(Note: I have very recently been informed that I'm being laid off from my miserable, soul-crushingly shitty admin job that I hate, so, for better or for worse, in about thirty days I'm going to doing this writing thing as my primary source of income. While I'm kind of looking forward to having time to dig into my massive backlog of 500+ unanswered website emails and/or drink beer before noon on a weekday, in a brazen display of shameless self-promotion I'm also going to post a link to my crappy new personal writing website just in case you or someone you know is looking to pay money in exchange for badass freelance writing.)
This Wednesday, November 1st, the surviving members of the American 442nd Regimental Combat Team traveled to Washington, DC, where they were awarded Presidential Gold Medals to honor their dedication to the timeless art of crotch-kicking the flaming shitfire out of Nazi Deutschbags across Italy and France during the Second World War. Now, while everyone who served in the war can absolutely be considered a badass, this elite fighting unit is particularly noteworthy in that it consisted entirely of Japanese-American soldiers – men who were fighting for their country (a country where they were viewed with suspicion as possible spies or enemy agents) in a no-holds-barred worldwide asskicking competition against the land of their forefathers – and not only did these guys go out and do their duty, but they all volunteered for the job. These were guys with a chip on their collective shoulder and a penchant for bayoneting Fascist fucks, and in two years of near-constant combat with tough-as-nails opponents the 12,000 men of the Four-Four-Two racked up 9,400 Purple Hearts, 53 Distinguished Service Crosses (19 of which were later upgraded to Medals of Honor) and seven Presidential Unit Citations, easily making them one of the most decorated combat units of World War II. This is some serious shit, and, with all due respect to fictional badass Mister Miyagi of Karate Kid fame, the most hardcore member of this celebrated unit is easy to identify – he's a face-crushing asskicker named Daniel K. Inouye, and his story is so over-the-top insane that if you saw it in a movie you'd think the screenwriter was totally full of shit.
Daniel Inouye was a second-generation Japanese-American living in Honolulu, Hawaii, when the Japanese fighter-bombers started hammering the fucking bejeezus out of the naval base at Pearl Harbor. The seventeen-year-old Inouye had been on his way to church when the shit hit the fan, and as Zeroes buzzed over the roof of his house he could clearly see the plumes of smoke from the burning American battleships in the harbor. Inouye was an aspiring physician and taught first aid at the local Red Cross station, so naturally he hauled ass down there and spend the next five sleepless days patching up wounded military personnel. Immediately after his marathon bout of tourniquet application, Inouye went down to enlist in the army and kick the shit out of the people who had just dropped bombs on his hometown. Unfortunately, even though this guy was a U.S. citizen, as a person of Japanese descent he was classified 4-C, meaning "Enemy Alien". Undraftable. Unable to serve. The Enemy. Possibly a Cylon.
But Daniel Effin Inouye wasn't going to take that bullshit excuse for an answer. This guy was no Enemy Alien – he was an American, and goddamn it he was going to fight. So, even while something like 120,000 Japanese-Americans were being moved to internment camps across the United States, destined to live out the war in government barracks, Inouye kept signing petitions and desperately trying to assist the war effort in any possible capacity. In 1943, when FDR decided, "Fuck it, let's see what these dudes can do" (and I believe that's a direct quote) and ordered the creation of two all-Japanese-American units (the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team) Inouye was at the enlistment office the next day. When the recruiter told Danny he couldn't join up because he was employed as an EMT at a government aid station, Inouye went home, quit his job, came right back, and took the oath. Balla shit.
The 442nd RCT deployed in Italy towards the end of 1943. As I said, these were motherfuckers who had something to prove (mainly, "We're all on the same side here, guys"), and Inouye was no exception. This tornado of American Asskicking was personally engaged in six major campaigns, and was such a fucking badass that even when he stepped on a tripwire and got a shotgun-blast of grenade shrapnel in his leg he just "walked it off" and kept on wasting Fascists with a relentless series of rifle butts and bazooka blasts to the dome. By his fourth battle he was already a Sergeant, which is just as much a testament to his leadership and balls-out-ed-ness as it is to the fact that officers and NCOs in the Four-Four-Two were expected to survive about fifteen seconds of live-fire combat.
The 442nd got its first major operational test in the Fall of 1944, when a company of Texas National Guardsmen were trapped, surrounded, and pinned down in the Vosges Mountains by nearly a full division of German troops. A couple of attempts had been made to break the Texans out, but every effort had been thwarted by ferocious German resistance. So, in a last-ditch effort to save the cut-off Americans, the 442nd was sent on what basically amounted to a suicide mission.
