Go For Broke (Third Edition):
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Some time back, something snapped inside me. I became unwilling to tell the safe, sanitized stories that dominate “historical” games, even as a strong political wave in the United States demands ever more sanitization. History, according to these voices, should be comforting, safe and warm. At this writing, seven American states have banned the teaching of uncomfortable history, and sixteen more are likely to follow.
In such an environment, there’s only one possible response for me and for my little company. Until the state police padlock our door, we’re going to keep telling uncomfortable historical truths. That’s not a winning marketing strategy, but it does mark us out as unique in wargame publishing. No one highlights the segregated Asian-American or African-American units that fought in World War Two, let alone discusses why these brave men were segregated at all.
I’m immensely proud that we published Panzer Grenadier: Go For Broke. It’s a book about the Nisei of the 442nd Infantry Regiment (and the attached 100th Infantry Battalion), who fought for their country even as their country poured out its hate and scorn on them after the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s a story of heroism and sacrifice in the face of unrelenting racism.
When the book fell out of print, I decided to make some additions to bring the book more in line with Panzer Grenadier: Black Panthers, our book about the segregated African-American 761st Tank Battalion. In that book, we took an unflinching look at the history of race relations in the United States. And by “race relations,” I of course refer to the murder, oppression and cruelty visited on African-Americans by their white fellow citizens.
At a time when Asian-Americans face increasing discrimination – again, code for brutal attacks by their white fellow citizens – I thought it important to give Go For Broke the same depth of history that we provided in Black Panthers. And that means looking at the truth. We’ve revised the historical background in the Go For Broke book, adding a good deal more to address the experience of Asian-Americans after coming to the United States.
And that includes the other side of the Nisei story during World War II. Of the over 120,000 American citizens were herded into concentration camps, only 1,200 volunteered to fight for the United States, compared to over 10,000 Nisei from Hawaii, who had not been imprisoned for their race. Initially, Japanese-Americans were ineligible for the military draft, as they were considered enemy aliens (despite their United States citizenship). That changed in January 1944, when the U.S. Army started drafting camp inmates, and the camp inmates started refusing to swear allegiance during their induction ceremonies – eventually 315 would be tried and convicted, usually without the benefit of counsel (defense attorneys, including public defenders, refused to take their cases).
Those are uglier stories, but without them, the heroism of the 442nd can’t be seen in its true context. It’s not enough to admit that racism existed (though apparently, even that goes too far in the state of Florida and elsewhere). The story’s not complete unless we look at why Japanese-Americans were considered enemies due simply to their heritage.
We were ejected from American game distribution after we solicited the Black Panthers book, and I’ve no doubt that the new edition of Go For Broke will cause some discomfort, too. And that’s how it should be. History isn’t supposed to be comforting; if we make you feel all warm inside, then we haven’t done our job very well.
Go For Broke isn’t just a tale of not-told-enough history. It’s a game product, too. Mike Perryman designed 29 scenarios of 442nd action: Half of them take place in the 1944 Italian campaign, and half in the French campaign (this includes a couple from the regiment’s brief re-deployment to Italy in 1945). They’re infantry-oriented of course, but they’re pretty tense: the 442nd’s fearsome fighting reputation led to it constantly being dispatched to wherever the fighting was most intense. Not often granted the massive artillery support that is a hallmark of the American way of war – that went to white units – the Nisei succeeded through aggressive small-unit tactics, often at a considerable cost in casualties. The 442nd Infantry Regiment remains the most highly-decorated combat unit in American military history (even if most of those awards came decades later) because they earned them in blood.
Scenario sizes range from small (one map, a battalion or so per side) to quite large (six maps and the full regiment in action). For each campaign, there’s a “battle game” to tie the scenarios together. Plus, a unique solitaire battle game, should you choose to play on your own.
Go For Broke comes with its own unique set of 77 new die-cut pieces. The entire 442nd Infantry Regiment is present with its own special regimental symbol, plus the Nisei 522nd Artillery Battalion and 232nd Engineer Company that made up the rest of the Regimental Combat Team. There aren’t any tanks, but the 442nd gets all of its infantry and supporting units, and they’re going to need them in scenarios that feature Nisei units together with other Americans: The 442nd’s morale is substantially higher than that of other units, particularly so after they gained combat experience. We did leave out the Nisei 206th Army Ground Forces Band, an oversight on our part.
This is a great package, and one that’s unique in wargame publishing. As far as I know, there’s never been a wargame or expansion devoted to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (just like there’s never been one for the 761st Tank Battalion, either). At a time when Asian-American women are gunned down at their workplaces, when Asian-Americans are assaulted on city sidewalks, when a former President of the United States can use a vile racist label to equate a disease with a whole segment of American society - to roars of approval - this is a story that we still need to tell.
It's by the choice of stories we tell, that we share with you our company’s values. Mostly, those values don’t intersect with the games that we make. But sometimes they do, and I’m glad that we seized this chance with such a fine product.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his Iron Dog, Leopold.
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