Japanese Americans had been part of the United States since 1885. This year marks the 134th year anniversary of large scale Japanese immigration.

Today, there are more than a million Japanese Americans. This number is about one half of one percent of the U.S. population.

Because of the size, their story has often been overlooked or sometimes forgotten. Yet, their story is important and, in many ways, unique.

Like most European immigrants, Japanese Americans came to the United States for economic opportunity. Unlike their European counterparts, they were not fleeing a hostile or oppressive government or king. Yet, Japanese Americans experienced prejudice and discrimination, perhaps to a higher degree than any other immigrant group.

From the very beginning, Japanese Americans were deprived of rights that were guaranteed to other immigrants. They were denied Constitutional rights to become citizens, own land, live in certain areas, or enter many professions. Many local, state and Federal laws were passed, excluding them from the opportunities enjoyed by other new immigrants.

After the outbreak of World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, businesses and land and were sent to ten remote and desolate concentration camps. Many languished in these camps until the end of the war. Yet, their resolve and faith in the U.S. never wavered. According to historian Edwin O. Reichauer, “None retained greater faith in the basic ideals of America or showed stronger determination to establish their rights to full equality and justice, even when their fellow Americans seemed to deny them both. None shared greater loyalty to the United States or greater willingness to make sacrifices in the battlefield or at the home front for their country.”

More than 33,000 second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) served faithfully, honorably and with courage in the Armed Forces of the United States. It can be said that they fought a war on two fronts: a war against the enemies in Europe and the Pacific, and the enemy of prejudice at home.


Go For Broke!

Japanese American Soldiers

Fighting on Two Fronts



Curated by

Eric Saul


Text written by:

Chester Tanaka

Shig Kihara

Eric Saul


In Cooperation With:

National Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution

Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island

National Park Service

Japanese American National Museum

National Japanese American Historical Society

Nisei Veterans Legacy Center

Japanese American Veterans Association

Club 100

442 Club

Hawaii State Archives





The Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts exhibit was made possible with the help of the following organizations:  National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), San Francisco; Japanese American National Museum (JANM), Los Angeles; 442nd Veterans Club, Honolulu; Club 100, Honolulu; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Gedenkstaette Dachau, Munich; Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC), Los Angeles; Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu; Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation; Japanese American Citizens League (JACL); Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), Washington, DC; Library of Congress; MIS Veterans Clubs, Norcal and Honolulu; National Archives and Records Administration; Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, Maui; Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles; Sons and Daughters of the 442nd RCT, Hololulu; Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island and the National Park Service; Survivors of the Outer Camps of Dachau; Twin Cities JACL Chapter.

We would like to thank the following Japanese American veterans: Chester Tanaka, Mike Masaoka, Tom Kawaguchi, Terry Shima, Shig Kihara, Harry Iwafuchi, Hiro Takasugawa, Shig Doi, Senator Daniel Inouye, MH, Senator Spark Matsunaga, Colonel Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, Judge John Aiso, Paul T. Bannai, Frank Dobashi, Kenji Ego, Monty Fujita, Colonel Harry Fukuhara, Nobuo Furuiye, Liebe Geft, Hank Gosho, Tak Goto, Richard Hayashi, Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, Albert Ichihara, Ichiro Imamura, Susumo Ito, Shig Iwasaki, Arthur Kaneko, Shiro Kashino, DSC, Bob Katayama, Mas Kawaguchi, Colonel Tom Kobayashi, Mits Kojimoto, Bob Kubo,  Joseph Kurata, Ben Kuroki, Don Kuwaye, Buddy Mamiya, Tad Masaoka, Clarence Matsumura, Robert Midzuno, Ted Miyagishima, Mitch Miyamoto, Art Morimitsu, Mote Nakasato, William Nakatani, Wally Nunotani, Ron Oba, William Oda, Paul Ohtaki, Tosh Okamoto, George Ouiye, Colonel Henry Oyasato, Barry Saiki, Lawson Sakai, Haru Sakaji, George Sakato, MH, Robert Sasaki, Bob Sato, Yone Satoda, Satoru Shikiasho, Terry Shima, Marshall Sumida, Kan Tagami, Michio Takata, Shiro Takeshita, Ben Tamashiro, Milton Tanizawa, Bob Thompson, Tadashi Tojo, Rudy Tokiwa, Shiro Tokuno, Mel Tominaga, John Tsukano, Ted Tsukiyama, Gene Uratsu, Marvin Uratsu, Bob Utsumi, Jack Wakamatsu, Jun Yamamoto, Shig Yokote, Noby Yoshimura, George Yoshino, and many, many others.

Others we would like to thank are: Colonel James Hanley (Commander, 2nd Battalion, 442nd RCT), Major Orville C. Shirey (Executive Officer, 442nd RCT), General William R. Peers (Commander, OSS Detachment 101), Captain Norman Kurlan and General Mark Clark.  We would also like to thank the families of General Joseph Stillwell, Colonel Charles Pence and Colonel Virgil Miller. 

We would also like to thank: Daisy Satoda, S. Dillon Ripley, Norman Mineta, Etsu Masaoka, Brian Buhl, Melanie N. Agrabante, Uri Chanoch, Abe Cooper, Loni Ding, Barbara Distel, Yo Doi, David Fukuda, Pola Ganor, Solly Ganor, Tara Hadibrata, Edgar Hamasu, Paul Hara, Mas Hashimoto, Glen Hayashi, Carole Hayashino, Shirley Ann Higuchi, JD, Phyllis Hironaka, Arnold Hirura, Ernie Hollander, Bill Hosokawa, Tom Ikeda, Mae Isonaga, George Johnson, Ann Kabasawa, Stanley Kanazaki, Bob Kane, Zvi Katz, Karen Nunotani Kern, Colonel Young O. Kim, DSC, Greg Kimura, Lillian Kimura, Don Koppel, Sharon Kulley, Luella Kurkjian, Mitch Maki, Mary Masuda, Hugo Mendoza, Claire Mitani, Archie Miyatake, Peggy Mizumoto, Darice Mori, Floyd Mori (JACL), Pierre Moulin, Sheila Newlin, Brian Niiya, Don Nose, Catherine Nunotani, Franklin S. Odo, Toshio Okamoto, Eric Penrod, Tom Pfannenstiel, Pamela Sakamoto, Frank Sato, Katriel Schorey, Ross Segawa, Susan Shaner, General Eric Shinseki, LTC Donald R. Sims, Sally Sudo, Tomoye Takahashi, Cookie Takeshita, Linda Tamura, Jim and Yoshi Tanabe, David Tanaka, Masako "Missi" Tanaka, Rosalyn Tonai, Mark Cotta Vaz, Kyle I. Watanabe, Lori Whaley, Bryan Yagi. 

The Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts exhibit that was curated and shown at the Ellis Island Museum, and later at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, was donated to the Nisei Veterans Legacy Center (NVLC) in Hawaii.  The exhibit was presented in a number of important venues, including the Hawaii State Capitol.  Special thanks go to the officers and members of the NVLC: Wes Deguchi, Glenn E. Goya, Lawrence M. G. Enemoto, Mark Matsunaga, Byrnes Yamashita.

The Early Years

1885 - 1907

Japanese laborers were recruited in Japan to replace the Chinese who were excluded from further immigrating to the United States of America in 1882. Most of the Japanese immigrants came from the less populated Western Japan where the agrarian distress was greatest.

Avoiding universal military conscription in Japan and the desire for economic improvement were some of the major factors that encouraged emigration.

Hundreds of students were sent abroad by the Japanese government to learn and to bring home Western knowledge. A few remained to make their homes in America.

Japanese laborers coming to Hawaii entered into contracts with sugar plantations for a term of 3 to 5 years.

Between 1885 and 1895, 28,691 Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii. Many soon left for the Mainland.

By 1900, there were some 60,000 Japanese residing in the Islands, forming nearly 40 percent of the total population of Hawaii. On the mainland, in 1900, there were only 24,000 Japanese. Most settled in California.

In 1900, the United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands, freeing thousands of Issei from their labor contracts on Hawaiian sugar plantations. Thousands went to the mainland.

In 1906 the San Francisco school board ordered the segregation of less than 100 Japanese students, one-fourth of whom were American citizens. In rescinding the segregation order mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Japanese government accepted the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” in 1907 which would permit no more Japanese laborers to enter the United States.

However, between 1901 and 1908, during a period of unrestricted immigration, more than 127,000 Japanese emigrated to the U.S. This number represented less than 3% of California’s population.


The Vanguard Arrives – The Issei

Pre - 1885

Japan was a nation isolated from the rest of the world by a shogun’s decree for more than 250 years. Only the Chinese, Dutch and Koreans had limited access to Japan through a single port in Nagasaki Bay.

The very first Japanese to arrive in Hawaii were the eight shipwrecked sailors picked up by an American ship and brought to Honolulu on May 5, 1806.

In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry, leading a squadron of warships, demanded the opening of Japan to Americans. Japan was in no position to refuse.

In January 1868, the shogun was ousted from power and imperial rule restored.

With the increasing demand for plantation workers in Hawaii, the planters looked to Japan for cheap laborers. Although Japanese laws still prohibited labor emigration, 149 Japanese left on board a British ship without official clearance and arrived in Honolulu. The year was 1868, the first year of the Meiji era. These people are, therefore, referred to as Gannen Mono (first year people). The project was unsuccessful because these immigrants had been recruited from urban areas; none were farmers.

King Kalakaua, while visiting Tokyo in 1881, expressed his desire to see legal equality for Japanese in Hawaii. His effort, however, was opposed by the Western powers.

Emigration became legal in Japan in 1884, and the first official Japanese immigrants (called Issei, meaning first generation), some 900 men, women and children, arrived in Honolulu on February 8, 1885. King Kalakaua was at the immigration depot to officially welcome them.


The Deepening Roots

1907 - 1924

Most of the Issei who immigrated to the continental U.S. arrived between 1900 and 1915. Most were single men who later married, after successfully establishing themselves.

The majority of the Japanese immigrants had remained sojourners at heart, dreaming of the day they could return to their native villages with accumulated wealth. Most came to America almost penniless.

It was difficult to save money. As the years passed, their roots in America deepened. Picture brides arrived, and the family and their children, called Nisei (second generation), became the focus of the immigrants’ lives.

First arriving on the West Coast and in the Mountain States, many worked on the railroads for one dollar a day. Thousands of Japanese laborers were also employed in the saw mills, lumber camps and coal or copper mines. In interior America and on the East Coast, Japanese pioneers were few and widely scattered. Few were men of any substance who came well-financed. Many became successful farmers, flower growers, fishermen and small business owners.

The greatest impact of the Japanese on the American scene during the early decades of the Twentieth Century was in agriculture. They reclaimed unwanted land and developed it into rich agricultural areas. By 1900, the Japanese had cultivated some 4,500 acres in California; by 1919, more than 450,000 acres. In 1900, they cultivated only 4 percent of the state’s farmlands, yet produced 50 to 90 percent of fruits and vegetables.

The Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 prevented the immigrant Japanese from legally owning land and limited farmland leases to only a few years.

Further, Japanese Americans were excluded from American political life by laws, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, that excluded persons of Asian ancestry from becoming naturalized American citizens.

The Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 stopped further Asian immigration to the United States.

The New Generation – The Nisei

1924 -1941

As the years went by, Japanese American families decided to make the United States their permanent home. These were the childhood and adolescent years of the children born to Japanese immigrants. They did well in school, and many became bilingual by attending Japanese language schools after regular classroom hours.

The cultural values that the immigrants brought with them from Japan—filial piety, perseverance, self-reliance, hard work, individual and social obligations—were inculcated into the children.

It was a period of rejection, denial, rebellion and accommodation for most Japanese Americans. Insurmountable discrimination still existed in employment, housing, public accommodations and social interaction. Faced with a permanent alien status, and seeing the intense discrimination against them and their children in America, some families sent their sons (known as Kibei) to Japan for education.

Roots in America, however, were now deep and permanent. The immigrant generation saw education as the chief tool for their children’s chance for success in America. No sacrifice was too large and no effort too great in this single-minded effort.

Just before the outbreak of war, most Japanese American families were prosperous members of the lower middle class, owning small businesses and farms.

Most children of Japanese immigrants were contemplating plans for higher education when their dreams suddenly collapsed in ruins on December 7, 1941.

Of Trial and Valor


Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese bombers on December 7, 1941. The United States declared war on Japan the following day.

In Hawaii and on the Mainland, the FBI arrested and interned hundreds of first generation Japanese community leaders. Many remained in custody for the duration of the war.

All persons of Japanese ancestry were expelled from their West Coast homes and confined in inland concentration camps. A child complained, “Mommy, I don’t like it here. Let’s go home to America.” In Hawaii, the Japanese Americans were not incarcerated en masse. On the mainland, however, a total of 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned without charge or a hearing. There was not a case of espionage or sabotage by Japanese Americans before, during or after Pearl Harbor.

When the United States declared war on Japan in 1941, there were about 5,000 Japanese Americans in the armed forces. Many were summarily discharged or reclassified 4C—enemy aliens ineligible for service. However, by the end of World War II, some 33,000 Japanese Americans had served in the U.S. armed forces.

In January 1943, the U.S. War Department announced that Japanese American volunteers would be accepted for combat duty. The volunteers came from Hawaii and from within the mass detention camps on the mainland. This segregated Japanese American 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service.

The need for Japanese language specialists was recognized early, and Japanese speaking men and women were covertly recruited into the Military Intelligence Service. Eventually 6,000 served in the Pacific Theater.


1945 - 1952

Japanese Americans were free to return to their homes on the West Coast in January 1945. Returning home, however, was not easy. Rightful owners had difficulty reclaiming property left behind. Japanese Americans became targets of violence and terrorism.

The Pacific War ended in August 1945, but the last concentration camp did not close until October 1946, and the last special internment camp did not close until 1952.

Reconstructing their lives was difficult. For some it was too late. Elderly pioneers had lost everything they worked for all their lives, and were now too old and shattered to start anew. Many of the American-born Nisei could no longer afford to go to college because family support became their prime responsibility.

