Senators Matsunaga and Inouye at opening of Go For Broke  exhibit
Presidio Museum building
Presidio Army Museum decorated for Go For Broke exhibit opening
ribbon cutting for Go For Broke exhibit
Senator Inouye, Mayor Feinstein, Senator Matsunaga, Catherine Box Pence, and Tom Kawaguchi
end of ribbon cutting ceremony for exhibit
Senator Inouye viewing Go For Broke exhibit
Senator Inouye touring exhibit with Tom Kawaguchi
Senator Inouye viewing exhibit on opening day
Senators Inouye and Matsunaga tour exhibit with Eric Saul
Mayor Feinstein and husband Richard Blum speak with Senator Inouye at opening
Mayor Feinstein presents Senators Inouye and Matsunaga with proclamation
Mike Masaoka speaking at opening of Go For Broke exhibit
Senators Inouye and Matsunaga reviewing the troops at opening
Senators Inouye and Matsunaga at opening ceremony
crowd at opening of Go For Broke exhibit
opening ceremony for Go For Broke exhibit
Go For Broke exhibit opening ceremony
Issei from Watsonville CA at Go For Broke exhibit opening
entering museum at opening of Go For Broke exhibit
Mike Masaoka speaking at banquet for Go For Broke exhibit
Go For Broke exhibit display cases
Eric Saul Colonel Hanley and wife at banquet for Go For Broke exhibit opening
Senator Inouye and wife tour exhibit with Chester Tanaka
Issei singers at Go For Broke exhibit opening
Senator Matsunaga and Mike Masaoka at exibit opening banquet
Issei singing God Bless America at exhibit opening
Go For Broke exhibit at Presidio Army Museum

Photographs of the opening of the Go For Broke exhibit at the Presidio Army Museum, March 6, 1981.

See Articles Below


First Pictorial History of Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team Most Decorated Unit in United States Military Annals

This was written by John Motheral, editor of the Fort Point Salvo, the newsletter of the Fort Point and Army Museum Association. Volume 5, number 3, June, 1981.

March 7, 1981 was a day of fulfillment for the Japanese Niseis of World War II whose 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) rose up out of the fear, the distrust, the bitter enmity engendered by Pearl Harbor and proved there were no better Americans ever than they. 

More than 2,000, the largest reunion of Japanese American veterans ever held on the mainland, came to our Presidio Army Museum to open the first and only pictorial history presentation of the 442nd whose motto, "Go for Broke" meant "Give everything you've got!"

In less than two years in combat men of the 442nd and the 100th Infantry Battalion, which served as its 1st Battalion, won 18,143 individual decorations including:

One Congressional Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1 Distinguished Service Medal, 560 Silver Stars with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second Silver Stars, 22 Legion of Merit Medals, approximately 4,000 Bronze Stars, over 9,000 Purple Heart Medals, 15 Soldier's Medals, 12 French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms representing second awards, 2 Italian Crosses for Military Merit and 2 Italian Medals for Military Valor.

The 100/422nd suffered 9,486 casualties, more than twice their full complement of officers and men. They had to be remanned nearly 3 times. These two units were dubbed "the little iron men" and so they were. Their average height was 5-ft-4, and their average weight less than 125 pounds.

7 Major Campaigns in less than 2 Years

From the beaches of Salerno and Anzio, the 1001442nd fought all the long way up the boot of Italy. Then in the shell-scarred fanatically defended Vosges Mountains of Eastern France they rescued the "Lost Battalion" of the 141st Infantry (described in this issue) at the cost of a river of blood. They held the German 34th Division in check along the gaunt treeless Alps Maritime in Southern France. Finally, they blasted the first opening in the "Gothic Line", Hitler's last "impregnable" defense across Italy. They received a Presidential Unit Citation for each of these campaigns. In the words of General George C. Marshall, "They were superb!" 

And so, the veterans who came home, their families and members of the Japanese-American community from as far away as New England, Alaska, Hawaii, gathered at the Presidio of San Francisco. They were justly proud that the Presidio Army Museum was telling their story as they had lived it.

Our United States Senators from Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye and Spark M. Matsunaga, both 100/442nd veterans, received the 17-gun salute due their high office. They inspected the Honor Guard, trooped the line and escorted San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

"God Bless America"

Mike N. Masaoka, Master of Ceremonies, and one of the first men to volunteer for the 442nd in 1943, introduced 18 members of the Japanese American Senior Citizens' Club of Watsonville, California. All were between 74 and 92. Nine of them were parents of 442nd veterans, some were Gold Star parents. They sang a soft and moving "God Bless America". As it died away ... 

