Stamp Design

Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto

This is the original image from World War II that inspired the USPS art team to design the Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp. (Courtesy of Hawaii Nisei Project)

The soldier’s image on the Go For Broke Stamp was inspired by a photo of U.S. Army Private Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto of Ninole, Hawaii. The image used by the Postal Service on the stamp, pictured above, was taken by an unknown photographer during the war, and found its way into the Hawaii Nisei Project’s archives. Yamamoto was a member of the 100th/ 442nd RCT, Antitank Company. The photo was taken in Touet de l’Escarene in Southern France. He is standing in front of a jeep in the original image. He often drove jeeps for his Antitank Company.

With his image on the stamp, Whitey becomes symbolic of all of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II. He had a rough time in his youth, without a mother in his life, and his father passed away when he was in high school. In addition, he faced the prejudice and war hysteria by being treated as the “enemy” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.

Whitey was primarily a jeep driver during the war (Courtesy of Hawaii Nisei Project)

Despite these hurdles, he volunteered for the U.S. Army, and fought in the Rescue of the Lost Battalion, Operation Dragoon in the D-Day Invasion, and the Breaking of the Gothic Line. Following the end of the war, he went back to Hawaii and married his childhood sweetheart with whom he corresponded throughout the war. He would find a career working as an aircraft technician, and spend over 40 years volunteering as a docent at the Hawaii Army Museum until he passed away a few years ago.

American Go For Broke Soldiers of World War II, at the Hawaii Convention Center celebration for their Congressional Gold Medal. Left to right: Chilly Sasaki (442nd RCT, Antitank), Whitey Yamamoto (442nd RCT, Antitank), Yoshinobu Oshiro (MIS). (Photo courtesy of Shari Tamashiro and the Hawaii Nisei Project)

Whitey was humble, and he was dedicated to overcome whatever challenges he faced. He shared the following perspective to the Hawaii Nisei Project, which reflects the Nisei’s “Go For Broke” spirit:

“We were brought up properly not to bring shame or disgrace to our family or to our neighbors, or even for the community. We had no choice…shall I put it that way? On our upbringing, that when you start something, accomplish it no matter how difficult it is. The 100th and the 442nd never stepped back, always go forward and accomplish the mission, regardless of how hard it was.”

Whitey’s photo above is shown courtesy of the Hawaii Nisei Project. Special thanks goes to Shari Tamashiro, the cybrarian who developed and maintains the Project. She kindly provided information through the Project and through her social media platforms that were used for this entry.

Click here to read the Hawai’i Herald’s article about Whitey from December 18, 2020.

The Artwork of the Stamp

This was the original design of the Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp. This image was released by USPS in November 2020. The final design was slightly altered and enhanced. (Courtesy of USPS)

The original design above was altered for its final form, shown below.

The 2021 Go For Broke Soldiers Forever Stamp, issued June 3, 2021. (Courtesy of USPS)

The Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp image was created by USPS Art Director Antonio Alcala. He used the intaglio method for the original design, which was enhanced later prior to production. Intaglio is a careful, handmade process of printmaking that has been around since the 1600’s. This method essentially involves scratching, or engraving, a design into a metal plate, then applying colored ink to the metal plate which is finally transferred to paper by mechanical press for the final image. It is said that the sharpness of the image created through this process is an essential part of its beauty. This is also the process used historically in postage stamps from its earliest days. Intaglio is traditionally used in banknote design, such as for the images on the U.S. dollar bill.

Look closely at the Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp original design, and you can actually see the lines that were painstakingly made by the artist.

This is a close-up of the original stamp design showing the intricate intaglio line work. (Courtesy of USPS)

All postage stamp artwork comes from within the U.S. Postal Service art studios. Mr. Alcala is one of four art directors there.

It is important to note that the USPS does not accept design proposals from the public; only written subject proposals are allowed.

When asked by Stamp Our Story for a remark on the stamp’s design, the USPS released this statement:

“In order to make the design work at stamp size, the art director started with an image that was immediately recognizable as a soldier of Japanese descent. Engraving the image gave it a grounding in historical stamps and the red, white, and blue color scheme added a fresh contemporary and patriotic feel.”

Mr. Alcala is well-known in the design community and his work is in many galleries, including in the National Postal Museum. A few of his many notable, iconic artworks for the Postal Service include the stamps for Wilt Chamberlain (2014), Janis Joplin (2014), Elvis Presley (2015), and the Solar Eclipse (2017).

Go For Broke Stamp Artist Antonio Alcala (Courtesy of Capitol Communicator)

Meet the artist through this 4-minute 2016 YouTube video from AARP. In it, he discusses his life as a stamp designer.

Click here to read a full interview with Mr. Alcala from the Capitol Communicator.

Want to learn more about intagio? Here is a 5-minute introduction to intaglio from the Museum of Modern Art.