Families had disintegrated under the prison-like conditions, and some became disoriented and embittered. Adults could never forget the experience, and children faced the life-long stigma of their birth certificate or school records indicating they spent their childhood in captivity by their own government.

Among all of the immigrants, the Japanese were the last to be granted, in 1952, the privilege of becoming naturalized American citizens. Tens of thousands joined their children in celebration of their new status as American citizens for which they had labored hard and to which they had contributed so much.


The Legacy

1952 -1987

The immigrant parents’ intense commitment to education was now bearing fruit. As opportunities opened, Japanese Americans were well-prepared. When, in 1959, Hawaii became the fiftieth state, the first Japanese American Congressman, Daniel K. Inouye, was elected.

Within a decade after World War II, nearly 600 legal barriers that had blocked Japanese American participation in the nation’s life were eliminated. Many of the laws were challenged and overturned by Japanese American veterans.

In their sunset years, the Issei immigrant generation watched their children climb up the economic, social and political ladder, reaching grounds they dared only to dream about. By 1960, less than one third of the Japanese Americans were still in agriculture and more than 38 percent were in professional and technical fields. In their children, the Issei saw the extension of their own hopes.

More than half of the succeeding generations have inter-married. In America, there is increasing acceptance and appreciation of the contributions of the multi-racial multi-cultural groups. The richness of America is in the multitude of distinct and varied ethnicity of its people.


Go For Broke!

The Story of Japanese American Soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team

This is the story of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, two units that consisted mainly of Japanese Americans, who faced the adversity of ignorance and prejudice after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but whose battlefield record helped gain the trust and respect of a nation.

The opening chapter began with the formation of the 100th Infantry Battalion. At the time Pearl Harbor was bombed, there were many Japanese Americans already in the army both in Hawaii and on the mainland. A number of them were serving with the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments, Hawaii National Guard. Others who had been drafted were stationed at Schofield Barracks. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, their loyalty was in question. Their weapons were taken away and they were assigned to menial labor duty. The Japanese Americans were classified enemy aliens: 4-C and no longer eligible for the draft. The community pressed for an active role for the Japanese Americans. In June 1942, the impending invasion of Midway Island by a Japanese armada posed a problem for the military—what role would the Japanese Americans in uniform play? The solution was to ship the Japanese Americans, officers and men, of the Hawaii National Guard to the mainland as the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion. This group was comprised of 29 officers and 1,300 enlisted men. They sailed to the mainland on June 6 and traveled by truck and rail to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and were assigned to the Second Army. At Camp McCoy, the AJA unit from Hawaii was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). In February 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion was transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi and participated in maneuvers in Mississippi and Louisiana to undergo large-unit training. They achieved a superb training record.


Brothers in Arms

Meeting of the 100th and 442nd at Camp Shelby

On February 1, 1943, President Roosevelt authorized the formation of a combat team made up of Japanese Americans. A call went out in Hawaii and on the mainland for volunteers for an all-Japanese American unit—the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The response in Hawaii was overwhelming, as nearly 10,000 men applied. Selected were 2,645 men, including 230 draftees from Schofield Barracks. On the mainland, approximately 1,300 volunteers were selected.

In April 1943, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team assembled in Camp Shelby, Mississippi for training that would last one year. During summer of 1943, the 100th, after completing their Louisiana exercise, met briefly with the new recruits of the 442nd, a reunion of sorts for the men from Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, the 100th completed their long training period and was ready for overseas duty.

It was a time for some sibling rivalry. The island Japanese Americans were known as "buddhaheads"—­a euphemistic rendition of the pidgin Japanese term, "buta-head," meaning pighead. The Nisei mainlanders were called "kotonks"—a term connoting the sound of an empty coconut hitting the ground. Cultural differences and missed promotions seemed to play a part in the friction between the two groups. It reached the point where several bust-ups occurred. Some overbearing and officious mainland noncoms got to be too much for the buddhaheads and the sound of empty coconuts hitting the ground reverberated at Camp Shelby. The rivalry died down as soon as the 100th was alerted for overseas duty.


100th Joins 34th Red Bull Division

The 100th left the U.S. and arrived in Oran, North Africa, on September 2, 1943. After a short stay, a message came informing the 100th that they were to join the renowned 34th “Red Bull” Division of the Fifth Army.

The 34th Red Bull Division was com­posed of men from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas. The Red Bull was the first division from the United States to enter combat, and its men had fought with great distinction in North Africa. It had fought with the British to hammer the Nazis at Kasserine Pass, at Hill 609 (army term for 609 meters height), and in and around Tunis. This division had more battle experience than any other American troops at the time. The Com­manding General of the 34th Division, Maj Gen Charles W. Ryder, was elated to hear that a separate infantry battalion was available. He cared little about the color or race of the troops. He needed a fighting, dependable infantry battalion. He got the 100th.

On September 22, the 100th landed on the beaches of Salerno, Italy. Their first combat occurred at Castelvetere on September 28, where they suffered their first casualty. This was followed by fierce fighting at three separate crossings of the Volturno River. Combat intensity became even greater at Rapido River and Cassino, followed by the final breakout from the Anzio beachhead. During these battles, the 100th distinguished themselves, earning the respect of their fellow soldiers of other units. They survived enemy mine fields and assaults by enemy armor, infantry and artillery. They made bayonet charges and fought off countless counter-attacks. Their ferocity in action and their determination to win against all odds earned them the respect and trust of the U.S. Army. They earned respect with a lot of bloodshed and loss of lives. Over 1,000 Purple Hearts were awarded during this period, gaining the 100th Infantry Battalion the nickname of the “Purple Heart Battalion,” The men of the 100th had proved that their loyalty was beyond question.


The Mississippi Mud

From October 1943 through February 1944, with a few days off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the men and officers of the 442d trained in the hills and swamps of Mississippi at Camp Shelby.  The excellent training record of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team showed they were ready for overseas action.

During combat training, the men of the 442d would field-strip rifles, move double-time on marches, and hurl grenades. Then they would work together in larger and larger fighting units. It was the period for blending and meshing the operations of squads, platoons, companies, battalions, and regiments as cogs in the juggernaut of division and army. It was the full and efficient fusion of all the components of the Combat Team - the coordi­nation of the rifle companies, battalions, and regiment with artillery, cannon, engineers, anti-tank, heavy weap­ons, and I and R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance). Unit training meant days and weeks in the field under simulated combat conditions. This was the make-or-break period for final stateside training before going overseas.

Any remaining doubts had been erased by the performance of the 100th on the battlefield. The 442nd had already sent replacements to the 100th beginning in December 1943; three complements totaling 524 enlisted men and 31 officers filled the ranks of the depleted 100th. This meant that the Regiment did not have a full complement. Therefore, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team went overseas with the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Battalions, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, Cannon Company, Anti-Tank Company, Regimental Headquarters Company, Service Company, Medical Detachment, 232nd Combat Engineers, and the 206th Army Band. A group remained in Camp Shelby.


Baptism by Fire

On June 10, 1944, the 442nd RCT was attached to the 34th Division. On June 11, the 100th Infantry Battalion was attached to the 442nd RCT to serve as the 1st Battalion but keeping the 100th Battalion name. On June 26, the 442nd RCT first engaged the enemy near Suvereto spearheaded by the 2nd Battalion. Both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions encountered heavy enemy resistance. The 100th, which was in reserve, was called into action. They took the town of Belvedere and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. This outstanding victory by the 100th earned the Regiment the first Distinguished Unit Citation. The 34th Division pursued the retreating enemy northward and the Regiment participated in the capture of the port city of Livorno (Leghorn). By July 19, the enemy had been pushed back nearly 50 miles to the northern side of the Arno River. The 442nd was part of the Fifth Army holding the south side of the Arno with skirmishes taking place at times. In August 1944, the regiment was bivouacked at Vada and training continued. The Anti-Tank Company had been relieved in July and became part of the airborne invasion force that was to invade Southern France. They took part in Operation Dragoon which launched an attack near Cannes on August 15, 1944. The Anti-Tank Company would rejoin the 442nd months later on October 24 in the Vosges Mountains.


Assignment France

The Anvil Campaign

Changes in command took place, and on September 12, the 442nd was assigned to the Seventh Army and sailed to France, landing at Marseilles. There, the 442nd was assigned to the 36th Texas Division and by truck and rail traveled up the Rhone Valley to Epinal. On October 15, 1944, the 442nd began its Vosges Mountains campaign. Their objective was to take the town of Bruyères, a key transportation center. To secure the town, the enemy had to be dislodged from prepared positions on the hills surrounding the town. This was accomplished in five days. Following this, they withstood counterattacks. Then, a battalion of the 141st Infantry of the 36th Division became trapped by the enemy and became known as the “Lost Battalion.” After failure by units of the 36th Division to accomplish a rescue, the 442nd was pressed into action. On October 27 the 442nd began the operation to free the Lost Battalion. During the next four days, the 100th and 3rd Battalions were engaged in the bloodiest and fiercest fighting ever undertaken by the 442nd. The men fought from tree-to-tree, against hidden machine gun nests and tank-supported infantry. They charged through shrapnel-filled barrages of mortar and artillery fire and crossed minefields and booby traps. They never stopped in their drive to reach the entrapped battalion who had been isolated nearly a week and were low on food and ammunition. This feat is considered by the Army as one of its ten most outstanding battles. The 141st has never forgotten this and presented the 442nd a special plaque of appreciation.


Proving Their Loyalty by Their Blood

After this battle, General John E. Dahlquist of the 36th Division asked the men to be assembled so that he could thank them personally. When he saw the formation before him, he asked the commander of the 442nd, “Where are the rest of your men?” Colonel Virgil Miller choked when he replied, “You’re looking at the entire regiment--that’s all that’s left.” During its short stay in the Vosges Mountains, mid-October to mid-November, the 442nd suffered casualties of 1,086 including 161 dead. These numbers do not include the sick and non-combat injured. When the rescue was attempted, K Company had started with approximately 150 riflemen, but lost all of its officers and had 17 men left. I Company also lost all of its officers and had only eight men left. The “noncoms” took over. Other companies of the 3rd and 100th Battalions suffered similar losses.

The mission with the 36th Division was successful, but personnel and material had been severely depleted. The 100th was relieved on November 8 and sent to Southern France. The rest of the regiment followed on November 17. The 442nd guarded the French-Italian border in the Maritime Alps. They called it the “Champagne Campaign,” as R&R was included. During this assignment, the 442nd was brought back up to its regular strength with replacements and fresh supplies of material.


Returning to Italy

The Po Valley Campaign

At General Mark Clark’s personal request to General Dwight Eisenhower, the 442nd RCT, less the 522nd FA, was returned to Italy in March 1945. Their new assignment as part of the 92nd Division was to create a diversionary action on the western anchor of the Gothic Line. This sector had defied Allied assault for over five months. The enemy had had ample time to fortify their position, and the line appeared to be impregnable. Frontal assault was impossible—the enemy guns were in complete control. The solution was to conduct a surprise attack by scaling the nearly vertical mountainside. On April 5, 1945, the 442nd started their approach. During the dark hours before dawn, the men of the 442nd climbed for hours in tense silence to attain a “pincers” formation. They finally reached the top of the mountains and moved into position for attack. In the next 32 fantastic minutes, they took two key mountaintop enemy outposts. With this break in their line, the other enemy positions fell one by one. What started out as a diversionary attack by the 442nd soon developed into a major rout that destroyed the enemy’s western section. The Gothic Line that had stood for six months was finally broken!

By April 30, 1945, the 442nd had breached practically every position held by the enemy, and they were the first Allied troops to reach Turin. The 92nd Division was in complete control of the western sector and the enemy was surrendering in greater and greater numbers. Finally, on May 2, 1945, the German army in Italy surrendered. On May 8, the Third Reich formally surrendered. The Beachhead News reported, “The 442nd… never gave ground, never took a backward step.”


Above and Beyond
Honors and Awards

In less than two years, the 442nd RCT, including the 100th Infantry Battalion Separate and the 522nd FA, had successfully fought in eight major military campaigns: Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, the Rhineland, North Apennines, Central Europe and the Po Valley. Among the thousands of awards received by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were 21 Medals of Honor and eight Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations.  In addition, they received "52 Distinguished Service Crosses; 1 Distinguished Service Medal; 560 Silver Stars plus 28 Oak Leaf Clusters; 22 Legions of Merit; 15 Soldiers Medals; 4000 Bronze Stars with 1200 Oak Leaf Clusters; 9486 Purple Hearts; [...] 2 Meritorious Unit Service Plaques; 36 Army Commendations; 87 Division Commendations; 18 decorations from allied nations; and a special plaque of appreciation from the men of the ‘Lost Battalion.’” Several years after the war, Governor John Connolly of Texas issued a proclamation officially making all former members of the 442nd, “honorary Texans.” Altogether there were 18,143 individual decorations for valor, thus making the 100th and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team “the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States.”

Upon return to the United States in July 1946, the 442nd was honored with a parade at which time President Harry S. Truman pinned the final Distinguished Unit Citation (renamed “Presidential Unit Citation” in 1966) ribbon to the unit’s colors. The President stated, “…I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the privilege of being able to show you just how much the United States thinks of what you have done... You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice—and you won.”


Giri…sense of duty.

On…debt of gratitude.

Gamman…quiet endurance.










Oyakoko…love of the family.

Kodomo no tameni…for the sake of the children.

Shigata ga nai…it can’t be helped, resignation.

Shimbo shite seiko suru…strength grows from adversity.

Go For Broke…give it your best.


by Chester Tanaka, Tech Sgt K Company
442 Regimental Combat Team, 1943-1945

The year was 1943.  Europe was in the throes of the fourth year of war with the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, and Hitler’s domination of Europe was almost complete.  Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, North Africa and Poland were ground under the iron heel of the Nazis, and smaller or more distant countries were intimidated or eliminated.  England and Russia were under siege.  Italy, Germany’s Axis partner, bristled and chafed under Hitler’s iron collar.  The juggernaut of the greatest war machine the world had ever known was crunching inexorably toward global domination.

