I know two of my father's brothers served in the 442nd Regiment during WWII. I know my mother's sister's husband was a translator for the U.S. Army. I know my mother's best friend's husband and his brother were in the 100th battalion. The husband came home, his brother died in Italy. It seems every Japanese-American knows somebody who served or died in the 100th/442nd. I remember our jeweler in Chicago telling us that he was part of the 442nd who was sent to rescue The Lost (Texas) Battalion.
From the Go For Broke National Education Center website:
"During the six days the 442nd fought to rescue the Lost Battalion, 54 men were killed and many, many more were wounded and sent to hospitals. During the entire Vosges Campaign, 34 days of almost non-stop combat - liberating Bruyeres and Biffontaine, rescuing the 211 Texans, and nine more days of driving the Germans through the forest - the 442nd’s total casualties were 216 men dead and more than 856 wounded."
Senator Daniel Inouye was in the 442nd and lost his arm in Europe. To listen to him talk of his experiences is gut wrenching.
"The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service, in the entire history of the U.S. Military. The 4,000 men who initially came in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 3.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations. Its 100th battalion is the most decorated for its size in the history of the U.S. Army, 21 of its members having been awarded Medals of Honor. Members of the 442nd received 18,143 awards..."
My mother was wanting to see this movie, 442 Live With Honor, Die With Dignity that is playing at the Ward Theater in Honolulu so we took her on Monday. We were surprised to find the theater completely full.
We knew about the prejudice suffered by Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor as well as the Internment camps and how it devastated American citizens of Japanese descent. Yes, I knew many people served in the 100th/442nd, but I didn't know the full story. This film made me realize just how much we owed to these "Go For Broke" soldiers who suffered what they did not just because they were Americans, but because they had to prove that they were with their lives. African-Americans have had to suffer the same trial throughout America's past.
I wish the history of what happened could be a lesson to future generations so that we don't repeat that injustice, but people do forget... and prejudice needs very little encouragement to grow.
Many of the Japanese-Americans of that time don't like talking about what happened. There was so much shame and hatred flung at them. The soldiers didn't like talking about their experiences because killing was abhorrent to them and they'd been through hell and didn't want to burden anyone with their pain.
I'm glad they created this film. This story needed to be told because we're seeing that same sort of prejudice happen all over again with the Muslim community. I just hope this isn't a kind of American history that is doomed to repeat itself.