Formation of 442 RCT 79 years ago

The formation of the 442 RCT 79 years ago on January 28 1943 marked the start of a remarkable story. The performance of the 100th Battalion influenced the volunteer response. So did the desire to show loyalty. And so the number of volunteers who answered the call from the US Army was nearly tenfold the requirement.

Formation of 442 RCT Memorial Park
Memorial Park in Tendola on the site where Pvt 1st CL Tadao “Beanie” Hayashi was killed by sniper fire – looked after by the members of the Società Mutuo Soccorso Tendola

From formation to the front lines

The 100th arrived in the Mediterranean in early September 1943 and worked their way up through Southern Italy.

Their advance – as they slowly turned themselves into the “Purple Heart Battalion” – can be plotted today with the help of monuments and memorial plaques.

From their mention on the 34th Division Monument in Sant’Angelo d’Alife to the Rapido river monuments in Sant’Angelo in Theodice. And from the pictures in the Winterline Museum in Venafro to the stained-glass window in the crypt of the abbey at Montecassino. Each a marker to show their path to us who visit in peace time.

Formation of 442RCT monument
Monument to the 100th Bn by the Rapido River, donated by the village of Biffontaine
Formation of 442 RCT Folgorito
Commemorative plaque on Monte Folgorito donated by Federico Santucci, host of a small museum in Pasquilio

Meanwhile, back in 1943, the War Department proceeded with the formation of a segregated unit for Americans of Japanese Ancestry. This way, they could join in the fight against the country’s enemies. After all it was “the inherent right of every faithful citizen, regardless of ancestry”, according to the Secretary of War.

The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the newly formed 442nd arrived in Italy in June of 1944. They joined their “mentors” of the 100th at Civitavecchia. Their first joint action was the capture of Suvereto and Belvedere. More heavy fighting was soon to follow as they continued the advance towards the Arno.

Commemorative trail expanding

Over the years following the formation of the 442 RCT, visiting Nisei families and groups could always count on a warm reception in and around Cassino and along the Gothic Line, as well as in the Vosges and Alpes Maritimes. Many solid friendships have developed with the people who take a personal interest in preserving the memories of WW2.

Yet, the area between Rome and the Arno River has always been a bit of a “quiet sector” even though some of the fiercest fighting took place here. Hill 140 soon received the moniker “Little Cassino” from the men of the 100th/442nd because of this.

Commemorative plaques installed to mark the advance between the Cecina and Arno

But now, thanks to the efforts of a group of local history enthusiasts, this part of west central Tuscany will become more prominent in the Nisei story. Their painstaking research into precise locations and positions has been captured in 2 videos. They have also installed commemorative plaques in the villages beyond “Little Cassino”.

Reconstruction of the advance on Hill 140 by the Associazione Storico Culturale Toscana ’44

Adding their findings to our own enhances the experience for our tour guests. There is little doubt that more lasting friendships are on the cards here.

Facilitating encounters between Nisei families and the dedicated men and women preserving the memory of the 100th/442nd RCT‘s presence in Europe is a large part of what we aim to do at Nisei Legacy Tours.

From the front lines to visiting in peace time

Organisations dedicated to Americans of Japanese Ancestry in the U.S. preserve their history and promote a wider understanding of their experiences. We feel the role the Nisei played on the European battlefields is an integral part of the story. We are therefor incredibly proud to provide a link between the AJA families and the friends in Europe.

So, with travel due to resume this spring, we look forward to revisit the Hill 140 area. We feel confident that new bonds will grow between our guests and the local community. This dedicated group of people works hard to ensure that we remember the Nisei’s presence in their towns 79 years after the formation of the 442 RCT and long into the future.

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