I won the free soldier’s mail card below at an auction at my club’s postcard meeting in September. It actually may have been one I donated, because I don’t like when cards have the recipient’s name crossed out. But what struck me after I won was the fact that the serviceman had a Japanese name, Private Bunkichi Matsuyoshi.
Private Matsuyoshi mailed a card of Rome to Kauai, which is an island in Hawaii. Upon Googling Matsuyoshi, I found an obituary from November 2014 that said he served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was born in Waimea, Kauai, where this card was sent.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team became active in February 1943. It was separate from the 100th Infantry Battalion, which became active in June 1942 in Hawaii and was the first Army unit of Japanese American soldiers activated in WWII. The 100th became part of the 442nd in June 1944, when this postcard was mailed.
“The arguments were the confusion during battle that may occur (as far as them looking exactly like the enemy) and in some cases, as I’ve heard, that the brass didn’t want to risk any type of incident that might see their own troops turned against them. A ridiculous notion.
So The 100th was never sent to the Pacific for battle. However, many did serve in the MIS (Military Intelligence Service) as code breakers and interpreters.”
The 100th Battalion’s website gives a nice timeline of the unit’s activity in Italy, including fighting at Monte Cassino, and their approach to Rome:
“In June 1944, the 100th, along with five heavy weapons units, was assigned to clear out German troops holding Hill 435 near Lanuvio, the last enemy stronghold on the road to Rome. Earlier attempts by two battalions to break through had failed. The 100th accomplished the task on June 3. But seven miles from Rome, the unit’s quick advance was suddenly halted and the men were ordered to cease their approach. Disappointed and feeling that racial prejudice had been a factor in the issuance of the order, the soldiers watched as trucks carrying the 5th Army and other Allied troops rolled by, headed towards Rome and a heroes’ welcome. The 100th Infantry Battalion would eventually enter the outskirts of Rome, only to depart immediately afterward.”