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.