Honor before Glory
The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion
Da Capo Press, Boston, 2016, 304 pages
Book Review published on: September 27, 2018
It’s been over seventy years since the Lost Battalion was rescued. There are a lot of people who don’t know about the Lost Battalion and the Nesei (Japanese-American citizens) who rescued it. Scott McGaugh does an excellent job in providing a historical look at the rescue that took place in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France during World War II. The first two chapters provide a detailed account of how the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry was cut off by the Germans and how two battalions that tried to previously rescue it failed.
McGaugh then provides insight on the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and how the Nesei Battalion was formed. Over 1,200 Japanese-Americans had been arrested in the two days following the Pearl Harbor attack. Because of racial hysteria, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized Japanese-American relocation into internment camps that were established in desolate wastelands in California, Arizona, Wyoming, and Colorado, and as far east as Arkansas. This affected tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans. Despite this mistreatment, Army recruiters in Hawaii and the mainland were tasked to find Japanese-American volunteers to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The recruiters easily exceeded their goal in which many Japanese-Americans volunteered from the internment camps.
The heart of Honor before Glory focuses on the day-to-day battle leading up to the Lost Battalion’s rescue. McGaugh does an excellent job in describing how the 1st Battalion was cut off and the struggles the members endured while waiting for rescue. He also does an excellent job of describing the battlefield: rugged mountainous terrain, extreme cold and rainy weather, German fortified logging trails laced with mines, machine gun nests, and artillery and mortars. Despite the odds, the 442nd Nesei (through honor and determination) is able to break though the German positions to rescue the lost battalion. However, it came at a significant cost as the 442nd suffered over eight hundred casualties.
The concluding chapters provide a synopsis of what the 442nd accomplished during World War II as well as events that transpired after. Despite being war heroes, the survivors still faced discrimination. Only two Medals of Honor were awarded while dozens were downgraded. This injustice wasn’t resolved until 2000. The 442nd is the most-decorated unit in U.S. military history as it earned the nickname the “Purple Heart Battalion” due to the number of injured in combat.
The maps provide a general overview; however, I had difficulty following the day-by-day battle leading up to the rescue. There are countless testimonials from American, Nesei, and German soldiers that are fascinating to read; however, they detract from what McGaugh is trying to convey throughout his description of the battle. It is difficult to bounce back and forth from testimonials to actions on the battlefield.
Honor before Glory is worth the read as it is inspiring from a historical and human perspective. However, it offers little history regarding security concerns or strategic significance.
Book Review written by: Patrick L. Cook, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas