Mullen Praises World War II Japanese-American Troops
(November 11, 2009)
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, speaks with Medal of Honor recipient George "Joe"
Sakato at the 65th anniversary of the rescue of the "Lost Battalion"
in Houston, Nov. 1, 2009. The event honored the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team, a segregated unit composed mostly of
Japanese-Americans. The unit rescued 230 men, lost more than 800 men
in the battle, and became the most decorated unit in U.S. military
history. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
||WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2009 – For three days in October 1944, a
Japanese-American military unit fought in dense woods, heavy fog and
freezing temperatures in the mountains of France, answering the
prayers of an American battalion pinned down by German forces.
In a bloody rescue mission that became one of World War II's most
famed battles, more than 800 troops fighting with the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team died as the unit saved 217 American forces.
“The 442nd, for its size and length of service, is the most
decorated unit in the entire history of the United States military,”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said
this week in remarks before the Japanese American Memorial Fund.
“Their story has taught me so many things and has likely inspired
all who have heard it.”
German forces had cut off the Texas National Guard's 1st Battalion, 141st
Infantry Regiment, in the Vosges Mountains when commanders ordered in the 442nd.
The German troops already had repelled repeated rescue attempts by the 141st's
other two battalions. |
Nearly half of the men in the Japanese-American unit would be dead or wounded
three days later, with the Texas battalion still isolated.
"Then, something happened in the 442nd," according to an official account at the
Army Center for Military History. "By ones and twos, almost spontaneously and
without orders, the men got to their feet and, with a kind of universal anger,
moved toward the enemy position. Bitter hand-to-hand combat ensued as the
Americans fought from one fortified position to the next. Finally, the enemy
broke in disorder."
The original 4,000 men had to be replaced nearly three and a half times. In
total, about 14,000 men served at the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, ultimately
earning 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, and an unprecedented eight
Presidential Unit Citations, Mullen told an audience that included troops from
the 442nd and 141st.
“I am truly humbled in the deepest sense possible to be in their midst, to share
with you some of the many lessons I have learned from their intrepid service,”
he said. “Their story has taught me so many things and has likely inspired all
who have heard it.”
Mullen said a study of what inspired Japanese-American troops is a lesson in
pride, courage and a heartfelt belief in the liberties promised by the U.S.
“These Japanese-Americans nobly volunteered to serve the very country who
persecuted and imprisoned them and their families,” Mullen said, referring to
the U.S. policy of placing Japanese-Americans in internment camps following the
bombing of Pearl Harbor. “Yet, these Japanese-Americans who chose to serve felt
not only a deep sense of patriotism, but they also felt that they had to prove
their patriotism, their loyalty to a then-ungrateful nation.”
The chairman said he derives another important lesson from the 442nd from an
anecdote about one of the unit's officers. When a Colonel Kim, a
Korean-American, was told to transfer out of the unit because of a historical
Korean-Japanese friction, he refused the order.
“‘They are Americans. I am an American. And together, we are going to fight for
America,'” Mullen said, quoting Kim.
“In everything we do, every choice we make,” Mullen continued, “we should strive
to make our communities and this nation as rich and diverse as possible by
living up to the principles upon which the United States of America was
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article