Thousands of young Japanese men milled anxiously about, waiting for their names to be called. On February 1st President Roosevelt had called for the formation of a new military unit, composed entirely of volunteers of Japanese ancestry. A call for enlistees followed in hopes of meeting the quota of 3,000 Japanese-American volunteers from the mainland, and 1,500 from Hawaii. In Hawaii, more than a thousand volunteered the first day of the announcement and now as they gathered for the roll call of those accepted for duty, there were nearly 10,000 volunteers.
From the microphone, a voice began to read the names of those young men selected, in alphabetical order. When the long list had been read, those selected said their good-bys and headed for the trucks. One young Japanese-American teen stood for a moment, tears at the corners of his eyes. "Tough luck, Dan," his parents said.
"Sorry," Dan replied as he walked dejectedly away. The 18-year old pre-med student had missed his opportunity to join his Hawaiian brothers in the formation of the all new 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Service to others was nothing new to young Dan. On December 7, 1941, during the first wave of the enemy attack on Pearl Harbor, the 17 year-old had pedaled his bicycle to the first aid station where he had worked all night and into the next day. In the days that followed he had alternated between studies at school and working a 12 hour graveyard shift at aid station. After graduation in the spring, he had enrolled for his first year of college at the University of Hawaii. When the call for volunteers for the new 442nd came out, he signed up the first day.
In the days that followed the announcement of the young men accepted for service, Dan pestered the draft board to learn the reason for his rejection. Finally he was told that because of his continuing work at the aid station, and because he was enrolled in premed studies, he was needed at home. "Give me about an hour," he told the draft board. "Then call the aid station and the university. They'll tell you that I've just given my notice to quit by the end of the week." Two days later Daniel Inouye said goodbye to his family to embark on a war-time military experiment the outcome of which no one could have predicted.
Though the initial call had been for 1,500 volunteers from Hawaii, in all more than 2,600 young men, most of them Nisei (second generation Japanese-Americans) were accepted for service in the 442nd. Back on the mainland, where 110,000 American citizens were being warehoused in concentration camps referred to as "relocation centers", 1,256 volunteered and close to 800 were accepted.
On March 28, 1943 the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce hosted a special farewell for its 2,686 young men leaving for training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported:
The recruits of the 442nd arrived at Camp Shelby in May and began training on the 10th. The unit had been organized into three battalions with supporting Field Artillery, Combat Engineers, Headquarters and Medical detachments. Training began almost immediately upon arrival. The 100th Infantry Battalion had finished most of their advanced training and been sent to Camp Clairborne, Louisiana for the field exercises that would complete the final phase before combat.
By the time the 442nd had completed its first month of basic military training, the 100th concluded their combat readiness training and, after two weeks of rest, returned to Camp Shelby. For many of the young men from Hawaii, it was the opportunity to be reunited with family and friends who had left home to serve their Nation a year before.
There was no such special reunion for the recruits from the mainland, who had already had more than their share of rivalry with the recruits from Hawaii. They had taken to calling the recruits from Hawaii buddhaheads, from a Japanese word meaning "pighead". The Hawaiians responded by calling the mainlanders kotonks, a term meaning "stone head" based upon a Japanese word used to signify the sound of an empty coconut hitting the ground.
Such rivalries were not unexpected, and as the trainees continued through long hours of combat preparation, they began to come together as a unit. The men of the 442nd would eventually become very much a family, in fact. In some instances they were indeed family, such as was the case of the four mainland Masaoka brothers (Ben, Mike, Tad, and Ike) who all served with the 442nd. The fifth brother in the Masaoka family also served in uniform...with the 101st Airborne.
The rivalries existed not only between the buddhaheads and the kotonks, however. The new recruits of the 442nd looked with envy at their "brothers" of the 100th Infantry Battalion who had finished training and were ready for action. In July the 100th received its colors, the unit's motto "Remember Pearl Harbor" emblazoned on it for all to see. Shortly thereafter the 100th shipped out to North Africa and then on to Italy. During the "Purple Heart Battalion's" first combat campaign, the soldiers of the 442nd lived in the shadow of the glowing reports of valor and victory amassed by the 100th, while enduring the often tedious and certainly less notable training process. All were eager to finish training and move to Europe to prove that their unit was no less fierce or courageous in battle.
The Department of the Army provided the design for the 442nd's patch with the upraised torch of the Statue of Liberty. Like the 100th Battalion before them however, it was the soldiers themselves that chose the unit's motto.
The dice game of Craps was popular in Hawaii. Those who played knew that in every game of dice there came a point when the game ended and it became time to get serious. In that moment the participant would "Go for broke"...risk everything he had....on the roll of the dice. The creation of the 442nd could have been viewed by some as an experiment, initiated only after a year of calls for an all Japanese-American combat unit. The men of the 442nd bore on their shoulders the hopes of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans who knew their sons, husbands, and brothers were every bit as loyal, tough, and brave as any other young American. The respect rightly due America's Japanese citizens hung in the balance, and the recruits of the 442nd held the dice. What they determined to do with those dice became their motto. This was no game, it was serious business that would affect all of them for a life time. They determined to
Go For Broke