Santa Cruz County History - Executive Order 9066 and the Residents of Santa Cruz County


Full Text Newspaper ArticleWatsonville Register-Pajaronian. Oct. 23, 1943. p. 6

WAR DEPARTMENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO JAPANESE-AMERICAN TROOPS

Washington (UP)- Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson has a reply for Americans who believe that all persons of Japanese descent are evil--a report on an infantry battalion of Japanese-Americans that led a veteran division of the Fifth Army into action in Italy.

All of the enlisted men and many of the officers of the 100th Infantry Battalion were born and brought up in Hawaii. Their parents are Japanese. A report from Fifth Army headquarters, released by Stimson said:

"These soldiers are as far away from the stereotyped picture of the evil-doing sons of Japan as the All-American boy is from a headhunter. It's in their faces. They obviously believe in what they're doing, and look calmly secure because of it. They are in the habit of enjoying life like any good American. They like the world they live in.

"They don't ask for anything....They're fighting, with the rest of us, taking their regular turn."

The War Department's story entitled "American-Japanese in First Battle Came Through With Colors Flying," was released two days after witnesses told a Senate committee in Los Angeles that the return of Japanese-Americans to California would precipitate a massacre. Los Angeles District Attorney Fred N. Howser told the committee that he had letters from three organizations whose members had pledged themselves to kill any person of Japanese descent who came to California now or after the war.

The 100th Infantry Battalion was under fire four days in Italy. It was its first engagement.

The first action was fought by a company commanded by Capt. Taro Suzuki of Honolulu, a veteran of 16 years in the army, 13 of which were in the reserves. Suzuki described the action this way:

"Our leading scouts rounded a bend and three German machine guns opened up. There was nothing to do but go to work on them alone because nobody to the rear could see to fire the heavy stuff. As if we didn't have trouble enough, the Germans broke everything loose on us--machine guns, mortars, rifles and heavy artillery.

"You know what stopped all that Nazi wrath? Our little 60mm mortars. Boy, it felt good to see them dropping!"

Hero of that show was an unnamed Japanese-American sergeant who led a squad that Suzuki sent out to get one of the enemy machine guns. A high-ranking officer described his deed thusly:

"In the infantry, the first scout is usually a private, but the sergeant said: 'It's the first time so I'm going first.' When a shell got him, he hung on long enough to tell all he knew about German gun positions."

In another action at night, troops from the battalions proved their worth when they made their way through a heavy enemy artillery barrage under the leadership of Maj. James Lovell, of Hastings, Neb., and Honolulu.

"The men stuck it out as though they were used to having dynamite explode in the middle of them every day in the week," Lovell said.

Although all the enlisted men and many officers were Japanese-Americans, other officers were Lt. Paul E. Froning, German descent, New Bremen, Ohio; Lt. Roy Peterson, Swedish descent, East Orange, N. J.; Lt. Young Ok Kim, Korean descent, Los Angeles; Lt. Andrew Krivi, Czechoslovakian descent, Bridgeport, Conn.

Copyrighted by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. Reproduced by permission.