The General Staff of the U.S. Army made the decision to allow native born Japanese Americans to volunteer and serve in a segregated unit. There was also input from Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy and others from the government who were in favor of creating a combat unit of Japanese Americans. Other organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) also lobbied the government to allow Japanese Americans to serve in the armed forces.
There were several key reasons for creating the 442nd Regimental Combat Team including the following:
1. Loyal Japanese Americans should be allowed to participate in the defense of their country by serving on the active front. 2. Having Japanese Americans serving in combat would demonstrate to all Americans that Japanese Americans were loyal Americans and it would be a reproach to those who were prejudiced against Japanese Americans. This would help in the resettlement of Japanese Americans from the WRA internment camps especially in California and the other Western States. 3. Having a Japanese American combat unit would counter the propaganda from Japan that America was involved in a "race war" in the Far East. The 442nd could itself be used as a propaganda tool for America's democratic society.
General DeWitt, commanding general of the Western Defense Command was not in favor of allowing native born Japanese Americans (nisei) to volunteer and form a combat team. The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between John McCloy and General DeWitt. The War Department plan to investigate the loyalty of Japanese Americans interned in the camps and implement the plan for volunteers was the topic of this conversation.
HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEFENSE COMMAND AND FOURTH ARMY OFFICE OF THE COMMANDING GENERAL, Presidio of San Francisco, California
18 Jan 1943
Transcript of telephone conversation betwee General DeWitt and Mr. McCloy, Asst. Secy. of War, Wash. D.C.
General DeWitt: How do you do, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. McCloy: How do you do, General, how are you?
DeWitt: Fine. Mr. Secretary, I just called you up because Colonel O'Rear has just arrived and...he has shown me a copy of the proposed memoradum--it is not dated--on the subject of the Loyalty Investigation of Japanese-Americans in War Relocation Centers....
DeWitt: Because I feel that I wouldn't be loyal to you or honest to you if I didn't say that it is a sign of weakness and an admission of an original mistake. Otherwise -- we wouldn't have evacuated these people at all if we could determine their loyalty.
McCloy: I don't know whether we are at one on that ---
DeWitt: I know we are not one on it ---
McCloy: We are not going to swamp you with something that you can't handle....But some process has to be made sometime toward relocating these people. I think that everybody is agreed--at least everybody here is agreed--that you can't keep them in pens forever. Not without involving yourself in some very serious risk. And furthermore I don't know whether you know, but the Staff has decided to use a substantial number of these on the active front.
DeWitt: It is indicated that in here.
McCloy: ...But we certainly are going to form a unit of them. This group that is up in Wisconsin [100th Infantry Battalion] has been inspected and the reports coming back are very glowing. We are going--the thing has been through a study here by the Staff itself, entirely un-influenced by me, which has come to the conclusion that they are useful as military assets....
...To hold these fellows locked up with the bad eggs in with the good ones--they are just contaminating the good ones....these experts, but we have talked with a good many people here who propose as such, particularly the Navy people, and they all unanimously say that they--there are large groups of them that are loyal. And that we are only spoiling a good portion of our citizenry by tying them up to this barbed wire project. There is this other element that feels that this will have a very profound effect in the far East. One of the most--this racial war--propaganda war.
Another thing that influenced us very strongly was General Emmons' views--who was here recently. He feels very strongly that these fellows will make grand soldiers. He says that he has had a lot of contact with them--seen them and he spoke to the Chief of Staff when he was here--the only trouble you will have with them is trying to get them to retreat--under orders....
I think that if the thing does work, we will go a long way toward improving our domestic Japanese problem and we may have a real impact on the enemy by doing it if they are--if this idea of racial solidarity can be broken down....
The Army sent 4 man teams consisting of a white officer and a Japanese American non-commissioned officer to all 10 War Relocation Authority internment camps to announce the loyalty registration and volunteer program. The mission of these teams was to announce the plan for the new Japanese American combat team to camp residents and answer questions. An address about the program was made to camp residents and this is a portion of that address:
War Relocation Center Address
...However, the plan now being contemplated is that Americans of Japanese blood will be formed into their own combat team. You may want to know why it is being done this way. The reason is that if your strength were diffused through the Army of the United States...relatively little amount would be taken of your action. You would be important only as man-power, nothing more.
