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 WWII 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.