Soon after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, effectively placing over 100,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent, the majority of them American citizens, into incarceration camps. Racism against Japanese Americans was rampant as much of the country grew more fearful and suspicious of collaboration with the Japanese government. But Japanese Americans were equally outraged at the attack on their country. Despite the growing racism against them, many Japanese Americans answered the call to war.
President Roosevelt activated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on February 1, 1943, nearly one year after the signing of EO9066. Hawaiian-born Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) made up roughly two-thirds of the regiment, with the remaining third composed of Nisei from the mainland United States. The motto of the unit was “Go For Broke,” a phrase that meant putting everything on the line in an effort to win big. Just as other minority groups, Japanese Americans faced two wars during World War II—war against the Axis powers and war against racism back home—making “Go For Broke” an appropriate motto.
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