But united, and working together, you would become a symbol of something greater than your individual selves, and the effect would be felt both in the United States and abroad. All other Americans would long remember what you had done for the country, and you would be a living reproach to those who have been prejudiced against you because of your Japanese blood. [emphasis added]
Can it be doubted that this would mean a greatly improved relationship between you and all other parts of the American population in the post-war period? To the nations abroad, and especially to the peoples of the East, you would provide the measure of the solidarity of people who get together in the name of democracy....
Activation: Protests Against the War Department Plan
When the War Department announced on January 28, 1942, that the Army would be forming a combat team of Japanese Americans and that the plan would allow Japanese American citizens to volunteer from the confines of the internment camps, this set off a fire storm of protests from elected officials, civic organizations and individuals. The protests were mainly focused from the West Coast States with California leading the way in voicing their objections to the plan.
U.S. Army To Include Japanese Unit Loyal Citizens Will See Action In European Theater Fighting
Americans whose ancestors were Japanese are to be organized into a major combat unit to help the United Nations besiege Hitler's "fortress of Europe" under a new military policy announced here yesterday. Fifteen hundred of the new warriors are to be drawn as volunteers from the Hawaiian area under present orders, and others from War Relocation centers in this country. Individual Japanese have been admitted to the American armed forces, but there were no Japanese-American units of the size contemplated by the new program. The combat team is to include infantry, artillery, engineers and medical personnel, and the unit would presumably number several thousand men. Senators Applaud Move Senator Chandler (Democrat) of Kentucky, and other members of a special Senate Military Affairs Subcommittee investigating the relocation program, applauded the move to form loyal American citizens of Japanese descent into such a unit. Their approval was voiced after hearing Joseph Grew, former American Ambassador to Japan, and other witnesses war against alienating the many citizens loyal to this country despite their Japanese descent. Senator Mahoney (Democrat) of Wyoming, a member of the committee, disclosed that the new military plans call for using the projected Japanese-American combat....
A hint of how the program might be expected to work came from Hawaii where Lieut. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, announcing the plan to induct 1500 Japanese-Americans as volunteers for the new unit praised the war service already performed by members of that racial group. General Emmons, commander of the Hawaiian Department, and also military Governor of America's first battle area of this war, said that loyal Japanese-Americans had contributed materially to the security of the Hawaiian area. Emmons, the Associated Press reported, said that the volunteers would be trained for Army duty in this country, and will "when trained, be sent into an active theater of operations." Stimson said the plan was based on recognition of "the inherent right of every faithful citizen, regardless of ancestry, to bear arms in the Nation's battle." About two-thirds of the 110,000 Japanese now held in detention centers are American citizens, the War Relocation Authority reported. However, some are Japanese-educated and of probable loyalty to their ancestors' homeland. For some time there has been agitation both within the Government and without for release of those citizens of unquestioned loyalty. WRA has blamed difficulties in the camps, such as the riot at Manzanar, Calif., last month in which one man was killed, primarily to ill feeling between pro-Axis Japanese and pro-American ones.
The Washington Post, January 29, 1943
HISTORY OF THE 442nd COMBAT TEAM
The 442nd Combat Team, made up of the 442nd Infantry, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, and the 232nd Engineers Company (combat), was activated on January 28, 1943, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Its full complement was achieved in April.
Col. C. W. Pence was designated as the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. B. M. Harrison as commander of the Field Artillery Battalion, and Capt. P. Nakada to command the Engineers Company. This then is the brief history of the Combat Team.
On December 7, 1941, war was forced upon us by the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. We Americans were stunned by the "knife in the back." The Japanese-Americans throughout the United States petitioned for a chance to strike back at the Japs.
Many Japanese-Americans on the mainland were called to the colors. But the wholesale evacuation of Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans to relocation centers hindered the citizens from offering their services. When word came to these men that the War Department was planning a combat team of Japanese-Americans, many were ready to volunteer.
