L-R. Fusa Takahashi, Wayne Osako, Aiko O. King. Photo: Lynn Franklin(Los Angeles, CA, 2015).
Chiz Ohira. Photo by Wayne Osako (Camarillo, CA, 2007)
Sacramento, CA. “Always be proud of your heritage,” said Stamp Our Story campaign founder Fusa Takahashi of Granite Bay, California. “It’s what our parents taught us that made these soldiers give their best.” Ms. Takahashi (93), is the second-generation Nisei woman who began the Stamp Our Story campaign in 2005, first called the “Nisei World War II Soldiers Stamp Campaign.” The campaign’s goal has been to get a US commemorative postage stamp that would tell the story of the Japanese Americans who served in the US military during World War II.
Ms. Takahashi and the Stamp Our Story campaign received good news this fall. On November 17th, 2020, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced the inclusion of a commemorative stamp honoring the “Go For Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II” in its 2021 line up. “I hope with the issuance of this stamp that we will be able to make the general public aware of what the Nisei soldiers have accomplished, and help to dispel the discrimination many Asian Americans are still facing,” said Ms. Takahashi.
The “Go For Broke” stamp is the culmination of over 15 years of work by many. The campaign began after Ms. Takahashi and her childhood friend, Aiko O. King, first discussed the stamp idea at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 2005. “After seeing an exhibition on the Nisei soldiers and their accomplishments, we started this idea of trying to get a stamp issued to commemorate their deeds accomplished in World War II,” explained Ms. Takahashi. “We first felt we needed some way for the public to know more about these young men who volunteered or were drafted from behind barbed wire. They had their freedom taken away and yet they fought with such bravery and valor.”
Following their early discussions, Ms. Takahashi and Ms. King were soon joined by the late Chiz Ohira, Nisei wife of the late 442nd veteran Ted Ohira (H Co.). Ms. Takahashi is the widow of the late Nisei veteran Kazuo Takahashi (Military Intelligence Service). The three women were incarcerated in the camps during the war: Ms. Takahashi and Ms. King were in Amache, Colorado, and Ms. Ohira was in Poston, Arizona. The women first wrote letters to the USPS and distributed handwritten petitions to their family members and friends. The origin of the stamp campaign is with the family and friends of the Go For Broke soldiers, who have embraced the effort since it first began. Through the hard work of many in just the first two years of the campaign, over fifteen thousand people from across the country had signed their petitions.
Their efforts developed to involve organizations and lawmakers. They first distributed petitions at meetings for organizations of Nisei World War II veterans and their families. They set up tables at cultural events like Nisei Week in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and the Japanese American festival in Camarillo, California. Many chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) got involved. Ms. King’s Ventura JACL Chapter in California was the first to help. Even strangers they never met joined them, such as Carole Herhold of Chicago, Illinois, who had no direct ties to the Japanese American community but felt so strongly to support the campaign that she spearheaded a successful effort to get a state resolution and her congressman’s help. “Helping remember the sacrifice and service of these young men is the right thing to do,” she said in 2008 [DELETE "at the time”]. She was joined by Bill Yoshino, Midwest Director of the JACL [DELETE "at the time”], and Chicago JACL members. Besides Illinois, many JACL chapters participated nationwide, including the National JACL. Among them, Mas Hashimoto and the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL chapter were especially prominent since the early years of the campaign. The Go For Broke National Education Center, with Christine Sato-Yamazaki, notably worked with Rabbi Abraham Cooper and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for a joint press conference in support of the stamp in 2007.
By 2020, supporters had documented lawmakers’ help from local, state, and national levels. Seven state assemblies passed resolutions: Hawaii, California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Illinois. In addition, letters of support were collected from three state governors, 91 members of Congress, two Consul Generals of Japan, and numerous local officials including mayors and city councils. California saw bipartisan help led by critical early assistance from former Congressman Mike Honda and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Rep. Adam Schiff, former Governor Jerry Brown, and State Rep. Mike Eng who championed its state resolution. Hawaii saw help at all levels, first from State Senator Les Ihara Jr. and State Rep. John Mizuno, then from Governor David Ige, and the whole congressional delegation, notably championed by the late Rep. K. Mark Takai. With Utah JACL chapters involved, Utah State Senator Jani Iwamoto, whose late father was a Nisei World War II veteran, was central to securing a state resolution, and letters of support from the entire Utah congressional delegation, Attorney General Sean Reyes, and Governor Gary Herbert. Help from the state of Washington was led by JACL chapters, and the Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee, and resulted in a state resolution and letters of support from its members of Congress. Help from Oregon was led by Portland JACL, and Dr. Linda Tamura, and resulted in a state resolution and support letters from its congress members. Wyoming’s congressional delegation co-authored a letter of support after assistance from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director Brian Liesinger, current Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi, and former Senator Alan Simpson. The efforts of Mia Russell and the Friends of Minidoka led to a coauthored letter of support from Idaho’s congressional delegation. Dr. Brian Yamamoto’s efforts led to Alaska’s congressional delegation voicing support. Highlights also include help from Texas over the years from Rep. Al Green, William Scarbrough and the 36th Division Association, Sandra Tanamachi, Gary Nakamura and the Houston JACL, and Texas Standard Radio’s W.F. Strong. Additional highlights include the National Military and Veterans Alliance letter of support in 2010, key help from Rabbi Shmuel Novack (grandson of the late Lt. David Novack), support from Historian Eric Saul, and the boost from documentary film producer Jeff MacIntyre. Key support and encouragement were received from former Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and the late Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka during the campaign.
The result of these collective efforts coupled with critical assistance from the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) has led to the issuance of the “Go For Broke” stamp. “We are forever grateful to the JAVA leadership, especially Gerald Yamada and Terry Shima, and the entire JAVA family, for the kind support over all these years, and we look forward to celebrating the stamp’s issuance with them,” campaign co-chair Wayne Osako said. “The support has been so important for us since the early years of the campaign. An example that we would like to highlight is the help from Eileen Roulier, Gerome Villain, and Hervè Claudon. They tirelessly organized petition signatures and letters of support from French citizens and lawmakers over a number of months.”
The stamp will be issued sometime in 2021, but the date has not yet been announced. Following the issuance of the “Go For Broke” stamp, Stamp Our Story will continue to work toward educating the public about the proud American story behind the stamp. For additional information, including a more comprehensive list of support, visit www.StampOurStory.org.