“Go for Broke!” was the motto of the legendary 442nd Infantry Regiment. This regiment was predominantly composed of Japanese Americans, many of whom were born in Hawaii. They fought with great heroism in Italy, southern France, and Germany. This famous unit passed through the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation April 21, 1944. We recently found these images in The Mariners’ Museum library as documented in the photo gallery below.
The 442nd is renowned for being the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. Kathryn Shenkle, a historian at Arlington National Cemetery, notes, “Members of this unit earned over 18,000 individual decorations including 9,486 Purple Hearts, and 5,200 Bronze Stars. The Combat Team earned five Presidential Citations in 20 days of Rhineland fighting, the only military unit ever to claim that achievement.” After the war a few men went on to achieve great personal success like U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.
These achievements are made all the more remarkable considering the great suspicion Japanese Americans endured from the government and the general public following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. More than 100,000 persons of Japanese descent were forcibly relocated during WWII. Later in the war some Japanese American men volunteered or were drafted into the service. Perhaps they felt like they had something to prove? Units such as the 442nd were also known as Nisei units, a Japanese word referring to someone born in the Americas of Japanese parents.
In the U.S. Army Signal Corps photos below we see the 442nd Infantry Regiment moving by train to the pier, making their way to their transport, and walking up the gangplank. This not only documents an important piece of American military history, but also illustrates the process by which large numbers of troops moved from one place to another.
The photos below are also of Nisei units and dated April 27, 1945. These men are designated as “replacements” and are sailing for Italy to relieve similar units such as the 442nd. Perhaps fortune was kinder to them as VE Day would come May 8, 1945.
More on the 442nd…
The University of Hawaii at Manoa library houses documents relating to the 442nd Infantry Regiment. You can access digitized versions of the papers here.
The legend of the 442nd Infantry Regiment made it to the big screen in 1951 with Go For Broke! the movie, starring Van Johnson as the white CO who at first shows prejudice towards his unit, but overcomes this deficit as his soldiers distinguish themselves in battle. (Download the movie here. Its also on YouTube.)
Go for Broke monument, Los Angeles, California
Veterans of the 442nd in 2006