IDAHO CONGRESS MEMBERS BACK COMMEMORATIVE STAMP

Idaho’s congressional delegation has voiced its support for a commemorative postage stamp proposal that would honor the patriotism of the Japanese Americans who served in the US Army during World War II. The stamp is currently in its final stages under review by U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan.

The postal honor would likely feature the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, which tells the story of the Japanese American Nisei (“American-born, second-generation”) soldiers of the war. Over 30,000 Nisei men and women served despite family and friends being incarcerated behind barbed wire due to intense war hysteria and racial prejudice after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“Despite the hardships faced by Japanese Americans at home during World War II, many chose to enlist in the United States Army,” the August 30th letter states. “A commemorative stamp would serve as tribute to these American heroes and their families for their extraordinary service to our nation.” The letter was cosigned by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-At Large), and Senators Mike Crapo (R) and James Risch (R).

The Friends of Minidoka organization was key to this letter’s approval. Friends of Minidoka is a non-profit that supports the Minidoka National Historic Site to preserve this chapter of American history. Minidoka, outside of Jerome, Idaho, was the location of one of the ten major internment camps during the war, and housed individuals from across the Pacific Northwest.

“Friends of Minidoka wanted to support the stamp effort to help honor the incredible legacy of the Japanese American troops that served,” explained Executive Director Mia Russell. “Nationally, their courage and sacrifice has been recognized but in Idaho the wider story of the World War II experience of Japanese Americans is often overlooked. This stamp is an opportunity to commemorate and honor the Nisei vets nationally, and continue the important conversation of remembering this history locally.”

“Minidoka had the highest percentage of incarcerees from the ten camps to serve in the military,” said Russell. “The Honor Roll at Minidoka, which was reconstructed by Friends of Minidoka, listed almost 1000 names of those who joined the service while incarcerated. 73 Nisei soldiers from Minidoka made the ultimate sacrifice, and died in combat.”

The Idaho delegation letter highlighted the sacrifice of Seattle, Washington-native Pfc. William K. Nakamura, whose family was forcibly sent to Minidoka. In 2000, Nakamura was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on July 4, 1944, in Castellina, Italy. After taking out an enemy machine gun nest on his own to save his platoon, Nakamura died while covering the withdrawal of the same platoon that had again become pinned down by additional enemy fire. The men in his platoon all escaped but Nakamura was killed during his heroic stand.

To date, the Stamp Our Story Campaign, which advocates for the stamp, has received letters of support from 61 bipartisan members of Congress (22 Republicans and 39 Democrats). Three state governors (California, Hawaii, and Utah) have also sent letters to the Postmaster General urging her support. The twelve-year grassroots effort began in California and has grown across the U.S. The campaign even includes support from French citizens and lawmakers who remember the Nisei soldiers who liberated their towns from the Germans during the war.

For more information on Friends of Minidoka and to join their efforts to preserve the Minidoka National Historic Site, go to www.minidoka.org, and follow them on Facebook www.facebook.com/friendsofminidoka.

Florida Republican and Consul-General Join Fight for Stamp

Florida’s Congressman John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville), and Japan’s Consul-General Hiroto Hirakoba of Denver have joined the fight for a commemorative postage stamp to remember the patriotism of Japanese Americans who served in the Armed Forces during World War II.

“I write to urge you to issue a United States commemorative postage stamp that would honor the brave sacrifices of the Japanese Americans who served our nation during World War II,” Rep. Rutherford wrote in a July 5, 2017 letter to the Postmaster General Megan Brennan. “We as a nation must never forget the courage of those who have helped protect our freedoms.”

The Republican is the first member of Congress from Florida to step forward in support of this effort, which began in California in 2005. The campaign has garnered 58 bipartisan members of Congress from across the nation since last year, as well as three state governors.

Despite being wartime enemies, two of Japan’s Consul-Generals have spoken out in support of this postal honor as well. First was Consul-General Jun Yamada (San Francisco). Most recently, Consul-General Hiroto Hirakoba (Denver) wrote a letter backing the stamp. “The patriotic action of Japanese Americans who served for the US military during World War II was an important chapter in the history of relations between Japan and the United States,” Mr. Hirakoba wrote in his July 18, 2017 letter to Postmaster General Brennan. “We hope that patriotic action would be more widely known through issuing this commemorative postage stamp.”

