Reunion of the Lost Battalion

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Veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team pose at the Rue de 442 in Bruyeres, France. From left, Art Iwasaki, George Kanatani, Sam Sakamoto, Nelson Akagi, Fumio “Steve” Shimizu, and Lawson Sakai. Nisei from the 442nd will reunite with soldiers from the Texas 141st Infantry Regiment in Houston on Nov. 1. (Courtesy of Ellen Sawamura, PhD)

Veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team pose at the Rue de 442 in Bruyeres, France. From left, Art Iwasaki, George Kanatani, Sam Sakamoto, Nelson Akagi, Fumio “Steve” Shimizu, and Lawson Sakai. Nisei from the 442nd will reunite with soldiers from the Texas 141st Infantry Regiment in Houston on Nov. 1. (Courtesy of Ellen Sawamura, PhD)

After more than 65 years, veterans from the Texas 141st Infantry Regiment and the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who later to become honorary Texans, will be reunited at a Houston gala hosted by the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF) on Nov. 1.

The event, to be held at the Hyatt Regency hotel, will recall the rescue of “The Lost Battalion” on a French battlefield by the all-Nisei 442nd — a rescue that brought together two uniquely American communities, one of which fought in the U.S. Armed Forces even as tens of thousands its civilians were held forcibly in U.S. Government internment camps.

“The soldiers who fought in the war and who were united against a common enemy weren’t the only winners 65 years ago. Many American ideals were rescued on that French battlefield,” said Craig Uchida, NJAMF board chairman. “The Nisei in the U.S. Army did what many others might never have been able to do. Forced to prove their loyalty to the United States, they did first by volunteering to serve and second by giving every measure of sacrifice requested.”

“The Houston gala will recognize the heroism of both the 442nd and the 141st. These veterans helped the U.S. to win that war, but they also built a foundation of understanding that decades later led to redress for the injustices of the internment. In that sense, they helped win two wars,” Uchida added.

“Houston is delighted to learn of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation’s upcoming 65th Anniversary Dinner to recognize the rescue of The Lost Battalion and to honor those brave men in the 442nd and 141st during World War II,” stressed Houston-based Donna Cole, chair of the gala’s Host Committee. “This tribute, unfortunately, is towards the end of their life, and we hope all that are able will travel to Houston for us to thank them for our freedom. Their sacrifices were great and we are reminded that we have to keep their legacy alive by memorials, dinners, and oral and written accounts of our history.”

On Oct. 24, 1944, the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division was sur­rounded by Nazi forces in the Vosges Mountains of Northern France. The 141st Regiment, originally from the Texas National Guard, had been known for its military successes involving fending off the Nazis.

In five days of battle, from Oct. 26 to Oct. 30, the 442nd fought enemy infantry, artillery and tanks through forests and mountain ridges until it reached The Lost Battalion, breaking through Nazi defenses and rescuing about 230 men. The 442nd then pushed on for 10 more days to take the ridge which was the 141st’s original objective. The regiment suffered tremendous injuries and casualties and would become most decorated unit in United States military history for its size and length of service.

The 141st is also famous for securing locations es­sential to the Allies, assisting in the Attack on Cassino, and liberating Kaufering concentration camps at Dachau. Once surrounded, the 141st became known as “The Lost Battalion.”

The 442nd was born from an American tragedy. In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced relocation and internment of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans, mostly U.S. citizens, into “War Relocation Camps” following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Empire of Japan.

In 1943, the U.S. government reversed its decision on Japanese Americans serving in the armed forces, and approved the formation of a Japanese American combat unit. As President Roosevelt then announced, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Japanese Americans brought this creed to life in service of their country, the United States. Approximately 3,800 Nisei enlisted as volunteers in the U.S. Army.

“Oct. 30 marks the 65th anniversary of The Lost Battalion’s Rescue by the 442nd Japanese American Combat Team. It was an amazing rescue in the Vosges Mountains of France.The 275 men of The Lost Battalion had been fighting non-stop for months. Cut off by the Germans, the men of The Lost Battalion were on that hill for 7 days without food and water. They were running out of ammunition. Several regiments of the 36th tried to rescue these men — but it was the 442nd that finally succeeded,” said Patricia Barry Rumble.

Rumble is the daughter of Pat CR Barry, 143rd out of Beaumont, Texas, who served in the 36th from 1939 to the war’s end.

“It is important to remember the sacrifice of the valiant men of the 442nd to save the men in The Lost Battalion. The brave men of The Lost Battalion owe their lives to the courageous men of the 442nd. Now, most of The Lost Battalion and their rescuers of the 442nd have gone to glory,” Rumble continued. “But we must preserve the memory of what they did and pay tribute to their bravery. We must honor their names in history. These men were true heroes.”

She explained that proceeds from the event will be used to:

• Develop curriculum educating Americans about the history of The Lost Battalion and the 442nd.

• Launch an ambitious fundraising project — replicating the iconic crane entangled in barbed wire sculpture from the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II in Washington, D.C. in select cities and at former internment camp sites in the United States. The first replica will be placed in Texas, specifically to honor the 141st and 442nd.

For more information on this event, visit www. njamf.com.

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3 Comments

  1. I am in the process of writing a novel titled Nisei. Does anyone know of any Hawaiian Nisei who were members of the 442 who would care to share their story and answer questions about Hawaii, specifically Aiea during the 1930s and 40s as well as their war experiences?
    Thank you

  2. Will there be a reunion in 2014? 70th anniversary? Any word if one will be held in Bruyeres in 2014 also?

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