Go For Broke

Monday, February 8, AD 2010

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. 

Continue reading...

20 Responses to Go For Broke

  • Donald,

    Excellent analysis!

    I remember first watching the film many years ago and I understood the slang (pidgin English brah!) immediately. Especially “Katonk!”

    We still used that term while I was growing up in Hawaii as well as “Go for broke”.

    A little inside information, in Hawaii the word “katonk” also has the double meaning of brown on the outside, white on the inside. This was in reference to the coconut itself, which has a brown husk and a white interior when you crack it open. It described Japanese-Americans from the mainland as looking Japanese, but acting “haole” or white.

    Which some of us back in Hawaii refer to our Dear Leader today.

    As for buddha-head, in high school we used that term for anyone who was bald! Good times 🙂 .

  • Fascinating Tito! I’ve never been to Hawaii, so this is all news to me.

  • I never saw that movie, going to have to make an effort to find it. I can’t believe the decorations. In about a year and a half of combat a unit of 2000 (which you know had to be operating with far fewer than that most of the time) racked up 21 MoH, 52 DSC, and 560 Silver stars. Incredible! Anyone of those counts would be super impressive, but the three counts together boggles the mind.

  • ugh …not Anyone, but Any one. Doh!

  • Donald can correct, but I ‘think’ they are the most decorated unit during WWII.

    I can’t find the quote, but General Patton was very fond of the 442nd.

  • You are correct Tito. For size and length of service the 442nd is the most highly decorated military unit in American military history.

  • Suppose there were a military unit comprised entirely of loyal U.S. citizens of the Muslim persuasion, who would fight just as valiantly in the War on Terror? Since military units can’t be segregated by race, nationality, or religion this could not happen today, I presume.

    Also the situation wouldn’t be the same — the WWII Nisei soldiers were not sent to the Pacific theater for obvious reasons, whereas an all-Muslim unit would have no other theater in which to fight at this time. (Unless it ends up being a future war on the Korean peninsula.)

    Still, it’s interesting to speculate.

  • Interesting post Don.

    The excellent series on WW2 “Band of Brothers” has recommenced on our TV1 for the third time. I watched part 4 last night – an excellent series. This will be followed in a couple of monthe with Spielberg’s “new” series, “Pacific”.

    My mum passed away last weekend, and as I and a sister were going through her stuff, we found dad’s brief diary (dad died 4 years ago) he kept during WW2. We are up to the stage where he was on a troop ship of 2000 troops (packed in like sardines, he says) from Wellington NZ to Fremantle, West Australia in April 1944. The passage took eight days of high winds and rough sees across the Tasman and the Great Austr. Bight to WA (that’s Western Australia 😉 )

    He recounts a very sad event in Perth. Some NZ and Aussie soldiers got into a fight (probably at a pub) with some American soldiers there on R & R. Two NZ Maori boys were killed (knifed) and another injured. All leave was cancelled till they re-emberked for Egypt. Dad’s disgust was obvious when he wrote “A few idiots ruin things for thousands.”

    One of the many of sad incidents you speak of.

  • My deepest sympathies over the loss of your mother Don. Bar room brawls have been a traditional feature of military service, but murder is beyond belief. I can just imagine how the parents of the two New Zealand soldiers felt when they learned about it.

  • Thank you Don, for your king wishes re mum. We all know that she is now enjoying the presence of her Lord, for whom she had an immense love. She attended Mass and communion for most days of the past 40 years.

    I can very easily imagine, with a bunch of young gung ho men, exchanging what probably started as friendly banter – one smart alec makes a derogatory comment which is taken as an insult, and its all on, fuelled by several pints of good ale.
    I’m sure this was not the only incident in a time of world wide stress and disfunction.

  • My father-in-law was one of those Silver Stars. He climbed a mountain in Italy in the middle of the night, very quietly. Germans on top of the mountain. We have his uniform in the closet at home.

    He claimed he got flat feet from all that marching, but the rest of the family has flat feet too! Jin was in the Army before the war started. He thought they would kick him out and send him to a relocation camp. No such luck.

    Your list of Medal of Honor winners includes Daniel K. Inouye. He lost his arm in the war and was later elected US Senator from Hawaii.

  • Your father-in-law sounds like he had a good sense of humor Patrick as well as a lot of courage.

  • Some one mentioned Gung-Ho, which has it’s origins in the motto of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives of the late 1930s. A New Zealander (Rewi Alley) associated with them who later worked with Colonel Evans Carlson forming the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, was fond of the term which means “work together”, and Carlson adopted it as a training philosophy for the Raiders. It caught on, and became the motto of the 2nd Raiders in WW2, and eventually a common slang term through the Marine Corps and American society in general.

    A movie called Gung-Ho! which tells the story of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion was released in 1943 during the war. It’s a good film but not nearly as good as Go For Broke!

  • Templar.

    Interesting story.
    Rewi is actually a Maori name – so Rewi Alley was probably maori.
    Thanks for that.

  • Outstanding post, Don. I’ll have to look the film up.

  • Thank you Darwin. It is not only one of the best of the World War II films, but I would place it in the top ten war films I have seen.

  • Templar, Gung Ho is one of the films in the compilation that my wife gave me. I think it is one of the better war films released during World War II, but I agree it is not in the class of Go For Broke.

  • Yay! I have that collection too. I picked it up a few months ago and haven’t had time to watch any of them yet. It’s actually a rather obscure list of movies so my expectations weren’t that high, but I really like WWII movies so I knew it was a safe bet. Happy to hear that at least two of these are really good.

    I’ll be sure to share with Darwin too. 😉

  • I put it on NetFlix and kicked it up to the next in queue.

  • Pingback: Captain America vs. The Tea Partiers! « The American Catholic