Legendary Japanese American battalion and patriotism in WWII: July 4

When the U.S. government put out a call during World War II for volunteers for the Army’s all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one who signed up was Masaru Taira. Like Private Taira, thousands of Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) stepped forward to join the 442nd from the territory of Hawaii, while others came from the mainland, where wartime incarceration camps would hold as many as 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry.

The segregated 442nd would later be joined with the smaller all-Japanese American 100th Battalion, formed previously amid anti-Japanese hysteria following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The 100th/442nd endured heavy casualties in Europe and became one of the most decorated military units in American history. The motto of the 442nd was “Go for Broke” – go for it all. Among the 442nd soldiers killed in action was Masaru, on July 4, 1944. He was 19 years old.

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