The 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, pictured here training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
The Japanese American patients at Bushnell Hospital had often traveled a strange road to end up recovering in the hospital. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese residents of the United States faced distrust by the white majority. The Japanese American members of the Hawaii Army National Guard were stripped of their rifles, but they were later allowed to fight in Europe as the 100th Infantry Battalion. Elsewhere, Japanese American men who wanted to volunteer for the armed forces were turned away.
Jerry Miyashiro and Ben Murakami were two of the many members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to recover at Bushnell Hospital.
People of Japanese descent living on the West Coast were taken from their homes and forced into internment camps. As the war progressed and the need for troops intensified, the government turned to these camps to see if the male citizens would be willing to volunteer for an all-Japanese combat unit. Many did, forming the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This unit joined with the 100th Infantry Battalion and went on to be the most decorated unit of World War II, and among the most decorated units in US history. Many of these men who started out as “enemy alien” prisoners in their own country lost limbs in combat and recovered at Bushnell Hospital.
The Japanese American veterans at Bushnell Hospital recovered in unsegregated wards along with American soldiers of other ethnicities.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Unit was one of the most decorated units in US military history. This segregated unit of only Japanese American soldiers (most from Hawaii and the western United States) became the “Purple Heart Battalion” for the thousands of injuries they sustained and combat medals awarded to their members.