Issue: Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII Stamp
Item Number: 480500
Denomination & Type of Issue: First-Class Mail Forever
Format: Pane of 20 (1 design)
Issue Date & City: June 3, 2021, Los Angeles, CA 90052
Art Director: Antonio Alcalá
Designer: Antonio Alcalá
Artist: Antonio Alcalá
Modeler: Sandra Lane / Michelle Finn
Manufacturing Process: Intaglio, Offset
Printer: Banknote Corporation of America
Press Type: Alprinta 74 / Phoenix
Stamps per Pane: 20
Print Quantity: 20,000,000 stamps
Paper Type: Phosphor, Block Tag
Adhesive Type: Pressure-sensitive
Colors: Blue PMS 294, Red PMS 186
Stamp Orientation: Vertical
Image Area (w x h): 0.84 x 1.42 in./ 21.336 x 36.068 mm
Overall Size (w x h): 0.98 x 1.56 in./24.892 x 39.624 mm
Full Pane Size (w x h): 5.92 x 7.50 in./150.368 x 190.50 mm
Press Sheets Size (w x h): 11.84 x 22.5 in./300.736 x 571.500 mm
Plate Size: 240 stamps per revolution
Plate Number: “B” followed by two (2) single digits in two corners
Front: Header: Go for Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II • Plate number in bottom two corners
Back: ©2020 USPS • USPS logo • 2 barcodes (480500) • Plate position diagram (6) • Promotional text
On June 3, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA, the United States Postal Service® will issue the Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII stamp (Forever® priced at the First-Class Mail® rate) in one design, in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) pane of 20 stamps (Item 480500). This stamp will go on sale nationwide June 3, 2021, and must not be sold or canceled before the first-day-of-issue.
With this commemorative stamp issuance, the Postal Service™ recognizes the contributions of Japanese American soldiers, some 33,000 altogether, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. The stamp, made to resemble an engraving, was printed in the intaglio print method. The image is based on a photograph taken in 1944, in France, of a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was “Go for Broke.” The stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá.
No automatic distribution.
Only the following pictorial postmark is permitted for the Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII stamp. The word “Station” or the abbreviation “STA” is required somewhere in the design because it will be a temporary station. Use of any image other than the following special pictorial image is prohibited.
How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark:
Customers have 120 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office™ or at The Postal Store® website at usps.com/shop. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:
FDOI – Go for Broke: Japanese American
Soldiers of WWII Stamp
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900
After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. There is a 5-cent charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by October 3, 2021.
May 14, 2021
Go For Broke: World War II Forever Stamp
Reverence for Japanese American Veterans
The U.S. Postal Service will honor Japanese American veterans with the Go For Broke: Japanese Americans Soldiers of World War II commemorative stamp. Second-generation Japanese Americans, also known as nisei, formed one of the most distinguished American fighting units of World War II: the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was “Go for Broke.”
The stamp was designed by Antonio Alcalá and is based on a photograph of a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The photograph was taken in 1944 at a railroad station in France.
News of the stamp is being shared with the hashtags #GoForBroke and #GoForBrokestamp
- The Honorable Lee Moak, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors
Gen. David A. Bramlett, U.S. Army (retired)
- Thursday, June 3, 2021, at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT
- A virtual dedication ceremony will be posted on the Postal Service’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Please visit usps.com/goforbrokestamp for details.
A pictorial postmark of the designated first-day-of-issue city, Los Angeles, CA, will be available at usps.com/shopstamps.
- The U.S. Postal Service recognizes the contributions that Japanese American soldiers made while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.
For a time after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, second-generation Japanese Americans were subjected to increased scrutiny and prejudice because of their heritage.
Known as nisei, these second-generation Japanese Americans were eventually able to join the war effort. The Army turned to nisei to serve as translators, interpreters and interrogators in the Pacific theater for the Military Intelligence Service. Nearly a thousand nisei men served in the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion and more than 100 nisei women joined the Women’s Army Corp. Altogether, some 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The Go For Broke: Japanese Americans Soldiers of World War II stamps are being issued as Forever stamps, which will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.
