Author: Eric Saul
Puka Puka Parades, April-June 1984, v.38 no. 2

Speech given by Eric Saul at the 41st Anniversary Banquet for the 442nd Veterans Club. Mainly directed at the 442nd, lots of talk about the 100th, Japanese values, culture, and community and how it shaped their fighting in World War II. Editor’s Note: The following speech was delivered by Mr. Eric Saul, Curator of the Presidio Museum, San Francisco. This speech was delivered at the 41st Anniversary Banquet of the 442nd Veteran’s Club on Saturday, March 24, 1984 at the Honolulu International Country Club. I believe that Mr. Saul has a strong message for all Club 100 veterans. Permission has been granted by the 442 Veterans Club to print Mr. Saul’s speech.

Giri On: Duty, Honor, Responsibility

Enryo: Humility, Reluctance

Oyakoko: Love the family

Kodomo No Tameni: For the sake of the children

These were some of the concepts that your parents taught you, the Nisei generation. What do they mean to America? What do they mean to the Nisei? What do they mean to the 100/442? You men, with the most decorated unit in the history of the United States Army, far and away: Why?

Several Sansei have come to me in the past years and said to me, “I feel like a white person” – like a “hakujin”, or a “haole”. I live where I want, I stay where I want, I have a profession that I want, I’ve gone to the school that I want, and I’ve never felt prejudiced. And I didn’t – until I saw this exhibit – appreciate the sacrifice of my fathers and my mothers, of Nisei, and of my grandparents, the Issei. They didn’t realize what the experience was in the war, the traumatization of the mainland Nisei, who spent years in concentration camps. And these Sansei wondered by their parents were so willing to fight for this country, a country who would turn their back on the Nisei and the Issei; a country which had enacted 590 laws against Asian-Americans.

Why would they fight for this country? And they didn’t know. And I didn’t know why they didn’t know until I learned the word “Enryo” – humility. And I learned that you Nisei have not told your children the story of your suffering and your struggle, and that, in many ways, is a tragedy because the next generation will not know what you did. So we felt it was an obligation – “Giri” and “On” – to tell the story of the Nisei, and many of the mainland Issei got together, opened up their trunks and their scrap albums, and their stored cloth lockers and pulled out their uniforms and their photographs and their precious memorabilia and put together an exhibit of Go-For-Broke Yankee Samurai.

I’ve talked many times to many groups, many Caucasian groups, and I’ve asked most of the people: If you were locked in a concentration camp, and you lost your house, your car, your boat, your business, your property and your dignity and you as a community felt that you loved America, that you had a commitment to America, that you loved the sense of democracy and yet the country turned its back on you, how many of you would be willing, under the same circumstances, to join the U.S. Army? I’ve probably asked several thousand people and I’ve had maybe a half-dozen people raise their hands and say, “yes, I would defend my country”. So with that, I’d like to tell you the story as I’ve learned it. I feel a little bit like the preacher with his choir, but I’ll tell you the story that I tell many of the Caucasians about the 442nd.

As you know, it is the most decorated unit in American military history. You received 8 Presidential Unit Citations in slightly less than two years of fighting. For a Unit – there was a combat team comprised of about 4,000 men – you received 10,000 individual medals. On the average, that was 2 medals per man. The cost was 314% combat casualties. This unit of 4,000 men had to be replaced nearly 3-1/2 times. Incredible.Another unit that might have suffered 20 or 15% casualties would have been pulled off the line – would have been sent home. They would have considered that a massacre in the Army, yet the Army replenished the 442nd and the 100 from America’s concentration camps and from Hawaii. And yet the young men were willing to go into combat in those seven major campaigns and prove some things once and for all: The AJA, Japanese-Americans, Nikkei, were not the enemy, but were Americans. And many of you felt that you had to be 2-1/2 times better than the next man to get half of what he had. And yet you were willing to do that. So when the Army asked for volunteers…for 1,500 volunteers from Hawaii, 10,000 men stepped forward. I learned the stories of Nisei who had flat feet and who were nearsighted, who the Army rejected, went home and cried bitterly. Many of you remember your parents telling you, “whatever this country did to you, however you feel now, remember, this is your country and be loyal to it and come home in front of your shield; come home as a hero; don’t bring “haji” to the community -don’t bring shame.

