Wayne Osako says the story of Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans who volunteered to serve in World War II despite America’s treatment of those with Japanese heritage during that time, strikes him “to the core.”
“Despite the government classifying them not as citizens anymore, but as ‘enemy aliens,’ if you can believe it, they wanted to prove their loyalty and still serve the United States,” Osako said.
Osako is a third-generation Japanese-American. He grew up hearing these stories.
“My parents were both incarcerated in the camps due to their Japanese heritage. Nothing to what they did; they were just junior high kids,” Osako said. “And I have a number of relatives, including my uncle and great uncle, [who] served in the military during the war.”
Osako says it wasn’t until years after hearing “camp stories” that he learned this was not just a summer camp his relatives were talking about. He grew up to be a history teacher and to work with the “Go For Broke” National Education Center in Los Angeles. “Go For Broke” was the motto of a group of WWII Nisei soldiers – the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Among the highlights of this team’s many heroic efforts was the rescue of a battalion of Texas soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.
They were awarded thousands of medals for valor. But Osako says a small group of women also wanted to see a commemorative stamp.
“The founder of the campaign, Fusa Takahashi of Sacramento, California, she said it’s just a little stamp, but it has a big impact,” Osako said. “And she really wants the younger generations to be able to see this legacy on a U.S. commemorative stamp and to know and be proud of their heritage.”
Osako says the effort took 15 years and was truly grassroots.
“And we’ve had people in Texas really rise to the challenge,” Osako said. “Sandra Tanamachi, who’s from a family with one uncle that passed away, was killed in action during that rescue. Gary Nakamura as well. He has a father that was interned in Gila River in Arizona, yet served. And both of them are important to the effort in Texas.”
Osako also wanted to thank William Scarbrough and members of the 36th Division Association, Greg Shigemasa of the Texas Veterans Commission, and the Texas Military Forces Museum.
The “Go For Broke” stamp will be available in 2021.