Sakato tried to enlist in the Army Air Corps but was rejected because of his draft status—4-C, undesirable alien.
Finally successful, he enlisted and was assigned to the 442nd Regt. Comnat Team.
When Germans counterattacked his unit, one of his close friends was hit and died in his arms. Seeking vengeance, Sakato took charge of the squad, fighting with an enemy rifle and pistol he picked up from the battlefield after his tommy gun ran out of ammunition. He killed another seven Germans and led his platoon in capturing thirty-four more. His unit held its position until it was relieved.
A few days later, the 442nd attempted to break through the Germans’ encirclement of a battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment, known as the Lost Battalion. The Japanese American unit suffered more than 800 casualties in rescuing the 211 trapped GIs. During the battle, Sakato was knocked down by a mortar shell; the bulky winter overcoat he was carrying in his pack kept him from being killed by the shrapnel that struck his spine and lungs.
Sakato was hospitalized for eight months. He heard that he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor, but the decoration he received was the Distinguished Service Cross. He didn’t think anything more about it until the morning fifty-five years later when he received a call from the Pentagon. His award was being upgraded to the Medal of Honor as the result of a review of the records of Asian American soldiers who had received the DSC.