So you went to a place called Camp Shelby, Mississippi. 4,500 young men – 17, 18, 19 – young men not knowing what to expect. You went as two groups: You went from Hawaii, and the Hawaiians were called “Buddaheads”. And if you were from the mainland, you were called a “Kotonk”. And for the wives who do not know what a “Kotonk” is, it is the sound of a head hitting a barracks wall or floor as you were being beaten up: “kotonk, kotonk, kotonk!”

So a rivalry developed between the Hawaiian “buddaheads” who grew up in Hawaii, and the mainland kotonks. You were happy, you were lucky, you coined the phrase “go-for-broke”, give it all, do your best, do your damndest. When you went into a bar, you threw all the money from your pockets onto the table and you bought rounds for everybody. Generosity, aloha spirit, go-for broke, go for it. The mainland Nisei, on the other hand, were quiet, and they were reserved. They had Enryo. And the Hawaiians thought that these mainland “Kotonks” were a bunch of snobs, and they “talked funny”. Some fighting broke out between the units – between the two factions – pretty serious fighting. They were called Gen Gens: “What you want, bust-up?”

So, the commanding officer of the 442nd, realizing this was jeopardizing the unit – you have to remember that Colonel Pence was a very sensitive man, your first commanding officer; he realized that you had to prove something. So he had the sensitivity to round up a group of the Hawaiian Nisei, put them on some Army trucks and sent them 800 miles to another state – the state of Arkansas; sent them to a little camp – not an Army camp – something the Army called a relocation center. It was called Camp Rohwer. And these Nisei – 200 Nisei from Hawaii – with their ukuleles and their grass skirts and their wanting to meet the wahines and have a good time, found their encountering a barbed-wire fence, watch towers with machine guns, and that the people of the camp had saved food and supplies for months so that they could have a luau for the Hawaiian Nisei. And the Nisei were marched off the trucks and were searched and marched at gunpoint to the camp gates. And when those Nisei came back, they realized they were not fighting one enemy, but maybe they were fighting two enemies. They were fighting the German enemy – and probably maybe an even more insidious enemy, the enemy of prejudice in the United States. And when those Nisei came back, I understand that the fighting ended, and the 442nd and the 100 was now a fighting team.

What else was unusual about Go-For-Broke and the 100/442? The average size of the average man was 5’3″; he weighed 125 lbs. soaking wet. The Army didn’t have clothes for you Nisei, as you know, so they had to convert WAG clothing or cut down all the uniforms. What else did they have to do? They had to make all kinds of considerations for the Nisei. There was a height limit in the Army of 5’3″; any shorter than that and you couldn’t get in the Army. Yet there were some men in the Go-For-Broke Regiment who were 4’8 1/2″, weighed slightly more than a hundred pounds, and wore shoes that were 2-1/2 EEE. You remember them?The Army prevents brothers from serving in the same combat unit, and yet there were five brothers in the same company, one who was killed; and there were multiple brothers killed in the Go-For-Broke Regiment, the 100/442. Did the Army make considerations? And when that Go-For-Broke Regiment suffered 314% casualties, the Nikkei community suffered the highest combat casualties of any unit of any community in America. They trained for – as you remember – well over a year – onto two years, from February 1943 till June 1944. Now, it wasn’t usual for the Army to train – that long -a unit before it went overseas. Why were they kept in Camp Shelby that long? Because the Army still wasn’t sure which way you would shoot when you got overseas! Who you shoot?? The Army searched your mail, confiscated your diaries, watched you every step of the way. The first sergeants and the officers had to report back; there was even an officer among us, Colonel Riversell, who would hide the records when the F.B.I. would come to look at your records. He would hide them in the file drawers so they wouldn’t find them – so they wouldn’t take you away because of your religion, or because of your early political affiliations.

So the Army decided to send you overseas, but while you were still at Camp Shelby you had a sympathy for the cause of the black man in America. There were a number of occasions where you stood up for black men who were being segregated – one case where you were asked to sit in the front of the bus. And when you got to Camp Shelby, the Army didn’t know what to do with you, the people of Hattiesburg didn’t know what to do. Should you use the white restrooms or the black restrooms? So, I understand that the Town Council and the Mayor of Hattiesburg got together. For the record, they decided to consider you “honorary haoles”. Yet, when you saw a bus driver ridicule a black man for riding in the front of the bus, I understand some of the members of the 100 threw the bus driver off and drove the bus to its destination – complete with its passengers!