The First Full Story of the 100/442nd Unfolded

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, Japanese Americans were thunderstruck. They considered themselves wholly American. They had raised their American-born children to love their country and give it their unquestioning loyalty. They wanted to stop Japan in her tracks. but suddenly they found themselves cast out, distrusted, looked at as probable enemies in disguise. 

Hardest Blow Fell February 19, 1942

By Executive Order from Washington, D.C. all Japanese-Americans on the Pacific Coast were to be sent to relocation camps in remote areas of the west for the duration. Each person could take with him only the effects he could cram into a single suitcase. All Japanese-owned businesses were to be closed and liquidated. This meant absolute ruin for many, many families who had spent their lifetimes working and saving. 

In the relocation camps, barracks were divided into individual apartments for sleeping. Everything else was communal, from showers to kitchens. There was no privacy. And no getting away. The living areas were surrounded with barbed wire and patrolled by Military Police.

More than 110,000 Japanese were interned; 70,000 of them native-born American citizens. In Hawaii, 2,500 miles closer to Japan and with three times the mainland's Japanese population, there were no relocation camps. But Japanese-Americans were distrusted and downgraded in other ways. Speaking of their condition the United States

Supreme Court said: "The Japanese-Americans ... were subjected to misjudgment and mistreatment such as has been visited on no other American minority in our history."

Nisei Had Two Ways to Go

"They could look at the west coast evacuation in two ways," Mike Masaoka recalled at the reunion, "with bitterness or with positive feelings. We chose the positive approach. The approach that America, our country, had made a mistake, but that it was the one country that could and would correct such a mistake." 

So, the Niseis kept their heads up, petitioned and pleaded for a chance to fight for their country, buy their full citizenship and their families' citizenship with their blood. In answer to their fervent pleas, the 100th Battalion (Separate) was formed in July 1942 and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in February 1943.

They broke every record in training. They took so many casualties in combat they earned the title of the "Purple Heart Regiment". They never retreated. Units fought on when 90% of their men were shot away. And won! The 1001442nd knew what they were fighting for. Their President, Harry S. Truman knew, too, when he paid those who came home their highest accolade at the White House: "You fought not only the enemy, you fought prejudice - and you won. Keep up that fight ... continue to win - make this great Republic stand for what the Constitution says it stands for: 'the welfare of all the people all the time.' "

"Go for Broke" Spirit Carries On

"We hope the story of the 'Go for Broke' soldiers will inspire others to the same devotion to their country," Colonel F. Whitney Hall, Jr., Commanding the Presidio of San Francisco, told the reunion guests. Senators Inouye and Matsunaga spoke with great pride of the all-Nisei Regimental Combat Team and agreed, "The fight we joined decades ago will not be over until injustice and oppression are vanquished from our society." Senator Inouye also made a special point of remembering the non-Japanese "Niseis", the white officers who led the 100/442nd. "These officers were all volunteers who risked their careers and endured the jeers of their fellow officers to lead us," he said. 

Brigadier General R. S. Young, Chief of Staff of the Sixth United States Army, thanked the Nisei veterans for the privilege of joining them in their reunion and told them:

"In retrospect, we clearly see that many of our past deeds have been colored by emotion, prejudice or unfounded fear. . . "I would like to believe that those actions exhibited the attitude of the times, and were attitudes which we, as a nation, have long since outgrown. And that now we are forever the wiser. But, though we may have a way to go in this direction of human understanding, I am nonetheless very proud of our nation and of our people, because we possess that rare and unique humility and compassion to admit past faults, seek corrections and make amends."

Mayor Dianne Feinstein presented a plaque honoring the 100/442nd and added emphasis to General Young's remarks pointing out the importance of remembering the circumstances surrounding our Japanese-Americans in World War II, adding: "To forget such things is to make it possible for them to happen again."

Then the ribbon was cut and "Go for Broke" our Army Museum's most significant achievement and we believe one of the most significant exhibits in any Army museum, was opened - and mobbed!

In addition to pictures, pictures, and pictures, tracing the combat record of the 1001442nd through some of the toughest fighting in World War II, a beautifully executed diorama brought to life their Battle for Bruyères and another showed how PFC Sadao Munemori earned the Medal of Honor. A slide show and documentary film also helped tell the Niseis' story to the fascinated crowd.

Since its opening, "Go for Broke" has dramatically increased museum attendance - up to 10 times its former rate on weekends. Visitors are literally wearing out our Army Museum's floors! "Go for Broke" will be on display in our Museum for a year. The Japanese-American community is gathering funds and laying plans to take it on tour after that to museums throughout the United States. 

A Year of ''8-Day Weeks" Went into GO FOR BROKE

It took literally a year of day and night work on top of their full Museum schedule for Director/ Curator Eric Saul to produce the "Go for Broke" exhibit.  At that they wouldn't have made it without the guidance and staunch support of Colonel. F. Whitney Hall, Jr., Commander, Presidio of San Francisco. Our Association lent its financial support. 

