The 442nd/100th to the Rescue (of the “Lost Battalion”)!

I have just finished working through an interview with Hideo “Lefty” Kuniyoshi, a Nisei soldier from Hawaii. During World War II, Mr. Kuniyoshi served as a squad leader in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and he saw much action in Italy and France. Sadly, in reading a little bit about Mr. Kuniyoshi, I discovered that he suffered from Alzheimer’s, which would explain his foggy memory in parts of his interview. One area in which Mr. Kuniyoshi’s memory is still intact is his service with the 442nd in Europe. Mr. Kuniyoshi saw action during the Champagne Campaign and the battle to break the Gothic Line, as well as helping to liberate the city of Bruyeres, France. One famous mission Mr. Kuniyoshi took part in was the rescuing of the so-called “Lost Battalion”. Always humble, Mr. Kuniyoshi does not like to be branded a hero for his contribution to the mission, instead maintaining that he was simply performing his duty for his fellow brothers-in-arms. The case of the Rescue of the “Lost Battalion” is an interesting story and I have come across it in several of the Nisei veterans’ interviews. I would like to give a little background history for the mission and how it relates to the Nisei military experience.

The “Lost Battalion” was a group of soldiers from the 141st Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 36th (Texas) Division, which originally made up the Texas National Guard. Fighting through France in October of 1944, the soon-to-be “Lost Battalion” was ordered to engage a group of German soldiers, by the much maligned Major General John E. Dahlquist. The battle was a disaster: German soldiers were able to cut-off the battalion, leaving 275 soldiers trapped without supplies in the Vosges Mountains. Two rescue attempts failed and conditions on the ground quickly deteriorated. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was called upon to undertake a final rescue mission after their success in the French towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine. During the five days of battle, the 442nd was able to break through and defeat the Germans, rescuing the remaining 200 men of the “Lost Battalion”. In the process however, the 442nd suffered hundreds of casualties. The “Lost Battalion” mission contributed to the 442nd becoming the most decorated unit, for its size and length of service, in U.S. history.

Missions, like that of the Rescue of the “Lost Battalion”, highlight the importance of the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion during World War II. The Nisei soldiers’ service shows the selflessness and loyalty that many, like Mr. Kuniyoshi, operated under for a country which treated them poorly. This mission also highlighted the suspect leadership of Major General Dahlquist, who was criticized for his over-utilization of Nisei soldiers, many of whom had little rest after liberating Bruyeres and Biffontaine when called upon for the mission. I have come across several Nisei veterans in these interviews who do not hold the major general in high regards. Mr. Kuniyoshi, for one, when asked about what he thought of Major General Dahlquist responded with the curt reply, “not much”. Some argue that Dahlquist’s actions may highlight the inherent discrimination and racism in the military during World War II, and sadly racism against Japanese Americans permeated the whole country at the time. This is what makes the service of the 442nd/100th and missions, like the Rescue of the “Lost Battalion”, so important, for it signifies the Nisei veterans’ legacy. The Nisei fought to prove their loyalty to their country, as well as to gain honor and respect from the American people. The courage and resolve that Mr. Kuniyoshi and thousands of others have showcased is something to be admired and has rightfully cemented the Nisei soldiers’ actions during World War II as an important piece of American history.

Nisei Soldiers’ War on the Home Front

Post written by Sean Stanley, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center

“These guys had an extra war to fight – not just fighting the enemy, but to fight this misunderstanding and prejudice at home. The Nisei, I think, were particularly well equipped to handle that crisis, and react to that crisis, and even though they got slapped in the face and their heads pushed down, they were able to rise up and endure and come out on top.”

-Ted Tsukiyama

The Nisei experience during World War II was complicated to say the least. At the outbreak of the war, many Japanese American families were forced from their homes and had to uproot their lives due to a perceived threat to the United States’ public safety. To say that this was a difficult time for Japanese American families and the Nisei would be an understatement. For one, Nisei children had parents who grew in Japan and still had relatives living there, keeping familial and cultural bonds to Japan very much alive. In some cases of the interviewed Nisei soldiers, they returned to Japan as children to study and attend school, often living in the country for several years. Other Nisei children grew up in America, never visiting Japan, and had relatively little connection with the Japanese culture other than through their parents or community. What was common to these interviewed Nisei soldiers was that they all identified themselves as Americans. Sadly, these Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and, despite their allegiance, were forced into internment camps all in the name of public safety.

As the war broke out, many Nisei honorably joined the military, wanting to serve their country and escape a prisoner’s life in the camps. Often times Nisei soldiers were conflicted morally, wanting to serve their country, but also angered and saddened by the human rights violations that their families were going through at the hands of the United States government. In addition to this, parts of the county were ripe with anti-Japanese sentiments and prejudices, including against Nisei G.I.s. Imagine taking on the honorable deed of military service, only to be criticized and insulted by a portion of the general public. A very tough situation it must have been indeed.

