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  • World War II was raging, and on the European front a group of heroic American soldiers

  • had found themselves in a dangerous fix.

  • Cut off from supplies, surrounded by the enemies, and facing certain doom, their only hope was

  • a miracle.

  • And a miracle would come - in the form of some unlikely saviors.

  • This is the story of the Lost Battalion - and the unique bond formed in their salvation.

  • They say everything's bigger in Texas, and the 141st Infantry Regiment was hoping that

  • was true.

  • Also known as the 1st Texas Infantry, this military unit traced its origins back to the

  • Texas Revolution, and when they were called into action in World War II, they were ready

  • to fight.

  • Assigned to the 36th division, they were sent to clear a ridge in the Vosges mountain range

  • in occupied France.

  • But this would be anything but a routine mission.

  • Major General John Dahlquist was advised against the mission by his officers, but chose to

  • commit the unit anyway - something that backfired terribly.

  • The Germans had swept into the area with superior forces, and the US command gave the order

  • to withdraw.

  • But while the flanking units received the order and retreated, the 141st never received

  • it, and were left behind enemy lines, encircled and with quickly dwindling supplies.

  • US command tried to drop supplies, and the rest of the 141st regiment made two rescue

  • attempts, but the Lost Battalion remained stranded with conditions quickly deteriorating.

  • But half a world away, an unlikely hope was coming.

  • For Japanese-Americans in the United States, World War Two brought its own unique hardships.

  • As soon as Pearl Harbor was bombed by imperial Japan, the immigrants and first-generation

  • Americans - known as Nisei - who made up the community found themselves viewed as strangers

  • in their own land.

  • They faced harassment, suspicion, and even violence from Americans who viewed them as

  • potential spies secretly loyal to a country many of them had never set foot in.

  • But with the stroke of a pen, their situation was about to get much worse.

  • President Franklin Roosevelt signed the controversial Executive Order 9066, which created military

  • camps where anyone with Japanese heritage would be contained for the duration of the

  • war.

  • While this was limited in Hawaii, the US territory where the majority of the US' Japanese population

  • lived, on the West Coast over 110,000 Japanese Americans were taken from their homes, forced

  • to abandon or sell their property and imprisoned in internment camps far from home.

  • While the initial order was not specific about how far-reaching it was, Colonel Karl Bendetsen

  • - in charge of the program - expanded it to anyone who had even distant Japanese heritage.

  • And no one locked up in these camps knew when they would be released.

  • But there was one way out.

  • The majority of Japanese-Americans were patriotic citizens, and many of the young men couldn't

  • abide being locked up on the home front when there was a war being fought.

  • They wanted to join the war effort, and a year after the internment, they got their

  • chance.

  • The government organized a segregated unit of Japanese-Americans named the 442nd Infantry

  • Regiment.

  • Many left families behind in the internment camps, hoping they could help bring the war

  • to a close and the internment camps with it.

  • They would later be joined with the 100th Infantry Battalion, composed mostly of former

  • members of Hawaii's Army National Guard.

  • They were a small and controversial group - and they were about to go down in history.

  • From the moment the war broke out, these Japanese-American soldiers were treated as potential security

  • threats.

  • The Hawaii National Guard, already enlisted, were classified as enemy aliens and not allowed

  • to carry their weapons when sent to training.

  • At training camps, their commanding officers were taught to test not just the Japanese-American

  • recruits' skills but their loyalty as well.

  • But at every turn, these young recruits passed the test and impressed their commanding officers.

  • It was on to war.

  • Because the US command didn't trust soldiers of Japanese ancestry to fight in the Pacific

  • theater, they were sent to Europe and first fought on the African front.

  • They would later be sent to Italy, where they were able to cut off German soldiers and drive

  • them north.

  • It was a tense and brutal series of battles, and the 442nd and 100th suffered heavy casualties.

  • Many felt they were being used as cannon fodder by their commanding officers, but they acquitted

  • themselves heroically - leading many to nickname themThe Purple Heart Brigade”.

  • But their greatest test was still ahead.

  • The 442nd was transferred out of the Italian front and placed with an Anti-tank company

  • to prepare for the invasion of Southern France.

  • This led to heavy fighting in the Vosges Mountains, in a constant battle of back-and-forth with

  • German troops.

  • This was a challenging period, where they had barely any rest and continued to take

  • heavy casualties from German counterattacks.

  • At one point, there were nine days of constant fighting - but it was just beginning.

  • New orders were coming in.

  • It had been nearly a week since the Lost Battalion had been in contact with any other allied

  • soldiers, and they were barely holding out.

  • It was October 27th, 1944 and the 442nd and 100th units had only had two days' rest

  • since their last battle - but they were now being called in for their most critical mission

  • yet.

  • They would be sent in to rescue the stranded battalion, with backup from two Field Artillery

  • units.

  • But the Lost Battalion was surrounded by the considerable forces of General Wilhelm Richter,

  • one of Hitler's most feared commanders.

  • This would be the most brutal fight of the war for this brave group of Japanese-American

  • soldiers.

  • The American soldiers had to breach a powerful line that had encircled the 141st, and they

  • would have to fight on multiple fronts.

  • Making it worse, the elements seemed to be conspiring against them.

