Go For Broke

National Education Center

On September 3, 1943, six months after the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was activated, Cannon Company was activated. The unit was commanded by Captain Edwin Robert Shorey from Service Company. From the regiment, 150 men were selected to serve with the company as cannoneers, drivers, mechanics and other support personnel.1
Two 105mm, short-barreled guns were assigned to each of the three battalions in the regiment. Unlike field artillery guns, which were used against broader areas and for large, distant targets, those of Cannon Company were aimed against specific targets up to about 3,000 yards away. The company thus provided close-range support for the riflemen fighting at the front. Technical Sergeant Wally Nunotani explained: “We fired the same size shell, which was the 105mm, as the 522nd Field Artillery. The only thing is… we didn’t have the range because of the short barrel. Sometimes you could even see the shell going.”2 With the smaller guns, they also were also able to maneuver into position more easily and more quickly than the Field Artillery with their larger guns. The smaller guns also required fewer men to operate them. Cannon Company did not need a fire direction center for their team, as did the Field Artillery. The Cannon Company team in fact comprised just a radioman and an officer, who served as forward observers and directed the gunners. Sgt. Nunotani described the observers as “right up there with the troops!-because they had to direct fire for us, tell us where, when to fire… and sometimes they [made] us happy when they said, ‘Hey, good shooting, right on!'”3
Combat Team of Cannon Company, fired from their new position in the woods. 442 Regimental Combat Team. La Houssiere Area, France. November 4, 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Because of their position at the front, forward observers were vulnerable to attacks. But on the whole, Cannon Company suffered fewer casualties than other units.4 Despite its relatively small size, the company was an integral part of the entire regiment. Their support was crucial to the success of the Nisei soldiers. In his autobiography Blue Skies and Thunder, Private Virgil W. Westdale, a Nisei member of the 522nd, wrote, “One of the most valued compliments came from the 442nd Infantry when they said they could not have succeeded in the [of the Lost Battalion] without the support of their 522nd artillery battalion and the cannon company.”5 Cannon Company and Field Artillery worked together to make a highly efficient, successful team.


  • 1Dorothy Matsuo, From Boyhood to War: History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing, 1992), p. 144.
  • 2Oral history interview with Wally Nunotani, May 25, 2002, Northern California, Tape #3, Hanashi Oral History Program, Go For Broke National Education Center, accessed on February 20, 2015,
  • 3Ibid.
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Virgil W. Westdale with Stephanie A. Gerdes, Blue Skies and Thunder: Farm Boy, Pilot, Inventor, TSA Officer, and WW II Soldier of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009), p. 143.
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