(Los Angeles – June 3, 2021) – Starting today, the Go for Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II forever stamp can be purchased at U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offices nationwide or online at usps.com. The stamp features the image of a Japanese American World War II soldier to represent the more than 30,0000 American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who served in the segregated units of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), Military Intelligence Service (MIS) among other units. They volunteered or were drafted from Hawaii and U.S. concentration camps – where many Westcoast Japanese Americans were incarcerated solely because of their race.
The Japanese American WWII veterans’ motto was “go for broke”—to do your best and give it your all—and inspired three California women to launch the “Stamp Our Story” initiative in 2005. Their goal? Have a Japanese American soldier featured on a U.S. postage stamp to bring about greater awareness of their sacrifice and service.
Fusa Takahashi, 93, of Granite Bay, Calif., Aiko O. King, also 93, of Camarillo, Calif., and the late Chiz Ohira of Gardena, Calif., all incarcerated along with 120,000 Japanese Americans in U.S. concentration camps, believed it was imperative to have a stamp to honor the veterans’ legacy, which today is still widely unknown.
They tirelessly worked to garner community support for the stamp and, over a 15-year period, received bipartisan endorsements with a petition signed by more than 90 congressional lawmakers, three governors, seven state assemblies, and numerous mayors, local officials, family, and friends. The campaign also received support from French citizens and officials in areas that were liberated from German forces by the Go for Broke soldiers, including Bruyères, who continue to feel a depth of gratitude to the Japanese American soldiers today.
Though an arduous process often hitting roadblocks, the co-founders never gave up. And finally, in November 2020, the USPS announced that a stamp would be issued. Their dreams would become a reality.
“This stamp honors the service of the Go for Broke soldiers of World War II, who in the face of great prejudice rose to serve with distinction to become one of the most decorated units for its size and service,” said Wayne Osako, co-chair of Stamp Our Story. “Fusa, Aiko and Chiz believed that the stamp would bring people and organizations together to remember and honor the Go for Broke soldiers’ story. It’s rewarding to see the culmination of years of hard work and the fulfillment of our founders’ vision.”
Osako, 52, of Garden Grove, Calif., joined the campaign in 2006 and now serves as co-chair of Stamp Our Story, with Takahashi. He has a number of relatives who also served in the military during WWII, so this effort was important in honoring his own family history.
The husbands of Takahashi and Ohira both served in the military during World War II: Kazuo Takahashi was a Military Intelligence Service veteran from San Francisco and Ted Ohira was a 442nd RCT veteran from Hawaii. King herself was a civilian nurse for the U.S. Army treating Korean war soldiers in Japan.
The 100th/442nd RCT earned more than 18,000 medals, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 21 Medals of Honor, and 7 Presidential Unit Citations. The MIS is credited with shortening the war in the Pacific saving a million lives and founding the U.S. Armed Forces Defense Language Institute (originally called the Military Intelligence Service). Japanese American women entered the Women’s Army Corps and Cadet Nurse Corps. In 2010 they were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their legendary service during World War II.
To celebrate this historic day, Stamp Our Story will host a special commemoration event on June 4 in Los Angeles, which is the first city of issue and where the Stamp Our Story campaign began. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event is not open to the public. However, the USPS will coordinate a pop-up booth to sell the Go for Broke stamp in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district in front of the Japanese American National Museum.
For more information, visit Stamp Our Story at NiseiStamp.org.