Photo courtesy of U.S. National Archives
As Army attitudes toward Japanese Americans evolved, President Roosevelt authorized the enlistment of loyal Nisei men. Loyalty was determined by their answers to an in-camp questionnaire officially called the "Application for Leave Clearance" it came to be known as the "Loyalty Questionnaire". Many hoped that fighting for the U.S. would finally prove their loyalty while others questioned why they should fight for a country that was keeping them and their families prisoners behind the physical barrier of barbed wire.
"The "Loyalty Questionnaire", 1943". Courtesy of densho.org
Press here to see the first three pages
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (part of the 100th Battalion) was activated by President Roosevelt on February 1, 1943, and was a newly created segregated regiment composed entirely of loyal Nisei men commanded by Caucasian officers. The majority came from Hawaii with another 1,500 from the mainland, most of whom came out of the camps. Morale was difficult from the beginning with conflicts taking place between the Hawaiians, Mainlanders, and Caucasians.
"All of us can't stay in the [internment] camps until the end of the war. Some of us have to go to the front. Our record on the battlefield will determine when you will return and how you will be treated. I don't know if I'll make it back."
-Technical Sergeant Abraham Ohama, Company "F", 442nd RCT, Killed in Action 10/20/1944
Quote courtesy of the442.org
The 100th/442nd fought in several battles including Naples/Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno River, Northern Apennines (Gothic Line), Po Valley, and in the Rhineland (Germany.) The Rome-Arno River battle earned the unit its first Presidential Unit Citation.
It was not common knowledge in the U.S. that these brave Nisei men were fighting alongside "typical" U.S. troops and were still considered "enemy aliens" by most Americans due to the continuing racial barriers.
The 442nd's most renowned battle occurred in the Vosges Mountains near the German border -- the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" where Private Arthur Koura nearly lost his left arm.
Lost Battalion Rescue News Reel - Public Domain Footage
Fred Shiosaki Published Interview - Densho Oral History 442nd Fight Song - US National Archives
In Po Valley the 100th/442nd performed a surprise attack on German mountainside positions that broke the Gothic Line in a matter of days; an obstacle that had defied Allied efforts for nearly six months. This battle earned them their third Presidential Unit Citation.
No desertions were reported from the 442nd. In fact, at least 7 soldiers left field hospitals without permission in order to return to combat!