William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Go For Broke: The 442nd RCT
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We we are featuring the contributions of the Regimental Combat Team (RCT), the most highly decorated unit in the history of the US Army.
These men were American-born sons of Japanese immigrants. They fought two wars: the Germans in Europe and the prejudice in America.
The 442nd RCT began as two separate units. First, was the 100th Infantry Battalion which formed from Japanese American, Hawaiian National Guard members who were shipped to the mainland because military leaders questioned their loyalty against Japanese forces. The 100th Infantry Battalion went on to train at Camp McCoy, WI and Camp Shelby, MS where they proved their dedication and loyalty in the face of prejudice and suspicion before proving themselves in battle in Africa and Italy.
The 100th Infantry Battalion’s performance in training prompted the War Department to reverse its policy of blocking Japanese Americans from serving in the military and on February 1st, 1943 the 442nd RCT was activated. The 442nd RCT was composed of Japanese Americans from the Territory of Hawaii and the mainland United States where Japanese-Americans were subject to internment under Executive Order 9066.
While many of the soldiers in the 442nd RCT volunteered, many more were drafted after completing “loyalty questionnaires” which was indicative of the prejudice and mistrust that Japanese Americans would continue to face.
In June of 1944 the 100th was attached to the newly arrived 442nd RCT replacing its 1st battalion left at Camp Shelby but kept the 100th Infantry Battalion designation. The newly formed 442RCT would go on to build on the battlefield success of the 100th and go on to be regarded as the most highly decorated unit in US Army history in part because of their exemplary actions during the rescue of the Lost Battalion, the Champagne Campaign and the Gothic Line.
The 18,000 plus awards that the 442nd RCT earned include:
- 21 Medals of Honor
- 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
- 1 Distinguished Service Medal
- 560 Silver Stars
- 22 Legion of Merit Medals
- 15 Soldier’s Medals
- 4,000 Bronze Stars
- 9,486 Purple Hearts
- 8 Presidential Unit Citations