Members of the highly-decorated Nisei regiment received many of their military honors late in life.
I was looking at a list of honorary Texans recently. It is quite a long list. Only about a tenth of them would be known to most Texans. John Wayne – no surprise there. The only surprise is that it took until 2015 to make him one. Chuck Norris, born in Oklahoma, was made an honorary Texan a few months ago.
Gov. Rick Perry made many of his favorite political allies honorary Texans: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck, for example. George W. Bush made Bob Dylan an honorary Texan. Ann Richards chose Don McLean, Bob Hope, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among many others. Alan Shivers made General Douglas MacArthur an honorary Texan.
The one case that stands out to me as the most astounding in this honoring business – and to my mind, the most deserving – is when Gov. John Connally, in 1962, awarded honorary Texan status to thousands of men simultaneously. He made the entire 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion, C divisions of the U.S. Army for World War II, honorary Texans. As this year’s Veteran’s Day is fast approaching, I thought I would tell you how this came to be.
We must begin our story with the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment comprised of the Texas National Guard. Their nickname was the “Alamo Regiment.” In 1944, they were at the lead of a push to drive the Germans out of France. The battalion had a large supporting force during their campaign but they pushed ahead so fast in the Vosges Mountains that they found themselves cut off and surrounded behind enemy lines.
They became known in World War II lore as “The Lost Battalion.” The only good thing for the Texans is that they were on top of a mountain and so they had the classic advantage of high ground and line of sight. But they were still pounded by German artillery. It was foggy, rainy and very cold. They quickly dug fighting positions in the wet, muddy soil and covered themselves with tree limbs, rock and dirt. They did everything they could to provide cover from the splinters of tree bursts and shrapnel from exploding shells. They were also out of food and water. Exceptionally courageous pilots were able to fly through the rain and fog and airdrop small supplies of water purification pills, c-rations and ammunition to sustain them.