Postmaster General Brennan is considering a proposal this year which would feature the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, DC. This Memorial highlights the service of the Japanese Americans who served with distinction despite the internment camps of the war. Over 120,000 were incarcerated in such camps due to war hysteria, racism, and prejudice against Americans of Japanese heritage during the World War II era.

Over 30,000 Japanese Americans enlisted in US Army during the war. Most served in the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, and in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). Women served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and Cadet Nurse Corps. The 100th/442nd is considered the most decorate unit of the war, and one of the most highly decorated in US history.

A grassroots movement of support has swelled up around an honor for to remember the patriotism of these men and women through a commemorative postage stamp. For more information, go to the campaign’s website at www.StampOurStory.org.

Click here to read Rep. Rutherford’s letter.

Click here to read Consul-General Hirakoba’s letter.

WYOMING, UTAH, ILLINOIS, AND 36TH DIVISION ASSN. JOIN RALLY FOR STAMP

Bipartisan lawmakers from Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, and California closed the year 2016 with a late rally of support for a US commemorative postage stamp that would recall the inspiring story of Americans of Japanese heritage who served in the US Army during World War II. In addition, the 36th Infantry Division Association has expressed support for the campaign.

The recent endorsements are significant because they include two states – Wyoming and Utah – that previously had not expressed support, and these states were home to the incarceration (a.k.a. “internment”) camps where Japanese Americans were held during the war.

2017 marks the 75th anniversary remembering the start of the World War II incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans by the US government. The postal honor would tell the story of this confinement, and recall the service and sacrifice of those who enlisted in the military showing their American loyalty despite the injustice. The stamp proposal features the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. Due to a postal service restriction on military units as subjects, the activists are pushing for the Memorial to serve as a symbolic honor.

The congressional delegation from Wyoming, all Republicans, sent a co-signed letter of support to the Postmaster General on November 16, 2016. “Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans held against their will for the duration of the war,” the delegation asserted. ”As you may know, Wyoming is home to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, where over 14,000 Japanese were forcibly relocated and held, approximately 800 of whom enlisted in the US Army. Fifteen of these men were killed in action, and two earned the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.” The two Heart Mountain MOH recipients are Joe Hayashi and James Okubo, who both received the award posthumously. The Wyoming delegation includes Senators Mike Enzi (R) and John Barrasso (R), and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-At large).

Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert added his voice of support in a December 1st letter. “I write to join with those voicing their support for a United States Postage Stamp to commemorate the bravery and patriotism of Japanese American citizens and soldiers in World War II,” the governor wrote. “During this period, internment camps spanned the Western United States, including the Topaz Camp near Delta, Utah, and served as physical manifestations of the profiling and racial prejudice that faced thousands of Japanese Americans. To challenge the adversity they faced in their nation, and exhibit their love for country, in excess of 33,000 Japanese Americans enlisted in the United States military.” Topaz, located in the Sevier Desert in Central Utah, was home to over 8000 individuals during the war.

In addition, Utah’s House congressional delegation, all Republicans, co-authored a letter of support on January 3, 2017. The letter was signed by Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, Jason Chaffetz, and Mia Love. Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is a fourth-generation Japanese American, also sent a letter backing the stamp.

Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) added his name to the endorsements. “I am writing in support of issuing a commemorative postal stamp in honor of the bravery and patriotism demonstrated by Japanese Americans during the Second World War,” Rep. Quigley explained. “In spite of having their most basic constitutional rights violated by unjust detainment, as well as facing rampant prejudice from the rest of society, over 30,000 Japanese Americans chose to serve as members of the US Armed Forces.”

California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein announced in December that she, too, sent a letter to the Postmaster General.   “As our country reflects on next year’s 75th anniversary of placing individuals in internment camps, I encourage you to honor them by issuing a stamp in remembrance of the sacrifices that they made during World War II,” Sen. Feinstein wrote in her October 5th letter. “I feel that this would be an appropriate tribute to honor their memory and hope you will consider issuing a stamp.” Sen. Feinstein joins 28 other congressional lawmakers from California, where the stamp campaign first began in 2005. California has shown the most support of any state, and includes Gov. Jerry Brown who sent a letter in May of 2016.

