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Tech/5 Ted T. Hoshino

81mm Mortar Crewman

3rd Platoon, D Company, 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

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Teruo “Ted” Hoshino’s childhood was like many other Nisei Americans on the western coast. His parents were born in the southern part of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan and spent their early adult lives there before immigrating to the United States in 1914. Originally settling in Washington, the family moved down to Los Angeles in hopes of seeking more opportunity as the city boomed in the wake of the first World War. Ted was born just a few years after the move and grew up in the heavily Japanese populated part of downtown Los Angeles just between historic Korea and Chinatown. His father co-owned a nearby grocery with another immigrant and as Ted went through school he spent his free time helping run the place. Along with many other young Nisei, Ted graduated at the top of his class at Los Angeles High School in 1938 and was proud of his membership in several honors societies. His dream to work in sports management started strong with two years of classes at the University of California Berkeley (he was always big into basketball), but family financial problems forced Ted to drop out and work full time alongside his father to run the store. The family was beginning to settle when the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor flipped their world upside down.

          The Japanese ambush sent the United States reeling and across the nation anti-Japanese sentiment, including against the nearly 250,000 immigrants of Japanese ancestry living in the country, rose to levels never before seen. As people shot nasty looks to Ted and his Nisei friends on the street, what they failed to realize was that these young Americans were feeling just as betrayed and furious at the attack upon their beloved homeland, the United States. The time for immediate outrage was short-lived for Ted as President Roosevelt’s infamous Executive Order 9066 came through in February of 1942 and his family was forced to sell their home and grocery as they prepared to be shipped off.

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Like thousands of his friends and neighbors, Ted and his family were told to gather their belongings and pile up in buses for new “relocation” which would guarantee their “safety” from a possible west-coast Japanese invasion. Nisei and Issei knew better. On May 29th, 1942 the Hoshino family passed through the sun-glinted barbed wire gate into the dozen acre yard near the Colorado River they would call their home for the next three years. The Poston Camp in Arizona was the largest of all the US internment camps, housing tens of thousands of inmates across several large camp structures. Crudely constructed barracks aligned neatly in rows and families received new assignments to their “apartments,” meaning cloth-partitioned squares inside of the buildings. Ted, his parents, and his five brothers and sisters were given a cramped space to throw their few bags of allowed luggage and told to make it comfortable for their indefinite stay. The family was initially placed in Camp II, block 211 but transferred finally to Block 30, Barracks 12 in the main camp structure. Life was tough. Conditions inside the barracks were extremely cramped and the buildings themselves crumbled easily, disease outbreaks were rampant and severe, and guards treated many of these American citizens as if they were enemies of the state not to be trusted. Ted could no longer hope to go back to school and was unable to secure a pass to work outside of the camp, instead spending his free time playing sports and building relationships among his fellow prisoners.

 

As the war in Italy progressed the imprisoned Americans began to follow a new group of heroes, the 100th Infantry battalion, and before long the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was announced with other young men from Poston answering the call to serve. Hoshino surely knew some of the early enlistees that joined the regiment in the spring of 1943 as hundreds answered the call, however, the decision was a controversial one amongst the detainees. Most of the older adults and Issei felt as if their young boys should not serve until the country fully recognized them as proper and legitimate citizens whereas the young men typically believed they could earn that respect by serving alongside their other American brothers in arms and proving their dedication to the United States. Many young folks were still split in the decision and Ted fell into the group which decided to forego the initial round of enlistments. Through the next year he continued helping his family but was never remiss of the news reports coming back from overseas about the valor of the Nisei men fighting in Italy. Eventually, the weariness of captivity came to an end when he received his draft notice to leave behind his loved ones and enlist in the army of the United States, which he did in July of 1944.