Standing in opposition were the Allies, the countries of the free world.  Under the overall leadership of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allies in Europe formed a triple tier of military defense: the Northern Group of Armies, the Central Group of Armies and the Southern Group of Armies, the latter commanded by Gen. Jacob L. Devers.  It was from this southern group that arose the 100 / 442, the unit that would later be called the “most decorated unit in United States military history.”

The 100th Infantry Battalion (separate) and the 442d Regimental Combat Team fought in seven campaigns in two countries, made two beachhead assaults – one by glider – and captured a submarine.  They fought the toughest troops the Nazis could throw at them – battle-wise veterans from the Afrika Korps, SS troops, Panzer brigades, and Soldaten from the Hermann Goering Division.  Joining the great combat divisions of the 5th and the 7th Armies, they hammered the enemy up the boot of Italy and back through the Vosges Forest in France.  They earned 9,486 Purple Hearts and 680 were killed in action.  They were awarded 18,143 individual decorations for bravery, including: 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses; 1 Distinguished Service Medal; 588 Silver Stars; 22 Legion of Merit medals; 19 Soldier’s Medals; 5,200 Bronze Stars and 14 Croix de Guerre, among many other decorations.

Click here to view article, "The Luckiest Man: Chester Tanaka,  K Company, 442ND RCT"



Who were these men who made up the “most decorated unit in United States military history”?  Where did they come from?  What made them fight as they did?

First and foremost, they were Americans.  They were like other American GIs.

They hummed and sang snatches of “Lili Marlene” and “That Old Black Magic” when these songs came crackling through the public address system.  They ate K-rations and cursed the man who invented them.  They blasted the guys in the rear echelons who grabbed all the Lucky Strikes and Camels and left them with Chelseas and Sensations to smoke.  They drank warm beer and were happy to get it.  They took off as fast as any GI when the MPs started sweeping the Off-Limits areas.  And, of course, they bled and hurt when wounded.  They were typical, run-of-the-mill American GIs.

However, there were some differences.

They liked rice.  Three times a day.

They had strange sounding names (Akira Okamoto, Silver Star); almond eyes (Paul Okamura, Purple Heart); black hair (Hiroshi Yasutake, Distinguished Service Cross); and brown skin (Keiji Taki, Bronze Star).

They were short.  Their average height was 5’4” and their average weight was 125 pounds, even when soaking wet in the European rain, with muddy boots, loaded M1, and three grenades.

They were a quartermaster’s nightmare.  They wore shirts with 13-1/2 necks and 27” sleeves; pants with 26” waists and 25” inseams.  And then there were the shoes – would you believe 2-1/2 EEE?

These were the Japanese American (Nisei, second generation) soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442d Regimental Combat Team.  All the members of the 100 / 442 were Japanese Americans except for some of the officers.


The returning Hawaiian veterans, Americans of Jap­anese ancestry, were greeted with open arms by the entire community. In Hawaii, they were members of the dominant minority—160,000 out of a total population of 400,000. The Nisei and the Issei were employed, were visible, and received favorable media reports. During the war, newspaper reports and radio commentaries had been sympathetic to the 100/442 GI. As the war came to an end, favorable news of the exploits of the Combat Team became even more common. Also, on the Hawaiian home front, a considerable number of Japanese Ameri­cans had conspicuous opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. They worked in civil defense, they built military installations, they bought gobs of war bonds, and they served in the Red Cross.

Although many of the mainland Japanese Ameri­cans did likewise when they could, often times it went unnoticed. They were a tiny minority—less than 1% of the mainland population. Even worse, they had been removed and unable to return to the area where their visible evidences of loyalty and devotion would have counted the most, the West Coast.

On the mainland, the Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast received a somewhat different home­coming. Night riders warned Mary Masuda—the sister of S/Sgt Kazuo Masuda, who had earned a Disting­uished Service Cross posthumously—not to return to her home. A barber in a small town just outside San Francisco refused to give a haircut to Capt Daniel Inouye, whose chest was bedecked with many decora­tions, and whose empty right sleeve gave eloquent testimony that an arm had been given in service to his coun­try. PFC Wilson Makabe, seriously wounded on patrol in the Arno River sector—losing his right leg in a mor­tar blast—called his brother from the hospital to learn that their home had mysteriously burned to the ground when they attempted to return. PFC Richard Naito, wounded and disabled, applied for membership in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post only to be turned down and told to "go join his own." These are just a few of the many incidents that happened to the vet­erans returning to the mainland. Most of these incidents occurred on the West Coast.

But now the tables began to turn, Comrades in arms from the different units that they had served with in Europe came to the rescue of the beleaguered "battalion" of Japanese Americans. Also, a large and growing number of fair-play and fair-minded Americans began to intercede on behalf of the Japanese Americans.

Col Virgil Miller, commander of the 100/442 Regi­mental Combat Team, took the VFW to task with a scathing denunciation of the local post's membership policies (re PFC Naito) and of the officers who backed them. The president of the national VFW agreed with Col Miller, censured the post and labeled their action "stupid." Today, the VFW, locally and nationally, is one of the staunchest supporters of veterans of all races and creeds.

PFC Makabe and Capt Inouye, unfortunately, re­ceived no such vindication or satisfaction.

But, in general, the veterans' faith that fair play and the democratic process would prevail proved to be pro­phetic. Within ten years, the walls of discrimination against the Japanese Americans in particular and mi­nority groups everywhere began to crumble. Down came the Alien Land Law, the Oriental Exclusion Act (barring immigration), the anti-naturalization laws, the misce­genation laws, and a teetering pile of state and muni­cipal statutes which denied the Asian American the same rights and privileges his counterpart from Europe had enjoyed for years.


The original 442nd shoulder patch was designed by the War Department and depicted a yellow arm brandishing a red sword.  The general reaction to the patch, from the Commanding Officer, Col. Pence, down to the privates, was “Ugh!”  Thanks to the efforts of T/Sgt. Mitch Miyamoto, of Watsonville, California, the 442nd came up with its own handsome patch design.  It showed a silver arm and hand holding a torch against a field of blue surrounded by a border of silver and red.  It was a positive symbol of freedom and liberty and it was proudly worn by more than 18,000 Japanese American soldiers.

See below for quotes by and about
Japanese American soldiers in World War II

Quotes about Evacuation and Internment
of Japanese Americans


It remained a fact that to loyal citizens this forced evacuation was a personal injustice, and Stimson fully appreciated their feelings.

- Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge BundyOn Active Service in Peace and War


My husband’s interned,
And my son’s a soldier,
Oh, all so hard to bear,
I lament
Encaged behind wire.

- At an Arizona Detention Camp, 1943


Hey, that (Tanforan stables) was quite a shock because we were assigned to one of those horse stalls that had been swept out, more or less, and partitioned off.  The aroma was still there and here a whole family was put into one stall.

- Japanese American who was interned at Tanforan relocation center


Inside the camp we had our curfew and our boundaries.  We couldn’t walk near the fences at all.  We had armed guards and barbed wire surrounding the area and at the towers they had machine guns and searchlights, and then they had barbed wires with a double fence and then they had barbed wires again.

- Japanese American who was interned


On May 16, 1942, my mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and I left…by train.  Father joined us later.  Brother left earlier by bus.  We took whatever we could carry.  So much we left behind, but the most valuable thing I lost was my freedom.

- Japanese American who was interned


Henry went to the Control Station to register the family.  He came home with twenty tags, all numbered 10710, tags to be attached to each piece of baggage, and one to hang from our coat lapels.  From then on, we were known as Family #10710.

- Japanese American who was interned


An oft-repeated ritual in relocation camp schools…was the salute to the flag followed by the singing of “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”—a ceremony Caucasian teachers found embarrassingly awkward if not cruelly poignant in the austere prison-camp setting.

- Japanese American who was interned


Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it—exclusion, detention, the ending of detention and the ending of exclusion—were not founded upon military considerations.  The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.

- Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians


I volunteered for military service because I wanted to hasten the day when my family could leave this camp.

- Japanese American volunteer


In some ways, I suppose, my life was not too different from a lot of kids in America between the years 1942 and 1945. I spent a good part of my time playing with my brothers and friends, learned to shoot marbles, watched sandlot baseball and envied the older kids who wore Boy Scout uniforms. We shared with the rest of America the same movies, screen heroes and listened to the same heart-rending songs of the forties. We imported much of America into the camps because, after all, we were Americans. Through imitation of my brothers, who attended grade school within the camp, I learned the salute to the flag by the time I was five years old. I was learning, as best one could learn in Manzanar, what it meant to live in America. But, I was also learning the sometimes bitter price one has to pay for it.


[D]espite the hardships visited upon this unfortunate racial group by an act of the Government brought about by the then prevailing military necessity, there was recorded during the recent war not one act of sabotage or espionage attributable to those who were the victims of the forced relocation.

- US Congress, Japanese-American Evacuation Claims Act in 1948


After the war, through the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act, the government attempted to compensate for the losses of real and personal property; inevitably that effort did not secure full or fair compensation. There were many kinds of injury the Evacuation Claims Act made no attempt to compensate: the stigma placed on people who fell under the exclusion and relocation orders; the deprivation of liberty suffered during detention; the psychological impact of exclusion and relocation; the breakdown of family structure; the loss of earnings or profits; physical injury or illness during detention.

- Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation ad Internment of Civilians


The situation in California is not the same [as in Hawaii]. You have no doubt become aware of the existence of active and pow­erful minority groups in California whose main interest in the war seems to take the form of a desire for permanent exclusion of all Japanese, loyal or disloyal, citizen or alien, from the West Coast or, at least, from California. … This means that considerations other than of mere military necessity enter into any proposal for removal of the present restrictions.

- J. McCloy, to General Emmonds, Western Defense Command


We had about two weeks, I recall, to do something. Either lease the property or sell everything.

- Mitsuo Usui


While in Modesto, the final notice for evacuation came with a four day notice.

- Elsie Hashimoto


We were given eight days to liquidate our possessions.

- George Matsumoto


I remember how agonizing was my despair to be given only about six days in which to dispose of our property and personal possessions.

- Tom Hayase


We aren't dangerous. Really we aren't. I know. As for the Nisei—if it wasn't so tragic, it would be funny. Couldn't the Government find out how we were before they did this to us?

- Issei


If, in the judgment of military and Federal authorities, evacuation of Japanese  residents from the West coast is a primary step toward assuring the safety of this Nation, we will have no hesitation in complying with the necessities implicit in that judgment. But, if, on the other hand, such evacuation is primarily a measure whose surface urgency cloaks the desires of political or other pressure groups who want us to leave merely from motives of self-interest, we feel that we have every right to protest and to demand equitable judgment on our merits as American citizens.

- Mike Masaoka, national secretary and field executive of the Japanese American Citizens League


Rowe and Ennis argued strongly against [the Executive Or­der]. But the decision had been made by the President. It was, he said, a matter of military judgment. I did not think I should oppose it any further. The Department of Justice, as I had made it clear to him from the beginning, was opposed to and would have nothing to do with the evacuation.

- Francis G. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General


In tense times such as these, a strange psychology grips us. We are oppressed and fearful and apprehen­sive. If we can't get at the immediate cause of our difficulties, we are likely to vent our damned-up energy on a scapegoat. That scapegoat may be someone whose views are contrary to our own. It may be some­one who speaks with a foreign accent, or it may be a labor union which stands up for what it believes to be its rights. That sort of psychology is the very essence of totalitarianism. On the other hand, civil liberties are the essence of the democracy we are pledged to protect. Insofar as I can by the use of the authority and influence of my office, I intend to see that civil liber­ties in this country are protected; that we do not again fall into the disgraceful hysteria of witch hunts, strike­-breakings, and minority persecutions which were such a dark chapter in our record of the last World War.

- Francis G. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General


War threatens all civil rights; and although 'we have fought wars before, and our personal freedoms have sur­vived, there have been periods of gross abuse, when hysteria and hate and fear ran high, and when minorities were unlawfully and cruelly abused. Every man who cares about freedom, about a government by law—and all free­dom is based on fair administration of the law—must fight for it for the other man with whom he disagrees for the right of the minority, for the chance for the underprivileged with the same passion of insistence as he claims for his own rights. If we care about democracy, we must care about it as a reality for others as well as for ourselves; yes, for aliens, for Germans, for Italians, for Japanese, for those who are with us as those who are against us. For the Bill of Rights pro­tects not only American citizens but all human beings who live on our American soil, under our American flag. The rights of the Anglo-Saxons, of Jews, of Catholics, of Negroes, of Slavs, Indians—all are alike before the law. And this we must remember and sustain—that is if we really love justice, and really hate the bayonet and the whip and the gun, and the whole Gestapo method as a way of handling human beings.

- Francis G. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General


If Stimson had stood firm, had insisted, as apparently he suspected, that this wholesale evacuation was needless, the President would have followed his advice.  And if, instead of dealing almost exclusively with McCloy and Bendetsen, I had urged the Secretary to resist the pressure of his subordinates, the result might have been different.  But I was new to the Cabinet, and disinclined to insist on my view to an elder statesman whose wisdom and integrity I greatly respected.

- Francis G. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General


I do not think he was much concerned with the gravity or implications of this step.

- Francis G. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General, speaking of Roosevelt’s decision to sign Executive Order 9066


It is one thing to safeguard American industry, and particularly defense industry, against sabotage; but it is very much another to throw out of work honest and loyal people who, except for the accident of birth, are sincerely patriotic. … Remember the Nazi technique: 'Pit race against race, religion against religion, prej­udice against prejudice. Divide and conquer.’ We must not let that happen here. We must not forget what we are defending: Liberty, decency, justice.

- Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States


Our state and Federal laws, supported by a bill of rights are entirely inadequate to meet the situation. If we are not to run the risk of disaster we must for­get such things as the writ of habeas corpus, and the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The right of self-defense, self-preservation, on behalf of the people, is higher than the bill of rights.

- District Attorney of Madera County, California


Our citizens of Japanese parentage are just as trust­worthy now as they were a few weeks ago when Governor Olson and other publicists paid tribute to their loyalty and civic devotion. Has the set-back given to the Allied arms by the military machine of Japan made our political leaders in state, county, and municipality play the bully and turn against our Japanese citizens as scapegoats for the remote culprits, in Japan, whom our Japanese-American citizens, have repeatedly denounced?