Interested in digging out some of the untold stories of the United States Army, the museum director Saul had heard that the little known 100/442nd Regimental Combat Team, other than that they were the most decorated unit in U.S. Army history. He had known about the internment of Japanese Americans. He also understood that many young Nisei had volunteered for military service from the internment camps.

Saul also knew that the decision to evacuate Japanese Americans was recommended and implemented by General John DeWitt the commanding general of the 9th Corps Area and his staff which was headquartered at the Presidio.   

 Saul found out little more about what motivated this Nisei Regiment in researching libraries, the Army, the National Archives, and the Pentagon. The 100/442nd was a small unit of about 4,500 men (eventually more than 18,000 Nisei would serve in the Regiment). In writing the story of the great Armies and Navies most historians of World War II had almost completely overlooked it for its size and length of service, the most valorous fighting force of all!

One afternoon a Colonel Henry C. Oyasato who had been F Company Commander in the 442nd and was serving at the Presidio, came into the Army Museum and asked: "Why don't' you do an exhibit on the 1001442nd Regimental Combat Team?"

"You must be reading our mail," Saul replied, "that's just what we're trying to plan now!"

Colonel Oyasato gave him the name of an 442nd veteran who had kept his uniforms, photographs, press clippings and other memorabilia. He was Major (Ret.) Thomas Kawaguchi of Oakland, Grants Director for the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. He was a combat veteran of F Company.

Tom Kawaguchi and Chet Tanaka

Kawaguchi asked Saul two questions: "Why are you doing this exhibit?" His answer was: "Because it gives us the chance to tell the history of a group of dedicated soldiers whose story has never been told." "But why do you want to tell it?" Saul answered: "Because it needs to be told!"  Saul further stated that “a great injustice was done to Japanese Americans on the West Coast, and an exhibit would be a way to address the issue. The exhibit could serve as a healing a prosses for all.”  

Impressed with Saul's sincerity, Kawaguchi agreed to act as veteran’s coordinator of the project. As mutual confidence grew a second man came to the front, Chester Tanaka who was a decorated combat veteran of K Company, who took over the graphics for the whole exhibit and became Assistant Coordinator. He and Kawaguchi led the drive to collect materials for the exibition.  Dozens of Nisei veterans generously loaned their precious mementos. More than 2,000 photographs, 40 scrap books and albums, uniforms, battle maps, documents, weapons, decorations, personal mementos, poured in. More than could possibly be used.

Oral History Answers Key Questions

But there were still questions Saul needed to have answered: Why did the men of the 1001442nd offer ' up their lives so willingly? What did it mean to them to be members of America's most decorated unit? The answers couldn't be found in print. So, Saul conducted an "Oral History Program", a series of carefully conducted interviews with the veterans themselves. Out of it came hundreds of pages of transcript and some fascinating answers. In brief, the Niseis truly loved their country. They had been taught by their parents to revere it. They were shocked and frightened by the public's reaction to Pearl Harbor. They were determined to prove their loyalty beyond a shadow of a doubt. In doing so they felt they also would open up to their children and their children's children all the advantages: education, professional, cultural, that their country had to offer. And they did. 

What Their Children Never Knew

Day after day Nisei veterans bring their families to the Army Museum and show them on the maps where they fought, explain the action mirrored in the photographs that line the walls, explain how they trained, how they went into battle, how they pushed forward and never turned back. As the stories go on, the young people's eyes often fill. More than one has told Eric Saul on leaving Go for Broke, "I never knew before what my father did for me and why."

Impact Achievement Awards to Museum Staff

This was written by John Motheral, editor of the Fort Point Salvo, the newsletter of the Fort Point and Army Museum Association. Volume 5, number 3, June, 1981.

Eric Saul, Director/Curator […] received a cash Impact Achievement Award from the Department of the Army for [his] work in producing the "Go for Broke" Exhibit. Said Mr. Saul's award certificate in part: ". . . This highly significant accomplishment will increase awareness of military heritage, and Mr. Saul's superior leadership and dedicated interest in the exhibit reflect most creditably upon him, this Command and Federal Service."

Virtual Exhibit on Nisei Soldiers in World War II

Click here to view a virtual exhibit on the Japanese American soldier in World War II. This is a work in progress. We will be adding photographs shortly.

Chester Tanaka, 44nd Veteran, The Luckiest Man

Return to Top of Page

Virtual Exhibit on Nisei Soldiers
in World War II

Click here to view a virtual exhibit on the Japanese American soldier in World War II.

See also
Chester Tanaka, 442nd Veteran, The Luckiest Man