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The 442

WWII documentary to debut at Maui Film Festival.

June 10, 2010
Paul Janes-Brown

The world premiere of 442, Live with Honor, Die with Dignity will take place at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20.

Written and directed by Junichi Suzuki with narration by Lane Nishikawa, the documentary follows the heroic exploits of one of the U.S. military’s most decorated units, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the hallowed 100th Battalion. These were the all-Japanese American units that fought and distinguished themselves in Italy, France and Germany during WWII. The 100th Battalion was made up of Nisei (Americans whose parents were from Japan) members of the 298th and 299th Infantry regiments of the Hawai‘i National Guard. The 442nd RCT was made up of 3,000 Hawai‘i residents of Japanese-American ancestry and 800 Mainland volunteers from the infamous internment camps.

The film showcases vintage footage as well as interviews with a dozen living members of the 442. The filmmakers went to the scenes of the 100th Battalion’s greatest triumphs—Monte Cassino, Anzio and Rome. When the 442 RCT was trained in 1944, they joined up with the 100th Battalion. Because of the bravery and accomplishments of the 100th Battalion, they were allowed to retain their identity and became the 100th Battalion of the 442nd RCT.

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The world premiere of 442, Live with Honor, Die with Dignity will take place at the Castle Theater at 1:30 p.m. on Fathers’ Day, June 20. The film follows the heroic exploits of one of the U.S. military’s most decorated units, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion.

The film also features the 65th anniversary of the liberation by the 442 of the town of Bruyeres, France, when the entire town came out to honor these Japanese-American heroes. 

The rescue of the legendary “Lost Battalion,” a unit of 211 Texans who, in the fall of 1944, found themselves surrounded by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains of France, is another aspect of his film. Over a five-day period, the 442 suffered 800 casualties, including 121 dead. This battle has been designated as one of the ten major battles in U.S. Army history.

The reunion between the members of the 442, one of the few living Texas survivors and the families of those men—who may have never been were it not for the men of the 442—is one of the most touching moments in this highly emotional film.

One of the wives of a Lost Battalion member speaks about the generosity of the men of the 442, who reminded her of the bravery and the courage of her husband and his fellow soldiers as they persevered and never surrendered. “That was another gift from them,” she said through her tears.

It was the 442 who cleared the road to Rome, but they stood aside as Caucasian troops went into Rome, while they were ordered to circumvent the “eternal city.” Despite their bravery and accomplishments, they were subjected to discrimination.

Particularly ironic is the fact that members of the 522nd artillery of the 442, many of whom were interred in U.S. concentration camps, were among the liberators of the Lithuanian Jews in a sub-camp of the Dachau death camp.

The 100th Battalion’s 442nd RCT is the only unit in U.S. history to be greeted by the President of the U.S. The film includes vintage footage of President Truman saying, “You fought not only the enemy, but you’ve fought prejudice and you’ve won. 

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye lost his arm leading an attack as a second lieutenant in the 442. We learn that he was one of the best shots in the regiment, so he served as a sniper. He recalls his first kill in a revealing interview.

Actor George Takei (Mr. Sulu in Star Trek) is also interviewed for the film in the segment on the Kibbei—Japanese-Americans who were educated in Japan. They were put into the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and their language skills, the film claims, were responsible for shortening the war by two years, saving approximately 1,000,000 American and Japanese lives. They provided the intelligence that helped to shoot down Japan’s most important naval officer and the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, in the spring of 1943.

At the conclusion of the film, Dr. Rick Sword, a Maui psychologist, talks about the remarkable attitude of the 442 veterans despite the nightmares and horrors they experienced. “They focus on the positives of the past to create a positive future. The future is more important to them than the past,” he said.

Many of the surviving members of the 442 and their families are expected to be present at the premiere.



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