To the editor:
Anyone who knows their history would have to be deeply offended by the current hateful acts and accusations directed toward Asian-American and Pacific Islander citizens.
One of the most decorated units of WWII was formed in 1943 and designated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It was composed entirely of 4,000 Japanese American volunteers, eventually growing to Battalion strength of over 18,000 men. They were referred to as “Nisei,” meaning second generation immigrant Japanese Americans. Many had families in internment camps back in the U.S. while they fought in Europe.
They were all volunteers because they were initially categorized as “4C” (enemy aliens) and therefore excluded from the draft. Consequently they did not have to go to war for America, but they chose to.
Upon arriving in Italy to fight the Nazis, they engaged in deadly combat along side the 34th Division of the Iowa National Guard and the 36th of the Texas Guard. After the surrender of Italy they fought on into France, Central Europe, and the Mediterranean. The 442nd then participated in the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp.
When the war ended the 442nd had suffered 4,419 casualties, including 650 killed in action, 3,713 wounded, and 67 missing. The 442nd motto was, “Go For Broke,” and they did that with great patriotism and sacrifice. They earned 18,000 awards including 4,000 Purple Hearts, thus earning the nickname “The Purple Heart Battalion.”
They had 21 recipients of the Medal of Honor. President Truman stated, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice - and you won.” General Marshall stated, “They were superb. They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit.” General Mark Clark said, “They demonstrated the loyalty and valor of our American citizens of Japanese ancestry.”
Sadly, virtually all of the Nisei of WWII are now gone, but the legacy of the 442nd continues to reflect their commitment to American values and freedom. They fought for our democracy, our freedom and the right to free speech.
Therefore, for those who may choose hateful actions and speech toward the AAPI American citizens of today, I simply say, know your history before going down that debilitating and slippery path.