All the time that you were in camp, in training, you were the best the Army had to offer. You marched faster, longer. Every man finished the twenty-five mile hike with a 60 pound pack. If a man couldn’t finish the hike, one person would take his rifle, one person would take his helmet, one person would take his pack. In the case of some of the adjutants from the front office, they’d even pick up the man and carry him across the finish Line. Everybody finished the hike. Everybody got overseas.

Colonel Handley, the Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion, said discipline among the 442nd was wonderful. He told me that the way the men were disciplined was by threatening to write a letter home to the father! No “haji” – don’t bring shame to the family – and it worked every time.

So you went overseas. The 100 landed first in North America and the 442 in Italy. You fought in seven major campaigns.

I’ll tell you true stories – two of the most incredible battle stories. When I read about the 442 and the 100…you could be the greatest novelist of all time, you could be a James Joyce or a Michener…you couldn’t come up with a heroic tale like I’ve read. Even classic tales, like The Forty-Seven Ronin (Chusingura), or The Three Hundred Spartans of Thermopolis, can’t even rival the story of the 100/442.

One of the battles, many of you remember, considered among the top ten battles of all time, was the battle for the rescue of the Lost Battalion – the Battle of Bruyeres -the Battle of Biffontaine. Your job was to rescue about 265 6-ft. tall Texans trapped nine miles in German territory – trapped for days with no hope of rescue. The First Battalion of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division was just about given up for lost. The mother unit, the 141st, couldn’t break through, so the Nisei again were called to spearhead, as they had on a number of occasions, to break through. Who were these German soldiers that were defending? They were the best Germany had to offer – they were the SS and the tankers. So you rescued them. Five of the toughest days of fighting. One company of the 442nd, I Company, went from 200 men down to 9 men. K Company of the 442nd went from nearly 200 men down to 16 men; they rescued the lost battalion. And I’ve met some of those Texas soldiers who come to the museum and look at the exhibit, and they cry when they see that exhibit: “If it had not been for those Nisei I would not be alive today.” They said, “the little Nisei”. And I asked the Nisei, how does it feel to be 5’2″ – 5’3″ rescuing those 6-ft. tall Texans. They said, “pretty good”. They said it was good to be small in the Army in those days, because 1) you were a small target and 2) every night you had to dig your foxhole – you only had to dig down five feet long and the Texas hole to six feet.

As I mentioned, that was one of the top ten battles of all time, and yet there’s probably a more incredible story, The Battle of the Gothic Line. The Battle of the Gothic Line was in the last few months of the war. The Germans had their last stronghold in a mountain region in Central Italy called the Gothic Line. They fortified this mountaintop for years – machine gun nets, pillboxes, tank traps; it was an impregnable fortress. The Army sent two divisions, or about 30,000 men, to break the Gothic Line – two full divisions – the Army can’t do it. So Mark Clark, Four-Star General, commanding the Fifth Army, begs – literally begs – Eisenhower to send you back – back into Italy to be the spearhead in the Gothic Line attack. They were going to ask about 3,000 riflemen to detach the Gothic Line and lead a spearhead attack. So I’ve heard a story about the Gothic Line involving the then commanding officer of the 442nd, and some lieutenants; and in the command tent the Commanding General of the 92nd Division asked the 442nd to take the Gothic Line – to take the Western anchor. They’re asking one regiment to do it in one week. The 442nd had already sent scouts, and they had already reconnoitered the area, and they told this Commanding General, “We’ll do it for you, but not in a week like you asked, but what would you say if we did it in 24 hours?” I heard the General practically fell out of his chair. He said, “I heard you boys were great, but I didn’t think you were THAT great!