Nisei veteran, Ted Tsukiyama’s quote highlights the struggle that the Nisei soldiers faced. On one hand, Japanese American soldiers were serving on a hostile war front where survival and returning home was not guaranteed. On the other hand, those soldiers that served domestically or were returning home from battle, faced a home country where discrimination and prejudice against minorities – even upstanding, good citizens – was common. In my opinion, much of the Nisei’s resolve to carry on in the face of conflict came from their own parents teachings and advice. In many of these interviews, the interviewees often speak of hard-working parents who did not complain about their misfortune, but instead focused on bettering themselves. The Nisei often adopted the mantra of “shigata ga nai” (cannot be helped), focusing on the things they could control. While eventually feelings of hostility towards the Nisei dissipated, the treatment of the Japanese American community during the war leaves a black mark on our country’s history. Utmost respect is deserved for the Nisei soldiers who had the resolve and courage to get through this difficult period. These Nisei veterans are true American heroes.

Sean Stanley: My Experience with the Oral History Metadata Synthesizer (OHMS)

This is my first experience working with the Oral History Metadata Synthesizer and so far I am very impressed with what a great tool it is for both archivists and researchers alike. I studied history in college and have some experience with metadata and archiving programs, but had no experience with OHMS prior to interning at the Go For Broke National Education Center. One of the things I like about the program is how user friendly it is. Using OHMS is not as a daunting as a task as it may seem; tagging the videos and adding keywords to each section is simple and straightforward. From the other perspective, searching for terms in the Google-like search box is an extremely efficient way to find a subject within the video, rather than having to scroll through the video manually. For this reason alone, OHMS can be a great resource for researchers wishing to use information from an oral history interview.

OHMS really helps oral histories become a practical resource for researchers and students, bringing about an interactive quality to these videos that did not exist before. All oral histories, but especially those that we work with here at Go For Broke contain valuable insight, discussions, information, and first-hand knowledge on topics that are very important to the history of our country. It is my belief that OHMS will help expose these stories to a wider audience and change the way the public is able to utilize oral histories.

As stated before, I am relatively new to using OHMS, but in the few months I have been using it, my experiences with it have been overwhelmingly positive. For someone new using the program, I would offer to approach using OHMS with confidence. The program is not complicated and once you get the hang of using it, the videos come alive that much more. Also, be gratuitous with your keywords and split the videos into cohesive sections. While OHMS is a great tool, it is also up to us to use our own skills to bring out the best of these valuable resources.

What Are You Working On, Sean Stanley?

Post written by Sean Stanley, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center

I am currently working on an interview with Mr. Roy Matsumoto, who served among the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma and Southeast Asia. Mr. Matsumoto’s story is a fascinating one; Roy was born in Los Angeles, later moving to Japan to attend school, before moving back to Long Beach and finding work as a grocer. Mr. Matsumoto was imprisoned at the outbreak of World War II and classified 4-C, or enemy alien, despite being a citizen of the United States. After spending some time in an internment camp, Mr. Matsumoto was able to utilize his knowledge of the Japanese language and was chosen to undertake a mission with the Merrill’s Marauders in Southeast Asia.

Roy became a master sergeant and served on the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon and as an interpreter throughout the Marauders’ campaign in Burma. What struck me throughout Mr. Matsumoto’s reflections was the enduring theme of loyalty to his county, despite the fact that discrimination was at its highest point against Japanese Americans in the States during World War II. Roy was also faced with the difficult task of fighting a war which pitted him against relatives and friends (his cousin and brother both served in the Japanese Army) and put his family in harms way (his extended family just escaped the bombing of Hiroshima). While critical of the treatment of fellow Japanese Americans during the war, Mr. Matsumoto never hesitated to help serve the country that was his home and he loved.

It may be hard to imagine having to face these types of situations, but the truth is Roy Matsumoto was not unique. There were thousands of Japanese Americans that experienced similar effects of discrimination and cultural allegiances that made the war era very difficult. In a quote from an earlier interview with Grant Hirabayashi, Japanese Americans, especially soldiers were “happy to be accepted for who they were” while serving in the military, giving them back a sense of pride and belonging through this trying time. Despite all of this, many Nisei soldiers served their country with the utmost respect and loyalty.

When we see and hear discrimination in history, I believe there is always an opportunity to learn and better ourselves as a society and these men’s stories can be used as tools for understanding the importance civil rights in our own modern society.

About the Authors: Sean Stanley

Post written by Sean Stanley, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center

My name is Sean Stanley, and I am an intern at the Go For Broke National Education Center. I am a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona with a B.A. in History and will be starting my M.A. in Library and Information Studies in the spring. In addition to interning, I also work part time for Claremont Heritage, a local heritage organization in Claremont, CA that deals with digital archiving and preservation of historic items. History is a great passion of mine and in the short time I have been with the GFBNEC, I have already learned so much.

I started interning at the GFBNEC in July of this year and I am currently working on indexing the Hanashi Oral History Interviews of Japanese American World War II veterans. The interviews are extremely enlightening and interesting; each veteran has a unique story that really brings to life what the World War II era was like for Japanese Americans. I often feel that this area of history is glossed over or not covered as it should be, which is really a disservice to all Japanese Americans who experienced a life of discrimination and struggle during World War II. In working with the oral histories, I have learned so much about our Nisei soldiers who served in the 442nd and 100th Infantry Battalions as well as the Military Intelligence Service throughout the Pacific Theater. These brave men sacrificed their lives for a country that did not always treat them justly, yet are proud veterans who served and protected their country valiantly.

The Hanashi Oral Histories are an extremely important historic tool and I am grateful to be helping preserve these resources for future generations. It is my hope that this project allows others to gain easier access to these interviews and help preserve the legacy of the Nisei soldiers of World War II.