|Go for Broke!|
|Directed by||Robert Pirosh|
|Written by||Robert Pirosh|
|Produced by||Dore Schary|
|Cinematography||Paul C. Vogel|
|Edited by||James E. Newcom|
|Music by||Alberto Colombo|
Go for Broke! is a 1951 black-and-white war film directed by Robert Pirosh, produced by Dore Schary and starring Van Johnson and six veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The film co-stars Henry Nakamura, Warner Anderson, and Don Haggerty in its large cast.
Fighting in the European theater during World War II, this unit became the most heavily decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States Army, as well as one of the units with the highest casualty rates. This film is a Hollywood rarity for its era in that it features Asian Americans in a positive light, highlighting the wartime efforts of Japanese Americans on behalf of their country even while that same country confined their families in camps.
As with his earlier film script for Battleground, in which Van Johnson also starred, writer-director Robert Pirosh focuses on the average squad member, mixing humor with pathos, while accurately detailing equipment and tactics used by American infantry in World War II. The contrast of reality versus public relations, the hardships of field life on the line, and the reality of high casualty rates are accurately portrayed with a minimum of heroics.
In 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the newly commissioned Lt. Michael Grayson reports for duty to train the 442nd, a unit established on the US mainland and composed of Nisei. His expectation was to return to the U.S. 36th Infantry Division, a Texas National Guard unit, which he had served as an enlisted soldier. He has to come to terms with a group of people that he sees as Japanese, the enemy, rather than Americans. Grayson runs his platoon rather insisting on strict observance of military regulations.
He learns that "Go for broke" is a pidgin phrase used in Hawaii meaning to gamble everything, to "shoot the works"—to risk "going broke" or bankruptcy. Grayson comes to learn the meaning of the frequently exclaimed Baka tare, which, loosely translates to mean "very stupid."
There is only one brief discussion of the internment camps from which some of the men have come, but throughout the film there are references to the camps. There are also a few brief references to the distinctions between the Nisei from Hawaii and the mainland. When the islanders who formed 2/3 of the outfit  and the mainlanders first met in Camp Shelby, their very different cultures and expectations were bound to clash. The Hawaiians, products of the plantation system, enjoyed a sense of group solidarity—even, as the largest minority group in the islands, a sense of ethnic superiority. The mainlanders, by contrast, were used to life as a tiny and—after the 'relocation' -- legally oppressed minority. While Buta-heads (the phrase later devolved to "Buddha-Heads") are a key part of the Hawaiian economy and Hawaiian society, Katonks were largely distrusted and disliked by their neighbors.
Arriving in Italy, the unit is joined by the 100th Battalion, a Nisei unit formed in Hawaii before the 442nd. The troops of the 100th are seasoned veterans and the new arrivals look to them for advice. On the march to the front lines, Grayson gets left behind when fraternizing with a signorina, but he is not found by the colonel because his platoon has covered for him during an inspection of their positions.
By the actions by the 442nd in Italy and France, Grayson finds reason to replace his bigotry with respect toward them. His transfer to the 36th, as a liaison—over his objections—comes through when the 442nd is attached to the 36th. As he has misjudged the Nisei, they have misjudged him. The Nisei learn that he has defended them against bigotry, even getting into a fistfight with an old friend from the 36th had insulted them.
- Van Johnson as Lt. Michael Grayson
- Lane Nakano‡ as Sam
- George Miki‡ as Chick
- Akira Fukunaga‡ as Frank
- Ken K. Okamoto‡ as Kaz
- Henry Oyasato‡ as Takashi Ohhara
- Harry Hamada‡ as Masami
- Henry Nakamura as Tommy Kamakura
- Warner Anderson as Col. Charles W. Pence
- Don Haggerty as Sgt. Wilson I. Culley
- Gianna Maria Canale as Rosina
- Dan Riss as Capt. Solari
- John Banner as a German soldier
- Jerry Fujikawa as Communications Sergeant (uncredited)
- Richard Anderson as Lieutenant (uncredited)
- Hugh Beaumont as Chaplain (uncredited)
- Frank Wilcox as HQ General (uncredited)
- Mario Siletti as Italian Farmer (uncredited)
- Edward Earle as General at Dress Parade (uncredited)
- Ann Codee as Pianist (uncredited)
- ‡These actors were actual veterans of the 442nd.
The screenplay by Robert Pirosh was nominated for an Academy Award in 1951.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- "Robert Pirosh, 79, Veteran of Combat and Author, Is Dead," New York Times. December 31, 1989.
- Barsam, Richard. (1992). Nonfiction Film: a Critical History, p. 220.
- Sterner, C. Douglas. (2005). Go For Broke: The Nisei Warriors of World War II Who Conquered Germany, p. 141.
- Crowther, Bosley. "'Go for Broke!', Tribute to War Record of Nisei Regiment, Opens at the Capitol", New York Times. May 25, 1951.
- Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal. 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313. S2CID 191633078.
- https://encyclopedia.densho.org/442nd%20Regimental%20Combat%20Team[bare URL]
- "Kotonks vs. Buddhaheads".
- "442nd Regimental Combat Team". June 16, 2020.
- Takemoto, Kenneth.' (2006). Nisei memories: my parents talk about the war years, p. 120.
- "Lane Nakano, 80, a Soldier Turned Actor, Is Dead," New York Times. May 11, 2005.
- Akira Fukunaga, film credits
- Harry Hamada, image of hula-dancing soldier; Archived December 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine film credits Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- "Henry Nakamura, film credits". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
- "Go for Broke! (1951); Cast, Credits and Awards," New York Times online.
- Wu, Ellen D. (2014). The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Invention of the Model Minority. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691168029, pp. 88ff.
- Barsam, Richard Meran. (1992). Nonfiction Film : a Critical History. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-31124-5; ISBN 978-0-253-20706-7; OCLC 24107769
- Takemoto, Kenneth Kaname. (2006). Nisei Memories: My Parents Talk About the War Years. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-98585-5; OCLC 260074492
- Sterner, C. Dougals. (2008). Go for broke : the Nisei Warriors of World War II Who Conquered Germany, Japan, and American Bigotry. Clearfield, Utah: American Legacy Historical Press. ISBN 978-0-9796896-1-1; OCLC 141855086
- Yenne, Bill. (2007). Rising Sons: The Japanese American GIs Who Fought for the United States in World War II. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-35464-0 OCLC 122261832
- Steidl, Franz. (1997). "Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944." Novato, California: Presidio Press. ISBN 978-0-89141-622-7, ISBN 978-0-89141-727-9; OCLC 36170542