The 36th Infantry Division Association has also voiced its support for the stamp. William Scarbrough, vice-president of the Association, sent a letter to the Postmaster General on October 18th. Writing of the 100th/442nd, Mr. Scarbrough highlighted the rescue of the Lost Battalion. “Their combat operations during World War II was outstanding during their period of attachment to our Division, and was the first to break through the Germans Defense to relieve a Battalion of our troops who were surrounded by the Germans. Our Association supports the issue of a stamp and requests your assistance in an early approval in honor of this patriotic group who represented the United States in a manner we can all be proud of.”

During the war, the Nisei, or second-generation American-born men and women whose parents immigrated from Japan, served admirably. Men served mainly in the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The 100th/442nd is considered the most decorated unit of the war, and they are remembered for such battles as Monte Cassino, Anzio, for liberating towns across France, and for their battle to free the men of the 36th Division. The Nisei soldiers also helped liberate prisoners of the Holocaust in Dachau. The MIS are credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by two years through their work as military linguists. The MIS also helped redevelop Japan during the Occupation, leading to the close postwar friendship between the nations. Japanese American women served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and Cadet Nurse Corps. These groups collectively received the Congressional Gold Medal for their exemplary service in 2011.

Campaign activists are asking supporters to continue to urge lawmakers who have not yet endorsed this cause to help.

New Show of Bipartisan Support in Congress

Five Republicans recently spoke out in support for the stamp, with 42 total bipartisan members of Congress so far this year (35 Democrats, 7 Republicans). Rep. Don Young (AK-01) joined Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski this month in support letters to issue a stamp that would tell the story of the Japanese American “Nisei” World War II soldiers. Congressmen Ed Royce (CA-39), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), and Ken Calvert (CA-42) also added their own letters from California.

Ms. Brennan is considering a stamp subject proposal that would tell the Nisei story through the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located in Washington, DC. The soldiers are the cornerstone of the Memorial, which tells their story within the context of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. We need your help to convince her to issue the stamp! Please tell the Military Affairs Assistant of your members of Congress to support this effort. Thank you!

Here are excepts from the recent letters:

From Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: “While the Nisei of World War II have been honored by military decorations and the Congressional Gold Medal, many Americans are unaware of their story and their extraordinary contributions in the face of intolerable prejudice. It is fitting to again tell the story of these brave, selfless Americans and to bear witness to the fact that we are a nation of immigrants whose patriotism runs deep. I encourage you to not only support this request, but to champion this opportunity to honor the Nisei and the best of the American spirit.”

From Rep. Don Young of Alaska: “These servicemembers not only accomplished their assigned missions, but did so with incredible heroics…. To ensure that we do all we can to honor the incredible actions of the Nisei veterans, I strongly support the effort to issue a stamp to honor the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women.”

From Rep. Ed Royce (R) of California: “These American patriots rose to the occasion and served their country admirably despite the war hysteria and prejudice against them. I applaud the USPS for considering a proposal to create a stamp featuring the Memorial…. I believe that this would be an appropriate way to recognize the Japanese Americans who served our country admirably and support issuing a stamp.”

From Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California: “These American patriots answered their nation’s call despite overwhelming prejudice against them and paid the ultimate price. For this they deserve our gratitude.“

From Rep. Ken Calvert (R) of California: “For these great sacrifices and contributions to our nation, I commend the USPS for considering a stamp proposal featuring the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located here in Washington, D.C. This gesture would be an appropriate to recognize and honor these American heroes….”