- Secretary of the Committee on Fair Play


I find no popular demand for the efforts to drive the so-called alien enemies from Cal1f'ornia. (Chester Rowell, [a prominent San Francisco columnist] has also stated this as his impression). The clamor seems to come from chamber of commerce, Associated, Farmers, and the newspapers notorious as spokesmen for reactionary interests. In view of this fact, effort should be made to determine whether there is any connection between the clamor for the dispossession of the Japanese farmers and the desire of these clamoring interests to get possession of the Japanese farms and the elimination of the Japanese competition… So far the Attorney General has resisted the mad pressure; but the mad pressure mounts. Even now we hear the rumble of the threats of martial law for all of California—a state of ‘nonlaw’ which would abolish the rights of all of us and make many wonder whether totalitarianism is to be fought with the same and so reduce the struggle to an abstraction.

- Oakland lawyer testifying to the Tolan Committee


Leading the demand for the removal of the Japanese was the California Joint Immigration Committee which named as its sustaining bodies the American Legion, the California State Federation of Labor, California Grange, and the Native Sons of the Golden West. Originating in 1905 as the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, the Committee had the assistance of both the Hearst and the McClatchy papers to keep alive fears of the, ‘Yellow Peril.’ It declared:

‘We were largely instrumental in the passage of the 1913 Alien Land Act… and… instrumental, in 1924, in securing the adoption of the present immigration law which now excludes any Asiatics from a quota, as such as distinguished from the quota of 100 that is accorded to all nations if there are people therein eligible for citizenship.’

It considered the granting of citizenship to Negroes after the Civil War a ‘grave mistake.’

On February 13, 1942, the Committee which through December and most of January had not been able to turn the West Coast upon the persons of Japanese ancestry in their midst stated, 'Neither fear, timidity, nor cost should delay action. Japanese should be removed now!’

Then, BOOM!  Pearl Harbor.  We lived in darkness after that.

My first thought was, what will people think or feel toward us at school tomorrow. All day long, I moped around the house with a face longer than a horse, but the incident that knocked the wind out of me was when the man my father was working for was taken by the FBI because they said he was an enemy alien and very dan­gerous to the country. … The morning after, at school, I am proud to say that everyone treated us like Americans which we are.


When I was first taken by the FBI I felt very much ashamed. I thought, 'What have I done that this dis­graceful thing should happen to me. Bad men will be interned and I will be among them.’ I felt very sad. But when we got to jail I saw there all the leaders of the Japanese community, men who were respected and whom I knew would not do anything wrong. I felt that I was in good company and did not feel so bad about it any­ more.

- Japanese American Issei (first generation)


I think some of us were a little relieved to be away from the minor irritations, the insults, slander, and the small humiliations unthinking people heaped upon us after Pearl Harbor. Many people may say, 'Well, that's to be expected,' but to be unable to go out in the streets, or just to the corner store, without the fear of being insulted, and being all tense inside with that same fear, was one of the most humiliating things. … What could we do? Nothing. Just endure in silence. Those are the things that are locked in the hearts of many of us. Not big things, but many small things. We became 'sullen and morose' but can we help it? We were not sullen and morose, just leery of my kind ad­vance.


You can't tell me anything about military necessity in con­nection with evacuation…  One man down in Imperial Valley broadcast how much of a menace and danger the Japanese were. His brother was running up and down the Valley buying up Japanese land cheaply. In northern California they let the Japanese put in all their crops. Then about 3 days be­fore harvest, when the Japanese had put in all the work and money, they discovered a 'military necessity' and evacuated them. Others got the benefit of their investment and efforts.


Everybody took advantage of us. Some people took things when we were not watching. While we were packing inside the house, "these people would go a round the back and take every­thing they saw… It was difficult to keep our tempers. For seventeen years, Dad and Mother had struggled to build up their business. Every profit they made was put into the store for remodeling and improving it little by little. At the same time they were raising four little kids. When they finally reached the peak of their business success and had nothing to worry about, when they finally succeeded in rais­ing four children and sending them through high school and even had one attending college—BOOM came evacuation and our prosperity crumbled to pieces… The precious 48 hours notice we had in which to pack passed like a nightmare.

- Nisei woman


What had I, or, as a matter of fact, what had the rest of us done, to be thrown in camp, away from familiar surround­ings, and familiar faces? What had there been in my life that made such a thing happen? The only answer is, the acci­dent of my birth--my ancestry. There is no other logical answer.

- Nisei


You are not being accused of any crime. You are being re­moved only to protect you and because there might be one of you who might be dangerous to the United States. It is your contribution to the war effort. You should be glad to make the sacrifice to prove your loyalty.

I am proud that I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, for my very background makes me appreciate more fully the wonderful advantages of this Nation.

I believe in her institutions, ideals and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future.

Because I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me, and because I have received innumerable benefits from her, I pledge myself to do honor to her at all times and in all places.

- Japanese American Creed 1942, Mike Masaoka





At the time when the United States of America entered World War II, there lived on the western rim of our continent a small group of quiet, hard-working and thrifty people; as a group they had been living in the Pacific coastal region for upward of 50 years. They comprised only one-tenth of 1 percent of the Nation’s total population. Indeed they were so few, so concentrated in that narrow coastal strip, that few Americans in other parts of the United States had ever encountered one of them or had ever given any thought to this small segment of the population—until the surprise attack upon Pearl Harbor by Japan suddenly and spuriously identified this minute oriental-American minority with the enemy whose ancestry it shared.

During the first year of the war this West Coast minority, consisting of approximately 10,000 people ranging from 90-year old immigrants who had lived here for perhaps 60 years to third-generation citizens in arms, was excluded from home and source of livelihood by a series of military orders which were issued under authority conferred by the President of the United States. These wartime mass exclusion orders affected only persons of Japanese ancestry. Without being charged with any specific crime, without hearings, these people were evacuated under military guard to isolated barrack camps in the interior, where the majority of them lived as wards of the Government for nearly 3 years… The majority of these people lived… in barrack communities in the wastelands of the interior behind barbed wire fences that were patrolled by armed military guards. Roughly 35,700 of the people had left these barrack communities, by the time that the War Department revoked the mass exclusion order, for resettlement in midwestern or eastern com­munities or, in the case of more than 10,000 of the young men, to prove their loyalty to the United States by offering their intelligence and their lives in defense of the country of their birth.

[It is ironic] how American democracy, at a time when it was engaged in a death struggle against the forces of totalitarianism across the seas, came to deal in this manner with one of its own minorities, a minority composed of two-thirds citizens by birth and one-third aliens denied naturalization under the law of our country.

- Ruth E. McKee, WRA historian




We [the Union Counci1] naturally go along and concur with all the recommendations that the Government deems necessary to safeguard this territory. We feel, however, that a good deal of this problem has gotten out of hand, Mr. Tolan, inasmuch as both the local and State authorities, instead of becoming bastions of defense of democracy and justice, joined the wolf pack when the cry came out ‘Let's get the yellow menace.’ As a matter of fact, we believe the present situation is a great victory for the yellow press and for the fifth column that is operating in this country, which is attempting to convert this war from a war against the Axis Powers into a war against the 'yellow peril.' We believe there is a large element of that particular factor in this present situation.

I am referring here particularly to the attack against the native-born Japanese, an attack which, as far as we can find out, was whipped up.  There was a basis for it because there has always been a basis on the Pacific coast for suspicion, racial suspicion, which has been well fostered, well bred, particularly by the Hearst newspapers over a period of 20 to 25 years.

Well, the result is that during this present situation local authorities simply ran out on the problem.  We are happy to see the Federal Government step in and handle it.  We are happy to see your commitment here, because, frankly, to date we haven’t seen either civic or State leadership that is competent to handle the problem or that has shown a great enough degree of impartiality to merit being even assigned the problem. […]

What we are concerned with, Mr. Chairman, is this: That, if this is to become the index of our dealings with the alien problem—in other words, that if we are not to deal only with aliens but also with the descendants of aliens—then there is no limit to this problem and the program, and this vitally affects our unions. It affects the principles upon which we stand, affects the nature of our work, our entire job in the administration of contracts and everything else, because once this policy of making distinctions or determining espionage or sabotage along racial, national lines has begun there is no end.  * * *

So that we can expect, I think, that if this campaign of isolating the Japanese is successful the next step will be for several incidents to occur which involve Germans or Italians; then the whole of the wolf pack will scream to the moon again and this time it will be 'Evacuate all Italians; evacuate all Germans.’ The principle will have been set; the pattern will have been cut as it has been by the Hearst press, by the rabid, hysterical elements.

- testimony of Louis Goldblatt, secretary of the California State Industrial Union Council, affiliated with the Congress of Indus­trial Organizations



For several weeks there have been increasing demands for evacuation of all Japanese, aliens and citizens alike, from the West Coast states. A great many of the West Coast people distrust the Japanese, various special interests would welcome their removal from good farm land and the elimination of their competition, some of the local California radio and press have demanded evac­uation, the West Coast Congressional Delegation are asking the same thing and finally, Walter Lippman [sic] and Westbrook Pegler recently have taken up the evacuation cry on the ground that attack on the West Coast and widespread sabotage is imminent. My last advice from the War Department is that there is no evidence of imminent attack and from the F.B.I. that there is no evidence of planned sabotage.

I have designated as a prohibited area every area recommended to me by the Secretary of War, through whom the Navy recommendations are also made.

We are proceeding as fast as possible. To evacuate the 93,000 Japanese in California over night would materially disrupt agri­cultural production in which they play a large part and the farm labor now is so limited that they could not be quickly replaced. Their hurried evacuation would require thousands of troops, tie up transportation and raise very difficult questions of resettlement. Under the Constitution 60,000 of these Japanese are American citizens. If complete confusion and lowering of morale is to be avoided, so large a job must be done after careful planning. The Army has not yet advised me of its conclusion in the matter.

There is no dispute between the War, Navy, and Justice De­partments. The practical and legal limits of this Department's authority which is restricted to alien enemies are clearly under­stood. The Army is considering what further steps it wishes to recommend.

It is extremely dangerous for the columnists, acting as "Armchair Strategists and Junior G-Men," to suggest that an attack on the West Coast and planned sabotage is imminent when the military authorities and the F.B.I. have indicated that this is not the fact. It comes close to shouting FIRE! In the theater, and if race riots occur, these writers will bear a heavy responsibility. Either Lipp­man [sic] has information which the War Department and the F. B. I. apparently do not have, or is acting with dangerous irre­sponsibility.

- Francis Biddle, US Attorney General, February 17, 1942, memo to President Roosevelt opposing evacuation




[T]here is no intention or desire on the part of the federal authorities to operate mass concentration camps. No person, be he citizen or alien, need worry, provided he is not connected with subversive elements…

While we have been subjected to a serious attack by a ruthless and treacherous enemy, we must remember that this is America and we must do things the American way. We must distinguish between loyalty and disloyalty among our people.

- General Emmons, commander of the Hawaiian Department, in his first radio address on December 21, 1941


The feeling that invasion is imminent is not the belief of most of the responsible people. . . . There have been no acts of sabotage committed in Hawaii…  ­

I talked with Mr. Taylor [acting United States attorney for Hawaii]…[about] evidence of subversive or disloyal acts… Since that time he has… furnished information about individuals and groups which turned out to be based on rumor or imagination. He has furnished ab­solutely no information of value.

Mr. Taylor is a conscientious, but highly emotional, violently anti-Japanese lawyer who distrusts the FBI, Naval Intelligence and the Army Intelligence… I do not believe he is sufficiently informed on the Japanese question to ex­press an official opinion.

- General Emmons's letter of March 29, 1942, to Assistant Secretary McCloy


In this solemn hour we pledge our fullest cooperation to you, Mr. President, and to our country.  There cannot be any question.  There must be no doubt.  We, in our hearts, know we are Americans—loyal to America.  We must prove that to all of you.

- Japanese American Citizens Leagues, in a telegram to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 7, 1941


            The fear of sabotage or espionage proved to be wholly unfounded.  In spite of the many rumors to the contrary, not one case of any act of espionage or sabotage by any Japanese American was ever reported, either on the mainland or in Hawaii.

            At the time of the Japanese American uprooting, most people throughout the United Sates, except those along the West Coast, were so deeply involved in war work or news about the war that they paid little attention to the evacuation and the WRA program.  In many cases the general public received information confused by scare headlines and trumped-up stories that helped to cover up the facts.

- Dillon S. Myer, Director, War Relocation Authority, WWII


The evacuation of 112,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, their continued exclusion from the West Coast from the summer of 1942 until January or 1945, and their detention for varying periods of time in assembly centers and relocation centers, inevitably raised extremely grave questions as to the consistency of such a program with the requirements and the prohibitions of the Constitution of the United Sates.  The fact that two-thirds of the evacuees were citizens of the Untied States by birth sharpened these very grave issues.

- Dillon S. Myer, Director, War Relocation Authority, WWII


            As I look back on my four years’ experiences as Director of the War Relocation Authority, I realize that I learned many things.  We all learned from first-hand experience how low some of the worst of the avaricious and race-baiting segments of our population could stoop.  On the other hand, we had the support of the best persons and organizations in the land.  The people of good will appear to be slower in getting into action than do the mean elements of society, but once they do act, they move intelligently, effectively, and persistently.

            We learned that the difference between success and failure is often knife-blade thin and that persistence is important.

            We also learned that when the people of the United States have the opportunity to understand the problems of the underdog and those discriminated against, they really do believe in the Bill of Rights and are ready to do something about it.  We came to the realization that it is a sad fact that most people do note understand that the emotions of fear and hate are so closely associated.  If we could eliminate fear from the human population, we undoubtedly would eliminate most of the hatred that exists.

- Dillon S. Myer, Director, War Relocation Authority, WWII


[W]e must be forever watchful if we are to avoid the use of internment camps based solely upon suspicion.

