The 442d Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was activated on 1 February 1943, composed of American-born Japanese called "Nisei" (NEE-say), or second generation. Some volunteered from Hawaii, others from the ten relocation centers on the mainland. The commander and most company grade officers were Caucasian; the rest of its officers and enlisted men were Nisei. The team included the 442d Infantry Regiment with three battalions, the 522d Field Artillery Battalion, and the 232d Engineer Company. After a year of individual and unit training at Camp Shelby, Missippi, the unit deployed to the Mediterranean in May 1944. The 1st Battalion remained at Camp Shelby to train replacements and was redesignated the 171st Infantry Battalion (Separate).
The 442d RCT joined the 100th Infantry Battalion in Italy and entered combat on 26 June 1944, attached to the 34th Infantry Division. Over the next two months the newcomers fought as well as their predecessors, earning nine Distinguished Service Crosses (while the 100th earned three more). On 10 August 1944, the 100th Battalion formally became part of the 442d RCT as its first battalion.
In September the 442d RCT was reassigned to Seventh Army for the invasion of Southern France. It was attached to the 36th Infantry Division for the drive into the Vosges Mountains. In four weeks of heavy combat in October-November 1944, the 442d RCT liberated Bruyeres and Biffontaine and rescued a "lost battalion" that had become cut off from the 36th Division. For this the 100th, 2d, and 3d Battalions, 442d Infantry, and the 232d Engineer Company were each awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation [later redesignated as the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC)] .
After duty in the Maritime Alps guarding the French-Italian border, the 442d RCT was reassigned in March 1945 to Fifth Army for the Po Valley campaign. Attached to the 92d Infantry Division, an African-American unit, the 442d RCT helped drive the Germans from Northern Italy. One of its soldiers, Pfc. Sadao S. Munemori, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The 442d RCT was demobilized and inactivated in August 1946. The lineage and honors have been preserved by the 100th Battalion, 442d Infantry (US Army Reserve).
For further information, see the following:
- Crost, Lyn. Honor by Fire: Japanese Americans at War in Europe and the Pacific. Novato, Calif., 1994.
- Duus, Masayo. Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd. Honolulu, 1987.
- Inouye, Daniel K. Journey to Washington. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967.
- Murphy, Thomas D. Ambassadors in Arms: The Story of Hawaii's 100th Battalion. Honolulu, 1954.
- Shirey, Orville C. Americans: The Story of the 442d Combat Team. Washington, 1946.
- Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston, 1989.
- Tanaka, Chester. Go For Broke. San Francisco, 1982
Prepared 16 May 2000
by James C. McNaughton
Defense Language Institute
Foreign Language Center, Presidio of Monterey