As of September 15, 2016, there are forty-two supporters from Congress (in alphabetical order):

Representatives Karen Bass (D, CA- 37), Julia Brownley (D, CA-26), Ken Calvert (R, CA-42), Judy Chu (D, CA-27), Paul Cook (R, CA-08), Susan Davis (D, CA-53), Mark DeSaulnier (D, CA-11), Anna Eshoo (D, CA-18), Sam Farr (D, CA-20), Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI-02), Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-03), Denny Heck (D, WA-10), Mike Honda (D, CA-17), Derek Kilmer (D, WA-06), Barbara Lee (D, CA-13), Ted Lieu (D, CA-33), Zoe Lofgren (D, CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (D, CA-47), Doris Matsui (D, CA-06), Jim McDermott (D, WA-07), Gregory Meeks (D, NY-05), Grace Napolitano (D, CA-32), Scott Peters (D, CA-52), Charles Rangel (D, NY-13), Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA-48), Ed Royce (R, CA-39), Loretta Sanchez (D, CA-46), Adam Schiff (D, CA-28), Adam Smith (D, WA-09), Jackie Speier (D, CA-14), Eric Swalwell (D, CA-15), Mark Takai (D, HI-01), Mark Takano (D, CA-41), Dina Titus (D, NV-01), Chris Van Hollen (D, MD-08), Nydia Velazquez (D, NY-07), and Don Young (R, AK-01).

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

JAPAN’S CONSUL-GENERAL YAMADA SENDS SUPPORT LETTER FOR NISEI SOLDIERS STAMP

In a show of support, Japan’s Consul-General Jun Yamada has sent a letter backing the US stamp proposal that features the Japanese American World War II soldiers. “On behalf of the Japanese government, I would like to express my strong support for this proposal, “ Mr. Yamada stated in a June 15th letter to the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan.  Click here to read the full letter.

This support is unusual due to the fact that the Nisei soldiers were Americans fighting against Japan during the war.

Mr. Yamada recounts in his letter that his recent visit to the Manzanar incarceration center during the April pilgrimage to the site, and his talks with former incarcerees and Nisei veterans, had an impact on him. “They shared inspiring firsthand accounts of the hardships, trials, and triumphs that they and their families experienced during World War II and its aftermath,” he explained. “Japanese Americans’ World War II stories remain relevant as they provide us with important insight on current affairs. I believe that issuing a commemorative postage stamp would be a wonderful way of sharing this history with a wider audience and inspiring a new generation of Americans to learn more.”

The eleven-year grassroots campaign for the stamp, called Stamp Our Story, has struggled against the bureaucracy of the Postal Service stamp selection process. Three California Nisei women who endured World War II incarceration, Fusa Takahashi of Granite Bay, Aiko O. King of Camarillo, and Chiz Ohira of Gardena, sparked the nationwide effort. They are pushing hard this year that a stamp might be issued in 2017, during the 75th anniversary of the start of the incarceration camps.

The USPS has no obligation to respond to proposals, and often does so on its own timeline, which can take many years. The stamp selection body, called the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, consists of 15 members who are all appointed internally by the Postmaster General. They meet quarterly behind closed doors, and are restricted from discussing stamp selection with the public. Minutes of the meetings are not public. Despite the obstacles and lengthy process, activists continue to seek letters of support from public officials. On May 23rd, California’s Governor Jerry Brown sent a letter of support, joining 36 members of Congress so far this year.

“We are extremely pleased that Consul-General Yamada has stated his support on behalf of the Japanese government,” said Wayne Osako, co-chair of Stamp Our Story. “His voice shows the Postmaster General that this stamp subject matters not only to the Japanese American community, but also to the greater American public, and even internationally, in Japan.”

Child of Historic Little Tokyo Grocer Leads Big Nisei Veterans Stamp Effort

February 6, 2016

If you haven’t already heard, people across the country are still pushing for a US commemorative postage stamp that would tell the story of the 33,000 Japanese Americans who enlisted in the US Army despite the internment camps of World War II.

Many people don’t realize that this grassroots campaign started in California, and that the daughter of a historic grocery store owner in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo is one of the leaders of the campaign. Her name is Chizuko “Chiz” Ohira (Akiyama). She turned 88 years old last August. She and her supporters have big plans in store to help people remember these often-overlooked American veterans.

