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The 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Questions to Consider

Why did some Japanese Americans volunteer to fight for the US Army?

What aspects of the mens' experience do the WRA photographs show?

What aspects of the experience do the oil paintings show?

About the images

These images depict the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The photographs were mostly taken by government photographers; the artwork by Japanese Americans illustrates the emotional experience of these men.


Several special fighting forces from the United States, made up of single ethnic groups, made significant contributions during World War II, including the African American Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was made up solely of Japanese Americans, some of whom were recruited directly from internment camps. (Some Japanese American men who would later become leaders, such as Senator Daniel Inouye, were members of the 442nd.) The images in this group provide a look at the lives and sacrifices of the men of the 442nd, the most highly decorated American unit in WWII.

The photographs in this group were all taken for the government-run War Relocation Authority (WRA) and are meant to portray the proud patriotism of the men and their families. One photo shows three women holding their babies, with photographs of their enlisted husbands. Another is a portrait of an older couple who had five sons in the 442nd. Other photographs reflect the training the soldiers of the 442nd received, their life in the battlefield, and their triumphant homecoming.

Other documents in this group show a more personal side of the men of the 442nd. One soldier's photo album depicts his personal experiences as a member of the combat team. A 50-page booklet, The Story of the 442nd Combat Team, compiled by members of the team, has this quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt on the dedication page: "Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not and never was a matter of race and ancestry."

On a more poignant note, oil paintings by Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto reflect the emotions, pain, and suffering these individuals and their families experienced as a result of the war. In Senninbari (Thousand Stiches), a woman holds a scarf of remembrance as a ghostly Nisei soldier looks down from the sky. And in Send Off Husband at Jerome Camp, an internee family stays behind the camp gates as their soldier father/husband goes off to fight for the United States.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 10:

2.0 Reading Comprehension
2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis: Literary Criticism
3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period. (Historical approach)

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology
1.3 Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver expository presentations

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s. (4.4.5)

Grade 10:

10.8 Students analyze the causes and consequences of World War II. (10.8.6)

Grade 11:

11.7 Students analyze America's participation in World War II.

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

A serious moment for this 21-year-old Japanese-American, for he has just signed voluntary enlistment papers which puts him into a special combat team in the Army of the United States, 2/10/43 Their soldier husbands are all a part of 442nd Infantry in Italy, 9/13/44 Five sons in the Army! Ten children in all, 7/9/45
Private Noyama of Headquarters Company, 442nd combat team, stands guard at the entrance to Field Headquarters, 7/?/43 Building a Pontoon Bridge, 7/?/43 The story of the 442nd combat team, composed of 442nd infantry regiment, 522nd field artillery battalion, 232nd combat engineer company. Compiled by members of the 442nd combat team. Title Page
The story of the 442nd combat team, composed of 442nd infantry regiment, 522nd field artillery battalion, 232nd combat engineer company. Compiled by members of the 442nd combat team. Dedication page A telephone switch board and operator is here shown deeply dug in during maneuvers of the 552nd field artillery, 7/?/43 The Japanese-Americans who compose the 442nd combat team in training at Camp Shelby are keenly interested in daily news from the actual front. Here a jeep crew keeps abreast of the war news while waiting in a concealed position for orders to move up, 7/?/43
Eyes Right. A company of infantry stand at attention during training on the Camp Shelby drill field, 7/?/43 Hot Mississippi. Members of the 442nd combat team drape themselves on a jeep to dress after a cool swim in the Leaf River near Camp Shelby, 7/?/43 Buddies in the long and bloody campaign to drive the Germans from Italy, 7/14/45
Pfc. Thomas Higa, 27-year-old Japanese American war veteran and smallest member of the 100th Battalion, who is in Denver to tell other Japanese Americans about the wonderful treatment the United States Army gives its soldiers, 6/24/44 S/Sgt. Tatsumi Iwate, a Japanese American Infantryman, who bears a piece of Nazi shrapnel an inch deep in his brain despite two operations to remove it, is on furlough at the farm of his uncle, 7/14/45 Pfc. Noboru Hokame, Hawaiian-born Japanese-American, and his Chicago buddy, Pfc. Charles P. Carroll, 3/9/45
On Army leave, these three young soldiers from Camp Shelby, Mississippi, are visiting relatives and friends who have relocated in New York, 9/13/43 Oil painting, Old Parents Thinking about Their Son on the Battlefield, 1943 Died in Battlefield, c. 1943
Senninbari (Thousand Stitches), ca. 1942  Send Off Husband at Jerome Camp, 1943 Documentary-Nisei Soldiers Returning the Flag of 442nd to the President, c. 1965
Uncle Ralph and Sumile in Camp Jerome, c. 1943

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Posters/Visuals (PDF) (Source: Bringing History Home)
Written Documents (PDF) (Source: NARA)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)