HP073: 442RDT

A request from the history hotline…

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was a unit composed of Japanese Americans who fought in Europe during the Second World War. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment. The 442nd was a self-sufficient fighting force, and fought with distinction in North Africa, Italy, southern France, and Germany, becoming the most highly decorated unit of its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Army, including 21 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.



Goforbroke.org – Great website full of wonderful content, including audio and video resources!

Not sure if any of you recognize Justin Pitts voice from episode 70, but his tone in this voice message just really reminded me of Mission Impossible, I couldn’t resist. But on a more serious side Justin makes a great suggestion.

The first Japanese dive bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 am Hawaii time, on December 7, 1941. We all know this date that brought the United States in to World War II. On that morning the lives of many Japanese American’s were set on a new path. Just two months later on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt would issue Executive Order 9066.

Any one with “foreign enemy ancestry” living in certain areas, mostly in the west, could be forcibly moved to internment camps. This lead to about 120,000 Japanese American’s being moved to such camps. 62 percent of which where Nisei, American born, second generation.

Herded from the coastlines of the continental United States and placed in these camps, stripped of their right of due process, forced to sell their property and leave their homes, and most importantly robbed of their dignity. They were moved from their homes and ordered to show up at the Assembly Centers and eventually the Internment Camps located in barren wastelands and deserts of California and several mountain and central plain states.

Assembly Centers were hastily erected and located throughout California and the West at fairgrounds, racetracks and other facilities. Though conditions varied from camp to camp, perhaps the worst of them was the housing of people in horse stables at Tanforan and Santa Anita Racetracks. Security was run by the military police and most of the camps were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. At the time, the government pleaded that it was for the safety of the Japanese Americans. And because they were loyal Americans they submitted to the indignity and left everything that they worked for behind.

These Internment Camps are also referred to as “relocation centers”, were ten camps in all: Topaz (Central Utah), Poston (Colorado River), Gila River (Arizona), Granada (Colorado), Heart Mountain (Wyoming), Jerome and Rohwer (Arkansas), Manzanar and Tule Lake (California), and Minidoka (Hunt, Idaho). Incarceration of the Japanese-Americans lasted three years, 1942-1945. These camps were under the authority of the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Located in isolated areas in either desert or swampland they were surrounded by barbed wire and guards with guns pointed inward instead of out of them. The WRA tried to make conditions resemble normal communities by erecting schools, hospitals, and having camp newspapers. However, for the most part conditions at camps were primitive and cramped. The WRA conducted “loyalty checks” upon the residents of the camps and those that they deemed “disloyal” were isolated at Tule Lake “Segregation Center” or in WRA prisons. Conditions at Tule Lake led to the tragic Renunciation of Citizenship by 5,589 native-born American citizens.

The Renunciation of Citizenship was the product of Public Law 405 of the 78th Congress, an amendment to the Nationality Act of 1798, which permitted a citizen of the United States to renounce his or her citizenship during time of war, upon approval of the attorney general. Later after much thought many of the applicants of renunciation appealed their decision and 5,409 asked to have their citizenship returned (4,978 were granted).

In Hawaii the government couldn’t incarcerate the population of Japanese-Americans. Most of the economy and population hinged on the backs of the Japanese farmers, fishermen, everyday workers, and shop owners. Curfew laws came into effect here as well as most of the West Coast, the incarceration of Buddhist priests, and the government suspicion of any person of Japanese ancestry. However, the treatment of the Hawaiian Japanese-Americans was far better than the humiliation suffered by the mainland Japanese. This is where the 100th Battalion came from.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Government was still unsure on the loyalty of the Japanese-Americans and considered them 4C (Enemy Alien) and so the general population of Japanese were ineligible for the draft. Delos C. Emmons (Commanding General of the Army in Hawaii) discharged all Japanese Americans from the Hawaiian Territorial Guard, as well as the discharge of the 298th and 299th regiments of the National Guard of Hawaii. Dismayed at the lack of confidence in them the discharged veterans of the Hawaiian Territorial Guard offered their services in whatever capacity that the Army might choose to use them. This usually consisted of cleaning up the grounds, building new installations, and other menial tasks. They did it without complaint and did it with diligence and dedication. As a result, General Emmons reversed his decision and recommended to the War Department that the Japanese Americans should be formed into a special unit and be sent to the mainland for training and safekeeping in the event of another enemy attack.