KM Akiyama Co.Her father was Issei pioneer, Masao Akiyama. “Issei” means the first generation immigrants who came to the US from Japan. Mr. Akiyama owned and operated “K.M. Akiyama Company,” a well-known store near the corner of San Pedro and First Streets. The Japanese American National Museum is home to the video archives of the Masao Akiyama Collection, with portions viewable online. Ohira can be seen as a young girl in this online footage. Her father took home movies before the war, and they are now preserved at the museum. Two snapshots from those movies are included in this article, courtesy of the museum.  Click here for a link to the movie Masao Akiyama Collection, Archival, Discover Nikkei.

Chiz c.1940 Ohira was just 12 years old when World War II broke out. After Executive Order 9066 was signed into law on February 19, 1942, over 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were forced into ten major internment camps. Two-thirds were American citizens. That spring, Ohira and her family were forced onto buses in front of the old Union Church just down the street from their store. Eventually they ended up at the Poston, Arizona internment camp. Poston was divided into three smaller camps, and her family was sent to Poston One.

Asked why she started the campaign back in 2005, with friends Aiko O. King (88) and Fusa Takahashi (88), Ohira said, “We discussed the necessity to carry out the Go For Broke tradition.” “Go For Broke” was the motto of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, meaning, ‘Go for your goal with everything you’ve got!’

442 group“It’s important to remember the veterans because it was a small battalion, and they worked hard to make a lasting impression,” Ohira pointed out. “Those guys were great because they were ostracized and still fought hard.”

The loyalty of the Nisei was questioned by the US government after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. “Nisei” is the Japanese word to describe Americans born to parents from Japan. Nisei who enlisted in the US Army were placed in segregated units. Most were in the 100th/442nd, but many were interpreters, translators, and intelligence gatherers in the US Army’s Military Intelligence Service, as well. Ohira’s late husband, Ted, was a legendary 100th/442nd member of “H Company.”

MIS_2_MerrillsMaraudersThe Japanese Americans who served are one of the most acclaimed groups in US military history. The 100th/442nd would become the most decorated unit of the war with over 18,000 medals, 9000 plus Purple Hearts, and 21 Medals of Honor, all earned within just two years of service during the war. The MIS earned a Presidential Unit Citation, and were critical in winning the war against Japan. Their service is credited with shortening the war by two years. The MIS also served important post-war roles in the Allied Occupation of Japan. Both groups were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011.

“Ted volunteered from Hawaii,” Ohira explained. “I think he volunteered because he lived in Honolulu and he saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He and his friends wanted to join the Army after that.” Ted Ohira was only 17 years old, and under the age requirement to serve in the Army at the time. But, the story goes, he wanted to serve so much that he tricked his parents to sign his enlistment papers just so he could join.

Ted Ohira was featured in the 1951 movie, “Go For Broke.” He can be seen playing the ukulele in the opening scene. “ Ted was good for the troops,” Ohira said. “He could sing and entertain them.” He would go on to serve in the military with great honor, awarded the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars during the war. He fought in five major campaigns during the war, including in the famed Rescue of the Lost Battalion, when the 100th/442nd took heavy casualties to rescue 211 men from a Texas battalion that became surrounded by the Germans.

Chiz 2007Ohira and her supporters are re-launching the stamp campaign this year to honor veterans like her late husband. The campaign is co-founded with Fusa Takahashi, who is also a widow of a Nisei veteran. Close friend Aiko O. King is also a founder. The campaign coalition includes family members and friends of the veterans, Emmy Award-winning film producer Jeff MacIntyre, and even actor George Takei. Many national organizations, including the Japanese American National Museum, Simon Wiesenthal Center – Museum of Tolerance, American Jewish Committee, and the Organization of Chinese Americans, have voiced past support for Ohira’s campaign. Prominent organizations are again encouraged to voice their renewed support and join in this coalition.

This month, the campaign is encouraging individuals to contact their members of Congress to sign a new Congressional letter of support which asks the Postmaster General to green light the stamp for these veterans. Another initiative this month will be an online White House petition to begin on February 19th, coinciding with the Day of Remembrance for the internment camps. The White House petition, if it can get 100,000 signers within 30 days, will get an official response from the President, or an official from his Administration. Though it is not a guarantee of a stamp, to get the President’s attention would be a major success. Signing the petition just requires the signer to be 13 years or older with a valid email address, which must be verified during the signing process.

