Lawson Sakai recalls his service with 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Back to Bruyeres

MORGAN HILL, CA (KHON2) — The Nisei soldiers in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, proved their valor in the battlefield campaigns of WWII.

Pamela Young goes to northern California in search of one of the very few living veterans who answered the call to “Go for Broke.”

They were just boys, really, right out of high school, unaware and unprepared for the roles they would soon play in American history.

The past is captured in images black and white, blurred, with faces and names lost to time.

But not for Lawson Sakai. At 95, he remembers in detail the events that stole his youth.

“Sunday morning I called my classmates, and we decided to join the Navy. Ed Hardedge, Roy Kentmon,” said Sakai of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

“Jimmy Keys, all accepted. Sakai, wait a minute, you’re a Jap. We don’t want Japs in the Navy. Get out of here.”

Soon after, another shock.

“Whoever was in charge made a statement we were taking you to the camps,” Sakai said. “We had no idea what they were asking about when they said camps. Here I was an American citizen. My 1-A draft status had been changed to 4-C Enemy Alien. 1943 comes along they decide to form the 442.”

Hut 2,3,4, the cadence of uncle sam’s fighting men with Japanese faces and Japanese names.

Sakai was finally able to enlist.

At Camp Shelby, many mainland volunteers met for the first time. Nisei from Hawaii, music-loving rascals who spoke another language.

“Why you not talk like me? You no like?

There was strife between the Hawaii and mainland boys but it was a cohesive unit that left training for europe where the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team saw their first fighting.

“See that picture over there, Oct. 14th,” said Sakai. “That’s Bobby Madera next to me. The next day Bobby lost his arm. I’m only 20 years old, looking forward to Oct. 27 because I’ll be 21, a legal person.The morning of 27th all of a sudden a German pops up 10-12 feet away and boom, nothing happened. I had a bar and went tut, tut, tut and that’s when the helmet came off and I could see, just a young man, 14 or 15. That’s how I celebrated my 21st birthday.”

Sakai would be wounded in Italy and France, earning four purple hearts, the bronze star, Legion of Honor of France and Congressional Gold Medal.

After the war he returned to California, enrolled in Pepperdine, got married, had four children, and worked the family farm.

He has now dedicated his retirement years to keeping nisei history alive.

“The first and second generations sacrificed so much including their bodies so future generations can prosper,” Sakai said.

In Morgan Gill, California, pamela young, khon2 news.

The documentary Back to Bruyeres, Legacy of the 100th airs on KHON2 on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 9:30 p.m.

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