- Dillon S. Myer, Director, War Relocation Authority, WWII



Peak Populations of Relocation Centers
Reached January 1, 1943


Central Utah (Topaz)               8,232
Colorado River (Poston)        18,039
Gila River                                  13,420
Granada                                       7,656
Heart Mountain                       11,062
  Jerome                                         7,932*
Manzanar                                   10,121
Minidoka                                     9,861
Rohwer                                        8,548
  Tule Lake                                   15,369†
 Total                                          110,310



Trembling hands,
As the mother opens
The V-Mail.

The cream of the crop—
Nisei soldiers—raised
By wrinkles on the parents’ brow.

List of their grievances.

To the east, to the west?
Folded arms.

On the wide desert,
Before the silent wind,
My body sank
Into nothingness.

The lights have been turned off
Here at the Relocation Center,
And I’ll sleep this evening
With the voices of the migrating wild ducks
Passing through my heart.

(Girdner, 1968, p. 309)


[W]e, in the United States, have the opportunity and freedom to use these talents that we develop our cultures, although our freedom, here in the center, is limited to some extent.

- Nisei leader, Tanforan Assembly Center


Frightened as we are…there is no room for tears…  Idleness and bitterness will deaden character.

- Mrs. Mary Tsukamoto, leaving for Jerome, Arkansas, internment camp


Truthfully, I must say this scorching Hell is a place beyond description and beyond tears.

- Internee


It was mostly in such moments as these, when our eyes became bloodshot with the fine dust, our throats parched, and I suppose our reason a little obtuse, that we fell into the common practice of trying to figure out just how in the world we would find our way out of this manmade hell.  As I think back now, I must admit it was a most stimulating occupation.

- Togo Tanaka, Manzanar


I am glad that throughout our eight months of residence…we never for a moment within our hearts accepted our internment with any degree of resignation.  For to do so would have meant that we had reacted either with bitterness or with the loss of that spirit which drove us relentlessly to seek our way out.

- Internee


            The evacuation of 112,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, their continued exclusion from the West Coast from the summer of 1942 until January of 1945, and their detention for varying periods of time in assembly centers and relocation centers, inevitably raised extremely grave questions as to the consistency of such a program with the requirements and the prohibitions of the Constitution of the United States.  The fact that two-thirds of the evacuees were citizens of the United States b birth sharpened these very grave issues.

            Did the federal government have constitutional power to evacuate all these people from their homes and their jobs, and compel them to leave the West Coast?  Even the women and children?  Even those who were citizens?  Could it do so without charging any of them with having committed any crime, and without any trial or hearing?  Could the government follow the order to vacate the West Coast with enforced detention in an assembly center?  Could the government thereafter, without consulting the evacuees, transport these people from the assembly centers to relocation centers under military guard and thereafter incarcerate and forcibly detain the evacuees in the relocation centers?  What about the constitutional rights, in particular, of those evacuees who were citizens of the United States and who insisted throughout these activities that they were patriotic, loyal to the United States, and willing to fight in the armies of the Untied States to prove that loyalty?

- Dillon S. Myer, Director of the War Relocation Authority




A Jap is a Jap.

- General DeWitt, April 1943


There isn't such a thing as a loyal Japanese and it is just impossible to determine their loyalty by investigation—it just can't be done.

- General DeWitt


We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown man. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over…  If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we don't want them back when the war ends, either.

- The Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association, Saturday Evening Post, May 1942


[We demand] the removal from the Pacific Coast areas of all Japanese, both alien and native-born, to points at least 300 miles inland. …this is no time for namby-pamby pussyfooting, fear of hurting the feelings of our enemies; that it is not the time for consideration of minute constitutional rights of those enemies but that it is time for vigorous, whole-hearted and concerted action.

- The Portland, Oregon, Post of the American Legion


I am for immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to  a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd 'em up, pack 'em off and give 'em the inside room in the badlands. Let 'em be pinched, hurt, hungry and dead up against it…  Personally, I hate the Japanese. ,And that goes for all of them.

- Henry McLemore, a Hearst syndicated columnist


The necessity for mass evacuation is based primarily upon public and political pressure rather than on factual data. Public hysteria and in some instances, the comments of the press and radio an­nouncers, have resulted in a tremendous amount of pressure being brought to bear on Governor Olson and Earl Warren, Attorney General of the State, and on the military authorities. . . . Local officials, press and citizens have started widespread move­ment demanding complete evacuation of all Japanese, citizen and alien alike.

- J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations


The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become "Americanized," the racial strains are undiluted. To conclude otherwise is to expect that children born of white parents on Japanese soil sever all racial affinity and become loyal Japanese subjects, ready to fight and, if necessary, to die for Japan in a war against the nation of their parents. That Japan is allied with Germany and Italy in this strug­gle is no ground for assuming that any Japanese, barred from assimilation by convention as he is, though born and raised in the United States, will not turn against this nation, when the final test of loyalty comes. It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extrac­tion, are at large today. There are indications that these are or­ganized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.

- Report recommending “Evacuation of Japanese and Other Subversive Persons from the Pacific Coast,” signed by General DeWitt, sent to U.S. Secretary of War


I don't want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty…  [And later:] It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty…  You needn't worry about the Italians at all except in certain cases. Also, the same for the Germans except in individual cases. But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map. Sabotage and espionage will make problems as long as he is allowed in this area.

- General DeWitt, April 1943


The time is now past for merely saying that the Japanese should be evacuated.  Public opinion has crystallized… in a very positive manner.  The motion has been put and almost unanimously carried.  The people of California, the American citizens of California, with hardly a dissenting voice say that the Japanese, both alien and American-born, must go.

- Mayor Fletcher Bowron of Los Angeles, February 18, 1942



Opposition to Evacuation

America has always been interested in selection, and I feel it would be preferable to make careful selection of those to be evacuated, rather than just say “Let’s get rid of our problem by the easiest, most obvious way, of moving everybody out.”

- Mayor Harry P. Cain, Tacoma, Washington, opposing mass evacuation


If we are to begin a program which amounts to persecution of sections of citizenry, because of their race or origin, then Hitlerism has already won America, though the Nazi army is 4,000 miles away.

- Attorney, Oakland, California


[The protection of the country is possible] without such a wholesale invasion of civil rights and without creating a precedent so opposed to democratic principle.

- American Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to President Roosevelt


[W]e have seen no adequate evidence to convince us that an order giving complete power to the Secretary of War or to the commander of each military area to exclude from designated areas all citizens, or to restrict their actions in any way he sees fit, is either constitutional or democratic.  Enforcing this on the Japanese alone approximates the totalitarian theory of justice practiced by the Nazis in their treatment of the Jews.

- Postwar World Council, in a letter to President Roosevelt opposing evacuation


This entire episode of hysteria and mob chant against the native-born Japanese will form a dark page of American history.  It may well appear as one of the great victories won by the Axis Powers.

- Mr. Louis Goldblatt, secretary of the California State Industrial Union Council of San Francisco


[W]hen this plan of evacuation is enlarged to include citizens as well as aliens on the ground that American-born Japanese are inherently disloyal to this country, we are starting in motion a dangerous mass movement growing out of war hysteria and differing little from the treatment of minorities by the totalitarian governments in Europe and Asia.

- Professor J. F. Steiner, chair, Sociology Department, University of Washington


I would think that that same question would need to be asked concerning all of us.  That is, how do we know that I am loyal or that anyone else is loyal?  How would we know that the Germans, the first generation of Germans or the second generation of Germans, are loyal?  We must know it by their actions, by the company they keep, the organizations to which they belong.  As far as the Japanese are concerned, I would think it would be less difficult for they are more segregated, they are more visible, they cannot hide away or have secret meetings as easily as could Germans or Italians.  I see no great difficulty.

- Professor J. F. Steiner, chair, Sociology Department, University of Washington


Early attitudes of those friendly toward resident Japanese were well illustrated in a report by the Northern California Committee on Fair Play for Citizens and Aliens of Japanese Ancestry.  This group, headed by a former president of the University of California, had been organized in 1941 to prevent hostility toward Japanese Americans at a time of rising tension between the governments of the United States and Japan.  Three weeks after the beginning of war, the committee was able to report: ‘Californians have kept their heads.  There have been few if any serious denials of civil rights to either aliens or citizens of the Japanese race, on account of the war.  The American tradition of fair-play has been observed.

            Offers of assistance came to resident Japanese from many sources, including private welfare agencies such as the International Institute, and official bodies such as the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice. […]

            Before that date there were few who wrote to national authorities to oppose the rising demands for drastic action.  Religious leaders were most prominent.  These included ministers of Congregational churches in Hollywood and Los Angeles; the head of a Los Angeles Catholic mission; chairmen of Palo Alto and New York units of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; the director of a Seattle Oriental Evangelization Society; the leader of a Methodist education board of southern California; the minister of a Methodist church in Chicago; the director of a Baptist Home Missions Society of New York; and a group of ten ministers of various Protestant faiths from Bethel, Washington.  Other groups taking the same moderate stand in letters to Washington included a democratic youth group of Los Angeles and units of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the League for Industrial Democracy. […]

            When, for example, the California State Personnel Board instituted dismissal charges against Japanese American employees, protests were filed by the Northern California Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and a San Francisco unit of the American Friends Service Committee.  A representative of the former group appeared personally before the Personnel Board to urge reconsideration of the plan on the ground that it would be ‘injurious to democratic processes.’  He affirmed that the policy was unconstitutional and threatened to file legal proceedings.  Though the board’s line of action was branded unconstitutional by the state’s attorney-general and condemned by the political commentator of the San Francisco Chronicle, dismissal charges were pressed and carried through.

            The Los Angeles branch of the Civil Liberties Union was also active.  A statement issued on February 14 declared that the great majority of enemy aliens were ‘peaceable and law-abiding.’  Responsibility for dealing with enemy aliens rested exclusively with federal authorities, and action by local officials and private citizens served ‘only to create hysteria and disunity at this time of grave national emergency.’  As for American citizens of Japanese ancestry, they had ‘the same rights and the same duties that other citizens have.’

            The Civil Liberties Union recognized the necessity for precautionary measures over all aliens and all citizens ‘without discrimination on account of color, race or creed.’ […]

            One college professor, one state official, and one newspaper columnist were prominent in opposing the cries for evacuation.

            Professor Eric C. Bellquist, University of California political scientist, asserted that ‘intolerance toward enemy aliens is as much a part of subversive activity as Japanese spying, Nazi intrigue, or Communist sabotage.’  He criticized city and county resolutions that urged evacuation, pointing out that the matter was one for the federal government.  Action of state and local officials, Mr. Bellquist said, would ‘assist in destroying our unity and furnish the Japanese and Nazis with propaganda material which may make our winning of the war more difficult.’

            Carey McWilliams, chief of the division of immigration and housing, California Department of Industrial Relations, wrote the staff director of the Tolan Committee at the end of January that ‘the Japanese situation…is quite bad.’  There was much unemployment, and discriminatory acts were increasing.  The situation was ‘greatly complicated by reason of the fact that there are a number of special interest groups who are all too willing to take advantage of the situation and to “muscle in” on the Japanese.’

            Mr. McWilliams strongly urged that the Tolan Committee investigate the entire situation.  This would allow various groups to ‘blow off steam,’ give resident Japanese and their friends an opportunity to state their side of the questions ‘in a way that would come to nation-wide attention,’ ‘”blow down” irresponsible rumors,’ and ‘likewise expose some of the self-interest that motivates certain groups.’

            Chester Rowell, political commentator for the San Francisco Chronicle, criticized the ‘pressures’ that had produced the various schemes for evacuation.  Those schemes were ‘impulsive suggestions’ leading to many ‘absurdities.’  Federal supremacy in handling the Japanese matter was an absolute necessity, Mr. Rowell stated.  ‘When it gets into local hands, pressure group politics and personal headline seeking also get in.’  Federal agencies should be aided by state and local officials.  But these officials ‘should not set examples, which, if followed by private citizens, lead to vigilantism.’

            In a later column Mr. Rowell pointed out the dangerous implications of treating all Japanese in California as a racial bloc, regardless of citizenship, ‘in a way which nobody would do in the case of Germans or Italians.”  If this were only ‘unsound reasoning and bad morals,’ it would ‘be no worse that the many other confusions and injustices of which war is full.’  But on the psychological front, the West Coast situation had ‘done more harm than even the military invasions and economic exploitations of European imperialists.’  It was necessary ‘not to play into the hands of Japanese propagandists in Asia by treating the Japanese problem here as a racial one.’  The only ‘safe answer’ was to treat Japanese exactly as Germans and Italians of like status were treated.

- Morton Grodzins


[R]elative to the question as to whether there has been any sabotage in Hawaii…Mr. John Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has advised me there was no sabotage committed there prior to December 7, on December 7, or subsequent to that time.

- Department of Justice, April 20, 1942


Reference is made to your letter of March 19, 1942, requesting a statement regarding sabotage activities in Hawaii.  The War Department has received no information of sabotage committed by Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

- U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, March 30, 1942


I have been in charge of military intelligence activities here [Hawaii] since June, 1941, and am in a position to know what has happened.  There have been no known acts of sabotage, espionage or fifth column activities committed by the Japanese in Hawaii, either on or subsequent to December 7, 1941.

- Colonel Kendall J. Fielder, assistant chief of staff for military intelligence in the Hawaiian Islands


How differently a Himmler or a Heinrich would have handled this delicate situation!  Does anyone believe for a moment that any of the Axis crowd would give one of the enemy race a fair chance to prove himself?... It would take much too long to tell you of the many concrete ways in which many of these people who were on the spot have proved their love for America… Americans of Japanese blood… are Americans—and until they prove (or show themselves dangerously capable of proving) traitorous, they should be treated as Americans.

            This must not be construed as sentimentality…but rather as a sane, reasonable, democratic and SAFE judgment…  The Japanese element f the population, if accepted and united in purpose and action, is an asset to the community.

- Colonel Kendall J. Fielder, assistant chief of staff for military intelligence in the Hawaiian Islands


[A] sorry story of violence, but not one that told any tale of vigilante action.  Seven killings in four months were not an indication that the entire Japanese population was ‘going to be massacred,’ as someone wrote to his congressman.

- Attorney General Biddle, who reported 36 instances of crime and brutality against West Coast Japanese between December 8, 1941 and March 31, 1942


Here [in America] we have next to no Japanese hyphenate problem.