The campaign hopes to gather enough support this year to make a push for a veterans stamp to be issued to coincide with the 75th commemoration of Executive Order 9066 and the internment next year, in 2017. The stamp would be the first of its kind to record such an important Asian American story on a stamp. Very few US stamps have ever even featured an Asian face. None has featured a historical Asian American event. Among the World War II series of stamps to commemorate 50 years since the war, in 1991-1995, Japanese Americans (and all Asian Americans) were left out of any depictions of Americans in uniform, despite their prominence in the war.

“I think the stamp is important because it’s not just a toy or something insignificant,” Ohira emphasized. “The stamp is a permanent thing. When people receive letters they do look at the stamp, right? I think it reaches people at many different levels.”

You can follow the campaign and help support their efforts on this website, on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/niseistamp, and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/StampOurStory.

View the historic movies from the Masao Akiyama Collection of the Japanese American National Museum, visit http://www.janm.org/collections/homemovies.

Watch for the White House petition online starting on February 19th through our website and on social media. Supporters are encouraged to “like” the campaign’s Facebook page, and to tell their friends and family, and organizations they belong to, to join in this nationwide movement.

STAMP CAMPAIGN UPDATE, JANUARY 29, 2016

CAMPAIGN SEEKS HELP TO HONOR NISEI VETERANS THROUGH MEMORIAL STAMP

FusaAikoInterviewThe World War II internment of Japanese Americans has been in the national spotlight after some politicians reacted to the recent terrorist attacks with suspicion of all Muslim immigrants, and even calls for new internments. In the wake of these events, three Nisei ladies from California are pushing for a US commemorative postage stamp featuring the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. The Memorial, located near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., tells the story of the internment and the 33,000 Japanese Americans who responded to wartime hysteria and prejudice against them by enlisting in the U.S. Army, and serving with great valor. JACL members are being asked to help in this revived effort.

“If cartoon characters can get a postage stamp, we certainly can get a stamp that honors the inspiring story of these Americans, “ explained Fusa Takahashi, one of the campaign’s founders. “Many people don’t know the Nisei soldiers’ story. The government took away their rights and imprisoned them behind barbed wire fences, yet without hesitation, they stepped up to serve their country and became one of the most decorated units in history.” Her late husband, Kazuo Takahashi, was one of the Nisei who served in the US Military Intelligence Service during the war. “Nisei” is the Japanese word for the American-born children of immigrants from Japan.

The stamp campaign founders are Fusa Takahashi (88) of Granite Bay, Aiko O. King (88) of Camarillo, and Chiz Ohira (87) of Gardena. Takahashi and Ohira are widows of Nisei veterans. King is a longtime member of the JACL Ventura Chapter. “We are trying hard to get this done while at least some of the Nisei veterans are still around.” King explained. “There aren’t many left.”

In October of 2015, the Postal Service upgraded the ladies’ proposal for the Memorial to “under consideration” status, which is the final step before a stamp is issued. But hundreds of other proposals are also in the same category waiting to be issued, making the last step perhaps the most difficult. Many stamp subjects that are “under consideration” never make it. So the ladies and their supporters are doubling efforts now.

The trio started the Nisei World War II Stamp Campaign in 2005, with the help of many JACL members.   It began with a stamp proposal focusing solely on the Nisei veterans. But in 2007, the trio learned of an internal policy that is not on the Postal Service’s public list of stamp selection rules. The hidden rule prohibits new stamps from directly honoring military units and veterans groups. After years of trying to get the Postal Service to change this policy without success, last year the ladies decided to compromise and work within the government’s framework. The ladies and their supporters are now pushing for this Memorial stamp instead of a prohibited veteran-focused stamp. “We support the Memorial stamp because the Nisei veterans are at the heart of the Memorial’s story,” said Takahashi. “It also has the best chance to become a stamp soon.”

