FFNV Program to Focus on ‘Lost Battalion’ Rescue

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MORGAN HILL — Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV), a Japanese American World War II veterans organization, will host a meeting on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the rear building of the Morgan Hill Buddhist Community Center, 16450 Murphy Ave. in Morgan Hill, at 12:30 p.m. Potluck lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. The public is invited.

Lawson Sakai then and now.

Lawson Sakai then and now.

The highlight of this meeting is to feature four speakers on the subject of a legendary segregated Japanese American unit (442nd Regimental Combat Team) rescuing the “Lost Battalion.”

The 442nd RCT, formed in 1943, was initially engaged in Italy and quickly became a formidable and well-respected fighting unit. “Go For Broke” was its motto. For its size and the length of service, the 442nd became the most highly decorated unit in U.S. Army history with 21 Medal of Honor awards.

On Oct. 24, 1944, the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Division (originally the Texas National Guard), became surrounded and trapped by German forces in the Vosges Mountains, France. The 1st Battalion was deemed “lost” because repeated attempts by 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 141st Infantry Regiment failed to rescue the 1st. The division commander then ordered the 442nd to rescue the “Lost Battalion.”

Even though the 442nd just came off bitter battles to liberate nearby towns and thus was severely short of manpower, they smartly saluted and valiantly pressed on. It was another opportunity to prove their loyalty to America after being classified as “enemy aliens” after Pearl Harbor. On Oct. 30, after taking extremely heavy casualties, the 442nd RCT broke through and rescued the “Lost Battalion.”

Tom Graves, professional photographer and author of “Twice Heroes,” will give an overview of the 442nd, discuss the importance of the battle to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” and comment on why this rescue lives on in history.

Franz Steidl, author of “Lost Battalions,” will give an introduction to the regional military situation, military motives behind the battle and its results. He will also make an audio-visual presentation.

Al Tortolano, a soldier of the “Lost Battalion,” will talk about his side of the battle, what his fellow soldiers faced and what they went through before the rescue by the 442nd.

Lawson Sakai, a 442nd vet, will talk about the regiment itself — its origin and training — then focus on his role during the battle to rescue the “Lost Battalion.”

Questions may be directed to Brian Shiroyama at [email protected] or (408) 896-1021.

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