The Poston camp
The Poston camp

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Ted's evacuation card
Ted's evacuation card

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Arrival of families into the camp
Arrival of families into the camp

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The Poston camp
The Poston camp

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Following the footsteps of the other 442nd veterans, Ted began his career going through basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The camp was almost a rite of passage with how many other Nisei learned the basics of army life inside its walls. Unlike them, however, Ted was part of a rushed class of trainee replacements. In the months leading up to his enlistment the united 442nd RCT saw some serious action throughout Italy and was noticeably down in strength and thus combat efficiency. The summer of 1944 saw many of the new Nisei recruits ship overseas as soon as their training was done and in Ted’s case, the big day came in the latter half of September. In a little over a week his ship reached the bustling port of Marseille where he and his fellow replacements began the trek up to join the 442nd. Although the date he initially joined the regiment is unknown, it is speculated to be sometime in the first or second week of October. At this time the division was attached to the famed 36th “Texas” Infantry Division which had seen much combat in Italy but was now working its way up into Germany through the Vosges forest. Upon reaching the unit Ted received his assignment to join an 81mm mortar crew in the 3rd Platoon of Dog (D) Company in the 100th Infantry Battalion. D Company, the last of four making up the 100th, had the special designation as a “heavy weapons” company and as such was outfitted with specialized equipment and weaponry specifically designed to support the operations of the three rifle companies composing the rest of the battalion. In Ted’s case this was the heavy 81mm mortar. Larger than the standard company-issued mortars, these weapons were set up to the rear of advancing infantry in order to provide direct and immediate fire support on enemy positions posing a threat to the allied assault. It wasn’t long before Ted got his baptism of fire with the mortars in the 442nd attack on German-held Bruyeres. The town was heavily fortified by the German 716th Infanterie Division and strategically defined by a series of four hills overlooking the area. Ted and D Company followed the rest of the 100th to attack the SS-Polizei Regiment 19 occupying Hill A. The battle was extremely rough and lasted several days before the 100th was able to finally drive the determined occupants off the hill. During the fight Ted and his fellow mortar crewman learned about a new ability to help them in combat—treebursts. Because the Vosges was full of extremely dense and clustered trees, mortars could not expect to get clear direct hits on their target. Instead, they became an effective area-of-effect weapon as the mortar rounds landed amongst the heavy branches in the tall trees, bursting upon impact, and raining burning hot shrapnel directly into the enemy lines. The effect was devastating upon the Germans of Hill A but before long the men of the 442nd experienced that fear themselves.

The battle for Bruyeres and the neighboring Biffontaine raged for several days but victory finally came to the Japanese-Americans and their Texan compatriots. Even with the two hard-fought battles won, the push for the 442nd was not over. In the days following the Texans of the 141st Infantry Regiment took up the fight to give the 442nd a much-needed rest but the assault did not last long before it encountered a major problem. While rushing forward into the forests east of Bruyeres the 1st Battalion of the 141st outran its supporting units and created a salient in the line which was quickly seized by members of several German rifle and mountain divisions. Entrapping the battalion of Texas infantrymen on a tall and narrow ridge, the Germans solidified their lines and cut off the Americans entirely from their lines. Desperate attempts at rescue were made by the other battalions of the regiment but German defenses in the dense forest were too strong and each attempt was met with utter failure. In hope that the effective Nisei might be able to make a change, the 442nd were ordered to rescue the lost battalion.

A 442nd mortar team in the Vosges
A 442nd mortar team in the Vosges

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A 442nd heavy weapons team on the move
A 442nd heavy weapons team on the move

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The Vosges forest near Biffontaine
The Vosges forest near Biffontaine

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A 442nd mortar team in the Vosges
A 442nd mortar team in the Vosges

