July 13, 1946 Press Release, "Secretary of War Patterson Praises 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team." Credit: National Archives and Records Administration.
JAVA Research Team (JRT)
Washington, DC. When speaking about the 100th Infantry Battalion, initially comprised of 1,400 Nisei draftees from Hawaii, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of 4,000 volunteers from Hawaii and the Mainland, speakers, writers, officials, press, and the public have referred to them as the most highly or one of the most highly decorated units in the United States Army. By its use, almost everyone, even the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, accepted this statement as fact. No one is known to have questioned its authenticity. JAVA speakers and writers have refrained, up to now, to make this statement because they did not want to face a questioner for documentation.
For the past ten years, JRT has searched for the official origin of this “most highly decorated” statement at National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Army Public Relations Offices, U.S. Army Center for Military History, Library of Congress, Pacific Citizen, historians, and others with an absence of results.
While not completely solved, the issue was virtually solved on August 16, 2021. Dr. Eric S. Van Slander, an archivist of NARA, College Park, MD, located a War Department Public Relations Division press release dated July 2, 1946, which said: “. . . 469 (442nd returnees for the Presidential review) have seen combat duty in an outfit that is one of the most highly decorated in the US Army”. While this citation is in a press release pertaining to preparations for the July 15, 1946, Presidential review of the 442nd, the statement confirms that it is owned by the War Department. JRT continues its search for a stand-alone statement and requests readers to advise the JAVA editor if such a document is located.
With relation to this find, JRT wishes to present remarks made by then-MG Alfred M. Gruenther, U.S. Army, and share a letter from the U.S. Secretary of War to the 442nd commander, both of which support the most highly decorated statement. MG Alfred M. Gruenther, Commandant of the National War College and previously Chief of Staff of the U.S. Fifth Army, serving as the official representative of Secretary Patterson at the official welcome home ceremony at Camp Kilmer, NJ on June 11, 1946, told the returning 442nd men, including the 100th, "It was a great honor for me to be able to salute such a distinguished outfit. ...the 442nd's outstanding record of major decorations was unsurpassed by any other unit of comparable size." He enumerated the decorations and awards the unit had won and said that they are "the best evidence of your superb fighting qualities." The other is a letter from Secretary Patterson to LTC Alfred A. Purcell, 442nd Commander, dated July 11, 1946.
July 2, 1946 Press Release, "442nd Regimental Combat Team to Parade on White House Grounds" notes in the last paragraph "one of the most highly decorated in the Army." Credit: National Archives and Records Administration.
Scans of the two press releases and other related documents can be read here.[EdNote: JAVA appreciates Dr. Van Slander, and the National Archives and Records Administration, for their continuing and exhaustive research.]