Honoring My Family’s Place in History

I spent last weekend in Los Angeles.  During our day in Little Tokyo, we visited the Go For Broke Memorial.  I was really touched by this memorial, so I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to it.

The Go For Broke Memorial in Los Angeles.

The Go For Broke Memorial honors the Japanese Americans that served in the U.S. Military during World War II, especially the three all-Japanese companies (the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion), the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service.  Many of these people volunteered from the internment camps to serve the country that had recently dis-owned them as citizens.  They volunteered to fight for their country and fight for their loyalty — and fight they did.  (Read more about them on Wikipedia.)

(If you are curious about reading more about the U.S. internment camps, you can read Wikipedia’s overview here, or browse the University of California’s Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives website here.) 

The 442nd in Bruyeres, France in November 1944 (photo courtesy of Center of Military History).

Go for broke was a Hawaiian phrase that roughly meant ‘risk all you had.’  It was the motto of the 100th Battalion, and later the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The 442nd is the most decorated regiment in the history of the U.S. armed forces.  Over the course of the war, the 442nd suffered a 93% casualty rate.  One of the most famous battles they fought was rescuing the Lost Battalion from the German forces.  After 10 days of straight fighting, they broke through to the Lost Battalion, rescuing 230 men.  The 442nd, on the other hand, lost 800 men.

The Japanese Americans that served in the military are said to have shortened the war by two full years.  The inscription on the monument sums it up quite nicely.  It reads:

Rising to the defense of their country, by the thousands they came – these young Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii, the states, America’s concentration camps – to fight in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Looked upon with suspicion, set apart and deprived of their constitutional rights, they nevertheless remained steadfast and served with indomitable spirit and uncommon valor, for theirs was a fight to prove loyalty. This legacy will serve as a sobering reminder that never again shall any group be denied liberty and the rights of citizenship. – Ben H. Tamashiro
 The backside of the Go for Broke Monument lists the names of those that served.

The monument lists the names of all of the Japanese men and women who served during the war.  I am honored to say that three of my great uncles are named on this monument for their service in the 442nd.  The Go for Broke website has a directory to find the names, so was able to find all three names pretty quickly.

Pointing to the names of relatives at the Go for Broke Monument, Los Angeles.

While we were at the monument, we met a veteran who talked to us about being in the Military Intelligence Service (“MIS”).  He told how he was born and raised in California and his family was sent to an internment camp in Colorado during the war.  From the camp he volunteered to serve in the military, and he served with different companies throughout the war all over the Pacific, interpreting and translating.  His story was amazing.  I wish I could have talked to him all day!

The Go For Broke memorial is more than just a monument.  The Go for Broke website (goforbroke.org) has a ton of photos, historical information, and an incredible archive of 700 videos of oral interviews.  It’s really cool.

I cannot fathom the courage and pride of these men and women who left the camps to defend their country.  I am proud to have family members that are a part of this.

Tags from the story
More from Kelli Nakagama

Two Days of Reflection & Rediscovery in Madrid

I can say with certainty that I spend a huge portion of...
Read More