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Monument Design

The Go For Broke Monument signifies the sacrifices Japanese American soldiers of World War II made in their fight to prove their loyalty to the United States and to secure the rights and freedoms of future generations. It stands as a tribute not only to the Nisei soldiers themselves, but also to their families, who endured tremendous hardship during wartime.

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 World War II, 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 (Separate). It appears below the Nisei soldiers' signature battle cry, "Go For Broke," and the insignias of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), 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.

The 442nd RCT shoulder sleeve insignia. Courtesy of Jason Kusagaya

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.

442nd Regimental Combat Team soldier in a hilly area of France near Bruyères and Biffontaine, Oct. 24, 1944. Courtesy of the United States Army.
A member of the 442nd in the Vosges Forest, in the fight to rescue the "Lost Battalion," October 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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 Hawaii.

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