Going for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers in the War Against Nazi Germany, by James M. McCaffrey, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2013, $34.95
In Going for Broke, Vol. 36 in UOP’s Campaigns and Commanders series, James McCaffrey seeks to present the full World War II history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the National Guard formed the 100th Infantry Battalion, comprising Hawaiians of Japanese descent—even as the U.S. government herded Japanese Americans into stateside internment camps. Eventually, reason returned to the Army, which noted that the 100th Battalion had displayed not a hint of disloyalty. Consequently, on the first day of 1943 Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall approved the creation of a Nisei (the term for children born in America to Japanese immigrant parents) regimental combat team. The mostly Japanese-American personnel included prewar draftees, volunteers from Hawaii and even recruits from the internment camps. The officers were Caucasian. Since the 100th Battalion had already fought as part of 34th Infantry Division, it was absorbed into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team when the latter finally arrived in Italy.
In the fall of 1944 the 442nd was attached to the 36th Infantry Division fighting in southern France and the Vosges Mountains. In the spring of 1945 the combat team was broken up. The organic artillery battalion stayed with Seventh Army, while the rest of the team was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division for the final push into the Po Valley.
By war’s end the 442nd’s soldiers had received more than 50 Distinguished Service Crosses, hundreds of Silver Stars and thousands of Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts. That made it quantitatively the most decorated U.S. Army unit in World War II, with one exception—none of its men received the Medal of Honor during wartime. One was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor in 1946, and in 2000 President Bill Clinton awarded the medal (upgraded from other awards) to 20 additional veterans of the 442nd RCT.
Going for Broke is a comprehensive overview for anyone interested in the Japanese-American soldiers’ struggle, not only against their German enemies but also to gain acceptance as equals among their fighting countrymen.