‘Go For Broke’ members still awaiting recognition

Author: Julio Morgan
Publisher: Los Angeles Times Service, January-March 1987
Puka Puka Parades, January-March 1987, v.41 no.1

Newspaper article explains why the 100th/442nd is fighting for recognition and an apology from the gov’t for their internment during World War II.

LOS ANGELES — The most highly decorated Army unit in World War II is on another mission.

But rather than carrying bayonets and bullets, and rather than fighting in Europe, the soldiers are using words as weapons and the new battlefield is in the United States.

Many have forgotten that the most decorated Army unit was made up of Japanese Americans. Those men, now in their 60s and 70s, are fighting to remind the world of their exploits, and to prevent their children and grandchildren from having to prove their loyalty to this country, as they had to do in the 1940s after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

“Our mission today is to get our story retold,” said George Nishinaka, 62, president of the Veterans Association of the 100-442nd Regimental Combat Team. “We only have 10 or 15 more years left, and then none of us will be around any more. The association won’t be around, because we’ll all be dead. We don’t want our children and our grandchildren, or the rest of the world, to forget what we fought for.

“We are starting to see some negative things relative to Asians in this country,” Nishinaka said, noting the imbalance of trade with Japan and a growing anti-Japanese sentiment particularly among displaced auto workers. “There shouldn’t be any of this nonsense going on. We want to make sure we didn’t fight that war for nothing.”

The roots of the 100-442nd RCT began in 1942 shortly after Executive Order 9066 was issued forcing the relocation of more than 110,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent to 10 detention camps scattered throughout the country. The war hysteria created a fear that the Japanese Americans would be loyal to Japan.

About 3,500 Japanese Americans already serving in the armed forces were disarmed and reassigned to menial jobs. Other Japanese Americans, who had registered for the draft sinced 1940, were reclassified 4-C, unfit to join the Army.

Residents of Hawaii, about one-third of whom were of Japanese descent and where no Japanese Americans were incarcerated, complained and asked that a Japanese-American infantry unit be formed to prove their loyalty.

The unit was formed with about 1,300 men, and after training in Mississippi and Louisiana, the men were desigated as the 100th Infantry Battalion.

Pleased with the success of the 100th Battalion, the Army in February 1943 ordered the formation of a volunteer all-nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, combat unit.

More than 3,000 men from Hawaii and more than 1,500 from the internment camps volunteered to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The 100th Infantry Battallion, meanwhile, was sent to Oran, North Africa. But when they got there they were assigned to guard supply trains running between Casablanca and Tunisia.

“Our battalion commander protested, saying that we didn’t come all this way to guard a train. We came here to fight,” recalled Young Kim, 68.

A battalion assigned to Italy was reassigned and the 100th was quickly sent in to replace it. They joined the 34th Division and stormed the beaches of Salerno. The unit saw action in Montemarano, Volturno, Cassino and, finally, captured the beachhead at Anzio.

The 100th Battalion was then attached to the 442nd RCT in Italy as the first of three battalions on the team.

The first group in the 100-442nd RCT adopted a shoulder patch depicting an arm holding the torch of liberty. They also adoped the phrase “Go For Broke,” used by gamblers when their entire stake rides on one bet, as their battle cry.

The 100-442nd was involved in seven major campaigns, including the liberation of Bruyeres, France, in October 1944 and, later that month, in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” the all-Texan 2nd Battalion, 141st Regiment, 36th Division, that has been surrounded by German troops in southern France.

The 100-442nd suffered 800 casualties, including 200 who were killed, to save 275 men. A total of 650 men of the 100-442nd were killed in action during the two years they were involved in the war.

In all, the 100-442nd RCT received 18,143 individual decorations of valor, including a Medal of Honor — the highest award in the military service — 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, seven Presidential Unit Citations, 588 Silver Stars and 9,486 Purple Hearts.

According to the Congressional Record, the 100-442nd RCT is the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in the history of the United States.

The 100-442nd RCT Veterans Association has joined in the fight for an apology and compensation from the federal government for the nearly 60,000 surviving people who had been interned.

Kim and several other veterans also have joined a national effort to establish a Japanese-American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Last year they were successful in getting $750,000 from the state and $1 million from Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency for the project.