History of the United States
US in WW2

What was the role of Asian-Americans in World War 2?

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2013-03-27 15:58:03
2013-03-27 15:58:03
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Throughout the war many interned Japanese Americans volunteered for service even while their draft eligibility had been revoked. However, that is not to say that they all loved the country that had effectively ended their liberty. Many more Japanese-American overtly opposed enlistment than were willing to serve.

For other Asian Americans they were drafted into service like any other citizens.

The first person to be drafted was actually a Chinese-American laundromat owner in Oakland.

For other, non-Japanese, Asian Americans the war with Japan improved relations with their American neighbors. Chinese-Americans, who had long been labeled the 'Yellow Menace,' now found themselves in favor, now labeled 'the good Asians.' Identifying buttons reading 'I am Chinese' or 'I am Korean,' were worn by many Asian-Americans hoping to avoid the ire of other Americans who could not tell them apart.

Some Japanese were used as interpreters in the Pacific Theater.

The most famous participation of Asian-Americans during the Second World War was with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, collectively known as the 100th Batallion. They became the most decorated units of the entire war though much of the acknowledgments of their service would come decades after the war itself was over and after many of the men had already passed on.

The 100th's service began in Algeria, North Africa, where they were relegated to guarding supply routes. Circumstances saw that they would replace the 2nd Battalion who were to guard Allied Headquarters in Algiers. This shuffling of soldiers saw to it that the 100th would be part of the invasion of Sicily, serving at the invasion of Salerno and again at the bloody battle of Monte Cassino. During the Defense of Anzio, only about 500 of the 3,800 men of the 100th were still able to fight and helped the Allied advance towards Rome. The 100th, however, was halted just outside of Rome as other Allied units liberated the Italian capitol itself.

While fighting in Italy the 100th had interactions with other segregated units such as the 92nd Infantry Division, an African American unit, as well as many French colonial units.

The 100th continued fighting in Southern France and joined in the invasion of Germany. In a strange twist of fate soldiers in the 100th were among the first to liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp while many of their relatives back home were still interned. (One does not, and should not, need to be reminded of the drastic differences between Japanese-American Internment and the Nazi Final Solution; but the juxtaposition of Japanese-American soldiers liberating Dachau should be something of note.)

By the end of the war the 100th Batallion had a casualty rate (KIA+MIA+WIA) of 93%. The 442nd of the 100th Batallion became known as the 'Purple Heart

Battalion' for the 9,486 Purple Hearts awarded to its members throughout the Second World War.

After the war, however, the anti-Japanese sentiment did not end. Many establishments still refused to serve Japanese-Americans and there was still a general distrust of the Japanese. Many interned Japanese were offered a chance to return to Japan after the war and some did. Property damages suffered by Japanese-Americans from other Americans as well as property seizures were rectified in 1948 if documentation could be shown of such losses. Reparations began in 1988 and continued to 1999, paying $20,000 USD to each internee or spouse or child of the internee had already died (differentiated from Slavery Reparations in that Slavery Reparations would be paid to descendants many times removed).

On 26 July 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 that officially ended racial segregation in the US Military.

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