On October 1944, America's soldiers were in the seventh army's sector in Northeastern France, specifically they were in the Vosges Mountains, a dark, gloomy, and wet forest. The 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team had just came from Italy to assist in the war effort.
S/Sgt. James S. Kawashime, a Japanese
American from Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii, stands
guard for the 442nd Combat Team, 100th Infantry
Bn., U.S. Seventh Army in the Charmois area of
France, in bivouac before meeting the Germans in
combat for the first time. Their time was mostly
spent fighting Germany's rough and violent Wehmacht
units. The Rome-Arno war was over, but 1,300 out of
4,000 men were either hurt or killed. Many of those
who died were sons, brothers, and fathers, many of
the ages 19 and 20. The remaining soldiers were
physically tired and freezing from the unusual,
bitter cold. They all needed rest.
S/Sgt. James S. Kawashime, a Japanese American from Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii, stands guard for the 442nd Combat Team, 100th Infantry Bn., U.S. Seventh Army in the Charmois area of France, in bivouac before meeting the Germans in combat for the first time.
Their time was mostly spent fighting Germany's rough and violent Wehmacht units. The Rome-Arno war was over, but 1,300 out of 4,000 men were either hurt or killed. Many of those who died were sons, brothers, and fathers, many of the ages 19 and 20. The remaining soldiers were physically tired and freezing from the unusual, bitter cold. They all needed rest.
In this area, members of the French underground worked secretly for freedom from the Germans who had reigned since 1940. Many members of the French underground would bring danger in their lives by sending maps and other helpful information to the Americans. By October 1944, Germany suffered a number of defeats.
On October 13, soldiers of the
100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team became part
of the 36th division commanded by General John Dahlquist to
break the German's entrenchment. Up to then, no known army
was able to break the Vosges. This commander wasted no time
in using the Japanese Americans, who took the villages of
Bruyeres and Biffotaine on October 25.
View of advanced aid station operated by medics of the
2nd and 3rd Bn.,
Bombs called Tree Burst were the most feared out of all ammunition. They pierced men with terrifying force. If you ducked the tree burst, you would run into small arms of fire. There was no way you could escape them.
This battle was different from Italy. Fortunately though, the soldiers had some idea of the enemy's location. Unfortunately, rain and fog covered the dark forest, the invisible enemy was everywhere.
The liberation of Bruyeres had come with a high price. "Take Biffotaine!" ordered General Dahlquist. The 100th Battalion was forced to abandon the sound position it held five miles behind German lines. After only one day of fighting, the soldiers were low on ammunition.
Three days later, they needed medical supplies badly and didn't have any food.
What did American soldiers eat? Well, first of all they didn't have fresh food. They ate C rations, that would come in a can, which contained meat hash and crackers. K rations, which were packed in a waxed box, contained ham, some cheese, dry coffee, cigarettes, and a chocolate bar. They would burn the wax around the box, and heated their water with that.
After Biffotaine, half of their regiment of 3,000 men were wounded or killed, either in or around Vosges. Medics also, died in the gloomy French forest. Ten months later, the troops were pushed and annihilated in the forest.
After the attack, the soldiers were very sad. The sight of their dead and hurt friends was shocking to their spirits and senses. The poor Americans were suffering from the cold. When they camped in the woods, they would get soaking wet. They were in ditches half filled with water.
The Germans had to be swept out of four hills around Bruyeres. This effort involved hundreds of soldiers. They cleared out the Germans from the four hills, and the town was now secure. As the 100th Battalion and the 2nd Battalion were victories in the hills, the Germans started to depart from Bruyeres, but some Germans still remained in town. The Germans were brutal. The enemy attacked a farmhouse and a little girl was wounded. Fortunately, an American soldier was there, and rescued them.
That midnight, while sheltered at Bruyeres, the 100th Battalion was given orders to attack a hill, labeled Hill C with force. The soldiers were then commanded a task by Major Emmet L. O Conner. This task force killed eighty Germans and caught fifty-six prisoners. For this, they were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Memorials today in the area honor soldiers not only for all the sacrifices they made, but also not repeating a historical pattern that could have been traced that could have been traced to an earlier century. Bruyeres is a place where people experienced terrible war events. Where the Germans once governed. The Germans had been so cruel to the civilians. They stole, raped and injured them. But they also remember the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team's kind, loving, and gentle hearts. One American said "When I volunteered from Hawaii, I was prepared not to come back, there was no consideration of returning alive. Not recklessly, but you do the best you can. "YOU GO FOR BROKE!"