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 Tamashiro, 100th Infantry Battalion
On Memorial Day weekend, many reflected on the contributions of soldiers in the United States military who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our nation. One such story we must not forget is of the Nisei World War II veterans, who fought not only fascism in Europe but prejudice in America. Their story has been commemorated in the 1951 film "Go For Broke" by Robert Pirosh, the 2010 documentary "442nd: Live With Honor, Die With Dignity" by Junichi Suzuki, and the Go for Broke Monument located in Little Tokyo.
The Go For Broke Monument began development in 1988 by Buddy Mamiya and Colonel Young O. Kim in collaboration with other 100 and 442 veterans as part of what is now the Go For Broke Educational Foundation. Their intent was to educate visitors about the group of young American men who fought for their country when they themselves were viewed and treated as a threat instead of citizens. They wanted to remind future generations that no one should ever be denied liberty or the rights of citizenship based on their race or ancestry.
The Foundation held an international competition in 1991 to select the design of the monument. After reviewing 138 submissions, Sansei (third generations-Japanese) architect Roger Yanagita's sloping black granite hill, which represented the battles of Italy, was chosen. Included in his design are approximately 16,126 engraved names of Japanese veterans, along with insignia from the various Japanese military units. The quote from veteran Ben Tamashiro above is also inscribed in the center of the monument.
The Monument was unveiled on June 5, 1999. Located at 160 North Central Avenue, the Monument is accessible at no cost. You can find more information on its history, founders and ways to support on the Monument website here.
In the meantime, catch Suzuki's documentary on KCET tonight at 10PM. We would love to hear your feedback about the movie and this piece of history. Feel free to tweet your commentary during the movie or leave a comment below. Don't forget to check out the monument and check out the links below for more information on Japanese American internment and information on the commemorative films.
- Information on screening of "442nd: Live With Honor, Die With Dignity" by Junichi Suzuki
- View the "Go For Broke" (1951) film on KCET's Classic Cool Web Extras
- "Go For Broke" in Classic Cool Context
- How World War II Internment Changed Little Tokyo
- Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker
- The Importance of Visiting Manzanar
The photograph above features Japanese-American veterans executing a salute at the WWII memorial in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, 1999. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.