They didn't disappoint. The 4,200 men of the "Go for Broke" Regiment dove face-first into a fortified position where they were outnumbered roughly 5-to-1 by crack, battle-tested German infantry, but they couldn't have given a fuck about it if you'd paid them to do so. After five days of hand-to-hand, bayonet-to-face combat that cost the 442nd roughly a third of their men, Inouye and his unit busted through the lines in an explosion of blood, found the Texans, and shot their way out of the trap like Ellen Ripley tearing ass through the colony on LV-426 in an APC. For kicking asses and leading his platoon through a battle they had absolutely no business winning, Inouye was issued a Bronze star and a commission to Second Lieutenant. According to Inouye, the best part of this commission was that he now got to tote a Thompson submachine gun into combat – and even though that thing was wildly fucking inaccurate, it was loud, nasty, and it was so goddamned powerful that one time he shot a dude in the ankle and blew the guy's entire foot off.
|"When you go into a battle and they put on the bayonet, you know they mean business. And we meant business... this was a Shoot the Works battle. That means you put on the bayonet. You're going to get them no matter what the cost."
After this side quest in France, Inouye went back to Italy, where he performed what is now his most famous act of totally badass shit. Inouye's platoon had been ordered to capture a German strong point along the Colle Musatello Ridge, so naturally this guy decided to go in guns blazing. He led his team through intense fire to capture an observation post, a mortar team, and an artillery position (no bigs), and then moved his troops within 40 yards of a heavily-fortified defensive line, where they immediately came under heavy suppressing fire from three different heavy machine gun positions. Inouye didn't give a fuck. He started chucking grenades like a madman, trying to blast the bunkers apart. This was fun for a while, but as he stood up to lob yet another explosive he was suddenly shot through the abdomen by a German MG bullet that passed all the way through his torso and came mere inches from severing his spine.
Naturally, this only pissed him off.
So, with the rest of his men pinned down by heavy weapons, the wounded Lieutenant grabbed a backpack of frags and started army-crawling up the ridge towards the enemy guns. As soon as he was close enough, he assaulted the first machine gun nest on his own, taking it out with a grenade from just five yards away and then clearing the rest of it out Al Capone-style with a spray of .45-caliber ammunition from his badass Tommy gun. When that one was taken care of, Inouye sprinted to a second position, dual-chucking two grenades that redecorated the walls of the bunker with Fascist parts.
Unfortunately, the time Inouye was headed for the third position, the Germans were ready for him – the dudes in this nest had just watched this insane-as-fuck little Japanese dude flying around bombing the shit out of their buddies, and these motherfuckers weren't about to sit back and let Inouye just hand-deliver a fragmentation explosive into their rectums without a fight. So when Inouye was sprinting across open ground a mere 10 yards the machine gun nest, suddenly he saw a German dude pop up from behind a sandbag, aim a rifle-mounted grenade at him, and blast him at point-blank range with the WWII version of an RPG.
The blast covered Inouye with shrapnel and shredded his right arm to the point where it was barely still attached. This, however, failed to stop him. Inouye simply looked down at his useless arm (which was still clutching a hand grenade), pried the grenade out of it with his left hand, and lobbed it underhand right into the dumbfounded German's face from about 15 feet away. The results weren't pretty.
From this point on in the battle, Lieutenant Daniel Inouye of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team went into Total Fucking Berserker Meltdown Mode. He doesn't even remember what happened next – but his awestruck platoon members sure as fuck do.
While still bleeding profusely from the mangled stump that used to be his right arm, Daniel Inouye ditched the grenades, unslung the Tommy Gun, and started firing it one-handed while running all over the goddamned battlefield like a fucking maniac, blasting the holy living shit out of anything with a gray helmet. He cleared out the third machine gun position with the Tommy Gun, changed the magazine, and then started running towards the main body of the enemy position, by himself, shooting the machine gun with his off-hand, wasting Nazis left and right in a hail of gigantic bullets. Finally, after rampaging like a madman, Inouye was shot in the leg, lost his footing, and fell down a hill. Unable to move, but unwilling to back down, Inouye propped himself up against the nearest tree, kept firing, and refused to be evauated until his Sergeants had moved the unit into position and prepared defenses for the inevitable German counterattack. All told, he had killed 25 Germans and wounded 8 more, and he'd literally done it all single-handedly. When the men in his unit came to the hospital and recounted the events to Inouye, his exact words were, "No, that can't be... you'd have to be insane to do all that."
Daniel Inouye received the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He lost the arm and had it replaced with a badass hook, and after 20 months of surgery and recovery in various military hospitals, he went home, got a law degree, and worked as a prosecuting attorney. In 1962 he was almost unanimously elected to the Senate (thus making him the first Japanese-American in Congress) -- he's won the post nine times since then, making him the longest-serving current member of the Senate and the second-longest serving Senator in the history of the United States.
"Americanism is not and has never been a matter of race or color.
Americanism is a matter of mind and heart."
Hawaii Reporter Article
442nd Regiment Story
Brokaw, Tom. The Greatest Generation. Random House, 2004.
Smith, Larry H. and Norman Schwarzkopf. Beyond Glory. W.W. Norton, 2004.
Sterner, C. Douglas. Go for Broke. American Legacy Media, 2007.