Happy National “Go For Broke Day!"

That phrase was allegedly coined by Hawaiian Pidgin craps players to mean “bet everything on a single roll.” But it was popularized as the motto of the Army’s famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

In fact, National “Go For Broke” Day is celebrated on April 5 every year likely because it was on April 5, 1945, that Pfc. Sadao Munemori — the 442nd RCT’s first Medal of Honor recipient — was killed in action near Seravezza, Italy, according to a Department of Defense history of that highly decorated unit.

The 442nd RCT was made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers and was formed during a time when that ethnic group was banned from military service after the attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor.

The Army eventually allowed Japanese-Americans (known as “Nisei”) to serve through the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service and the 442nd RCT, which was officially activated on Feb. 1, 1943.

After finishing their training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the soldiers of the 442nd RCT deployed to Italy in June 1944 to fight alongside the 100th IB. By mid-August, the 100th was absorbed into the 442nd and the “go for broke” motto became an ingrained part of the unit’s identity.

In September 1944, the 442nd was reassigned to southern France where they helped liberate a few cities from German control. They were reassigned again in March 1945 and helped — along with the 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black unit — drive German forces out of northern Italy.

Their accomplishments in battle inspired the U.S. to reinstate the draft in Japanese-American internment camps back home to allow them to fight as well.

Kenzo Kenamoto, a World War II Military Intelligence Service veteran, center, and other veterans ride in a trolley during the Congressional Gold Medal parade in Waikiki, Hawaii, Dec. 17, 2011. (Department of Defense)
Kenzo Kenamoto, a World War II Military Intelligence Service veteran, center, and other veterans ride in a trolley during the Congressional Gold Medal parade in Waikiki, Hawaii, Dec. 17, 2011. (Department of Defense)

The 442nd RCT was inactivated about a year after the war ended. It was only around for two years, but soldiers in the 442nd RCT and 100th IB earned seven presidential unit citations, two meritorious service plaques, 36 Army Commendation medals and 87 division commendations between them.

Individual soldiers from both units earned 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 15 Soldier’s Medals and 9,500 Purple Hearts, among many other honors.

On a more somber note, 650 men from those two units were killed during WWII, 3,700 were wounded in action and 67 were declared missing in action.

In 2011, 450 Japanese-American soldiers from the 442nd RCT and 100th IB were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian award for service.

That unit also inspired a 1951 Hollywood movie aptly titled “Go for Broke.”

So today, remember the 442nd RCT and the 100th IB for their groundbreaking role in re-integrating the military and the motto with which they served their country.