442nd Regimental Combat Team

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), organized March 23, 1943, is the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history. Composed almost entirely of Nisei (second-generation) Japanese American soldiers, its members earned more than 18,000 awards in less than two years, including more than 4,000 Purple Hearts and 4,000 Bronze Stars. The regiment fought primarily in the European Theatre of World War II, particularly in Italy, southern France and Germany. The regiment’s motto was “Go for Broke.”

In February 1945, Cpl. Walter W. Sakamoto and Pvt. George Yonehiro of Loomis and Sgt. Yoshito Miyamura of Penryn were among 140 members of the 442nd RCT from California who were awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge for exemplary conduct in action in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France. They earned their badges in mountainous, heavily wooded terrain. Sakamoto, Yonehiro, and Miyamura had joined the combat team in Italy prior to its departure for Southern France in the fall of 1944. During their action, they took part in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” near Bruyeres, France.

A couple months later, Second Lt. Frank S. Okusako of Newcastle, also a member of the 442nd RCT, was awarded a Silver Star for his gallantry in action with the Fifth Army in Italy. Okusako, who entered the service in 1941, received a field commission during the Italian campaign for displaying outstanding qualities of leadership. His medal was presented at a ceremony held at Antibes on the French Riviera at which 36 men of the combat team were decorated. On June 14, 1946, Pfc. Wilson Makabe of Loomis was among four veterans of the 442nd RCT who were honored by President Truman at a White House medal ceremony. Makabe was wounded, losing a leg, in Italy in the summer of 1944.

In June 1951, MGM studios released the motion picture “Go For Broke,” telling the story of the 442nd RCT. In conjunction with the movies’ opening night premier at the Roseville Theater, the Placer County Japanese American Citizens League and the John A. Stacker Post #775, American Legion (Loomis), honored the fifty-two Nisei from Placer County who served in the 442nd RCT. Mrs. Toriye Sakamoto of Loomis, a Gold Star Mother, received her Gold Star pin during the program. Her son, Staff Sgt. Masa Sakamoto, was killed in action in France on March 3, 1945.

Pictured here at the Roseville Theater are, left to right, Cosma Sakamoto, 7th Inf. Div. Pacific Theater; Walter Sakamoto, 442nd RCT; Roy Uyeda, 442nd RCT; Daniel Makabe, 442nd RCT; Ed Larsen, U.S. Naval Aviation; Harry Burcell, USAF; Homer Takahashi, 442nd RCT; and Mrs. Barney Stewart, manager of the Roseville Theater. (Roseville Press-Tribune photo, June 20, 1951)

This article was compiled by Barbara Leak on behalf of the Loomis Basin Historical Society, and originally appeared on the Loomis Library and Community Learning Center’s Facebook page. It is reprinted here by permission of the compiler.