By Wayne Osako, Contributor
Bipartisan lawmakers from Wyoming, Utah, Illinois and California have rallied support for a U.S. commemorative stamp that would recall the inspiring story of Americans of Japanese heritage who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The recent endorsements are significant because they include two states that were home to the incarceration camps where Japanese Americans were held during the war.
February marks the 75th anniversary remembering the start of the World War II incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans by the U.S. government. The postal honor would tell the story of this confinement, as well as recall the service and sacrifice of those who enlisted in the military to show 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, co-authored a letter of support on Nov. 16: “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.
Wyoming is home to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, where more than 14,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated and held, approximately 800 of whom enlisted in the U.S. 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 delegation includes Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso, as well as Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert added his voice of support in a Dec. 1 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.”
Utah Sen. Jani Iwamoto also has been spearheading efforts in support of the stamp. She is leading the Utah state resolution, which has been numbered. Her father, Nobuo Iwamoto, was an MIS veteran of WWII, and he also served in the Korean Conflict. He passed away in November 2016.
Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) joined the voices backing the stamp. “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,” 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 U.S. Armed Forces.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also announced that she, too, sent a letter to the U.S. 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,” Feinstein wrote in her Oct. 5 letter. “I feel that this would be an appropriate tribute to honor their memory and hope you will consider issuing a stamp.”
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.
The 100th/442nd is considered the most-decorated unit of the war, and they are remembered for such battles as Monte Cassino, Anzio, the rescue of the Lost Battalion and for liberating towns across France. They also helped liberate prisoners of the Holocaust in Dachau, the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany.
Members of the MIS are credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by two years through their work as military linguists and help in redeveloping Japan during the Occupation, leading to the close postwar friendship between the two nations.
In addition, Japanese American women served in the Women’s Army Corps 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. The Stamp Our Story Campaign website is www.StampOurStory.org.
As of Jan. 24, 57 bipartisan members of Congress (18 Republicans and 39 Democrats) and three state governors (1 Republican and 2 Democrats) have voiced their support.