For Japanese-Americans, perhaps the proudest story of the Second World War is that of the “Go For Broke!” regiment, more officially known as the U.S. Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The 442nd fought in Europe. Made up almost entirely of Japanese-Americans, the regiment became the most highly decorated combat unit in Army history, while suffering one of the highest casualty rates of the war. Many members of the 442nd joined the Army while leaving behind family in relocation camps established by the federal government as part of the Japanese-American internment.
This past weekend, surviving members of the 442nd reunited with fellow veterans from a Texas battalion that in 1944 found itself surrounded by German troops. The 442nd broke through the German lines and rescued the battalion. It suffered 814 casualties in the course of rescuing the 217 Texans. Juan Lozano, reporting for the Associated Press, filed this story about the gathering: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5haYfoygw4pv_uAasUSFAnM1Avw3AD9BN4T0G2
All too often, newly arrived ethnic groups must prove themselves in battle on behalf of their new country in order to gain acceptance. Because of the war, Japanese-Americans also had to prove their loyalty in the midst of a conflict in which their country of origin was one of the Axis nations.
It is quite possible that many of the opportunities I have had in my life as a third-generation Japanese-American can be traced, however indirectly, to the service of those troops. I am the fortunate beneficiary of the fact that they did their jobs so bravely and honorably. My late uncle, Kenneth Watanabe, was among those who served in the 442nd and who fortunately survived the war to live a long and good life. Here’s to Uncle Kenny and his fellow soldiers and the sacrifices they made so that later generations could enjoy more of the blessings of liberty and opportunity.