Did you know that roughly 30,000 Japanese Americans served with the U.S. military during World War II? Many of them served with the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most highly decorated unit relative to size and service length in U.S. military history.
The predecessor of the 442nd was the 100th Infantry Battalion, formed in 1942 predominantly from Japanese Americans serving in the Hawaiian National Guard. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government was leery of allowing Japanese Americans to serve in the military, but the 100th helped pave the way for government approval of the formation of the Japanese American 442nd in 1943. The two groups were combined in June 1944. Also attached to the 442nd were the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion and the 232nd Engineer Company, as well as an anti-tank company, a medical detachment, and even the 206th Army Band.
The men in the 442nd/100th were known for their bravery and skill, and they fought in various European campaigns, particularly in Italy and France. The group had a high casualty rate and was highly decorated, with members receiving 18,143 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses. Twenty-one eventually received the Medal of Honor.
Beyond the 442nd/100th, a few Japanese Americans who had been inducted into the army prior to Pearl Harbor served in integrated units. Thousands of other Japanese Americans joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as translators and interpreters and served mainly in the Pacific. A few dozen Japanese American women also served in the MIS, and hundreds more joined the Women’s Army Corps and the Cadet Nurse Corps.
You can find many interesting documents related to Japanese American military service in World War II on Fold3. Below are a few examples:
- Draft registration card for a Japanese American in Poston Relocation Center
- Honor Wall page for Sadao Munemori, the first Japanese American to be awarded the Medal of Honor for WWII actions
- Newspaper article about the 442nd’s rescue of the Lost Battalion in France
- Complimentary statement about the 100th Infantry Battalion
- Photo of Eleanor Roosevelt visiting a hospitalized Japanese American soldier
- Brief summary of draft resistance by some Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain internment camp
- Letter of protest against the draft by a Japanese American in an internment camp
- Photo of a Japanese American interpreter talking with a Japanese family
- Photo of a Japanese American interpreter talking with Japanese POWs after the war
- Spotlight on Nisei interpreter Naotsuzuku “Jim” Miyasaki
- Account of work of Japanese American interpreters during Iwo Jima operation
- Statement about the necessity of using Japanese American translators in the First Marine Division
- Cadet Nursing Corps card for Japanese American Kay Fukuda
Find more records about Japanese Americans’ role in the military during WWII by searching or browsing on Fold3.