My wife gave me for my birthday on Saturday a compilation collection of 15 World War II films. I immediately noticed one of the titles: Go For Broke (1951). It had been over thirty years since I last viewed that film and I watched it last night and greatly enjoyed it.
Go For Broke, tells the story of the 442nd regimental combat team during World War II. Made up of first generation Japanese-Americans, Nisei, the 442nd, along with the 100th Infantry battalion, made up of Nisei from Hawaii and which became associated with the 442nd, fought in Italy, France and Germany. Many of the Japanese-American actors in the film were combat veterans of the 442nd which lends the film a very realistic, almost documentary feel, especially in the combat sequences.
The film opens in 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi where the men of the 442nd are being trained. Van Johnson, portraying Lieutenant Michael Grayson, is a “90 day wonder”, an enlisted man commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after completing a 90 days officer’s candidate school. Prior to officer’s candidate school he had been a member of the 36th National Guard Division, one of several National Guard units from Texas that fought in World War II, sometimes waggishly refered to as the Texan Army. Grayson was hoping that he would be reassigned to the 36th and is dismayed to find that he will be leading Japanese-American troops, sharing to the full the prejudice that most Americans felt against everything Japanese following Pearl Harbor. He immediately asks Colonel Charles W. Pence, portrayed by Warner Anderson, for a transfer to the 36th. Pence quickly realizes, despite the denials of Grayson, that he is prejudiced against the Japanese-Americans, and informs him in no uncertain terms that his men are loyal Americans, that there will no be transfer, and that he is to take up his duties as a platoon commander, a 40 man unit, immediately. The scene shifts to the platoon, where the men are relaxing in the barracks. Other than their ancestry, and different slang, viewers quickly realize that they are like other American soldiers, griping about the Army, wondering what is going on back home, playing craps, etc. Grayson and his men are a poor fit initially, but he does his job and helps turn them into soldiers.