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The Nisei – True American Heroes

By Mark Messing

The Nisei American Heroes from the 442nd Combat RegimentWe are all familiar with the typical war heros provided to us by the media.  When we think of the history of war some of the only images we visualize are of the John Waynes and Tom Hankses of Hollywood portraying “true American” heroes in the most famous “true American” battles. 

And just so I’m not misunderstood, I want to make it clear that I love these kind of movies.  The stories they represent are intriguing, patriotic and entertaining.  However, for every story told to us by 14 different major movies at the same time, there are stories which are told by none.  Though they are full of heroics and patriotism; some stories just slip through the cracks.  With the essence of Memorial Day still at hand, I have decided it’s about time someone mentioned a war story that Hollywood hasn’t yet, a tale of “Diff” sized proportions. 

It’s about the Nisei.  Never heard of them?  That’s a shame, considering the Nisei were some of the bravest fighters in WWII.

This is a story that started with the 1st Battalion, 141st Regiment.  A group of 275 soldiers who probably resembled what the average American thought of when envisioning war.  They had been surrounded by German forces for almost a week and it was becoming clear that a mission for their rescue was too dangerous for troops to take on.  The situation was so desperate that later they would be known as “the Lost Battalion.”  The story of their escape is considered one of the most heroic in history, and they had very little to do with it.

This may be because they were actually rescued.  They really didn’t escape at all. 

The rescue mission, a mission that was considered to be too dangerous for almost every military unit was left to a pair of very unique units — the 442nd Regiment Combat Team and the 100th  Infantry Battalion.  These units had battled together before.  In fact, they were linked together by their heritage.  Both troops were comprised entirely of "Nisei" (2nd generation Japanese-American) soldiers who were given the option to join the American forces in 1943, or continue to stay in American-made internment camps.  These were a group of men who were classified as 4-C enemy aliens and whose loyalty was deemed questionable.  The reality was that they were loyal Americans and they jumped at the chance to serve their country, despite the fact that most of their families were being held in prison camps back in America. 

The 442nd and the 100th Infantry went in to save “the Lost Battalion” despite that fact that it was basically an impossible fight.  It was a mission no one else would take on.  More than 700 of their men died in the battle for the Lost Battalion, making it one of the worst casualty-rate battles in U.S. Army history.  The battle was one of seven major campaigns the 442nd and 100th would fight in Europe.  They would go one to earn more than 18,000 individual citations and became known as “the Purple Heart Battalion.”

The 442nd/100th showed loyalty and bravery throughout their entire military campaign.  Many people could easily question their decision to fight so fervently for a country which invested so little trust in them.  The thing is, these Nisei soldiers never doubted their own patriotism.  Other people did.  These soldiers did what they believed was right.  “We weren’t going around bragging about what we had did,” said George Oiye, a 442nd/100th veteran, “We didn’t think we were doing anything special.  It was part of war.”

Sometimes it’s easy to do the right thing. It is always good to do the right thing.  Greatness comes when you have to struggle to do it and you refuse to allow other people to change what you think is right.  You never know who will try and stop you.  It may even be the people you end up saving.

For more information, check out this site. (It’s not pretty, but it’s informative). Or Look into the book, Go For Broke!  Below are some statistics for the 442nd Regiment Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion.









































  – 100th Infantry Battalion and The 442nd RCT






  campaigns in Europe






  Unit Citations






  (Purple Hearts)






  decorations including:






  Medals of Honor






  Service Crosses






  Service Medal






  Stars, with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second





  Star Awards






  of Merit Medals












  Leaf Clusters representing second

















  Croix de Guerre with two Palms representing second awards






  Crosses for Military Merit






  Medals for Military Valor


source – http://www.nikkeiheritage.org/research/442.html

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  1. Excellent post, Mark. I’ve heard of the Nisei before and I’m not sure why the story isn’t more common.
    It’s amazing to me that they were asked to give their lives for a country that considered their mothers, fathers, sisters and othe relatives a threat to our security.
    I think they are a truly bright spot on a very dark part of our country’s history.
    Thanks for writing this one.

    Posted by: Clayton | May 31, 2007
  2. Definitely a nice post Mark. So much stuff that happened during WWII is kept under hush hush… thanks for exposing it.

    Posted by: Edson | May 31, 2007
  3. Edson, nice to see you’re keeping up with QL community. Hope Best Buy is treating you nicely.

    Posted by: Mark Messing | June 1, 2007
  4. Great post, I’ve now learned something new today. Much more informative than Edson’s post about “bravely” voyaging into Victoria’s Secret.

    Posted by: Rusty Shackleford | June 1, 2007
  5. GReat post Mark! I’d never heard of the Nisei before. This is the stuff that they should teach us in school but don’t.

    Posted by: trish | June 4, 2007
  6. Mark, your great article is flawed by one thing — Hollywood DID in fact tell this story!
    The 1951 film “Go For Broke” starred not only Van Johnson, but also several of the actual veterans of the 442nd RCT. This film is available on some of the cheap WWII DVD collections (and I would like to find a copy of the film which hasn’t been cut for Saturday afternoon TV distribution).
    It has been my honor to meet some of the veterans of the 442, the “One-Puka-Puka” and MIS. Soon, they will all be gone . . .I would like to see another high-quality film about the Nisei in WWII, though.

    Posted by: Keith Wood` | June 5, 2007
  7. Visit http://www.valorwithhonor.com for updates on the upcoming independent film on the Nisei 442nd. The film is based on over 30 personal interviews of these aging Japanese American WW2 vets. The DVD will be released in 2010.

    Posted by: Torasan Films | December 26, 2009

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Friday, January 19, 2018