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Jed Boal ReportingMany Utahns are remembered for their service in war. Japanese-Americans who fought with great courage are often overlooked in the history books. Two of those soldiers told their stories tonight.
Shigeru Matsukawa and Jim Tazoi are native Utahns and as America entered World War II, they were ready for fight. But second generation Japanese-Americans, or Nesei (KNEE-say), were turned away.
Dr. Shigeru Matsukawa, 442nd Regiment: “They didn't care whether you were a citizen or not. As long as you were of Japanese ancestry, you were the enemy."
Japanese Americans were rounded up into internment camps like the one at Topaz, near Delta, Utah. As the war intensified the US needed the men and formed the all-Nesei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and sent them to the front line.
Jim Tazoi, 442nd Regimental Combat Team: “Our folks told us, ‘If you have to do it, go head. If you have to die, you have to die. This is your country go help defend it.’"
So many were killed it became known as the "Purple Heart Battalion." One-third were drafted out of internment camps like Topaz.
Dr. Shigeru Matsukawa, 442nd Regiment: “They volunteered to join the army. That's quite a thing."
The combat team beat back the Germans and shot the locks off the Nazi-death camp at Dachau. They suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any unit and became the most decorated of World War II.
The average height in the 442nd was five-three, average weight 126; but many considered them one of the biggest units in the way they showed their valor. The soldiers had something to prove and they did.