Thursday, October 21, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team
are shipped home after fighting in Europe.

soldiers valiant

Isle role in AJA memorial

By Gregg K. Kakesako


THEY were even made honorary Texans. The designation to the Japanese-American soldiers of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team came after they rescued Texas' "Lost Battalion" in the Voges Mountains of France in 1944 -- just one of many honors they would receive for their valor.

After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans in uniform were disarmed and assigned to menial labor.

But local pressure forced the Army to reverse its position and the 100th Battalion -- "One Puka Puka" -- was born on June 12, 1942. Some 1,300 soldiers were shipped to Oakland, Calif., then trucked to Camp McCoy, Wis., for training, and later to Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

The 442nd RCT was activated on Feb. 1, 1943: Its ranks were filled with more than 2,500 Japanese Americans from Hawaii and 1,300 from mainland internment camps.

The 100th Battalion landed at Salerno, Italy, on Sept. 22, 1943, and later fought at Volturno, Cassino and Anzio. Fierce, it was nicknamed the "Purple Heart Battalion," with more than 1,000 of its soldiers wounded in battle.

On June 10, 1944, the 100th Battalion was attached to the 442nd RCT, battling in Italy and then southern France. By October 1944, the 442nd RCT had liberated the French towns of Biffontaine and Bruyeres, and was called on to break the German stranglehold on the "Lost Battalion," which had been cut off for almost a week.

That battle cost the 442nd/100th some 200 men and left 600 others injured; total casualties exceeded the number of soldiers saved from the Texas battalion. It was a defining moment for the unit.

Army records show that the 442nd/100th suffered 9,486 casualties during the whole war, with 650 soldiers killed in action.

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