powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
The film begins with a visual of a statement signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt: "The proposal of the War Department to organize a combat team consisting of loyal American citizens of Japanese descent has my full approval. The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart. Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry." Following this, an introductory title card reads: "The 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion were composed of American citizens of Japanese ancestry. BATTLE RECORD: 7 Major Campaigns in Europe; 9,486 Casualties; 18,143 Individual Decorations; 7 Presidential Unit Citations."
The 442nd, formed in 1943 and nicknamed the "Go for Broke" regiment, was comprised of Japanese American (Nisei) volunteer soldiers. Troops from the regiment were highly regarded for their bravery and had an extremely high casualty rate. As noted in historical sources, for its size and length of service, the 442nd was the most decorated unit in American history. The film recounts one of the unit's most famous actions, in which they rescued the 36th Infantry Division, called the "Texas" Division, when it was surrounded in the Vosges Mountains during the Battle of the Bulge.
In his autobiography, Dore Schary, M-G-M's chief of production, states that he suggested to Robert Pirosh, the Academy Award-winning writer and associate producer of M-G-M's acclaimed 1950 film about the Battle of the Bulge, Battleground, (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50) that they make a film about Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. While researching the camps, however, they decided instead to "latch onto a positive view of a negative fact," partly because of Cold War tensions, and make a film about the 442nd combat unit. New York Times, in a pre-production article, compared the planned film to recent Hollywood efforts to deal with bigotry: "Hollywood's current concern with the problem of racial and religious prejudice continues to lead movie-makers into new explorations of this apparently inexhaustible subject. Having investigated, in a succession of recent pictures, the plight of the Negro in a white society and dealt somewhat less fully with anti-Semitism and with alleged discrimination against Mexican-Americans in California, the screen now is about to speak in behalf of the Japanese-Americans, or Nisei."
According to news items in Los Angeles Daily News and New York Times, Pirosh had learned about the Japanese-American fighting units as he researched Battleground. When preparing Go for Broke!, Pirosh went to Hawaii to select five veterans of the 442nd unit to play leading roles in the film. According to Schary's autobiography, many of the stories included in the film were based on fact. David Bradley, recently hired by M-G-M as a fledgling director due to the interest in his 16mm student film Julius Caesar, was assigned to coach the non-actors in their performances. Mike Masaoka, the 442nd's first volunteer from the mainland, was hired as a consultant.
Hollywood Reporter news items include Tony Christian and Gay Gayle in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Other Hollywood Reporter news items note that the film received approval from Defense Dept. Maj. Gen. Floyd M. Parks, head of Army public information, who promised to fully promote the picture. The film had a special preview showing in Miami Beach, FL in mid-January 1951 and a special screening for President Harry S. Truman and his staff in mid-March 1951. The film's world premiere was held in the Kuhio Theatre in Honolulu, HI, followed by gala premieres in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Director of photography Paul C. Vogel also shot Battleground, in which Van Johnson had also starred. Some of the sequences in Go for Broke! were shot in the mountains in Idyllwild, California. Reviews generally praised the film. Variety commented, "The social angle is never overplayed and is effectively socked with a humorous touch." However, Hollywood Reporter noted: "Underlying the action are strong pleas for racial tolerance which come a bit too frequently. Actually the case of the Nisei soldier's suffering from prejudice need be stated but once because his acts of valor are here on film to win anybody to his side who can be won. Anything more has the effect of shaming the audience, a vast majority of whom only recently disliked and mistrusted all Japanese for four years." Robert Pirosh received an Academy Award nomination in the Writing (Story and Screenplay) category.