- Editorial, New York Times, February 1942


Unless the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, I do not know any way in which Japanese born in this country, and therefore American citizens, could be interned.

- Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General, written to Congressmen on January 24, 1942



The decision of this Department is that the program I have outlined… together with the extensive investigations which have been carried on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would adequately control the problem of the Japanese population of the Pacific Coast.  For this reason, and also because of the legal difficulties presently involved in attempting to intern or evacuate the thousands of American-born persons of the Japanese race who are, of course, American citizens, this Department has not deemed it advisable at this time to attempt to remove all persons of the Japanese race into the interior of this country.

- Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General, writing to Congressmen Ford



Supreme Court

A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency.  Even during that period a succeeding commander may revoke it all.  But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens.  The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.  Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.

- Supreme Court Justice Jackson, dissenting opinion, December 18, 1944, regarding legality of Executive Order 9066

(Korematsu vs. U.S. [323 U.S. 214])


[This] is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry…without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty…towards the United States.

- Supreme Court Justice Roberts


Such exclusion goes over the 'very brink of constitutional power,' and falls into the ugly abyss of racism.

- Supreme Court Justice Murphy


A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency…  But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order…the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination…  The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need…  Nothing better illustrates the danger than does the Court's opinion in this case.

- Supreme Court Justice Jackson


Korematsu . . . stands as a caution that in times of international hostility…our institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to exercise their authority to protect all citizens from petty fears and prejudices that are so easily aroused.

- Judge Patel


Loyalty is a matter of mind and of heart, not of race.  That indeed is the history of America.  Moreover, guilt is personal under our constitutional system.  Detention for reasonable cause is one thing.  Detention on account of ancestry is another.

- Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas


Assembly Centers

Henry went to the Control Station to register the family. He came home with twenty tags, all numbered 10710, tags to be attached to each piece of baggage, and one to hang from our coat lapels. From then on, we were known as Family #10710.


On May 16, 1942, my mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and I left… by train. Father joined us later. Brother left earlier by bus. We took whatever we could carry. So much we left behind, but the most valuable thing I lost was my freedom.

- Teru Watanabe


We lined up for mail, for checks, for meals, for showers, for washrooms, for laundry tubs, for toilets, for clinic service, for movies. We lined up for everything.

- Mini Okubo


The high fences and the presence of the military police definitely signify the loss of freedom and independence. Although there is general group acceptance or rather compliance with evacuation, many individuals reject it.

- Red Cross


The incarceration of the Japanese for the duration of the war can only end in wholesale deportation. The maintenance of all Japanese, alien and citizen, in enforced idleness will prove not only a costly waste of the taxpayers' money, but it automatically implies deportation, since we cannot expect this group to be loyal to our Government or sympathetic to our way of life thereafter. Serious constitutional questions are raised by the forced deten­tion of citizens against whom no individual charges are lodged.

- The Tolan Committee


The hastily built camp consisted of tar paper roofed barracks with gaping cracks that let in insects, dirt from the… dust storms… no toilet facilities except smelly outhouses, and community bathrooms with overhead pipes with holes punched in to serve as showers. The furniture was camp cots with dirty straw mattresses.

- Ken Hayashi, describing Pinedale


[The barracks were] nothing but a 20 by 25 foot of barrack with roof, sides of pine wood and covered with thin tar paper… no attic, no insulation. But the July heat separated the pine floor and exposed cracks to a quarter of an inch. Through this a cold wind would blow in or during the heat of the day dusty sand would come in through the cracks. To heat, one pot bellied wood stove in the center of the barracks.

- James M. Goto, describing Manzanar


This was temporary housing, and the room in which I was confined was a makeshift barracks from a horse stable. Between the floorboards we saw weeds coming up. The room had only one bed and no other furniture. We were given a sack to fill up with hay from a stack outside the barracks to make our mattresses.

- Toshiko Toku, describing Puyallup (Camp Harmony)


The assembly center was the Portland stockyard. It was filthy, smelly, and dirty. There was roughly two thousand people packed in one large building. No beds were provided, so they gave us gunny sacks to fill with straw, that was our bed.

- James Fujii, describing Portland


We were confined to horse stables. The horse stables were whitewashed. In the hot summers, the legs of the cots were sinking through the asphalt. We were given mattress covers and told to stuff straw in them. The toilet facilities were terrible. They were communal. There were no partitions. Toilet paper was rationed by family members. We had to, to bathe, go to the horse showers. The horses all took showers in there, regardless of sex, but with human beings, they built a partition… The women complained that the men were climbing over the top to view the women taking showers. [When the women complained] one of the officials said, are you sure you women are not climbing the walls to look at the men.

- Thomas M. Tajiri, describing Santa Anita


It had extra guard towers with a searchlight panoraming the camp, and it was very difficult to sleep because the light kept coming into our window… I wasn't in a stable area… [but] everyone who was in a stable area claimed that they were housed in the stall that housed the great Sea Biscuit.

- Marshal M. Sumida, describing Santa Anita


We have not contested the right of the military to order this movement, even though it meant leaving all that we hold dear and sacred, because we believe that cooperation on our part will mean a reciprocal cooperation on the part of the government.

- Mike Masaoka, National Secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)


The basic organizational unit was once again the "block," consisting of about 12 to 14 barracks, a mess hall, baths, showers, toilets, a laundry and a recreation hall.  Each barrack was about 20 by 100 to 120 feet, divided into four or six rooms, each from 20 by 16 to 20 by 25 feet. Each room housed at least one family, even if the family was very large.



When we first arrived at Minidoka, everyone was forced to use outhouses since the sewer system had not been built. For about a year, the residents had to brave the cold and the stench of these accommodations.

- Shuzo C. Kato


[W]hen we entered camp, it was a barren desert. When we left camp, it was a garden that had been built up without tools, it was green around the camp with vegetation, flowers, and also with artificial lakes, and that's how we left it.

- Tsuyako Shimizu



Relocation Camps

The appropriate payment for these services was a matter of some difficulty. At first there was no pay. Eventually evacuees were nomi­nally compensated for work actually done, and given subsistence, shel­ter and a small money allowance. General DeWitt established the following wage schedule: unskilled work, $8.00 per month; skilled, $12.00 per month; professional and technical, $16.00 per month. Subsistence, shelter and hospitalization, medical and dental care were to be furnished without cost. These low wages and allowances were a source of continuing dissatisfaction among evacuees.



It was hot, dusty, desolate. Flat land, nothing growing but sagebrush, not a tree in sight… Bulldozers were still filling in ditches while registration went on; the air was choked with dust; so were the people. The evacuees had gotten off a train pulled by a coal-burning locomotive, and were black with soot… Next day the girls on the [advance] crew showed up, their hair grey from dust; but otherwise clean and fresh; crisp, ironed blouses that were spotless… [We] have never understood how they managed.

- The assistant project director at Minidokadescribing the opening of the camp


Our mouths are always gritty, and the rooms including the mess halls cannot be kept clean even by closing all the doors and windows because there are so many cracks in the walls and floors. From about 1:30 p.m. daily, the wind rises, and often we can't see half mile ahead due to the dust cloud. Each step we take we stir up dust.

- Poston camp internee


Live begins each day with a siren blast at 7:00 a.m., with breakfast served cafeteria style.  Work begins at 8:00 for the adults, school at 8:30 or 9:00 for the children.  Camp life was highly regimented and it was rushing to the wash basin to beat the other groups, rushing to the mess hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When a human being is placed in captivity, survival is the key.  We develop a very negative attitude toward authority.  We spent countless hours to defy or beat the system.  Our minds started to function like any POW or convicted criminal.

- Kinya Noguchi

See below for more quotes


Quotes by and about Japanese American
Soldiers in World War II

Policy for Forming the 442nd RCT


It is the inherent right of every citizen, regardless of ancestry, to bear arms in the Nation's battle. When obstacles to the free expres­sion of that right are imposed by emergency considerations, those barriers should be removed as soon as humanly possible. Loyalty to country is a voice that must be heard, and I am now able to give active proof that this basic American belief is not a casualty of war.

- Secretary Stimson, announcing the new policy on the combat team


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 the opportunity to serve this country wherever his skills will make the greatest contribution—whether it be in the ranks of our armed forces, war production, agriculture, government service, or other work essential to the war effort.

- President Franklin Roosevelt, approving formation of Japanese American combat unit


I encountered opposition from everybody except those on my immediate staff and General Marshall. I went to General Marshall who then ordered the unit [442nd Regimental Combat Team] formed.

- Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy


The War Department has established a combat team for volunteer American citizens of Japanese ancestry. This program has been indorsed by the President who looks upon it as ‘a natural and logical step toward the reinstitution of the Selective Service procedures, which were temporarily disrupted by the evacuation from the West Coast.’ …[T]he policy of the national Government, as well as that of the War Department, is presently looking toward the restoration to all loyal persons of Japanese ancestry of all their normal rights and privileges, to the end that they may be able to make their maximum contribution to the war effort. The very ‘entering wedge’ which you appear to dread is precisely what must be accomplished.

- Undersecretary of War John J. McCloy


The general should be told that American democracy and the Constitution of the United States are too vital to be ignored and flouted by any military zealot. The panic of Pearl Harbor is now past. There has been ample time for the investigation of these people and the determination of their loyalty to this country on an individual basis. Whatever excuse there once was for evacuating and holding them indiscriminately no longer exists.

- Washington Post editorial responding to General DeWitt’s statement that “a Jap is a Jap”


Loyal American citizens of Japanese descent should be permitted, after individual test, to enlist in the Army and Navy.  It would hardly be fair to evacuate people and then impose normal draft procedures, but voluntary enlistment would help a lot…  Moreover, as citizens ourselves who believe deeply in the things for which we fight, we cannot help but be disturbed by the insistent public misunderstanding of the Nisei.

- Elmer Davis, Director of the Office of War Information


I am inclined strongly to agree with the view of McCloy and Davis.  I don’t think you can permanently proscribe a lot of American citizens because of their racial origin.  We have gone to the full limit in evacuating them.  That’s enough.

- Secretary of War Stimson, to Army Chief of Staff George Marshall


We must remember that this is America and we must do things the American way…  We must not knowingly and deliberately deny any loyal citizen the opportunity of exercising or demonstrating his loyalty in a concrete way.

- Lieutenant General Delos C. Emmons, Military Commander, Hawaii, December 23, 1941



Draft Registration and Recruiting for the Service

The Army officers who came to the centers to conduct the registration knew that they had a somewhat delicate job before them. Each team had been instructed that it was no ordinary recruiting job in an ordinary American town. They had been told that they were asking young men to volunteer in an Army which had already rejected them once on the vaguest suspicion. They had also been told that they should consider that they were asking young men to declare their willingness to serve a country which had placed them and their parents behind barbed wire. Every Army team captain soon after arrival in the center addressed meetings of evacuees and each gave a speech, prepared in the War Department, which contained these words:

‘We are here on a mission… The effort is not a campaign or a drive… Its fundamental purpose is to put your situation on a plane which is consistent with the dignity of American citizenship.

‘You may object that this—your life here—is not freedom. The circumstances were not of your own choosing… The only answer which needs to be made to such an objection is that if there were not many millions of Americans who agree with your point of view we would not be here and this statement would not be made.

‘The present undertaking is of  itself an acknow­ledgment that the best solution has not been found for you during the present war emergency in your relation to the United States, which is the country of your birth and of your residence.

‘Your government would not take these steps unless it intended to go further in-restoring you to a normal place in the life of the country, with the privileges and obligations of other American citizens.’

The Army officers were prepared not only with speeches and in­structions which showed some knowledge of the attitudes of people in the relocation centers, but also with a set of carefully worked out questions and answers designed to anticipate the questions that would come up to them from the young men in the meetings they would address. The questions and answers dealt with the details of the Japanese American Combat Teams, treatment of Nisei who had and had not been discharged from the Army after Pearl Harbor, and even went on to consider the problems of parents who would be left in the centers when their sons entered the Army:

Question:    Will my family be permitted to return to the West Coast?

Answer:       Not for the time being.

Question:    What happens to my father who is not a citizen of the United States?

Answer:       Like all other persons now in relocation centers, he may file an application for leave which will be acted upon by the War Relocation Authority. It is probably fair to say that his chances for favorable action will be better by reason of your going into the service.

In all there were 42 prepared questions and answers. They indicated some awareness of the feelings and points of view of many bitter young men, as those views had seeped from the centers to Washington. They also indicated some awareness of a need for justifying to the young men the decision to place Nisei in separate combat teams apart from persons of other ancestry in the Army.

One of the Issei took it on himself to speak vigorously in favor of volunteering, saying in the course of the speech which he delivered at each of the discussion meetings:

‘Americans are not exceptions to the adage that “it is human to err and divine to forgive.”  But when they find they are mistaken, they have the courage to try to correct it. If they have made mistakes in the past, your children, as American citizens, should share the consequences of these mistakes.  My advice to you is to forget the past and look to the future. Let the Nisei do their duty toward the country in which they were born and to which they have allegiance…

‘The principle involved is that since our children were born here, they belong here. Morally speaking, they do not belong to us, but to their country. I believe our attitude towards this principle will be extremely important for the future welfare and happiness of our own race in the United States.  We should look to our own moral code in this matter.’

‘The minds of many of us are still shrouded in doubt and confusion as to the true motives of our Government when they invite our voluntary enlistment at the present time. It has not been explained why some American citizens who patriotically volunteered, at the beginning of the war, were rejected by the Army.  Furthermore, our government has permitted damaging propaganda to continue against us. Also she has failed to reinstate us in the eyes of the American public.  We are placed on the spot, and our course of action is in the balance scale of justice; for our Government's honest interpretation of our stand will mean absolute vindication and admission of the wrong committed. On the other hand, if interpreted otherwise by misrepresentations and misunderstandings, it will amount to renewed condemnation of this group.

