One Part Of The Story Of The “LOST Battalion”

One Part Of The Story Of The “LOST Battalion”: Tad Hashimoto

Our job – 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team (100/442 R.C.T.) – is to rescue about 265 six-foot tall Texans trapped nine miles into German territory. Trapped for days with no hope of rescue, the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division was just about given up for lost. The mother unit (141st) couldn’t break through so the Japanese Americans again were called to spearhead, as they had on a number of occasions, to break through. Considered among the top ten battles of all time, dating back to the Revolutionary War in U.S. history, was the battle for the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” – the Battles of Bruyeres and Biffontaine.

Who were these German soldiers that were defending? They were the SS and the tankers, the best the Germans had to offer. For four days, the battalions fought the stubborn enemy who was determined to stop all attempts to rescue the besieged battalion. The 3rd Battalion encountered a well-defended hill where the enemy was a hundred strong. The Germans were in well dugged-in positions on the hill and would not be dislodged. After repeated frontal assaults had failed to drive the enemy from the hill. The enemy’s main defensive position was thrown astride the ridge where it was so narrow that a flanking maneuver was impossible. Any attack would have to be a direct frontal assault. To press forward only meant a frontal assault against well placed and guarded machine gun nests. To have attempted this would not only have been foolhardy, but suicidal as well. To stay would have meant being picked off one by one and time was on the side of the enemy. To withdraw would have meant abandonment of the “Lost Battalion”. What do you do? What can you do? What should you do?

Word had come to the battalion command posts that the situation of the “Lost Battalion” was becoming desperate. Relief had to be effected immediately. Absolute fearless courage and complete disregard for personal safety was displayed by the officers and the enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion of the 442nd Combat Team. There was one chance and the battalion took it.

What occurred next, nobody, not even those who were there, seem to be able to explain. As the word to “fix bayonets” came down the line, suddenly everybody in “I” and “K” Companies were standing up and began the incredible charge of running up the slope toward the enemy. They shouted at the enemy and fired from their hips while the enemy fired point blank into their ranks. The brave soldiers moved straight into the deadly machine gun fire unflinchingly and charged on the double. Many fell to the ground, but others moved forward like ceaseless waves beating on the shore. Artillery and mortar shells fell in their ranks and machine gun fire cut men down as they ran forward. Riflemen took a heavy toll. Despite effective enemy fire, the determined men pressed the assault and closed in on the enemy. Nearing the enemy machine gun and machine pistol positions, some of the men charged the gun emplacements with their Thompson submachine guns or BARs killing or seriously wounding the enemy gun crew, but themselves sprawling dead over the enemy position they had just neutralized.

Nothing the enemy could do was enough. Completely unnerved by the vicious bayonet charge, the remnants of the enemy force that had so confidently held the positions a short 30 minutes before threw down its arms and fled in confusion after making a desperate stand.

For the 100/442nd, it was five of the toughest days of fighting. One company of the 442nd, “I” Company, went from 200 to 8 men. “K” Company of the 442nd went from nearly 200 men down to 17 men. They rescued the “Lost Battalion”. A painting depicting the story of the 100/442nd R.C.T.’s rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in October of 1944, hangs at the Pentagon and is recognized as one of the top ten major battles fought in the history of the U.S. Army.