In 1941 more than 5,000 Japanese-Americans were serving in the United States military. Pearl Harbor changed all that. In the hysteria and paranoia that followed the attack, young Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) were summarily discharged from the service. Even as young men of other races swamped military recruiting offices to volunteer their services in defense of their beloved country, young Japanese were quickly classified as 4-F (unfit for military service) or 4-C (enemy aliens). Despite the fact that these young Nisei were born in America, held U.S. Citizenship, and pledged their allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, their desire to serve was quickly ignored. The first battle the "Purple Heart Battalion" faced was not on foreign shores against an armed enemy. It was a battle at home against fear, prejudice and often outright hatred--a battle to gain the RIGHT to fight.
Fight they did. They fought with a tenacity and ferocity that became legendary to the German Vermacht. They helped conquer Monte Cassino, and were pivotal in the liberation of Rome. But just when they were about to enter Rome as victors, an all-white unit took their place, and basked in the glory. Dejected and beaten, they continued to fight on.
When General John Dahlquist took command in France, his callous disregard for the Japanese-Americans almost pushed them to their limits. Still, after rescuing the "Lost Battalion," they fought with little or no rest, and were expected to continue fighting, well beyond what any other unit was asked to do.
In all, they earned an unprecedented 21 Medals of Honor (20 awarded on June 1, 2000), 52 Distinguished Service Crosses (including 19 Distinguished Service Crosses which were upgraded to Medals of Honor in June 2000), 559 Silver Stars with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters (in lieu of second Silver Star, One Silver Star was upgraded to a Medal of Honor in June 2000), 8 Presidential Unit Citations. 1 Distinguished Service Medal 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier's Medals, 4,000 Bronze Stars with 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters (in lieu of second Bronze Star), 9,486 Purple Hearts, 12 French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms (in lieu of a second award), 2 Italian Crosses for Military Valor, 2 Italian Medals for Military Valor.
This book describes the heroism and sacrifice of the Nisei. This is the first book to no only describe the individual heroism, but it also includes the official citations of all those who were decorated with the Medal of Honor, AND Distinguished Service Cross.
It's a great read, highly entertaining and I learned a great deal that I had never known. It's an unvarnished look at how a bigoted America changed into one that was more tolerant and accepting. It will also leave you with a tremendous sense of pride in how America can change, grow, and learn from its mistakes.