The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is a WWII U.S. Army regiment composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans, known as Nisei, who answered the call to serve. They fought in Italy and France and were described by more than one commander as, “The finest assault troops he’d ever led.” They volunteered at a time when many Japanese American families lived in internment camps. Some members of the 442nd were serving in the Hawaii National Guard when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The government made them turn their weapons in, but as the war progressed, the War Department permitted them to bear arms in defense of their country. We’ve recently added the Unit History for the 442nd, which consists of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, and the 232nd Combat Engineer Company. Later the 100th Infantry Battalion joined with the 442nd.
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After the 442nd was organized, they reported to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for training. Later they headed to the European Theater. In June 1944, the 100th Infantry Battalion met up with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, both having fought through Italy.
Among the heroic soldiers in this unit was Sadao S. Munemori. He was born to Japanese immigrants. Just a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sadao joined the U.S. Army and was in an Army training center when his family was forced out of their home and to an inland internment camp. Sadao was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and sent to Anzio as one of the first group of replacements for the 100th Infantry Battalion, who had already been in combat for nine months.
After Rome fell to Allied hands in June 1944, the 100th and 442nd shifted to France, where they played a heroic role in the forests above Bruyeres. Later, they returned to Italy with a new objective, to break through the Gothic Line. The Gothic Line was a defensive barrier in the northern Apennines mountain range. The 100/442 scaled the mountains and sent a massive artillery barrage down on German forces. The enemy returned fire relentlessly. At one point, Sadao and several other soldiers dove into a shell crater for protection and to avoid heavy fire. Noticing two machine-gun nests, Sadao decided to try and eliminate them. He crawled from the hole and attacked the machine-gun nests with hand grenades, knocking them both out. While crawling back to safety, a live grenade bounced off his helmet and fell into the hole. Knowing there wasn’t time to throw the grenade out, Sadao threw his body over it and absorbed the impact as it exploded. Sadao died instantly, but his comrades survived. Sadao Munemori became the only Japanese American to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the war (other Japanese Americans received the medal long after the war ended.)
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