Hajime received the following letter at Christmas time. The writer is Col. Joe Blair III, son of the late Joe Blair who served with the 36th Infantry Division and was one of those in the Lost Battalion who was rescued by the 100th/442nd in October of 1944.
Dear Jimmy, December 99
I wish you a very Happy Birthday and all the Buddha-hood that comes to men such as you.
I was going through some of my Father’s old papers and found his discharge papers dated 18 October 1945. The summary of what he did went something like in the Army jargon of the day: “Served overseas in the active theater of operations. Fired various small arms to neutralize enemy personnel Assisted in taking enemy positions in hand- to-hand and bayonet fighting.” As you know, he was a PFC in the 36th Infantry Division.
I was going through some of the material I had collected on the 36th Inf Division the other day and found some copies of the old letter that the Division Commander, MG Dalquist had written to his wife, just after the Lost Battalion was rescued by you and your buddies. I got this from the Military History archives at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Here are some quotes from MG Dalquist’s letter: “It astounds me how these men are able to stand the physical and mental strain under which they are constantly living. It is almost beyond comprehension that a human being can stand so much. This last week has been a nightmare and I have lost track of time. (That last week that Dalquist is writing about was the week the 100/442 saved the Lost Battalion.) “This is such tough going, not on me but my men suffer so much. I know this must seem boring always talking about the Infantry, but no words can start to describe their sacrifice.”
So, you can see that the Division Commander had some idea of the suffering and sacrifice you were going through with the rest of the Infantry units of the 36th.
However, I know from having been in combat that those who have not been
shot at in combat have no real idea of what it is like.
The Germans were fighting for every inch of ground at this time since you guys were getting near the Rhine River approaches into the Fatherland. Germans always fought like hell, but now they were even more determined not to let you into Germany.
About a week after the Lost Battalion was rescued, my Father was in action again and told me about carrying Japanese American wounded to either a company or battalion aid station. He carried three of your men back. On the third one he kept falling down. He was too battle-fatigued to know that his feet were frozen. My Dad was running on adrenaline and a lot of guts. The medics noticed him stumbling and told him to take off his combat shoes. His feet were frozen and he was evacuated to Paris, England and then a hospital in Camp Buckner, North Carolina. Once he could walk again, he guarded German prisoners at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Once discharged, he became a high school teacher in Pennsylvania. He often used the Japanese American soldier as examples of courage, discipline and loyalty in his American History classes. You men made a great impression on my Father and he passed it on to his students in that little country school in the mountains of Pennsylvania. And, of course, my brother and I learned about the men from “Go For Broke.”
Those stories related by my Father were establishing in my brother and me the solid ethics of soldiering that we both took into the Army years later. My brother was a recon platoon sergeant in Vietnam. He was wounded with a lot of shrapnel from a Chinese mine, but he is okay and doing well these days. It is amazing that the Japanese American soldiers did not get national recognition until now. Prejudice is a terrible thing, but we have lived to see this prejudice overcome and recognition established.
In my Spirit, I will always be as close to you as a son or brother. I thank you for being such a great human being. I will try to follow your example in my life.
Col. Joe Blair III