‘Although we have yellow skins, we too are Americans. We have an American upbringing. Therefore we believe in fair play. Our firm conviction is that we would be useless Americans if we did not assert our constitutional rights now; for, unless our status as citizens is cleared and we are really fighting for the high ideals upon which our nation is based, how can we say to the white American buddies in the armed forces that we are fighting for the perpetuation of democracy, especially when our fathers, mothers and families are in concentration camps, even though they are not charged with any crime?

‘We believe that our Nation's good faith is to be found in whether it moves to restore full privileges at the earliest opportunity.’

- Citizens group, Heart Mountain, in response to draft registration


Son, remember this is your country.  You must defend it.

- Issei father to his son


Don’t bring shame [haji] to the family.



Basic Training

I know that at McCoy and at Shelby, we were probably monitored as often as any unit that ever was. We were harassed by every level from the local Army, the division, the War Department. The inspectors were stumbling over each other trying to determine whether it was possible to make a good combat outfit out of Japanese Americans. The security was far more subtle. I think we had an occasional white officer who was probably sent by Intelligence rather than to be an officer for the outfit. I'm sure that some of the observers that came from the division levels and mingled with us were probably intelligence officers. These people probably had to make reports.


We had a very anxious moment there because the train pulled into the siding. It was a compound with barbed wires all around. The word quickly got around that this was a prisoner of war camp, and it looked like a prisoner of war camp, the first one we had ever seen, of course. There were guards at the corners and all that kind of thing, but then the train backed off and we continued on our way.


Yeah, we didn't have the internment to motivate us or to disapprove, but all of us were brought up in that, you know, with a family background which taught us family unity and also, in Hawaii, because we knew each other, many of us were related to each other, there was a bond that was stronger than most other military units. And if you didn't perform your part, you were letting down your neighbor, kind of a feeling that we had, so that you found very, very few cases if at all of people not performing, not performing their functions, their duty. Every guy, no matter how scary, how dangerous, felt that if a guy, if my next door neighbor is going, I'm going too. I'm going to do my job. So that to this extent I think our unit was unique in the military organization.


I didn't go in to prove myself American because I knew I was a good American. Right through, I mean, from the beginning. Before the war I was a good American. I went in the war because I didn't like Hitler and Tojo. I didn't like their pogroms, the killing of the Polish people, and Jewish people, and they're the master race thing. I mean that was the thing that drove me. I remember the first sermon I gave in Shelby was concerned with this. I said if you came here to prove yourself a better American, that you are a good American, you might as well go home. But if you came here because you wanted to defend democracy and brotherhood and equality, then that would be a worthwhile thing to fight for. And that's what we fought for.




We were one well-trained unit. We knew exactly what these guys are gonna do. We knew they not gonna bug out on you, they gonna protect you. So that's why we don't have any outstanding heroes. We never leave a guy out there by himself. We'll be all together. We fought as a unit. We would never leave a guy out there flat by himself and come back. We would fight together till we get everybody out or take our objective. As simple as that. A lot of times if you have an organization where you leave a guy out there by himself, the rest of the guys pull away, you gonna have a problem. You have trouble later on. But we never did that. We always stayed together and fought as a team.


You can't say too much for the medics. They were really great. They had this buddy or team spirit of the Hawaiians to the nth degree. Whenever someone got hit, the medics would be there to take him out. The medics would run out there under fire and grab those guys. A lot of times they got hit and killed. But they never failed to help us and bring us in, small arms fire or whatever. Nothing stopped them. We have nothing but the highest praise for the medics.


You work as a team…those guys from the islands taught me something I never ran into on the Mainland…you really have a buddy system. When you get into trouble you don't leave your buddy, ever, and he won't leave you, and this is a tremendous thing. You make it or you don't make it, together. But always together. So when you go into action, you know that if you get into trouble, your buddies are going to stick with you. They're not going to leave you hung up out there alone. The medics are going to get you if you get hit. If you get into a tight spot, everybody pitches in to get you out. You're never alone, and you know that. It keeps you going.


Combat is like walking into a completely dark room that you know is full of rattlesnakes. You don't know if you'll get bitten or not. But you're very scared and very careful.


Actually in the combat, you die many times…every second, every minute, you're there, I think you're afraid…you're afraid of lots of things that's going to happen because you are always in danger. There's no such a thing as safety. When everything happens, the barrage comes, then the enemy starts coming at you, or you start going after the enemy—you know you're going to get it one way or the other. Usually the percentage is against you because the enemy is waiting for you and you're trying to root them out and this is the whole thing. And, as I said, you got to get it sometime. But on this, you've really got to be lucky; fate has to be with you. Some of them will say the bullet has my name and all that, but I think if you're in the right place at the right time or if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're going to get it.


The minute we find out we're in alert and we're going to hit the frontline, everybody wants to go to church. I think they want that extra protection or something to believe in that they're going to come through. And, I think every G.I. has something that they, or, myself, I was carrying a four-leaf clover that I found in Ca­serta. When I got off in Naples, I dropped my duffel bag and when I looked down, there's a four-leaf clover looking right at me. I told my friends that this is the thing that is going to bring me through the war. I believed in it and here I am today.


"Clearing a hill" or "capturing prisoners" may sound like a routine, work-a-day operation—“a piece of cake." It wasn't. It could be like any other combat day, and any other day in combat is a day with tension so tight you leave your fingerprints on your rifle butt. You listen unconsciously to the small arms or machine-gun fire and note immediately by the sound whether it is theirs or ours. You scan every bush and shrub and ravine from 50 to 500 yards for any unusual movement, a glint of metal or glass against the sunlight. You try to blot out the thought that your next step might be on a Schuh mine—all wood, it cannot be picked up by a mine detector—or against a trip wire. You move forward at a half crouch. Everything is a blur yet you note where your buddies are. It is so quiet but you know all hell could break loose now, at any minute, or tomorrow. You never know when, but you have to be up and ready.

Some men could sustain this pitch for days and weeks; others could not. It was not something to be ashamed of if you broke under the stress. It was natural. Different men had different breaking points. So when you read, "they cleared hill such and such," or “finished off” the enemy, it really was not that simple. It was different men, fighting and undergoing combat stress or fatigue to varying degrees. When you "cleared" an area or "took some prisoners" you could be calm and collected or you could be "trigger happy." People could get killed needlessly. But no combat soldier would fault another if he shot too fast or dropped one too many grenades. War is not that neat. It was definitely not "a piece of cake."

- T. Sgt. Chester Tanaka, K Company 442 RCT


Once we got overseas, that feeling of being watched by the Army didn't exist. It really didn't exist. In the staging area, we were briefed by S-2 intelligence and told about different weapons and armaments of the enemy. We were briefed about wartime rules and regulations. You know the U.S. Army. We were given a brief but thorough education program. It was quite an orientation con­cerning the enemy and his weapons. There were no feelings of being guarded, watched or under surveillance. Combat changed a lot of things.


Watch the older guys, the ones who have seen action. Try to copy their moves. There are some general rules—don't fasten the chin strap on your helmet. An explosion could blow your helmet off and your head with it. Don't light a butt in the open or at night unless you are under cover. Better yet, don't smoke during the day. They might spot your smoke. Remember, it's not just you who's going to be blown away, it could be your buddies. Listen to the sound of Jerry rifle, grenade, machine pistol, and artillery. They have their own sound, different from ours. Even their tanks have a different sound. Know the different sounds. It could save your life. When you're on the line and you hole up for a while, start digging a slit trench or foxhole unless the noise will give you away. A foxhole is about 3 feet in diameter and about 3½ feet deep. You can sit on your helmet and look around in a circle. It's better for fighting. When the barrage comes, you can duck your head in the hole. Slit trenches need be only as deep as needed to get you and your body below ground level in a prone position. They are faster to dig and easier to dig when the ground is hard. If you take over a Jerry trench, look out for booby traps. It's usually safe if you just chased him out of there.


Outside of Bruyères, we were there for almost two weeks in the cold. It wasn't freezing but it was very close to it. It was raining all the time. When you slept on the ground, you slept in a puddle of water. In the morning that water would have a thin layer of ice. It was very close to freezing. It's raining all the time and you're in that kind of weather for two weeks. After a while every muscle of your body starts to tremble. I think that's a way of trying to heat itself. You can't talk without chattering, you can't hold any­thing without shaking. You see the muscles quivering under your skin. You're cold and you're sopping wet, and you've been sopping wet from the very first day. After a while, the fact that it's raining doesn't mean anything because you're so wet. Yet under those conditions nobody got sick, nobody got ill, nobody got pneumonia.  Yet despite all the physical hardships, there was the constant terror of death, of people getting killed, mangled, or wounded. But again I say, it was sheer will power. When you come down to it, combat is really sheer will power.


The Germans started shooting medics in E (Easy) Company and this was Danny Inouye's company. They decided to shoot back at the German medics because they were killing our medics. There was a medic in Easy Company named Higuchi (Kelly) Kuwa­yama from New York, a Princeton graduate. I remember Kelly getting his platoon together and saying, ‘I'm an aid man, and they're shooting at me, and we're shooting at them, and it'll be keeping, it'll be going on.’ Kelly said, ‘You cannot fight evil with evil. Therefore I wish you would not shoot at their aid men.’ I remember Danny telling this story and saying that, ‘You know they all hung their heads in shame, and they didn't shoot back.’


Bruyères will long be remembered, for it was the most viciously fought-for town we had encountered in our long march against the Germans. The enemy defended it house by house, giving up a yard only when it became so untenable they could no longer hope to hold it.

- General Jacob L. Devers, Seventh Army Report


You don't know what's going to happen next. Even in that kind of fear I think the ones that really survive, especially mentally, were able to see humor in anything or try to see humor in things. Of course there was the eternal griping or bitching if you want to call it that. I guess bitching was a way to relieve your feelings­ more than anything else. I don't know how humorous you can call this, but in a way it is. Here we were sitting on a ridge and this was the 4th of July. It was a good morning and things were fairly calm. And I said a few of us was on this particular ridge when somebody remarked, ‘Sure is quiet for the 4th of July,’ and about the time the words died out, that's when the German artillery came in and gave us hell.


‘Hey lieutenant, you from the One Puka Puka?’

‘Yes, I'm from the 100th . . . from Kauai. What island are you from?’

‘Oh, me not from Hawaii. Me one kotonk from Chicago.’

‘How come you talk like a buddhahead [Islander]?’

‘If I no talk like this, I get "bust up" (dirty licking).’

- Captain Spark Matsunaga


We were fighting for the rights of all Japanese Americans. We set out to break every record in the army. If we failed, it would reflect discredit on all Japanese Americans. We could not let that happen.

- Harry Takagi




I'd go out—at the front believe it or not—they'd call me up on the phone. "Chaplain when are you coming to give a service." You know—at the front. And that couldn't be—I couldn't bunch them together. They'd be in their own foxholes, you know. If a shell came, it would kill a whole bunch if they gathered together. And I was scared too. I didn't stay very long, just about a scripture and a prayer. That's about all, you know. And talk with the boys a little bit and then take off.

- Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, 2nd Battalion 442nd RCT


Chaplain Yost stayed with us all the time. He stayed at the heat of the battle and took care of the wounded. He was one of the finest men that I've ever met in my life, and the men flocked to him for several reasons. One, they were looking for something, some faith, whether it's a Christian faith or the Buddhist faith. The other thing, they admired Chaplain Yost.


One of my men asked me if I would have a burial service for his brother who was killed that day. I said all right. We got a truck and went down to Epinal. There were thousands of bodies there but we found the body. While we were standing by, some German prisoners who were helping with the grave registration offered to carry the body to the graveside. We refused because—well, I'm ashamed to say it, we hated the Germans so much—to think that a German who had killed this boy, who might have killed this boy, was going to touch his body again. So we refused, and we carried his body to the grave, to the graveside, and I had a service with the men. And after the service was over, I said "The Lord's Prayer" with the men, and the Germans standing by knelt down and also said "The Lord's Prayer" in German with me. "Unser Vater der im Himmel ist." I believe that's the German words for "Our Father who art in heaven." After the service was over, we got on the truck and on the way home I asked the sergeant, who was a young Christian boy, what he thought about the Germans saying "The Lord's Prayer" with us. He said, "You know, Chaplain, I was going to stand up, go over and push his face in…to think that he would say a prayer over the body of one he might have helped to kill." And then he said, "All of a sudden I realized that we were saying "Our Father" and not "My Father," not a Jap­anese father, not an American father, not a German father, but "Our Father," and the Germans were our brothers and we were fighting each other and killing each other. You know, Chaplain, for a minute there, I was ashamed that we, as brothers, were kil­ling each other."

- Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, 2nd Battalion 442nd RCT


Sgt Masa Sakamoto was from Northern California. He was killed in Sospel. I was told to go up and get his body and bring it down. We had a little service in the cave there and it was my duty as the Chaplain to search his pockets in order to get everything home that can be sent home. I found a letter…all of his brothers were in the army in Japan…some vandals in California had burned down his father's home and barn in the name of patriot­ism. And yet this young man had volunteered for every patrol that he could go on. You know, you can't give a medal high enough for a man like that. We don't realize how much these boys in Cali­fornia had to go through…to find a letter like that and his going out on a patrol and being killed.

- Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, 2nd Battalion 442nd RCT

Liberation of Bruyères and Rescue of the Lost Battalion

The 442d Regimental Combat Team…entered combat on October 15, 1944, as a unit of the 36th Division…engaging in the assault on Bruyères, which was entered after three days of bitter fighting. The 7th Army report on these operations states, "Bruyères will long be remembered, for it was the most viciously fought-for town we had encountered in our long march against the Germans. The enemy defended it house by house, giving up a yard only when it became so untenable they could no longer hope to hold it."

- Gen. Jacob L. Devers


We were joined by the men of the 442d…brave determined little men…who seemed almost anxious for a fight. "Man, they could fight!" exclaimed a George Company wire man…"They didn't appear scared of anything; they just kept advancing through the forest standing up and firing from the hip at anything that moved.

They sure knew how to make our Tommy Gun talk!"

