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100th Infantry Battalion & 442nd Regimental Combat Team

100th Infantry Battalion &
442nd Regimental Combat Team

Tribute by Richard Murakami

My tribute is to the men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team who fought so valiantly and brought pride and honor to all Japanese Americans. The sacrifices they made while serving this country “broke the ground” to enable Japanese Americans, like me, to say proudly “I am an American.”

In the mid-1970s, a fellow Optimist Club member, Yosh Watanabe told me of the trials and tribulations he faced after graduating in 1940 from UCLA with an engineering degree. No company would interview him for a position as an engineer. The only job he could get was as a produce clerk at Central Market.

Watanabe told me this all changed after World War II. He got a job as an engineer with an aircraft company because “my service with the 442nd enabled me to get a job as an engineer. I was happy because having served in the 442nd I was able to get a job and pursue my profession.” This was the first time I learned that, prior to 1941, Nisei could not get a job as an engineer even after they graduated from a university.

After hearing Watanabe’s story, I started to think about my career and how I was able to get a job and have a successful career. I believe the sacrifices made by the men of the 100th and 442nd provided an opportunity for Japanese Americans to find employment. Yes, there was racial prejudice when I went to interview for positions in 1959 but there were employers who learned about the record of the Nisei soldiers who served in the United States Armed Services. I was hired by a former Navy Captain who knew of the record of the Nisei fighting men.

The outstanding record of the men of the 100th and 442nd “broke the ground” to make it possible for all Japanese Americans to pursue our chosen professions. Thanks and gratitude go to all Nisei men and women who served in the military during World War II.

Note: We learned of the Military Intelligence Service many years after the end of the war. The men who served in the MIS did not receive the recognition they deserved until early 1970s because they were sworn to secrecy about their service with the MIS, being good soldiers they kept the secret.

On November 2, 2011, the United States Congress finally gave recognition to the Nisei who served during World War II by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian honor to the soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion/the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/Military Intelligence Service.

All Japanese Americans—Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei—owe a debt of gratitude to the Nisei men and women of the United States Military for being our “role models.” How were you affected by what the Nisei men did during World War II?

Image Credit: Courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum. Gift of Bob McCullagh (93.156.12)