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Ted and the 100th Battalion made up the right flank of the 442nd assault in accompaniment with a medium tank company and complement of heavy 4.2-inch chemical mortars. The men of the mortar platoon advanced closely behind the main rifle force and provided immediate fire support to the infantry as they encountered emplacement after emplacement of hidden German guns peppering the forest floor. The fighting was brutal and slow-going and casualties mounted by the minute. German mortars now had the opportunity to create their own tree bursts which rained down upon the heads of the Nisei soldiers. Ted and his crew always answered in return. By Friday, October 27th, the 100th Battalion was leading the advance, taking enemy snipers, machine guns, mortars, mines, and artillery in stride as they made their way towards the waning Texas infantrymen. Progress continued to be slow and attacks were forced to stop in the evening as the forests became pitch-black in the dark to the point where many 100th veterans recall not being able to even see their hands. On October 29th Major General Dahlquist, commander of the 36th Infantry Division, made strong demands to the Nisei that they had to secure the battalion “at all costs,” doing whatever necessary to break the lines. As Ted and the 100th began a flanking maneuver on the right part of the line, other Nisei in the 3rd battalion fixed bayonets for a “banzai” charge which broke through the German lines and allowed them to finally reach the lost battalion. The 100th Battalion mopped up German resistance on their side of the line but once it was realized the Nisei had broken through, it crumbled. After 6 days of intense and bloody combat, Ted got to watch as the bedraggled Texans made their way back into friendly territory with grins on their faces as they thanked the “little men'' who had just saved their lives.

By the end of the lost battalion rescue the 100th Battalion, which had started with over 3,313 men just two weeks earlier, had suffered over 800 casualties. Ted, one of the lucky ones to not suffer a wound, was able to stay with the battalion and followed them down to the Maritime Alps near the riviera where they were placed on soft border duty, allowing the veterans to recuperate from the hell of the Vosges and greet new replacements with wine bottles and indignation. It was lovingly known as the “Champagne Campaign.”

 
Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps
Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps

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An alpine mortar position of Ted's platoon
An alpine mortar position of Ted's platoon

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Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps
Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps

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Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps
Men of Ted's platoon in the Maritime Alps

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After several months of easy time in the Alps exploring the local towns and mountain-watching, Ted and the 442nd were told to pack up their bags to head back to Italy. Although Ted was not with the 442nd their first time in the country, he probably heard many stories about the fighting undergone by the regiment from the veterans who still remained with the battalion. In March of 1945, the regiment was attached to the 92nd Infantry Division, a segregated black unit, to help break through the Gothic Line and Po River Valley which was holding up the US 5th Army. The 442nd had an easier time in the rocky mountains of northern Italy, successfully driving back German forces time and time again to the point that many simply retreated in their wake. On April 25th the 442nd completed its final drive on the town of Aulla and in the days after, helped the 5th Army begin to process and organize the hundreds of thousands of German prisoners who began surrendering en masse. Just a few days later on May 5th, Ted and his mortar platoon were greeted by a package of Stars and Stripes newspapers declaring that the war in Europe was finally over.

Although he had only been with the regiment for 7 months, Ted saw some of its harshest and most valiant service. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team went down in history as the most decorated unit in United States Army history for its size and length of service. During his time with the unit, Ted was not decorated personally for valor but did receive two Presidential Unit Citations for his efforts with the lost battalion and in Italy. Ted finally made it home in early 1946 to find his family out of captivity and start life anew back home in Los Angeles. His first years back were spent with his father trying to restart the grocery but after some brief time in the Army reserves, Ted decided to devote his life to a different type of battle—that over men’s souls. After marrying, he converted from his family’s Buddhist traditions and found faith. It was in the church that Ted finally found his calling and in the early 1950s he officially became a reverend in the Southern Baptist Church. After a brief stint at a Texas congregation, the Southern Baptist convention realized the importance of Ted’s connections to the Japanese community in southern California and placed him in charge of all missions there. He quickly became a prominent community leader and even spent many years on the Japanese-American Citizen’s League (JACL) commission board advocating for better conditions and treatment of Asian Americans throughout California. Later in life Ted retired from a long career of public service and resided in Paramount, leading a small congregation of worshippers until his death in 1999.

Ted's platoon at Livorno, Italy in 1945
Ted's platoon at Livorno, Italy in 1945

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Ted's platoon traveling to Italy from Southern France
Ted's platoon traveling to Italy from Southern France

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1999
1999

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Ted's platoon at Livorno, Italy in 1945
Ted's platoon at Livorno, Italy in 1945

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