Going for Broke

Going for Broke

Japanese American Soldiers in the War Against Nazi Germany

Book - 2013
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Univ of Oklahoma Pr

McCaffrey’s account makes clear that like other American soldiers in World War II, the Nisei relied on their personal determination, social values, and training to “go for broke”—to bet everything, even their lives. Ultimately, their bravery and patriotism in the face of prejudice advanced racial harmony and opportunities for Japanese Americans after the war.


When Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Americans reacted with revulsion and horror. In the patriotic war fever that followed, thousands of volunteers—including Japanese Americans—rushed to military recruitment centers. Except for those in the Hawaii National Guard, who made up the 100th Infantry Battalion, the U.S. Army initially turned Japanese American prospects away. Then, as a result of anti-Japanese fearmongering on the West Coast, more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent were sent to confinement in inland “relocation centers.” Most were natural-born citizens, their only “crime” their ethnicity.

After the army eventually decided it would admit the second-generation Japanese American (Nisei) volunteers, it complemented the 100th Infantry Battalion by creating the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This mostly Japanese American unit consisted of soldiers drafted before Pearl Harbor, volunteers from Hawaii, and even recruits from the relocation centers. In Going for Broke, historian James M. McCaffrey traces these men’s experiences in World War II, from training to some of the deadliest combat in Europe.

Weaving together the voices of numerous soldiers, McCaffrey tells of the men’s frustrations and achievements on the U.S. mainland and abroad. Training in Mississippi, the recruits from Hawaii and the mainland have their first encounter with southern-style black-white segregation. Once in action, they helped push the Germans out of Italy and France. The 442nd would go on to become one of the most highly decorated units in the U.S. Army.

McCaffrey’s account makes clear that like other American soldiers in World War II, the Nisei relied on their personal determination, social values, and training to “go for broke”—to bet everything, even their lives. Ultimately, their bravery and patriotism in the face of prejudice advanced racial harmony and opportunities for Japanese Americans after the war.



Book News
McCaffrey (history, University of Houston-Downtown) presents a cultural and operational history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was made up entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans (Nisei). The book is built around the experiences of several soldiers, relying on the Go For Broke National Education Center's extensive archive of recorded interviews with Nisei veterans. In their own words, soldiers describe combat against the Germans and their interactions with civilians in Europe. They also shed light on their struggle for acceptance by the US public, culture clashes between men from Hawaii and from the mainland, and their reactions to the segregation of blacks and whites in the South while training in Mississippi. Author McCaffrey also details the origins of the 442nd in the all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and the Hawaiian National Guard. The book includes 14 b&w historical photos. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Norman :, University of Oklahoma Press,, [2013]
ISBN: 9780806143378
0806143371
Characteristics: xv, 408 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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