On May 26, 1942, General George C. Marshall issued orders establishing the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion. On June 5th, the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion consisting of 1300 men and 29 officers, under the command of Lt. Col. Farrant Turner, sailed for the mainland and training. The Hawaiian Provisional Battalion landed in Oakland, California on June 10, 1942. Two days later the 100th Infantry Battalion was activated. The 100th Infantry battalion was assigned to the Second Army shortly after their arrival at Camp McCoy.

The 100th had their basic training from June to December. Most of them had already gone through these tests when they were part of the National Guard or Territorial Guard, so doing it again seemed a waste of time. However, not wanting to give the Army any excuse into sending them back they completed their basic training with superior ratings in the field and on the drill grounds. They also earned five Soldier’s Medals for heroism while not in combat for saving the lives of several local residents who almost drowned in a frozen lake.

The Army and the government still didn’t have too much trust in the “guinea pigs from Pearl Harbor”, and had several people keeping an eye on them during this time. All the officers of the 100th Battalion, and later the 442nd RCT, were haole (Hawaiian for white) and most had some background in psychology or were picked to keep tabs on the army’s new recruits.

In February of 1943, the 100th Battalion was transferred from Camp McCoy to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for advanced-unit training. They were now attached to the 69th Division. The 100th scored top marks and received a two-week rest period. Because of their excellent training record the decision was made to open the draft to all Japanese-Americans. In the nine months that the 100th Battalion existed President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War Department were forced by the steady stream of petitions and interventions by prominent Americans, both civilian and military, to re-open military service to Americans of Japanese ancestry.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was a unit composed of Japanese Americans who fought in Europe during the Second World War. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment. The 442nd was a self-sufficient fighting force, and fought with distinction in North Africa, Italy, southern France, and Germany, becoming the most highly decorated unit of its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Army, including 21 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

The 442nd RCT consisted of the following units: 442nd Headquarters Company, Anti-tank Company, Cannon Company, Medical Detachment, Service Company, 100th Battalion(Company HQ, A, B, C, D), 2d Battalion(Company E-H), 3d Battalion(Company I-M), 522d Field Artillery Battalion(Company A-C), 206 Army Band, and 232nd Combat Engineer Company.

One of the most decorated units in World War II. The 100th had the dubious distinction of being called the “Purple Heart Battalion” because almost everyone who served in the 100th had at least one Purple Heart. Like the Tuskeegee Airmen, the 100th Battalion/ 442nd Regimental Combat Team had to fight two wars, one in Europe and one at home.

“At full strength the 442nd only numbered 4,500 men, but this unit earned over 3,900 individual decorations.”

-From the book “Americans:The Story of the 442nd Combat Team”

Because of it’s success during basic training and advanced training the United States Army began the activation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on February 1, 1943. President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd RCT, with the famous words, “Americanism is not, and never was, a mater of race or ancestry.” The call to arms was sounded and those that answered astounded and probably shocked the Army. The original plan called for a quota of 3,000 volunteers from the mainland and 1,500 from Hawaii. Nearly 10,000 Hawaiian nisei (second generation Japanese-Americans) volunteered and over 2,600 were accepted. And from the mainland the Japanese from the internment camps, only 1,256 nisei volunteered. There were some 23,606 nisei of draft age in the camps. From the camp volunteers around 800 were inducted into the Army.

By June 1943, the 442nd RCT arrived at Camp Shelby. The 100th Battalion was just finishing up advanced training in Louisiana. There were some reunions of cousins and old friends, and also at this time some sibling rivalry. There were many fights that broke out between the two units during their time together at Camp Shelby, but slowly a mutual respect developed, and soon the 100th Battalion was called and sent overseas while the 442nd started their training.

In July of 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion received its colors emblazoned with the motto, “Remember Pearl Harbor.” It was time for the men of the 100th Battalion to set off and prove themselves. August 11, 1943, they left Camp Shelby for North Africa. It would be nine long months of heavy fighting before the 442nd would team up with the 100th in Italy.

Attached to the famed 34th “Red Bull” Division…Landing in Oran, North Africa on September 2, the 100th was originally going to be guarding the supply trains in North Africa. Colonel Farrant L. Turner had other plans and insisted that the 100th be committed to combat. They were then attached to the 34th “Red Bull” Division. The 34th Division was the first US division to enter combat and fought with the British at Kasserine Pass and around Tunis in North Africa. The Commanding General of the 34th Division was Major General Charles W. Ryder. The 100th Battalion took the place of the top-rated 2d Battalion, 133d Infantry Regiment (which was designated as General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters “palace” guards).

