Monday, October 25, 2010

Asian American Badasses: The 442nd Infantry Regiment

"Go for broke"
Written by: Unfiltered

Asian Americans been changing the cultural landscape of America through the internet. Maybe we can help overcome the largely negative portrayal of Asian males and masculinity in the mainstream by focusing on real Asian-American badasses. These days it feels like we've been relegated to having natively-born actors here in the states being forced to learn their original language for some TV show like Heroes or Lost.

We'll start with a collective group of badasses, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team largely comprised of second-generation "Nisei" Japanese Americans during WWII.

You can read the details of their exploits on Wikipedia. The short of it is, during the Internment of their families and friends, Japanese Americans were willing to lay their lives on the line in combat to prove their loyalty to the United States, and had the combat awards to prove it:

- 8 Presidental Unit Citations
- 21 Medals of Honor
- 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
- 1 Distinguished Service Medal
- 560 Silver Stars
- 22 Legion of Merit Medals
- 15 Soldier's Medals
- 4000 Bronze Stars
- 9,486 Purple Hearts

One particular instance I want to call attention to, the story of Senator Daniel Inouye: His right arm got blown off while he was clutching a grenade, so he used his left hand to pry the grenade out of his still-clenched fist and killed the enemy that had been shooting at him. Let's see that in the next WWII-themed Call of Duty game!

Today the 442nd as a whole has been deactivated, but the 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd RCT, nicknamed the "Purple Heart Battalion" lives on as the only infantry unit in the entire Army Reserve. It's largely comprised of soldiers from Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, and our other Pacific island possessions. I had a two week stay in Ft Lewis, WA where I had the privilege of meeting a student and cadre members from the 100th, the student was a squared-away Samoan-American and went on to make the honor grad list. Coincidentally, there were more Asian soldiers that I saw over the two weeks of the Warrior Leader Course, than at both basic training and AIT, I guess we make for good NCO candidates? Unfortunately, he forgot some of the words to his battalion fight song so he had to relearn it and sing it for the instructors from his unit. I hadn't heard it before so I took the liberty of looking it up on Youtube:

"Four-Forty-Second Infantry— We're the boys of Hawai'i nei— We'll fight for you And the Red, White and Blue, And go to the front... And back to Honolulu-lulu. Fighting for dear old Uncle Sam Go for broke! HOOAH! We don't give a damn! We'll round up the Huns At the point of our guns, And vict'ry will be ours! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! GO FOR BROKE! FOUR-FOUR-TWO! And vict'ry will be ours!"

If you see a soldier sporting that patch (and it may be a rare occasion), recognize that he's wearing an important piece of Asian American history on his sleeve.

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