James Martin Hanley Jr. was the oldest child and only son born to Imra (Lewis) and James Martin Hanley, Sr. in Mandan, ND. His siblings included Josephine, Irma Jane and Lewista. His father, also an area attorney and North Dakota State District Judge, had a distingushed military career as well.
His father, as a major and battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion 1st North Dakota Infantry took his 12-year old son along as mascot while mustering for a possible chase after Pancho Villa during the Mexican Expedition. Hanley Jr. admitted the experience had a major effect on his career. He aspired to the law and military service.
James Hanley Jr. was a graduate of Union College, where he received his AB in 1928, and the University of Chicago Law School, where he was awarded a JD degree in 1931. He returned to Mandan to begin his legal practice and was appointed Justice of the Peace the following year. In 1933, he was elected state's attorney and was appointed assistant attorney general and commerce counsel for the ND Public Service Commission in 1936. Despite the nationwide depression, he was successfully advancing his career.
Hanley Jr. had served in the Army Reserves for many years and had attained the rank of captain. As the start of World War II appeared eminent, he was called into federal service in 1941. While initially assigned to Fort Benning as an instructor, he was later re-assigned to the 442nd Infantry.
The 442nd was under the command of the infamous Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell. Now a Lieutenant Colonel, Hanley was commanded the 2d. Battalion through the fierce battes of the Vosges and led his Japanese-American Company in the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" in the mountains of eastern France. Among his men was Lt. Daniel K. Inouye, who would eventually be elected as a US Senator from the state of Hawaii.
After the conclusion of the war, Hanley stayed in the Army. He rose to the rank of colonel, serving in both World War II as battalion commander, and the Korean War, as chief of the War Crimes Sections, 8th Army.
Colonel Hanley had the distinction of testifying in November 1953 in front of the Congressional Committee on Government Operations, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations headed by Senator Joseph McCarthy. The topic of the questioning was the Korean War Atrocities.
Following his retirement from the service, he became a manager for General Dynamics Corporation and later professor of business at San Jose State University. He retired in 1973.
Colonel Hanley formalized his memories in 1995 when he published his book A Matter of Honor: A Memoire in which he recounts his early life and military career, particularly his years as one of the senior commanders of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII, and in the Korean conflict of the fifties.
The book also tells the story of the Nisei Japanese American soldiers. Nisei are people, or a person, of Japanese ancestry and the first generation to be born in their parent's adaoptive homeland. About 6000 Nisei volunteered for military service following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - despite the widespread distrust of anyone of Japanese ancestry. Americans of Japanese ancestry were generally forbidden to fight a combat role in the Pacific theatre. The 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, fighting in the European theatre, became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, earning it the nickname the "Purple Heart Battalion".
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