Go For Broke

National Education Center

“You fought not only the enemy…you fought prejudice and won.” — President Harry S. Truman, as he welcomed the 100/442 RCT home Inscription on GFB Monument


In 1989, a group of Japanese American WWII veterans established the 100th/442nd/MIS World War II Memorial Foundation to honor their compatriots with a monument.

It would be the first of its kind on the US mainland, filling a gap in American history where many of these Japanese American soldiers remained unrecognized by the government and unknown or forgotten by most Americans.

Over the next ten years, the Foundation led a grassroots campaign to locate an appropriate site and raise funds for the monument’s construction and maintenance. Members appealed to veterans groups as well as to the national community while they worked diligently to compile information on the Japanese Americans soldiers who served during the war.
In spite of many hurdles, the Foundation persevered in its efforts to bring the Japanese American WWII veterans the recognition they deserved.

In 1998, the Foundation broke ground for the monument at the northern end of Central Avenue in the Little Tokyo district in Los Angeles, California. On June 5, 1999, the Go For Broke Monument was presented to the City of Los Angeles.

The dedication ceremony was attended by 1,500 guests, including veterans, their families and friends, business leaders and elected officials.

For the group of Japanese American veterans who started this journey, the Go For Broke Monument represented the culmination of a collective effort that had begun more than fifty years before its unveiling, when they had first entered military service.
The Monument, a wedge of black granite set in a circle, affirmed the critical role that the Japanese American men and women held in the war. It would ensure that their place in U.S. history was finally acknowledged, and that they themselves would always be remembered.

“The Nisei saved countless lives and shortened the war by two years.”

— Major General Willoughby, General McArthur’s Intelligence Chief, referring to the MIS
Inscription on GFB Monument


The unique design of the Go For Broke Monument is the creation of Los Angeles architect Roger M. Yanagita and construction engineer Bruce Kato.

Yanagita’s design was selected out of 138 entries submitted in a 1991 international competition.

The design inspiration

Yanagita’s design was inspired by the accounts of Japanese American soldiers he read in Chester Tanaka’s (1982) book, Go For Broke: A Pictorial History of the Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442d Regimental Combat Team.
Yanagita noted that many of the men had shared the experience of charging and capturing their versions of a “banzai hill,” the hill that the Japanese American soldiers took in a pivotal moment during its extraordinary rescue of the “Lost Battalion” from German forces.

Details of the Monument

The 40-foot wide circular Monument is centered in a large square of natural paved stone. The approach to the Monument is a checkered design of grass and granite, while a band of grass encircles the entire base.

From the base, black granite slopes upward to a height of nine feet. Engraved on the curved granite wall along the rear of the Monument are the names of 16,131 Nisei soldiers and their officers who served in WWII, including 37 Japanese American women. Inscribed stars indicate those who were killed in action. Above the names carved into the granite are 60 US Army patches from the units under which the Nisei soldiers served.
Prominently figured on the sloped face of the Monument is an inscription of the words of Ben Tamashiro, a veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion . It appears below the Nisei soldiers’ signature battle cry, “Go For Broke,” and the insignias of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company and the 1399 Engineer Construction Battalion. Quotes from President Harry S. Truman, President Ronald Reagan, General Douglas MacArthur and Major General Charles A. Willoughby appear below the main inscription.

In front of the semicircle is a granite replica of the 442nd RCT shoulder sleeve insignia. Its lithochrome image features a raised arm firmly grasping a lit torch against a blue background with bold red and white borders. The American flag flies from a pole that stands immediately behind the shoulder patch, at the center of the Monument.

Two clusters of granite pillars inscribed with the names of the Monument’s contributors, supporters and Medal of Honor recipients, stand silently on opposite corners of the square surrounding the Monument.

Palm trees are grouped behind the wall of names with pairs of trees arranged around the circle. Originally, the Monument featured Japanese plum trees. A kiosk in the southwest corner welcomes visitors to search for the names of specific veterans on the Monument.

“My fellow Americans, we gather here today to right a grave wrong… Now let me sign HR442.”

— President Ronald Reagan, Civil Liberties Act of 1988
Inscription on GFB Monument

Above each of the 30 panels inscribed with names are two insignias representing the various Divisions units and battalions within the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service were attached to throughout the war.


The Go For Broke Monument reflects the hilly and thickly forested terrain of the Vosges Mountains that served as the primary battleground for the Nisei in France. While the pillars signify trees, the granite slope represents the “banzai hill” that many of them charged and overcame. The granite rise also symbolizes the uphill struggle the Nisei soldiers made to prove their national loyalty, which was challenged after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Angled towards the southwest, the Monument faces the sun as it travels across the southern sky. While the circle of grass signifies Earth, its grass and granite checkerboard base represents the lines of latitude and longitude. In its entirety, the circular base thus symbolizes “the world at war.”

The shoulder sleeve insignia features the torch of liberty. Its flame burns in remembrance of those lost in battle.

The original Japanese plum trees planted at the Monument’s rear signified the innocence of youth and the transience of happiness. When in bloom, they symbolized rebirth and triumph over adversity.

The trees stood as a tribute to the young Nisei soldiers who fought against overwhelming odds for justice and equality for themselves, their families and America.

In 2015, palm trees replaced the Japanese plum trees. The palm trees honor the many Japanese American soldiers who came from Hawai՝i.

“Never in military history did an army know as much about the enemy prior to the actual engagement…”
— General Douglas McArthur, Supreme Commander, Pacific Theater, referring to the MIS

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