September 19th, 1943, the 34th Division left Oran and headed for Italy. They landed at Salerno, Italy on September 26th, and then the 100th left for their first objective: Monte Marano. On September 28th, 1943, the first casualty of the 100th was taken. 1st Lt. Conrad Tsukayama, then sergeant and squad leader in D Company, was hit by a fragment from a land mine and was slightly wounded in the face.

On the 29th of September, the 100th led the advance on the drive to Monte Milleto. B Company was on point with the 3d platoon, when the Germans opened fired with machine guns, mortar, and artillery. Sgt. Shigeo “Joe” Takata was hit in the head by a ricocheting machine gun bullet while advancing and spotting a machine gun nest. Dying from his wounds Sgt. Takata pointed out the nest for his platoon and they finally silenced the gun. Later that day in a separate action, Private Tanaka of the 2d platoon was killed to make him the second KIA for the 100th.

In two days of combat the 100th Battalion gained one hero and started their unwilling start on the “Purple Heart Battalion” legend. They lost 2 men KIA and 7 wounded in action (WIA). The Germans were forced to give up seven miles of real estate, one bridge, two towns, and several road junctions. In the first week of combat (September 28th – October 4th) the 100th suffered 3 KIA, 23 WIA, and 13 injured in accidents.

Moving north the 100th banged into the 29th Panzer Grenadier Regiment that was defending a road junction near San Angelo d’Alife, on October 17th, 1943. The enemy was entrenched behind minefields and fortified machine-gun nests. Artillery and “screaming meemies”(six barrel rocket launchers) showered shell fragments on the 100th. For two days the 100th and 3d Battalion, 133d Regiment, drove the Germans back and took over the area. It was during this fight that Private Masao Awakuni single-handedly knocked out a tank with his bazooka shot and earned the Distinguished Service Cross. Also during the fight after crossing the Volturno River the platoon led by S/Sgt Ozaki ordered his platoon to fix bayonets and charge toward a hedgerow, over a low stone wall and over the road.

January 24th, 1944, the 100th was put back on the line and put in the offensive to take Cassino. Facing them was the 1st German Parachute Division(a crack division entrenched in the Gustav Line). Below the German position, the German army had demolished every building and cleared away the trees so that any movement can be clearly spotted. On top of that the Rapido River had flooded and for 200 yards it was nothing but mud and mines. Companies A and C of the 100th moved to the river wall. During the night Maj. Dewey and Maj. James Johnson and Capt. Mitsuyoshi Fukuda made a further reconnaissance of the area of attack for Companies A and C. During the recon they were caught in artillery and machine-gun fire. They were forced to run into a minefield and one of the mines blew up beneath them. Maj. Johnson died and Maj. Dewey was wounded. In broad daylight B Company tried to follow A and C to the river wall but were caught in artillery and machine-gun fire. Out of 187 men 14 made it to the wall. Depleted of their top command, the battalion was ordered to San Michele for reorganization.

On February 8th, after the battalion was refitted the 100th attacked in the dead of winter. They secured Hill 165 with light resistance. However, the right and left flanks were unable to keep pace with the 100th battalion. The 100th dug in and waited for four days but resistance on the flanks were fierce and made their position perilous. The 100th were ordered to fall back behind the hills adjacent to Cassino to join the regimental reserves.

On September 22, 1943, the 100th Battalion had 1,300 men. After five months of fighting it could only muster 521. Because of the sacrifices of the “Original” 100th Battalion the battalion became known as “The Purple Heart Battalion” and “the little iron men.”

On February 18th, the 34th Division launched its final attack on Cassino. The 100th Battalion was under-strength, one platoon moved into line with 40 men….they came back with 5. The 100th regained the ground halfway up to the stone Abbey, but the 100th was ordered back when their flank support collapsed. The 100th were ordered back to Alife for replacements and reissue of equipment.

The 34th Division with the 100th almost took Casino in one day, but before they could they ran out of men and material. Army records later noted that five fresh divisions finally were required to take Cassino along with aerial bombardments. The 34th almost took it alone.

In the nine months of fighting that the 100th Battalion underwent the 442nd RCT were finishing final combat training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. During their training replacements from the 442nd RCT were sent to the depleted 100th Bat. In six months, the 442nd RCT had sent 530 enlisted men and 40 officers.

