To the Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard
I had the opportunity to visit Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for Exercise Southern Strike. It was an impressive display—a large-scale, joint combat exercise with active and reserve components, and foreign partner forces. But 78 years ago, Camp Shelby was the training ground for one of the most-decorated military units in history: The 442nd Infantry Regiment.
The 442nd Infantry Regiment was almost entirely composed of second-generation Japanese Americans, known as Nisei. Roughly two-thirds of them were from Hawaii; many had served with the National Guard there. The remainder were from the mainland where they had been interred in camps far from their homes simply because of their Japanese ancestry. Despite the tremendous racism and suspicion they faced from their fellow Americans, the Soldiers of the 442nd answered the call to serve the Nation they loved, and on April 22, 1944, they left Camp Shelby and deployed to Italy.
Their motto was “Go for Broke”—and they did. Among their most heroic endeavors was the rescue of the so-called “Lost Battalion,” the Texas National Guard 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment. The Texans found themselves trapped in the Vosges mountains without food or water, enduring rain and bitter cold, and under assault by German forces. It took more than five days of bloody, close-quarters combat, but the 442nd fought their way through and freed their fellow Soldiers. It came at a cost; the 442nd sustained more than 800 casualties. Because of their heroism, the 442nd earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 560 Silver Star Medals, 21 Medals of Honor, and 7 Presidential Unit Citations for their service in World War II.
When the 442nd returned from Europe, they were honored by President Harry Truman, who said, “You have fought not only the enemy, but you have fought prejudice, and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win—to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.”
Thank you to the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders who have proudly served and continue to serve our Nation. Together, we will continue to fight for the welfare of all.
Daniel R. Hokanson
General, U.S. Army
Chief, National Guard Bureau
Tony L. Whitehead
Senior Enlisted AdvisorNational Guard Bureau