Many of the young soldiers of the 522d Field
Artillery Battalion had come to the 442nd after enlisting at relocation camps in the
Western United States. Many Japanese-Americans who then populated the camps, as
indeed do many even today, disliked the term "Relocation Camp". The
hastily constructed facilities were laid out in a militaristic fashion with spartan
surroundings. Around the camp was barbed wire and gun towers. While the
government exercised great caution in censorship of the photographs taken of the camps,
occasionally an embarrassing photo surfaced. Every effort had been expended to
screen out photos that showed the Japanese interred there in the presence of army guards.
But the fact remained, and a few uncensored photos proved, that these American
citizens were indeed under armed guard. For all practical intents and purposes,
these relocation camps were actually America's version of Concentration Camps.
As the Allied advance moved swiftly into the
heart of Germany, the soldiers of the 522d once again saw similar facilities, spartan
camps laid out in military fashion and surrounded by barbed wire and gun towers.
The Nisei were among the first to enter the gates of the Dachau concentration
camp where some of the most grotesque and inhumane medical experiments of the war were
performed on living human beings...most of them Jewish. The liberation of Dachau
provided a picture most of the Nisei would never forget, one that haunted them in their
dreams. Under orders not to share supplies as the war was still in progress, the
Nisei could not ignore the pleas of the human skeletons that paraded thankfully before
them. As the Nisei handed out food from their own packs, sympathetic officers looked
the other way. Sometimes, the heart demanded that one ignore orders and do what is
right. Sadly, too many German soldiers had never learned this lesson, and the
horrors of Dachau provided ample proof to attest to this fact.
For the 522d's Central Europe Campaign from March
22 to May 11, 1945, the 552d Field Artillery Battalion added yet another Presidential Unit
Citation to the incredible record of the 442d Regimental Combat Team. Shortly after
the liberation of Dachau, the unit returned to Italy to join the rest of their team.
Over the next fourteen months the 442nd remained in
Italy to direct much of the post-war effort. Many of their duties after the May 9,
1945 German surrender was the guarding of prisoners of war. Immediately after the
war ended, nearly 200 combat veterans of the 100th/442d (including 4 officers),
volunteered for the MIS (now called MISLS - Military Intelligence Service Language School)
in order to serve in the Pacific. Before the summer came to an end however, the
Japanese surrendered. With the historic signing aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo
Harbor on September 2, 1945, all World War II hostilities had terminated.
Without battles to wage, the focus of the Nisei
unit changed. During the training phases for both the 100th Infantry Battalion and
the 442d RCT in the days before combat, the Nisei units had stood out for their military
professionalism, pride, and military bearing. Now, in the months before the expected
return home, the unit turned once again to close-order drills, spit-shines, starch, and
inspections. In the early months of 1946, the emphasis increased to an even greater
pitch. Not only was the 442d Regimental Combat Team going home, they were to be the
ONLY returning military unit to date to be received by the President of the United States.
On July 16, 1946 the proud Nisei of the 100th
Infantry Battalion/442d Regimental combat team marched proudly down Constitution Avenue in
Washington, DC. It was a festive day, more than 10,000 citizens braving the rain to
watch the return of the most decorated unit of World War II, perhaps the most decorated in
American military history.
Dignitaries and military officials abounded.
The War Department and other Federal agencies gave employees special time off to witness
the return of the Nisei. The proud "Go For Broke" regiment marched up
Constitution to the White House lawn where they met their Commander in Chief. As the
proud young soldiers stood rigidly at attention, the President removed his hat and placed
it over his heart as he passed in review. Then he presented the unit with its
SEVENTH Presidential Unit Citation. As he looked out over the proud, young faces of
the Japanese-American soldiers, he spoke proudly of their service.