Remembering the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Monday, May 26, 2014

This Memorial Day, I would like to honor the men who served and died with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Initially, the United States didn’t want Japanese Americans serving in combat units during World War II. Then it changed its mind and decided to form an all-Nisei unit to fight in Europe. (Nisei were the second generation Japanese in America and the first generation born in this country.)

Actually, it was never an all-Nisei unit. The United States was perfectly happy to have Japanese Americans fight and die for their country, but it refused to commission them as officers. So the Nisei soldiers in the 442nd fought under the command of their white brothers.

And they fought with courage and honor. According to many sources, the 442nd has the distinction of being the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army. This includes 9,486 Purple Hearts, eight Presidential Unit Citations, and 21 Medals of Honor.

All of this came at a high human cost. The 4,000-man unit needed frequent replacements for the soldiers who died or were wounded in battle. In all, approximately 14,000 men served in the 442nd during World War II.

One of its most famous exploits was rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in October 1944. Two hundred plus men from a Texas battalion were surrounded by German troops, and the 442nd was ordered to rescue them. The rescue itself was a success, but the men of the 442nd fought one of the bloodiest battles of the war at a cost of 200 dead and 800 wounded.  

But the most unusual thing about the men of the 442nd was their loyalty to a country that showed no loyalty to them or their families. While they were fighting and dying in France, their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and wives and children were incarcerated behind barbed wire in the deserts and swamps of the western United States.

So join me in saluting the men who served and died with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


The photo at the top of this page shows Japanese-American infantrymen of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team hiking up a muddy road in the Chambois Sector of France in late 1944. It is an official army photograph and is in the public domain.

Back to the Library

Monday, May 19, 2014

When I was a child, I practically lived at the library. Or I wanted to, anyway. Unfortunately, the nearest public library was 60 miles away. But we went every two weeks and I checked out the six-book limit. Then I supplemented that with books from the school library.

When my children were young, we went to the local library once or twice a week. Caroline and John participated in the summer programs, and Caroline was a junior helper for two or three years.

Then my wallet got a little fatter, and I decided it was simpler to buy the books that interested me. That way, I could keep them as long as I wanted and mark them up without worry. And eventually I stopped using the library as a source of reading material.

But I’ve always loved the library, and I would have considered it sacrilege to give up my card. So when the library called and told me they were about to cancel it for lack of use, they got my attention.

Over the last few months, I’ve rediscovered the library and made an important discovery. If I read a book and decide it belongs in my own library, I can still buy it. But if two weeks is all I need, I’ve saved myself some money.

So I’m happy to go back to the library.

Close Enough to Perfect

Monday, May 12, 2014

Today is my 35th wedding anniversary.

Like every wedding, it had those tense moments that give people something to talk about.

My brothers both had roles in the wedding, but they also had assignments for earlier that day. Gordon’s job was to pick up the food for the reception, and Donald’s was to pick up the bride. But first, my mother sent them off together to find candles for the centerpiece at the head table.

The problem? They decided to take a detour and visit a museum.

As Mama waited nervously for the food, I waited nervously for my chauffeur. Although I don’t remember for sure, I think the wedding did start on time. But it was close.

Then Roland held out the wrong hand when we exchanged wedding rings. I didn’t know what to do, especially since the ring wouldn’t go over his knuckle. I finally left it halfway on. But I must have giggled, because his uncle kidded me about it for years. And I never could convince him that it was Roland’s fault.

It wasn’t a perfect wedding, but it was memorable.

No marriage is perfect, either. Those people who expect it to be are doomed to divorce.

But mine is close enough.

What Would You Grab?

Monday, May 5, 2014

I just finished reading a book about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It made me think of that age-old question: What would you grab if your house caught on fire?

None of us really knows until it happens. But I know what I took in 2008 when our house flooded from the remnants of Hurricane Ike. I had an hour or so warning, so I packed clothes, toothbrushes, and similar items for Roland and me. I also made sure to grab my laptop case and my camera backpack—with laptop and camera, of course. My manuscripts were backed up and in a safe deposit box, but I needed the laptop to keep writing.

Shouldn't I have grabbed my Bible? If I lived in some countries, I would have. But we had a Bible on the boat and I was heading there. Also, Bibles are easy to replace in this country. Not the ones marked up with my notes, of course. But it is God's words that matter, and they are easy to find.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think about the family pictures in a bottom file drawer in my office. Some were of our children, some came from Roland’s and my growing up years, and some were pictures of ancestors. All were valuable parts of our history.

When we returned home and started cleaning up, the biggest heartaches were all the books we had in the family room on the lower level and those family pictures.

To keep from crying, Roland joked that he filled a dumpster just with books. Most were replaceable, but several came from Roland’s or my childhood and had sentimental value.

I was ready to throw out the family pictures, too. My heart would have broken, but I didn’t know what else to do. Then friends from church came to help us clean up, and they convinced me to try and save those photographs. We separated them carefully if we could and set them out to dry. A few pictures were irredeemable. Others have streaks or white spots where the paper tore away, but most were salvageable. And I have since scanned the more important ones and backed them up against a future disaster.

But my first thought at the time was for my laptop and my camera.

What would you grab?


The picture at the head of this post shows the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the photographer was. The picture is in the public domain because of its age.