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Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Steve Cole ponders an obscure piece of military  history that came to his attention.

Everybody knows about the Japanese-American unit in World War II, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Italy and later in southern France. A few who have read more history know about the 100th Separate Infantry Battalion, the first Japanese-American unit, which was formed from Hawaiian National Guard troops of Japanese descent. This unit, the first in combat, was eventually added to the 442nd as an extra battalion.

I've read over a thousand history books and only recently discovered the 99th Separate Infantry Battalion, which was composed of 550 Norwegian-Americans and 450 Norwegians who just happened to be in the US when Norway was conquered by the Nazis. This battalion (everyone spoke Norwegian and knew how to ski) was originally envisioned as being sent into Norway, but instead fought in France as an extra battalion in various larger units. It was sent to Norway after the German surrender to supervise disarming the German units in that country.

The 101st Separate Battalion was to be formed from Austrians but did not attract enough recruits and was disbanded.

The 122nd Separate Infantry Battalion was composed of 650 Greek citizens and Greek-Americans. After seven months of training it was disbanded as too small but 185 of its members were transferred to the OSS and sent to Greece and the Balkans as spies. Most of those died in action.

In a separate program, a battalion of Philippine troops was formed and later expanded into two entire regiments.