"Go for Broke"
are many stories of the agony felt by Japanese-Americans when
they learned Japan had attacked the United States. U.S. Senator
Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was 17 years old on December 7, 1941,
and later wrote:
[The Japanese in Hawaii] had wanted so desperately to be accepted,
to be good Americans. Now, in a few cataclysmic minutes, it
was all undone and there could only be deep trouble ahead.
Senator Inouye subsequently enlisted, serving in the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team, and lost an arm fighting in Italy.
Pedaling along, I realized at last that I faced that trouble,
too. My eyes were shaped just like those of the old man
in the street. My people were only a generation removed
from the land that had spawned the bombers and sent them
to drop death on Hawaii. And suddenly choking with emotion,
I looked up into the sky and screamed the hated words "You
dirty Japs!" Source: Go
for Broke by Daniel K. Inouye.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the government of the United
States questioned the loyalty of Japanese-Americans. On the
mainland this led to the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans,
most of whom were U.S. citizens. Japanese-Americans in Hawaii
were not interned in large numbers (see: Internment).
In Hawaii, the immediate reaction was to discharge all of
those of Japanese descent from the military. But these young
men refused to do nothing, and volunteered to do whatever
labor was required to help the war effort. Their hard work
and dedication as volunteers caused the military to reconsider
the issue of their loyalty, and to recommend forming a unit
of Japanese-Americans to fight in Europe. No Japanese-American
units fought in the Pacific against Japan, with the exception
of a few hundred linguists in the Military
Intelligence Service. Those linguists often had to be
escorted by non-Japanese service members to make sure they
were not shot as spies or infiltrators.
These dedicated military men were shipped to the mainland
and organized into the 100th Battalion (One Puka Puka). All
the officers of the unit, at least initially, were haole (white).
The unit went through basic and advanced training and did
well since they were already experienced and trained military
personnel who had been serving in the Hawaii National Guard
and Territorial Guard. They did so well that the military
decided to recruit more Japanese-Americans.
In February of 1943, a call went out for 3,000 Japanese-Americans
to enlist, 1,500 of them to be from Hawaii. 10,000 Hawaii
nisei (second generation Japanese-Americans) responded, and
2,600 were accepted. In contrast, on the mainland where most
Japanese-Americans were in internment camps, only 1,256 volunteered
for service, and about 800 were inducted. These men from Hawaii
and the mainland were formed into the 442nd Regimental Combat
Team and sent to basic training in Louisiana.
Regimental Color Guard, 442nd RCT
Bruyeres, France, 11/12/44
U.S. Army photo
By September of 1943 the 100th Battalion landed in North Africa
and entered combat for the first time. The unit next went
to Italy were they experience heavy fighting and lost their
first casualties. The most famous battle of the 100th Battalion
was the attack on Monte Cassino defended by the German 1st
Parachute Regiment. The 100th Battalion had tremendous casualties
in this battle. After 5 months in combat the 1,300 men of
the unit had been reduced to 521.
While the 100th was in combat in Italy, the 442nd was completing
training. In June of 1944 the 442nd arrived in Italy and the
100th Battalion was added to the unit as the 1st Battalion.
Because of their distinguished war record, the 100th was allowed
to keep their name rather than be renumbered as the 1st Battalion
of the 442nd. Just as there had been some disputes between
mainland and Hawaii nisei in the 442nd, there were some minor
disputes between the veteran 100th and the rest of the 442nd.
The newly combined unit continued the bloody fight up the
boot of Italy. As the Italian campaign was winding down, the
next campaign was to be in southern France. The anti-tank
artillery company of the 442nd was detached, trained to load
their equipment in gliders, and landed with glider and parachute
troops in the initial airbourne assault on LeMuy, France.
You may want to read the account of this glider attack by
Hirose. After this assault the anti-tank company was reattached
to the 442nd.
The entire 442nd went to France and fought many battles. Their
most famous exploit was the rescue of the "Lost Battalion."
The 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry, a Texas unit, was
surrounded and running out of ammunition and supplies. The
442nd was ordered to rescue them, and spent 4 days in continuous
fighting to do so. The 442nd suffered 800 casualties in this
By the end of the war, the 100th/442nd was considered one
the most decorated units in the Army. But only one member
of the unit had earned the Medal of Honor. Over the years
after the war many people questioned whether the Japanese-Americans
in the unit had been fairly treated regarding medals and awards.
A review of their files led to another 20 men of the 100th/442nd
being awarded the Medal
of Honor on June 21, 2000. It was generally agreed that
they had been denied the Medal of Honor during the war because
they were Japanese.
The lineage and honors of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat
Team are today carried on in the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion,
442nd Infantry. The battalion is assigned to the 9th Regional
Support Command at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
For further reading:
of Edward Ichiyama, 522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT.
For Broke Educational Foundation. "Go for broke" was the
motto of the 442nd.
Katonk is a mildly offensive term for a mainland Japanese-American.
Hawaiian Japanese-Americans are called Buddha-heads. 442nd
- Pacific Americans & the U.S. Army. U.S. Army Center
for Military History.
Eyes American Hearts: Personal Reflections of Hawaii's World
War II Nisei Soldiers
to: Pearl Harbor | History
About the Author: Brian N. Durham
is currently editor of My
Hawaii News, a publication of The 'Ohana Network.
A retired Coast Guard officer with 22 years of service, Brian
is a member of the Hawaii Bar and has worked for the Hawaii
State Legislature and the Linda Lingle Campaign Committee.