Takahashi and King are childhood friends from the small California farm town of Cortez, near Turlock, California. Both were incarcerated at the Granada (Amache), Colorado internment camp. They saw their peers enlist in the Army from camp, but some never returned. They kept in touch over the years, and started their campaign after visiting the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.  “I had a few classmates and friends who were killed in action,” Takahashi said. “When Aiko and I visited the museum, they had a nice display about the Nisei soldiers but I felt the story needed to be told to a broader audience. I later read the Eric Saul speech, ‘America at Its Best,’ and it convinced me we needed to do something. We thought of the stamp.” Historian Eric Saul’s famous speech was originally presented at a reunion of the veterans, and in it, he outlines the motivations and the extraordinary accomplishments of the Nisei veterans.

Takahashi and King gathered with supporters on Sunday, December 20, 2015, in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. They discussed the campaign and plans for a stamp to honor the veterans through the Memorial. The ladies were interviewed on camera at a USC studio to document their 10-year campaign, and to ask for support. Parts of the interview will air on the campaign’s website, www.NiseiStamp.org, this year.

The campaign began at the grassroots level. The ladies first got their friends, family, and their local communities to sign their petitions and send letters of support. They linked up with many JACL members, and it grew to be a nationwide effort. Six state resolutions of support for the stamp were passed in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois. The Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) offered help. JAVA friends from the US joined with French citizens to create a successful petition and letter-writing campaign for the stamp in Bruyeres, France, where Nisei soldiers liberated towns during the war. Past letters of support came from Congress in 2009, and from numerous national organizations including the National JACL Board and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Even actor/activist George Takei voiced his support in 2007. While the Postal Service has looked at their proposals a few times, it has yet to issue any stamps in response. They learned that the Postal Service is not influenced much by petitions, and that it will take larger actions to succeed, perhaps from Congress.

“We will be seeking a Congressional Letter of Support asking the Postmaster General to green light the stamp,“ explained Campaign Coordinator and Co-Chair Wayne Osako. “Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress to sign the letter which will be circulated in both houses on Capitol Hill this spring. ” JACL members can organize locally to contact their Congress members.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forced from their homes and placed into internment camps. It didn’t matter if the person was an American citizen or not. If that person had any Japanese ancestry and lived in one of the mainland West Coast states, they were put into the camps. Many internees, especially young adults who were born and raised in the US, were upset that their Constitutional rights were being taken away just because of their ancestry. Thousands of Nisei decided to prove their loyalty and serve in the military. These are the Nisei that campaign supporters seek to highlight through the Memorial stamp.

After hearing campaign founder Aiko O. King talk, documentary producer Jeff MacIntyre was intrigued by the Nisei stamp campaign and decided to help. King stood up and spoke about the campaign after a screening of one of his films at the Oxnard Library in California on August 29, 2015. MacIntyre set up his own website, www.TheyDeserveAStamp.org. MacIntyre shares the goal of honoring the veterans on a stamp.

Through the combined efforts of supporters nationwide, the ladies are working hard on the campaign to see it to completion. Takahashi explained, “It is our hope that, through the stamp, we can educate the American public about the unique heroism, sacrifices, and accomplishments made by the Nisei soldiers.”

The Postal Service is under the Executive Branch of government, with the President at the top. Asked if she thinks President Barack Obama might help, Fusa replied, “If I could talk to the President, I would tell him the same thing as I told the Postmaster General in a letter. It is not a complicated story, but it is very compelling and very unique in its nature. I actually did write President Obama in 2009, but I am still waiting for a response. I am sure it probably never even made it to his desk.” Perhaps the President, and the Postmaster General, will hear the new call to action this year with the campaign’s revived efforts. The ladies and their supporters are doing their best to make that happen.

STAMP CAMPAIGN UPDATE

  • JA Memorial to Patriotism Proposal “Under Consideration” by USPS
  • New www.TheyDeserveAStamp.org sister campaign website

The nationwide campaign continues for a U.S. commemorative postage stamp that honors the Japanese American World War II veterans. Begun about 10 years ago in California, the campaign has experienced obstacles but perseveres today.

