LTG Thomas Bostick, USA (Ret)
JAVA Research Team
Arlington, VA. LTG Thomas P. Bostic’s book, Winning after Losing, is recommended reading for executives interested in professional advancement. His key ingredient to success is to develop a sound plan, adjust your tactic to changing situations, never give up, and stay the course until victory is realized. Bostick uses part of one chapter, pages 171-177, presented below, to describe the 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT discipline, courage, and “Go For Broke” spirit to illustrate his point.
Chapter 13: The Power of Team Diversity
Every Memorial Day provides an opportunity for Americans to recognize and express profound gratitude for the bravery and courage of those members of the Armed Forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense and support of our country.
These service members who came from many diverse cultures had one thing in common—they fought and died for their country.
Today the U.S. Army is one extraordinary team. Today’s Army represents a cross-section of our country, a kaleidoscope of cultures, languages, and religions. Its strength lies in the bonds its members forged as a result of teamwork, duty, and mission. But that wasn’t always the case.
Many diverse cultures contributed to creating the powerhouse we know today as the U.S. Army. We see their contributions at every turn. Native Americans brought their warrior spirit, culture, symbols, and names like the Tomahawk, Black Hawk, and the Thunderbird, which became identified with missiles, helicopters, and jets in the military.
Japanese American soldiers fought with a team called the 442nd “Go for Broke” Regiment that became one of the most decorated units in American history. They fought as part of a greater team despite their families being confined at internment camps during the Second World War.
African-American soldiers fought for America in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars—always in a segregated Army. In 1948 President Truman signed into law the Executive Order that ended segregation and created one team with diverse members.
Women contributed valuable service as nurses and spies in the Civil War. During World War II women enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps often becoming prisoners of war, as well as receiving medals andvcitations for their valor. In 1948 President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, and women officially became part of the U.S. military. Then, in 2013 women could serve in combat units and now were integrated into the entire U.S. military team.
I had the opportunity to celebrate with two of those teams and their stories follow.
Our Japanese American Soldiers
On Memorial Day 2009, I had the honor of paying a special tribute to Japanese-American Military members who fought honorably for our nation’s freedom in World War II—while their own freedom and the freedom of their families were denied.
In our Army, we talk about the Warrior Ethos. It is an ethos that states, “I will always place the mission first, I will never quit, I will never accept defeat, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Although we use the words of the Warrior Ethos more often today, the concept of never leaving a fallen comrade behind is not new.
This Warrior Ethos is powerfully illustrated in a story of two soldiers and the legendary “Lost Battalion” of the Second World War.
One of the most ferocious battles of World War II was fought in late October 1944 by the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France. It was a rescue mission. Two hundred and seventy-eight men of the famed 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, the “Lost Battalion” as it later became known, were trapped behind enemy lines. When Hitler was informed, he ordered that the entire unit be annihilated. His message was that these soldiers would not be permitted to fight on what was then occupied German soil. The German forces were relentless. They attacked the stranded soldiers again and again. And with each attack, the 141st Infantry Regiment lost more and more members of its team.
There had been several attempts at a rescue by other units, but each rescue mission had failed. And then the 442nd was ordered to launch one more rescue attempt.
It was now late October. The weather was cold and rainy. Conditions were miserable. But the 442nd made up of Japanese-American soldiers was undeterred. For five days they fought day and night. And then, on the fifth day they succeeded, reached the stranded men, and saved all two hundred and eleven of the men who had survived the carnage. The Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd did not leave a fallen comrade behind. Their team exemplified the true meaning of the Warrior Ethos.
With this story as background, I was honored when my friend Terry Shima, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, asked me to speak on Memorial Day 2009 at Arlington Cemetery. I was doubly honored when we were able to bring together two of the veterans who had been, in France, under fire, on that deadly October in 1944—Astro Tortolano of the stranded 1 st Battalion, 141st Regiment, and Minoru Nagaoka of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team that undertook the successful rescue mission.
But this one act of bravery was not the only one. Japanese-American soldiers, initially part of the 100th Infantry Battalion, were absorbed into the 442nd Regiment Combat Team, the “Go for Broke” team that became one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history. The soldiers of the 442nd earned more than 18,000 decorations, including more than 9,000 purple hearts, 4,000 bronze stars, 559 silver stars, 21 Medals of Honor, and in less than a month of fighting they also earned five Presidential Unit Citations. Soldiers who served in the 442nd continue to earn medals and honors to this day for their past heroism.
In a ceremony honoring over 33,000 Japanese American soldiers, President Clinton said, “As sons set off o war, so many mothers and fathers told them . . . live if you can, die if you must, but fight always with honor, and never bring shame on your family or your country,” adding that “rarely has a nation been so well served by a people it so ill-treated.”
These heroes’ stories evoke inspiring patriotism, sacrifice, and courage. Their legacy continues to demonstrate to this day the great American ideals of liberty and equality for all. Terry and I would work on several important projects in the future. And one such project would have profound importance and a very special place in Army history.
At the time, I was Director of Personnel for the Army. My duties included organizing the Boards to review combat medals, including the Medal of Honor as well as ensuring recognition of those groups of soldiers who may not have been properly honored for their achievements in the past. It was during this assignment as the Director of Personnel for the Army that Terry contacted me. He wanted to secure a Congressional Gold Medal for the Japanese-American Nisei. Japanese-American Nisei are second-generation Americans or Canadians who were born in the United States or Canada but whose parents had emigrated from Japan.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the most prestigious award given to people from all walks of life. It isbestowed by the United States Congress for significant achievements and contributions to the nation. In 2010—after many months of tireless work by Terry, the Japanese-American Veterans, and the U.S. Army—Congress approved the Congressional Gold Medal to honor Japanese-Americans who served in combat. The Japanese-American veterans who were so recognized included soldiers from the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service.
Given my Japanese heritage because of my mother, it was such an honor to engage with the wonderful members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team families and friends. African-American heritage from my father has also been a source of strength for me and leads into this next story.
[EdNote: Chapter 13 from Winning after Losing is reprinted with permission.]