After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Japanese-Americans
in the armed forces were discharged because the Government was unsure of their loyalty.
Those who remained had menial jobs such as cleaning and building.
However, in light of
their hard work and dedication, General Delos C. Emmons of the Hawaii’ian Army created a
special Japanese-American battalion which became known as the 100th Battalion.
In June of 1942 the 1300 soldiers and 29 officers of the 100th Battalion came to the
mainland to begin training. Even though most of the soldiers had already done these tests,
they did not want to give the Army any reason to send them back.
Not only was the battalion’s performance exemplary, but five soldiers also received
medals for saving the lives of several local residents who almost drowned in a frozen
The 100th Battalion was still thought of as “the guinea pigs from Pearl Harbor.”
All of the officers were haole (Hawaii' ian for white), and most were there to observe the
However, the draft was eventually opened to all Japanese-Americans because of the
because of the 100th excellent training record. President Roosevelt announced the
formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on February 1, 1943, with the words, “Americanism
is not, and never was, a mater of race or ancestry.”
Finally, on August 11, 1943, the 100th Battalion left for Oran, North Africa. Although
the battalion was initially supposed to be guarding supply trains, Colonel Farrant L.
Turner insisted that the 100th be committed to combat.
The 100th banded with the 34th “Red Bull” Division, and left for Salerno, Italy.
Here, the 100th led the advance on Monte Milleto. In the first week of combat (September
28 ~ October 4) the 100th lost 3 men killed in action (KIA), 23 wounded in action
(WIA),and 13 injured in action.
The 100th had started its path toward becoming the “Purple Heart Battalion”; A name
given because so many of the soldiers were killed or wounded in action. Their own motto
was “Go For Broke.”
On January 24, 1944, the 100th was put back on the front line. They made several
efforts to take Monte Casino and almost took it in one day. However, they had to withdraw
because of serious losses and shortage of materials.
Five fresh divisions, along with aerial attacks, were finally required to take Casino.
The 34th Division with the 100th Battalion almost took it alone.
The 100th was joined with the 442nd RCT in June 1944. Both went on to fight many
battles, and despite high casualty rates, they both had few desertions. In two years of
fighting, they became the most decorated units in US military history.
Out of the more than 16,000 Nisei who served in the war a total of 700 soldiers were
killed and 9,500 Purple Hearts were awarded. Perhaps the 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT
were most notable perhaps because they fought and won two wars: one overseas, and one at