The Go for Broke Spirit: Legacy in Portraits

Special Exhibit

A selection of photographer Shane Sato’s powerful portraits of Japanese American veterans of World War II will be showcased in The Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery at The National WWII Museum from June 30, 2023, through March 31, 2024. Supplemented with artifacts and oral histories from the Museum’s collection, The Go for Broke Spirit: Legacy in Portraits explores the selfless service, profound patriotism, and enduring legacy of the Japanese American men and women who persevered in the face of prejudice and incarceration, and risked their lives to advance the Allied effort.

Sato’s first-of-its-kind portrait series features Japanese American WWII veterans who served with the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and its component unit, the 100th Infantry Battalion; with the Women’s Army Corps (WAC); or as translators and interpreters with the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). They fought gallantly alongside their compatriots, even as the US government forcibly relocated more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent—most of them American-born citizens—to domestic incarceration camps. As a Japanese American himself, Sato saw in his work an invaluable opportunity to “carry the torch” of his forebears and use his talents to tell their unique stories and shared experiences.

Through these personal stories and artifacts, The Go for Broke Spirit: Legacy in Portraits examines the exclusion and incarceration of thousands of people of Japanese descent in the United States, in the wake of Pearl Harbor through Executive Order 9066, as well as Japanese Americans’ continued patriotism despite discrimination, delving into their military training and missions. The exhibit also explores the postwar lives and legacy of Japanese American veterans, many of whom received belated recognition of their wartime valor and loyalty.

During World War II, “Go for Broke” served as the motto for the 100th/442nd, which lived up to those words and remains the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in US Army history, a long-standing testament to the soldiers’ fierce patriotism and many sacrifices in service of their country. These veterans’ “Go for Broke” spirit is captured in Sato’s portraits—which range from serious to spirited, somber to stoic—highlighting the distinct personalities and stories of these men and women who, once deemed second-class citizens, risked everything to fight for their country and collectively changed how many viewed the Japanese American community.

Shane Sato is a professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California. His project to capture the moving portraits of Nisei WWII veterans began over two decades ago, culminating in a set of coffee table books, The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage and The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Legacy, featuring photographs of more than 150 Japanese American veterans.

Support for this exhibit comes from Catherine and David Edwards.