The War Department announced that it was forming an all-Nisei combat team. (Nisei are the second-generation Japanese in Hawaiʻi and the first generation of Japanese descent to be born and receive their entire education in America, learning Western values and holding US citizenship).
The call for volunteers for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was made. The Territory of Hawaiʻi raised a total of 10,000-volunteers and so its quota was increased to 2,900 while the mainland quota was lowered proportionately to 1,500.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was activated on February 1, 1943 at Camp Shelby Mississippi; the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce held a Farewell Ceremony for Hawaiʻi 442nd soldiers on March 28, 1943, at ʻIolani Palace. By April 1943, the recruits arrived for training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Following their training, on April 22, 1944, the 442d packed up and were bound for Europe.
As the soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, including the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), pushed toward Germany in late-1944, they faced some of their heaviest resistance and harshest terrain in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France.
“It was in this dense forest and mountainous landscape that the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment, 36th Division, became ‘The Lost Battalion.’”
“On the front lines of the Allied assault, Major General John E. Dahlquist, commander of the 36th Division, pushed the unit – which was made up primarily of soldiers from Texas – forward to liberate more French territory.”
“The men of the 141st moved quickly through the trees taking advantage of significant gains made by the Allies during the previous days and weeks of fighting.”
“In their haste to recapture more territory, they unknowingly separated themselves from their fellow soldiers and became surrounded by German units.”
“The 1st Battalion, under the leadership of Lt. Marty Higgins, lost contact with headquarters and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions made little headway in their attempts to reach their comrades.”
“Members of the 405th Fighter Squadron of the 371st Fighter Group dropped supplies and food to the men, but as temperatures fell, rations decreased and the wounded deteriorated; the situation grew desperate for the men of the 1st Battalion.”
“Members of the 1st Battalion of 141st Texas Regiment found themselves cut off and surrounded behind enemy lines with limited food and water.”
“General Dahlquist recalled the Japanese American soldiers of the 100th /442nd RCT from their rest behind the lines and they attempted to reach the surrounded unit, slogging through rain and mud for miles towards the Texans.”
“The 100th Infantry and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 442nd RCT fought diligently for five days with the help of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion to break through or surround the Germans who entrapped the Texans.”
“Pvt. George Sakato reported that the lines were often so close that when the American artillery was active, ‘we jumped into any hole that was open to keep from getting hit.’”
“Members of their Antitank units joined in the effort as did soldiers from the 232nd Combat Engineer Company, all of whom hoped to break the stalemate that encircled the men of the 36th.”
“Despite their best efforts and teamwork, the fighting was difficult, forcing the Nisei to fight tenaciously for every yard of ground gained. The men would later learn that Adolf Hitler himself had heard of the trapped unit and ordered that they not be rescued no matter what the cost on the German side.” (Grubb)
“Moving quickly, the 3d and 100th Battalions pushed off from Belmont in pitch darkness at 0400, 27 October. By 1000 hours they had passed through the remainder of the 141st, which had been trying to break through to its besieged troops. The 442d launched its attack, battalions abreast, with the 100th on the right.”
“Progress was slow on the 27th. The terrain was next to impossible, heavily forested and carpeted with a dense growth of underbrush. Fighting went back to the days of America’s Indian wars; every tree and every bush were carefully investigated before the troops passed on.” (442)
“Ordered to rescue them, the 100th/442nd RCT, engaged in nearly nonstop combat for six days, eventually reaching the Lost Battalion on October 30. The 442nd suffered hundreds of casualties in rescuing 211 men.”
“Finally, six days after the Texans were surrounded, the Nisei approached from two sides, pushed back the German troops, and drew near the Lost Battalion.”
“At some points during the battle the Nisei had been outnumbered by as many as four to one; one particular hill that witnessed a fierce bayonet charge led by Private Barney Hajiro came to be known as ‘Suicide Hill’ due to the casualty rate of the advancing troops.”
“According to Pfc. Ichigi Kashiwagi of K Company, ‘We yelled our heads off and charged and shot the head off everything that moved… we didn’t care anymore… we acted like a bunch of savages.’”
“Companies I and K of the 3rd Battalion emerged with only seventeen and eight infantrymen respectively and both were led by sergeants because all higher ranking officers and non-commissioned officers had been killed or wounded.”
“Following the strenuous hand-to-hand combat of October 29 and an artillery bombardment the morning of October 30, the battles finally eased for the 100th/442nd RCT, but the situation was still tense for the trapped Texans.”
“As the rescuers came closer, the German artillery focused more on the Lost Battalion itself, which was already lacking supplies and losing soldiers every day. By midafternoon the Nisei were able to penetrate the German lines and caught sight of soldiers in American uniforms.”
“In what has become a famous exchange, Mutt Sakumoto, the first Japanese American to reach the trapped soldiers, offered a cigarette to the men of the 36th when he found them. Ed Guy, one of the rescued soldiers recalled, ‘I might have hugged [Sakumoto], I don’t know… I was just excited to get out of there.’” (Grubb)
“On the 30th, although the back of the German resistance had been broken and infantry action was sporadic, the artillery kept pouring in.”
“Finally, at 1500 hours that day, with the 3d and 100th Battalions moving as much abreast as possible, a patrol from I Company, led by Technical Sergeant Takeo Senzaki, made contact with the ‘Lost Battalion.’ Shortly thereafter, the main bodies linked up.”
“The impossible had been accomplished.” (442)