Return to Italy

Peace at Last

On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered. After five long and costly years, the war in Europe was finally over. The 100th/442nd remained in Italy, guarding supply caches, ammunition dumps and prisoner camps as they waited for their orders to ship out. Their wounded comrades were being treated in hospitals in France, Italy, England and the United States. Those soldiers who had accumulated enough points based on their length of service began making their way home.

The original members of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) who had made it through the war without serious injury had spent 20 months in combat. In the process, they, along with their comrades in the 442nd, had become the most decorated unit of its size and for its length of service in American military history. The American soldiers of Japanese ancestry had gained the respect and admiration of government and military leaders and soldiers of other American and Allied units. They had proven their loyalty to their country.

On July 15, 1946, in Washington, D.C., President Harry S. Truman pinned the seventh regimental citation on the 100th/442nd’s banners and addressed the Nisei troops: “You are now on your way home. You fought not only the enemy, but you 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 people all the time.”

One person who listened to President Truman’s speech with a much deeper understanding of the heavy burden the men of the 100th had borne was World War II correspondent Lyn Crost. In the June 19, 1992 edition of The Hawaii Herald, Crost, who covered the 100th and 442nd in Europe for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, was asked to reflect on the legacy of the original 100th Infantry Battalion. She wrote:

“As years pass, statistics of decorations and the numbers of men killed and wounded may be forgotten. But the record of that original 100th Infantry Battalion and what it meant in the acceptance of Japanese Americans as loyal citizens of the United States must be remembered. If it had failed in its first months of fighting in Italy, there might never have been a chance for other Americans of Japanese ancestry to show their loyalty to the United States as convincingly as the 100th did on the battlefields of Europe. The 100th had proved that loyalty to the United States is not a matter of race or ancestry. And it had set an example for people of all nations who seek sanctuary here to fight for those values and concepts of government that have made the United States a refuge from the hunger and despair that haunts so much of the world.”