  • The area was foggy during the day and unusually dark at night, making it hard to see what

  • was in front of their eyes.

  • The men often had to hang on to each other in a chain just to move forward.

  • Heavy rain and snow wore them down, many soldiers came down with trench foot.

  • Things were no less dire for the heroes of Texas.

  • The conditions had deteriorated for the stranded soldiers, but they weren't giving up.

  • They dug deep into the muddy soil and created makeshift disguises for themselves with tree

  • limbs.

  • This would both make it harder for the Germans to see them, and give them some rudimentary

  • protection from the constant barrage of artillery and shattering trees.

  • Rations had long since run out, and the soldiers were barely able to survive off rainwater

  • and occasional lucky drops of supply that got through the fog and the German barrage.

  • And their plight had become a major issue on both sides of the war.

  • Hitler had since become aware of the stranded Texans, and believed that killing them would

  • demoralize the Americans.

  • He ordered they be captured or killed at all costs, setting up a brutal final stand.

  • But he didn't account for the motto of the 442nd and 100th - “Go for Broke”.

  • It was time for a final stand.

  • The battle to save the Lost Battalion would be the most brutal of the war for both groups.

  • The Texans had already taken heavy losses - losing 20% of their forces before they were

  • rescued.

  • The 442nd unit lost a full third of their three thousand men, with eight hundred injured

  • and a full two hundred killed in action.

  • But when the 141st met the 442nd, they immediately recognized fellow American soldiers - and

  • shared a cigarette before getting back to the war.

  • The Nisei soldiers were starting to get the recognition they deserved - but the war was

  • far from over.

  • There would be many intense battles ahead, both in France and Italy.

  • They would continue to fight bravely despite dwindling numbers, culminating in a last stand

  • at the Gothic Line.

  • It was the last days of the war in Europe, and they fought against an increasingly desperate

  • German war machine.

  • But time and again, they forced the Germans to retreat and cut off their escape routes.

  • The Nisei soldiers had gained a reputation for their fearless nature and devastating

  • charge, and managed to make several sneak attacks on German forces.

  • As the war reached its close, the German forces began surrendering one unit after another,

  • and on May 2nd the 442nd and 100th got to celebrate Victory in Europe.

  • But not without a heavy cost.

  • The losses these two units suffered along the way was shocking, and led many to feel

  • like they had been used as cannon fodder.

  • General John Dahlquist, the commanding officer in charge of the unit's strategy, once asked

  • the entire unit to present itself for an award.

  • When he saw the small numbers, he became angry and thought they were ignoring him - only

  • to be told those were the only men who had not been injured or killed.

  • The Nisei soldiers had fought heroically - and paid terribly.

  • But when they returned to the United States, they would finally receive their due.

  • President Harry Truman, who replaced the late Roosevelt, saluted the Nisei soldiers upon

  • their return from Europe.

  • He cited not only their heroic actions in combat, but the fact that they did it while

  • facing great prejudice from their own countrymen.

  • And over the years, the 442nd would become the most highly decorated unit in American

  • history.

  • Not only did they receive more Purple Hearts than any other unit their size, but over the

  • war they would receive 5,200 Bronze Stars, 588 Silver Stars, and a stunning 21 Congressional

  • Medals of Honor - the highest award for valor in combat.

  • Many of the unit would go on to extended careers in politics or the military, with one - Daniel

  • Inouye - going on to be a long-serving Senator from Hawaii after losing his arm in the Italian

  • theater.

  • But there was one place where their heroism was held in higher regard than anywhere else.

  • Texans have long memories, and the citizens of America's largest state at the time followed

  • the story of the Lost Battalion with great fear.

  • Not only were their citizens trapped on that French battlefield, but many of them were

  • the sons and husbands of the people of Texas.

  • This was personal, and when word got out that they would be returning home safely, Texas

  • wanted to do something to thank the people most responsible.

  • It would be a while, but one man had a unique idea.

  • John Connally was no stranger to the horrors of World War Two, serving in the United States

  • Navy and earning a Bronze Star himself.

  • He was a Lieutenant Commander by the time he was released, and went on to serve as Secretary

  • of the Navy before returning home to Texas in 1961.

  • But now he had another job in his sights - Governor of Texas.

  • And the proud veteran won - and almost immediately after taking office, decided to honor some

  • deserving heroes.

  • Creating honorary Texans is a popular trick of Texas Governors, and the list is a long

  • one.

  • Iconic action stars John Wayne, Chuck Norris, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all received

  • the honor, as has Bob Dylan.

  • Rick Perry named most of his favorite politicians and pundits as honorary Texans, including

  • Rush Limbaugh.

  • But no Governor created more Texans with the stroke of a pen than John Connally when he

  • made every single member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment and the 100th Infantry Battalion

  • honorary Texans - an overdue thanks from a grateful state to a group of soldiers who

  • gave their all in America's greatest conflict - at a time when many of their fellow citizens

  • saw them as enemies.

  • For another unlikely hero of the European Front, check outTitanic Officer Who Became

  • Hero of Two World Wars”, or watch this video instead.

World War II was raging, and on the European front a group of heroic American soldiers

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Why Japanese Soldiers Became Texans

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/17
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