Three Nisei ladies who understand the veterans’ story firsthand began the campaign. Fusa Takahashi is the widow of MIS veteran Kazuo Takahashi. Aiko O. King is a childhood friend of Fusa’s and has many friends who served. Chiz Ohira is the widow of 442 veteran Ted Ohira. Together, their efforts led to six state resolutions of support, thousands of petition signatures, a signature campaign in Bruyeres, France, and letters of support from Congress (2009) and many national organizations. In Fusa’s words, “I had a few classmates and good friends that were killed in action. Aiko and I visited the Japanese American National Museum in L.A in 2005. We felt there really wasn’t much about the Nisei Soldiers on display. That was when I told Aiko we should do something more to make people aware of their military accomplishments. Then I read the Eric Saul speech ‘America at its Best’ that convinced me that having a stamp issued would be great since it is universal in a way that more people would be aware of the accomplishments of the Nisei Soldiers.”

Click here to read Eric Saul’s “America at its Best” speech:

Their original proposal which directly honors the veterans on a stamp is blocked by a Postal Service policy. This policy states, “Stamps will not be issued to honor individual sub-branches, units or divisions of the military,” and includes all veterans groups. Despite repeated requests by campaign supporters to get the Postal Service to revise the policy, Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner stated in September of 2015, that they will not alter this policy. The rule was established due to the difficultly of judging one group of veterans over another. Prior to the policy, at least two stamps honored veterans groups: “Hispanic Americans: A Proud Legacy” (1984), and “Buffalo Soldiers” (1994).

In October of 2015, the Postal Service officially placed one of the founders’ proposals “under consideration,” which is the step prior to issuance. This proposal features the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. The veterans are the cornerstone of the Memorial, so the founders would support a Memorial stamp. This upgraded status is no guarantee of a stamp though. Hundreds of other proposals are also “under consideration.” Therefore it is imperative that we continue to campaign for the stamp.

The founders are embarking on an effort for renewed Congressional support in 2016. We are campaigning for a bipartisan Congressional “Dear Colleague” Letter of Support for the stamp to be sent to Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Contact your Congress Members to sign the letter. Go to www.NiseiStamp.org, and visit us on Facebook, for more details.

There has been recent interest in www.TheyDeserveAStamp.org. Campaign founder Aiko King attended an August 29, 2015 screening of a film by documentary producer Jeff MacIntyre at the Oxnard Library in California. Aiko asked Jeff and others in attendance to help the stamp campaign. Inspired by her words, he set up his own website, www.TheyDeserveAStamp.org. Jeff’s efforts are toward the shared goal of honoring the veterans.

Our campaign continues!  There are over 10 years of grassroots efforts across the country and around the world supporting a stamp that honors the Japanese American World War II veterans’ story.  We are persevering in the endeavor until it becomes a reality.

STAMP CAMPAIGN UPDATE

The U.S. Postal Service’s stamp selection body, called the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), is meeting this month to decide on upcoming stamps.  The Postal Service has informed our campaign that one of our proposals is among about 30 finalists being considered.  The CSAC meeting is not open to the public.  Our campaign is awaiting their decision due by the end of the month.

The Postal Service maintains an internal policy preventing new stamps that directly honor veterans groups.  They allow stamps honoring individual veterans, military events, medals, and so on.  But largely due to the controversy of judging veterans groups against each other, they prohibit all proposals for military units or groups.  In the past, prior to this policy, there were at least two stamps that honor veterans’ groups: “Hispanic Americans: A Proud Heritage” (1984), and “Buffalo Soldiers” (1994).  But the Postal Service put a stop to all such future stamps due to the problems associated with considering units.

As a result, we are backing a proposal featuring the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II, which is located in Washington, D.C., very close to Capitol Hill.  This Memorial is part of the National Park Service.  Here, the veterans are the cornerstone of the overarching Japanese American story.  The Memorial includes the veterans’ families and friends who were incarcerated in the internment camps while they were fighting abroad.  This stamp proposal is the one being considered by the CSAC as a possible future commemorative stamp.

For more information, read the National Park Service description of the Memorial:

http://www.nps.gov/wwii/learn/historyculture/japanese-americans-at-war.htm .

For photos and additional information, view Nina Akamu’s website.  Ms. Akamu is the Memorial crane artist:

http://www.studioequus.com/njamimage.html.

Our campaign continues!  There are over 10 years of grassroots efforts across the country and around the world supporting a stamp that honors the Japanese American World War II veterans’ story.  We are persevering in the endeavor until it becomes a reality.