- 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Division


We had been fighting and had broken through to Bruyères and now we were pulled back for a rest. This was about the 25th of October 1944. After two days' rest, we were notified on the 27th that we had to reach the "Lost Battalion," the First Battalion of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division. They were stuck out there on a point. They had 275 men out there about nine miles in Jerry­land near St. Die. The flanks couldn't catch up with them so there they were. The Germans had circled them. Other troops tried to break through but couldn't. Airplanes had dropped food and ammo but the food and ammo kept rolling down the hills, into the trees, or into German hands. Our men were in a bad way. They'd been out there for a week, and that's when we were called in. They had 275 men when they started and, of course, we had our regi­ment when we moved in.

From the very first day until we reached them, it seemed like an eternity. It couldn't have been more than a week. We lost offi­cers and men right and left every day. We lost so many men you couldn't count. I was the acting 1st Sgt for Company K. My pencil was worn down to a stub trying to keep track of the people we lost.

We kept asking for replacements. None came up. We were lucky to get just food and ammo. Nothing could come up through that tremendous barrage that the Germans put down on both sides of us, it was like going through a narrow corridor with the enemy on your right and left, laying down a barrage of mortars, small arms fire, artillery, everything. And we were working through a forest.  This was the Vosges forest…

It was raining at first and by the time we reached the "Lost Battalion," it started to snow. It was always cold…The orders were, "If you can walk, you don't go back," because we were so low on men…But we couldn't spare the men and so if they could move around and pull a trigger, they had to stay and fight.

There was no thought of turning back. Never. We didn't think about turning back. No one even mentioned it. We just kept plowing forward to reach the "Lost Battalion," period. That was our goal and that's where we were headed…It was rough but we knew we were okay. We just kept plowing ahead and so this little thin line was kept open. We would send people back for supplies and ammo and they would get hit and killed. The last team I sent, the night before the rescue, about five guys went back for ammo and supplies—three of them were hit.

Right after I Company took Banzai Hill, we made contact with the "Lost Battalion." Tak Senzaki was one of the few platoon sergeants we had left…

When we reached the "Lost Battalion," there wasn't much time for rejoicing because we had to go right past the other side of the "Lost Battalion," dig in and set up a perimeter defense.

The Vosges was the most savage battle that I was ever in. You never saw the enemy, or, if you did see him, it was in close combat. And, if you got hit, the chance of survival was less because of the cold. The wounded would go into shock very quickly. I think it was really a mess compared to other battles.

- Chester Tanaka, K Company 442 RCT


We had been on the line for a week or so, so they decided to pull us off and give us a rest. No sooner were we allowed a shower and clean clothes, when the word got around that we were alerted. So everybody was questioning, how come? They said we were going to get a rest, but we were alerted on the second day. So the word got around that a battalion was trapped somewhere out there. So, that night we were on alert and we had to pack again. Then we moved out in total dark. I didn't know which way we were going, but we found a human chain to hold onto. I guess somebody knew the trail to the front line. The 3d Battalion took the center part of the assault. We were the assault battalion. The fire fight was almost continuous, everyday. They had the "Lost Battalion" really surrounded, and my platoon was cut down. We first lost our pla­toon leader, next our platoon sergeant, then our squad leader, finally the assistant squad leader. It ended up I was sitting a­round all by myself I didn't know who was who, all I knew was I belong to I Company and we're assaulting…

Well I could never see [the German soldiers] because the Vosges forest is so thick. I think, actually our fighting was like Indian fighting. You never know if the enemy is going to be 10 feet, or 50 feet, or if he's going to be right behind you. You jump from one tree to another and keep on going.

- Sgt. Shig Doi, I Company 442 RCT


“We had to guard our water hole with machine guns because the Germans tried to pick us off when we came down for a drink…a whole combat patrol went out to try and make contact but only a few of us returned…they'd hit us from one flank and then the other, then from the front and the rear, but they never broke through…we never were so glad to see anyone as those fighting Japanese-Americans…"

Those drama-packed quotes came from the men of this war's "Lost Battalion" which was cut off from all friendly units for nearly seven days.

Some men broke into sobs early Monday evening when elements of a Japanese-American outfit cracked through the encircling enemy to effect the long-awaited relief.

The Japanese-American unit, fighting with fierce tenacity and dogged determination, started its move to rescue the battalion on the seventh day of entrapment.

Steadily they drove the enemy before them, using everything in the infantry book against the Nazis. Bayonet charges and close-in work with hand grenades took a high toll of German dead. One Japanese-American, for instance, killed six of the enemy by sniping with a captured rifle.

At another junction on the rescue trip, the Nazis yelled down from a hillside position: "C'mon and get us!" And the Japanese Americans did exactly that, charging up with fixed bayonets and rifles fired from the hip. Few of those Nazis there ever saw the fatherland again.

Every officer in the trapped outfit was loud in his praise for the work of the Japanese-Americans, one phrasing it this way: "As fighting men, as real American soldiers, they are tops—absolutely tops."

- Pvt. Joseph E. Palmer, Beach Head News


I was with the leading elements from K Company when we reached the "Lost Battalion." I was surprised. I was looking out for the enemy and here comes a guy out of a hole in the ground. I almost shot him but at the last minute I got a look at his uniform. His face looked grey green to me. I guess I would too if I were in a hole someplace for a week. I just stared at him and he stared at me. We really couldn't say much to each other. We advanced towards each other. I had lowered my rifle and he lowered his. And when we got close to each other, we just kind of looked at each other. But it was quiet. Then I guess I must have said, "Hi," or something stupid, and I guess I must have offered him a cigarette or something. Whatever I had 'cause I knew they were low on supplies. I guess I offered some K rations, whatever. After that first quiet minute the whole place erupted. "Hey, the 442 guys are here!" The guys started coming out of the ground like you don't believe. We didn't know that there were that many GI's out there.  We had been pounding all alone up that deadly trail for days, finding nothing but Germans, gunfire, and barrages. Then all of a sudden we hear these guys, and there's no more fighting here. And they found they didn't have to fight 'cause we weren't Ger­mans. We were numb at first and finally we realized that we were allies…you know it takes a little while for a simple thought like that to sink in after all the days of terror and the fighting. We were together and we were happy.


"The 442d Regimental Combat Team's most well-known exploit was the relief of the 'lost' 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, of the 36th Division, which had been cut off by the enemy in the Vosges Mountains. In three days of savage fighting, with close combat use of the grenade and bayonet, the Nisei broke through the enemy cordon. In gratitude, the men of the 36th Division launched a drive and had all members of the 442d declared 'hon­orary Texans'…this Nisei unit sustained 814 battle casualties (e.g., Company K was down to 17 riflemen; Company I, 8; there were no officers in either company the day after contact with the 'lost' battalion was made; sergeants were running the companies)."

- U.S. Congressional Record



War in Italy (2nd Campaign)

DES MOINES, IOWA— The combination of Japanese American infantrymen of the 442d Regiment and Italian Partisans led by a fighting priest called Pietro proved the winning formula in the capture of the strategic Italian coastal towns of Massa and Carrara and a lot of German prisoners in the Fifth Army's new offensive, Richard Mowrer, correspondent of the Des Moines Reg­ister, radioed in a copyrighted dispatch from the newly active Italian front last week.

Mowrer declared that ''following up their sharp thrust of the last few days along the Fifth Army's coastal flank, the Nisei Americans still were rampaging somewhere in the mountains Friday (April 13) as this correspondent went north along the shore as far as he could go."

"Every now and then," Mowrer said, "small bunches of bewildered and exhausted prisoners arrived in shell-torn Massa with reports that 'Turks' had been added to this front of many nation­alities."

"The Germans think they (the Nisei) are terrible. The Partisans think they are wonderful. It's all in the point of view," Mowrer reported.

- Des Moines Register


The 442d Regimental Combat Team…is cited for outstanding accomplishment in combat…by executing a diversionary attack on the Ligurian coast (Carrara, Italy, April 1945)…a daring and skillful flanking attack on the positions which formed the western anchor of the formidable Gothic line. In 4 days, the attack destroyed positions which had withstood efforts…for five months. The 442d drove forward despite heavy casualties…allowing the enemy no time for rest or reorganization…liberated the city of Carrara, seized the heights beyond…and opened the way for advances on the key road center and ports of La Spezia and Genoa…The successful accomplishment of this mission turned a diversionary action into a full-scale and victorious offensive…an important part in the final destruction of the German armies in Italy.

- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief Of Staff


Fellas, the war which we fought, the war in which all our friends who slept with us and ate with us died, who wanted to see this day. The war is over. You know, not one man cheered. I think most of them cried, I mean, just thinking of their friends that wanted to see this day. I mean, you see people in New York having all kinds of, man, just cheering. I just couldn't see that, you know. The guys that went to the line, there was not one exhibition of cheering or jumping or anything. They just stood there at atten­tion. You could see tears rolling down their eyes; I can't forget things like that you know. They, uh…to me, they never forgot the guys that lived with them and wanted to see that day, too.

- Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, 2nd Battalion 442nd RCT


For the men of the 100/442, the announcement of peace was a quiet moment, a good moment, a sad moment. There was no great cheering or frenzied jubilation. There was joy but of a quiet kind—joy that the killing would now end, joy that the maiming would now cease. There was no holding back the memories or the tears for the ones who didn't make it or for the ones physically and mentally torn. There was restrained rejoicing in a vic­tory hard-earned at bitter cost. The war was still too close. It had been too long. Many of them had been in combat for 20 months, in the thick of action, at the cut­ting edge. The 100th Infantry Battalion had fought with the 34th Division for 9 months. The Combat Team with the 100th as its first battalion had fought against the enemy for 11 months.

Six hundred and eighty men had been killed in ac­tion, 67 were missing, and 9,486 had been awarded Purple Hearts. This was the price the 100/442 had to pay.



Creation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

ON JUNE 17, 1942, the same day that I reported as Director of WRA, the War Department declared the Nisei unacceptable for service in the armed forces ‘except as may be authorized in special cases.’ More than two months earlier, on March 30, they had been exempted from the draft by being placed in a 4F classification. Soon thereafter, on September 14, a special classification of 4C (declarant and nondeclarant aliens) was provided, indicating that the Japanese Americans were not acceptable in the army. […]

Early in July of 1942 I began pressing Assistant Secretary John McCloy to do something about a revision of the army's policy so that Nisei could volunteer to serve and be drafted like other American boys. There were two very important reasons for our position. First, we felt that these boys, as American citizens, should have the same rights and responsibilities as other American citizens, including the responsibility of fighting for their country. Secondly, it was important to the future of the Nisei that they have the opportunity to prove their patriotism in a dramatic manner, in view of the race-baiting pressure groups and their ceaseless clamor that ‘a Jap is a Jap’ regardless of citizenship or upbringing. At every opportunity we continued to press the case for inclusion of Nisei in the armed forces.

- Dillon S. Myer, director, War Relocation Authority (WRA)


During a visit to the Gila River center, while the recruiters were interviewing prospects there, I overheard a conversation in the men's washroom between two young Nisei. One of them asked the other, ‘Are you going to join the army?’ The other boy replied: ‘Hell No! Nobody but a damned Kibei can get into this man's army.’ Upon my return to Washington I repeated this conversation to Assistant Secretary John McCloy to help prove our point that many Nisei wanted very badly to have the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. He was impressed and promised to redouble his efforts to secure a change in policy.

About this same time real support came from army officers stationed in Hawaii. Colonel Fielder, an intelligence officer assigned to Hawaii, came to Washington and spent several weeks in helping to convince high officials in the War Department that a change of policy was important and badly wanted by many Hawaiians of Japanese lineage.

The combination of pressures plus the persistence of Assistant Secretary McCloy paid off with the announcement on January 28, 1943, of plans for the organization of the 442nd Combat Team, an all Japanese American volunteer unit consisting of about 6,000 men. While this was good news, I must confess I was not wholly overjoyed at the time. My first reaction was that a segregated unit was wrong in principle. My hopes had been for unsegregated drafting and enlistment. This, however, was one case where principle was undoubtedly less important than other considerations, because the record of the segregated combat team stood out like a beacon on a dark night.

Looking back on it today, I have no doubt that America's conscience would not have been so dramatically reawakened on the Japanese American question as it was during the latter part of the war if Nisei had merely been scattered through the armed forces.

- Dillon S. Myer, director, War Relocation Authority (WRA)


The proposal to organize a combat team consisting of loyal American citizens of Japanese descent has my full approval…  This is a natural and logical step toward the restitution of the Selective Service procedures which…were disrupted by the evacuation.  No loyal citizen should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of 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 the heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President, United States of America




President Roosevelt’s Letter of Approval Regarding the
Proposed Japanese American Combat Team







February 1, 1943


My dear Mr. Secretary:


            The proposal of the War Department to organize a combat team consisting of loyal American citizens of Japanese descent has my full approval.  The new combat team will add to the nearly 5,000 loyal Americans of Japanese ancestory who are already serving in the armed forces of our country.

            This is a natural and logical step toward the reinstitution of the selective service procedures which were temporarily disrupted by the evacuation from the West Coast.

            No loyal citizen of the United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of ancestory.  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 ancestory.  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 wherever his skills will make the greatest contribution—whether it be in the ranks of our armed forces, war production, agriculture, government service, or other work essential to the war effort.

            I am glad to observe that the War Department, the Navy Department, and War Manpower Commission, the Department of Justice, and the War Relocation Authority are collaborating in a program which will assure the opportunity for all loyal Americans, including Americans of Japanese ancestory, to serve their country at a time when the fullest and wisest use of our manpower is all important to the war effort.


Very sincerely yours,

/s/ Franklin D. Roosevelt





I think we all felt that we had an obligation to do the best we could and make a good record.  So that when we came back we can come back with our heads high and say, ‘Look, we did as much as anybody else for this country and we proved our loyalty; and now we would like to take our place in the community just like anybody else and not as a segregated group of people.’ And I think it worked.

- Nisei solder, Camp Shelby, Mississippi


We called it congregation, not segregation…  Our thinking was that we were inconspicuous scattered throughout the Army.  Individual records wouldn’t prove much.  The Army had said that Nisei protestations of loyalty were so much hogwash.  We had to have a demonstration in blood.

- Staff Sergeant Mike Masaoka


Hawaii is our home; the United States our country…  We know but one loyalty and that is to the Stars and Stripes.

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