On January 28, 1943, the War Department called for volunteers for the combat team. The mainland quota was 3,000 and the Hawaii quota was 1,500. The Territory of Hawaii raised a total of 10,000 volunteers and so its quota was increased to 2,900 while the mainland quota was lowered proportionately to 1,500. The mainland volunteers were from the Pacific coast, the Rocky Mountain states, the midwest, and the eastern seaboard.
The history of the 442nd Combat Team is not complete. More will be written when this war is over. Having a fierce pride and love for our country, with a deep determination to wipe out the stigma of the hyphenated American name, and to be simply called Americans, we volunteers go forth to battle with the cry, "THE YANKS ARE COMING!"
Source: The Album 1943, 442nd Combat Team (Atlanta: Albert Love Enterprises, 1943)
Note: This album was produced by the men of the 442nd at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
ACTIVATION AND BASIC TRAINING
The story of the 442d Combat Team begins in the early days of January 1943. At that time considerable agitation was taking place to permit loyal American citizens of Japanese ancestry to bear arms in the service of their country. There were still Japanese-Americans in the Army, holdovers from the early draft, but with the outbreak of war they had been relegated to post exchange counters and other service command installations. They had been denied further training as combat troops and the right to bear arms. However, on January 22, 1943, the War Department directed by letter that a Japanese-American Combat Team should be activated on February 1, and should be composed of the 442d Infantry Regiment, the 522d Field Artillery Battalion and the 232d Engineer Combat Company. Of this step Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, said:
The proposal of the War Department to organize a combat team consisting of loyal American citizens of Japanese descent has my full approval. No loyal citizen of the United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of his ancestry. The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry. A good American is one who is loyal to this country and to our creed of liberty and democracy. Every loyal American citizen should be given an opportunity to serve this country wherever his skills will make the greatest contribution--whether it be in the ranks of our armed forces, war production, agriculture, government service, or other work essential to the war effort.
In accordance with these orders the 442d Combat Team was activated February 1, 1943, by General Orders, Headquarters Third Army. Colonel Charles W. Pence took command, with Lieutenant Colonel Merritt B. Booth as executive officer. Lieutenant Colonel Keith K. Tatom commanded the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel James M. Hanley the 2d Battalion, and Lieutenant Colonel Sherwood Dixon the 3d Battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Baya M. Harrison commanded the 522d Field Artillery, and Captain Pershing Nakada commanded the 232d Engineers. From the 1st to the 15th of February the cadre, both officer and enlisted, arrived from every conceivable part of the United States....
AMERICANS, The Story of The 442d Combat Team (Washington D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), p. 19.
Order Creating the 442nd Combat Team This is the order from the Adjutant General's Office which instructed the creation of the 442nd RCT. It is dated January 22, 1943. It details all of the instructions necessary to activate the new combat team. There are several points of interest in the order:
1. The 442nd would not include a Cannon Company or Band. 2. The enlisted cadre men did not have to hold the grade specified in the T/O (table of organizaton), but they needed to be "capable of performing the duties of the position for which selected." 3. All cadre men must be American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resided in the United States since birth. 4. The regimental and battalion commanders were selected by the Commanding General, Army Ground Forces. 5. Field grade officers (major, lieutenant colonel, colonel) and captains were to be white American citizens. Other officers were to be of Japanese ancestry "insofar as practicable." 6. The Bureau of Public Relations must approve all publicity of the formation of the combat team. 7. The communications within the Army pertaining to the activation of the unit must be kept to the "absolute minimum." The Army obviously wanted to control the publicity concerning the formation of the 442nd. 8. There were provisions made for the travel of personnel including dependents to Camp Shelby.
RESTRICTED AIRMAIL SPECIAL
WAR DEPARTMENT The Adjutant General's Office Washington
AG 320.2 (1-20-43) OB-I-GN-M January 22, 1943
SUBJECT: Organization of a Japanese Combat Team
TO: Commanding Generals, Army Ground Forces Third Army Seventh and Eighth Service Commands
1. The following units are constituted: 442d Infantry - T/O 7-11 (4-2-42) 522d Field Artillery Battalion - T/O 6-25 (4-2-42) 232d Engineer Combat Company - T/O 5-17 (4-1-42)
2. The units listed above will be activated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, by the Commanding General, Third Army, on February 1, 1943, in accordance with applicable tables of organization and allied tables, including all published changes thereto, except that the Cannon Company and Band of the 442d Infantry will not be organized. The units assigned to the Third Army and will be organized as a combat team. Each unit is allotoed an initial overstrength equivalent to fifteen (15) percent of the table of organization strength of active elements.