So you had your plan, and you climbed the Gothic Line – a 3,000-ft. vertical cliff. Remember? Because you took off all of your climbing equipment, you tied up your dog tags, and one man pulled the other man up this vertical cliff; you decided to climb on a side the Germans wouldn’t expect you, because you took your intelligence, you took your sense of obligation, and in some cases your Samurai spirit and you climbed to the top of the Gothic Line. It took all night. It took your husbands and your fathers 12 hours to climb, and they were told, “If you fall, don’t cry out! Don’t make a noise.” Several men fell, and they didn’t make a noise: several men were killed. So you attacked at 6 o’clock in the morning – at sunrise. And you kept your promise…actually you broke your promise. You didn’t keep your promise and finished the Gothic Line and crack it and take your objectives in 24 hours like your promised. You did it in 32 minutes!

So you did in 32 minutes, with about 3,000 riflemen, what 2 divisions – 30,000 men- couldn’t do in six months. The General Command, the 34th Division, the 92nd Division, said this was the most classic case of perfect military strategy and the Go-For-Broke spirit. Now remember, half of the men came from Go-For-Broke, 100/442 -came from America’s concentration camps.

Recently, I was re-listening to an old interview that we did with Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, and he used to tell me stories of how it was his dubious honor – distinction -to go through the effects of the deceased soldiers who were killed recently in combat and send a note back to their parents and send their effects; and there was a young man lying before him who had died in the rescue of the lost battalion. And he opened up his wallet to look for his effects, and he found a news clipping. He read the news clipping. The news clipping said that this young man’s parents had been shot at and their house had been burned down, and they had been moved to a concentration camp, and this young man had volunteered for the U.S. Army to defend America under those circumstances – and he was lying dead before him at that moment!Chaplain Higuchi said to me that this country does not have a medal high enough for a young man who made that commitment to his country, and to die, not knowing what would happen – what’s the final outcome…would his parents be released from a concentration camp ultimately? What would the 442 mean? What does the 442 mean, and the 100 mean, when there are 590 laws in America that stood against you? Well I’m happy to report that you men of the 442 and the 100 went to Congress, went to the Senate, and you had an obligation, not only to the Japanese American people but to

the Asian people and to America to make it honest in spite of itself. And you changed the 590 laws. You fought not only prejudice, you fought the enemy, but you made the country a better place for your children – “Kodomo no tameni.”

There was a victory, and the young men, the 600 men who died in combat, did not die in vain. They were the victors, and the Japanese Americans, because of you in the 442 and the 100, you were the victors in America because, in the words of Harry Truman when he invited you to march down Pennsylvania Avenue for a private review from the White House, it was the only time in the history of America that had ever happened. He said, “On behalf of the United States of America, I can’t thank you for what you’ve done, because you have fought not only the enemy, but you have fought prejudice, and you won.

There was another president – a future president, yet to be, who honored you; and there was the story of the Masuda family. How many knew Kazuo Masuda? Kazuo Masuda was 5 feet tall, and when his company was pinned down and his mortar was damaged, he filled his helmet with dirt and he fired the mortar between his knees for hours. And he was killed later. For that, he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal you can win in America. When the family brought his remains home, the people of Santa Ana, California did not want an American of Japanese ancestry buried with the other people. They did not permit it. So General Joseph Stillwell, who was the Commander of the Sixth Army of the Presidio, went out to honor the family, who decided to bury the young man on their family ranch, and he was accompanied by a protocol officer, who was one Captain Ronald Reagan. We have a speech from the old Pacific Citizen: Captain Ronald Reagan said that blood of Americans are all of one color, and that America stands unique as a nation founded on a way, an ideal, not on ancestry. How ironic that he would become President 40 years later; and that you Japanese Americans, according to Newsweek Magazine, are the most successful ethnic minority in America.

America and your story – your story is an honor – your story is a legend and I consider it a national treasure. The Go For Broke exhibit has traveled from the Presidio to the Los Angeles County Museum where it was seen by 2 million people. It’s now, in of all places, at the Pearl Harbor Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, the site of the tragedy of Pearl Harbor and the suspicion that would hound you during the war and the postwar years. The exhibit showing there is a great honor, a tribute to you. If it had only been shown in those three places, that would have been enough. And yet, the Museum of American History says that the Go-For-Broke Story is suitable as a centerpiece for its National Museum, so at the end of 1986 or 1987 your story will rank up there with top American history, the story of the Wright Brothers and Lindbergh. And the Go-For-Broke Story will be the centerpiece of their bicentennial story of the U.S. Constitution, the story of an American people.