On March 6, 1944, after being reviewed by Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, orders were received by the 442nd RCT to “prepare for overseas movement.” In april, the 442nd were sent to a staging area at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and on May 1st, they were on Liberty ships heading out of Chesapeake Bay to head east across the Atlantic. However, the 442nd left behind their 1st Battalion to act as a cadre for replacements. The trip took over 28 days, and on June 2, 1944, they disembarked at Naples. The staging area here was near the town of Bagnoli.

Sometime between June 9-11, 1944, the 442nd arrived at Civitavecchia, and was officially attached to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was then attached to the 34th Division. The Regimental Combat Team structure created a self sustaining force. The RCT system, as was noted earlier, consisted of 3 infantry battalions, anti-tank company, cannon company, medical detachment, service company, field artillery battalion, combat engineer company, and an Army band. Because of the distinguished service record the 100th Battalion, which became the 1st Bat. of the 442nd RCT, was allowed to retain its original designation.

As Lyn Crost documented in her book, “Honor by Fire,” the animosities between the 100th Bat. and the larger 442nd RCT flared up again once the two units were combined. On the one hand the 100th Bat. was fiercely proud of their Red Bull insignia, which they preferred to wear rather than the regiment’s “Go for Broke” insignia. Also the men of the 100th Bat. felt that their accomplishments in the field allowed the deployment of the 442nd into combat, but now they were being “swallowed up” by the 442nd. On the other hand, the 442nd were proud that they consisted of mostly “volunteers” and not draftees (many of the 100th Bat. were a part of the Hawaii Territorial Guard and U.S. Army prior to Dec. 7, 1941). And so besides the old feuds that had existed between the two groups the added problem of “unit loyalty” came into play. It took some time for these differences to be resolved and unit cohesion set into place.

SSGt. Kasuo Masuda, 2nd Bat. was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Crawling two hundred yards through enemy fire, he secured a 60mm mortar tube and ammunition, and dragged it back to his post. Missing a base plate for the mortar tube, he used his helmet. For the next 12 hours he single handedly fired the mortar without leaving his post, except to run for more ammunition.

During that time, he repulsed two counter-attacks. Masuda was later killed on patrol along the Arno River when he deliberately sacrified himself so the men with him could deliver vital information to their headquarters.

At the end of the war the Masuda family was warned by vigilantes not to return from the Gila River Internment Camp to their farm in Talbert, California, near Santa Ana. But they did. It was there that a special ceremony was done with General Joseph Stillwell presenting to the family Kazuo Masuda’s DSC award.

June 26, 1944, the newly combined 100/442 RCT were placed into action with the 2nd and 3rd Bat. placed in advance with the 100th in reserve, marching northward to Suvereto to relieve the men of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 142nd Infantry Regiment en route to Belvedere.

Heavy fire and counterattacks from the enemy on a hilltop held up the advance of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. General Ryder, furious at the failure of the two units to penetrate and continue the advance, stormed into the HQ of the 100th Bat. and ordered it on line. In what can be described as a “quarterback sneak,” the 100th Bat. attacked between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. In the process they destroyed or captured: killing 178 Germans, wounding 20, capturing 73, destroying or capturing tanks, trucks, jeeps, and heavy weapons. For this action the 100th Bat. received their first of three Presidential Unit Citations. The 100th Bat. suffered 4 men killed, and 7 wounded.

Inspired and spurred on by this mometum the 2nd and 3rd battalions sustained the attack and began to function as a team. The 442nd took the towns of Sassetta and Castagneto quickly.

As Chester Tanaka wrote: “In three weeks of combat, from July 1 to July 22, the 100/442 melded into a fighting unit. The 100th and the 2nd and 3rd battalions came of age.” No longer existed the animosity between the two groups. They’ve seen each other in action, and respected each others abilities and differences. Now they became a cohesive unit. Which would help them sustain each other in the face of events to come.

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Before I go I would like to share a wrong number to the history hotline with you. Well actually it may not be a wrong number, because I have no idea what she is saying. If anyone would like to translate for me it would be much appreciated. You can email me at historypodcast@gmail.com. Also please visit the website to find out more information about the subjects we cover on the show as well as add yourself to the frapper map.


  • Goforbroke.org – Great website full of wonderful content, including audio and video resources!