3. Enlisted cadres conforming to those specified in applicable tables of organization will be furnished as indicated below and will be moved by commanders concerned so as to arrive at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, priot to February 1, 1943:
Cadre for:Furnished by C G 442d Infantry Regiment Seventh Service Command 232d Engineer Combat Company Seventh Service Command 522d Field Artillery Battalion Eighth Service Command
In addition to the table of organization cadre furnished for the 442d Infantry Regiment, the Commanding General, Seventh Service Command, will furnish the following cadre for the Medical Detachment, 442d Infantry:
The enlisted cadre men need not hold the grades specified in table of organization but must be capable of performing the duties of the position for which selected. All cadre men must be American citizens of Japanese ancestry who have resided in the United States since birth. The selection of the cadre men will be cooridinated with the Director of Intelligence in each Service Command concerned. A complete roster of all cadre men selected will be furnished to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department General Staff, as soon as practicable after selection has been made.
4. Enlisted fillers required to bring the units to full table of organization strength plus allotted overstrength will be furnished without requisition by this office through the Selective Service System in coordination with the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department General Staff, so as to arrive at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, not prior to March 1, 1943.
5. Officers:a. Regimental and battalion commanders will be designated by the Commanding General, Army Ground Forces. b. The remainder of the officer complement will be furnished, insofar as practicable, from personnel under control of the Commanding General, Third Army. c. Additional officers required to complete the officer complement will be requisitioned in the usual manner. d. Officers of field grade and captains furnished under the provisions of subparagraphs a, b and c above, will be white American citizens. Other officers will be of Japanese ancestry insofar as practicable. e. The Commanding Generals, Army Ground Forces and Third Army, will submit a roster of all officers assigned or selected for assignments to the elements of this combat team, to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department General Staff, as soon as practicable. f. Officers furnished on requisition will be cleared through the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department General Staff, prior to assignment.
6. Supply:a. These are non-divisional units. b. Priority for distribution of controlled items of equipment is B-2-61.1 (See letter, this office, AG 400 (11-5-42) OB-S-C-M, November 9, 1942 subject: "Distribution of Controlled Items of Equipment.") c. Tables of Basic Allowances are applicable as follows: (1) For clothing and individual equipment: Table of Basic Allowances 21 (6-20-42) with Changes 1 and 2. (2) For other supplies and equipment: Table of Basic Allowances 5 (6-1-42) with Changes 1 and 2 for the 232d Engineer Combat Company, Separate. Table of Basic Allowances 6 (7-1-42) with Changes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the 522d Field Artillery Battalion. Table of Basic Allowances 7 (6-20-42) with Changes 1 and 2 for the 442d Infantry.
7. The organization of these units will not be publicized or used for propaganda purposes without approval of the Bureau of Public Relations.
8. Direct correspondence between all concerned is authorized. In this connection it is desired that communications and publications of copies of all orders pertaining hereto be kept at the absolute minimum consistent with the efficient accomplishment of actions directed herein.
9. Dates of activation will be reported without delay to Commanding Generals, Army Ground Forces and Services of Supply, and this office by letter.
10. Obligate the allotment cited below to the extent necessary:
Finance Service, Army
FD 33 P 433-01, 433-02, 433-03, 433-04, 433-05, 433-07, 433-08 A 0425-23
(For travel of personnel, including dependents; for packing, crating, unpacking and shipping equipment, impedimenta and household goods; tolls and ferriages en route; gasoline, oil and repairs to motor vehicles en route; communication services; rental of camp sites and procurement of utility service.)
By order of the Secretary of War:
Adjutant General [note: The name of the Adjutant General who signed this order is being researched.]
Commanding Generals, Services of Supply Replacement and School Command Fourth Service Command Divisions of the War Department General Staff Commanding Officer, Camp Shelby, Mississippi Director, Bureau of Public Relations