Here are six facts about the Postal Service’s new Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII stamps.
1. The stamp was a long time coming. Go for Broke is the result of 16 years of persistent effort by the Stamp Our Story Coalition, made up largely of the family and friends of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. While the stamp is meant to honor all the 33,000 Japanese American men and women who served during World War II, Go for Broke was the motto of the 442nd, the most decorated unit of its size and length of duty in the history of the U.S. military.
2. The soldiers fought under a cloud of suspicion. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were not permitted to enlist in the military. Some draft-age ROTC students in Hawaii — many of whom had been first responders at Pearl Harbor — did not let that stop them: They formed Varsity Victory Volunteers, working as a noncombat unit with Army engineers. The volunteers became an integral part of the 442nd when the Army changed its discriminatory policy in 1943.
3. The stamp image is of a “typical” Go for Broke soldier. Like so many of his comrades in the 442nd, Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto, a native of Hawaii, was a nisei, or child of Japanese immigrants. Nisei from Hawaii represented a disproportionately large number of Japanese Americans who fought in the war. The image is based on a photo of the private first class at a train station in the French village of Touet de L’Escarene. Before his death in 2018, Yamamoto was a decades-long volunteer at the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii in Honolulu.
4. The 442nd was covered in glory. Honors bestowed on the unit include 21 Medals of Honor, more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 588 Silver Stars and more than 4,000 Bronze Stars. “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice,” President Harry S. Truman said on the 442nd’s return to the United States. “And you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win.”
5. The stamp got bipartisan — and even foreign — support. Democrats and Republicans haven’t agreed on much since the stamp campaign began, but they did agree on the stamp’s importance, and the project enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle. The support for a tribute wasn’t only on these shores, either: French citizens in the areas freed by the 442nd also encouraged the honor.
6. There’s so much more to know. Further information about the 442nd can be found in books such as “The Go for Broke Spirit, Vols. 1 and 2”; movies, including the 2006 documentary “Going for Broke,” narrated by George Takei, and the 1951 drama “Go for Broke”; and several websites, including the site for the Go for Broke National Education Center in Los Angeles as well as military and veterans’ sites.