You’re to be honored – it is a great story – you’re a great people and you’ve done a marvelous job. And I would offer some things to you to do: First of all, I would offer a suggestion to forget “Enryo” for awhile, and talk to your children, and pass the story on; take out a tape recorder; write your memoirs; pass it on to the next generation.

I want to tell you some other stories that I learned of Go-For-Broke. Maybe this will give you a sense of what it was like, being in a camp. I asked one “Wally” who was in a relocation center, “What did it feel like to lose your house and your property?” And he said, “Well, the first that happened to us was that we were moved to Santa Anita racetrack and we were put in a horse stall.” And I said, “What was it like?” He said, “Well, the people didn’t bother to clean out the horse manure. Boy that place was stink.” I said, “What’d you think of that?” He said, “My father gave me some good avice. He said to remember this, that “A lot of good things grow in horse manure if you let them.”

And out of the forty years of prejudice, something good did come out of it.

At this time, I would like to thank some people who helped put the Go-For-Broke Story together, to tell this marvelous story. I’d like to ask Chester Tanaka, the author of the “Go-For-Broke” book, to pass around some brochures that we’ve prepared. As you know, there’s an organization called Go-For-Broke, Incorporated, which is a California non-profit organization which is now asking for contributions and donations of memorabilia and your membership to keep the story of “Go-For-Broke” alive. It is hopeful that someday it will be the foundation for a Japanese American Historical Society, that your stories and your memories, the stories of your Isei parents and of your children will be preserved forever.

At this time I would like to thank the following individuals who are here, who put the Go-For-Broke Story together and taught me the material that I know today: Wally Nunotani, Shig Doi, Ernie Uno, Paul Hara – Paul Hara, by the way, has conducted 70 oral history interviews on you Niseis, and is producing a 1-1/2 hour documentary; Loni Ding, who’s produced a half-hour documentary and also a ninety-minute documentary, Milton Tanizawa, Mike Masaoka, Ben Tamashiro, Don Kuwaye, Henry Uyesato, Mitch Takata, Tadao Beppu, John Tsukano, Junior Uenaka, Kats Nakamura, Jim Lovell, the late Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, Bob Sasaki, Kenji Goto, June Goto, Boys of Company K, Company E, F Company, Club 100, the 442nd Club and the MIS of Northern California.

Also, Colonel Harold Riversell, Art Kaneko, Senator Matsunaga, Senator Inouye, Governor Ariyoshi, General Mark Clark, Catherine Pence, and Colonel James Handley.

I’d also like to thank Mark Tanaka-Sanders and Gary Cummings of the National Park Service for having the courage to show the Go-For-Broke and Yankee Samurai exhibit at Pearl Harbor. It took a lot of courage.

In particular, I’d like to thank Chet Tanaka, Woody Tokiwa, Harry Iwafuchi and Tom Kawaguchi, who had spent literally thousands of hours and thousands of their own personal dollars to see that this exhibit got to Hawaii, going to the Smithsonian to see that your story will be remembered. I’d like to give them a round of applause.

Before I conclude, to those members of the MIS (Military Intelligence Service) here, there’s an even more incredible, or an equally incredible story to be told yet, the story of the Yankee Samurai.

There were 18,003 of you who served in the 100/442 and there were 6,000 Nisei and Kibei who served in the Military Intelligence Service. “These 6,000 men”, in the words of General McArthur’s Chief of Intelligence, “6,000 Nisei in the War of the Pacific, saved over 1,000,000 American lives and shortened the war by two years”. And to coin a phrase, never have so many Americans owed so much to so few of the Nisei who served in the MIS, and yet your story is much more obscure than even the 442. You were bound by military secrets not to tell your story. You had families, in some cases, in the Pacific; and you met, in some cases, your father and your relatives on the battlefields. You fought against the land of your ancestry to prove your Americanism, and I salute you, and it’s one of the greatest honors of my life to have learned your story and I hope I would offer it to you as your obligation, your “Giri”, and your “on”, and your “Kodomo no Tameni”, to pass it on to your children. Never have them forget, because as many of you told me, that your sacrifice should never be in vain and that your sacrifice should show the equality of all Americans and that what happened to the Nisei and Issei on the West Coast should never ever happen again.

Thank you very much.