Customers may purchase stamps and other philatelic products through the Postal Store at usps.com/shopstamps, by calling 844-737-7826, by mail through USA Philatelic, or at Post Office locations nationwide.
The Postal Service generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
The new stamp is based on a photo of U.S. Army Private First Class Shiroku ‘Whitey’ Yamamoto with the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, Antitank Company in Touet de l’Escarène, France. U.S. Postal Service.
As was the case with many minority groups, Japanese Americans viewed military service as an avenue to upward mobility. As historian Brenda Moore writes, “racial and ethnic minorities were afforded no more rights than noncitizens; many served in the armed services with the expectation of attaining the citizenship rights denied them…” Large scale Japanese migration to Hawaii began in 1885 and to the continental U.S. soon after. Japanese migrants soon found themselves the target of an anti-Japanese movement that saw a variety of legal restrictions promulgated against them. One of the most vexing was the denial of naturalization rights, eliminating one of the standard avenues by which immigrants had been able to protect their rights. As early as the Spanish American War, some Japanese immigrants volunteered for military service as an avenue to gaining citizenship.
America’s entrance into World War I saw the first large-scale military service by Japanese Americans. Making up over one-third of the population of Hawaii by this time, Japanese Americans were among the first to enlist. Some 838 resident Japanese were drafted in Hawai’i, necessitating an all-Japanese unit, Company D of the National Guard. Many Issei signed up with the hope that their service would lead to their being granted U.S. citizenship, a hope that would mainly be dashed.
With war clouds on the horizon and tensions with Japan escalating, the U.S. reinstituted the draft in November of 1940 and also recognized the need to begin training Americans in the Japanese language to serve as translators and interpreters in the event of war. Both of these developments affected Japanese Americans. By 1940, many Nisei were of legal age, and many were drafted, with some 5,000 having been inducted into the U.S. Army by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many of them were from Hawaii, where Nisei made up a substantial portion of the Hawaii National Guard’s 298th and 299th Regiments. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, some 600 Japanese Americans were training at Schofield Barracks in central Oahu. Meanwhile, the Military Intelligence Service Language School opened in San Francisco in November of 1941 with a class of sixty students—fifty-eight of whom were Japanese American—taught by four Nisei instructors.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, two groups of Japanese Americans in Hawaii played important roles in early defense efforts. Members of the Hawaii National Guard were called on to guard against possible enemy invasion in the chaotic hours after the attack. As fears of a Japanese attack rose in the early months of 1942, Hawaii’s military governor Delos Emmons worried what might happen if Japanese troops invaded wearing American uniforms and decided to form the Nisei members of the Hawaii National Guard into a battalion to be sent to the mainland. The Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion was formed in near secrecy and 1,432 men shipped out on for San Francisco on June 5 as the Battle of Midway raged. After landing in San Francisco, they traveled by train to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where they would train for the next six months, becoming the original members of the 100th Infantry Battalion.
The other group was the Hawaii Territorial Guard, formed by the governor shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The core of this group was made up of members of ROTC units, many from the University of Hawai’i. Half of them were Japanese American. Issued World War I vintage rifles, they were dispatched to guard key points around the island. But after a month of service, the Nisei members of the group were suddenly released from duty on January 19, 1942, on orders from Washington, D.C. Encouraged by local YMCA director Hung Wai Ching, 169 of the dismissed Nisei signed a petition directed to Emmons offering their volunteer labor towards the war effort. On February 23, 1942, Emmons gave his blessing to the formation of the Varsity Victory Volunteers, an all-Nisei labor battalion.
For those serving on the mainland, individual commanders were given the option of discharging Japanese American soldiers or assigning them to “harmless duties.” Some 600 Nisei were given honorable discharges and others were given less than honorable discharges, while most Japanese American soldiers already in the army were sent to Camp Robinson in Arkansas, where their guns were taken away, and they were made to perform menial tasks such as collecting garbage. In the meantime, Selective Service stopped accepting Nisei in early 1942 on the grounds that they were “not acceptable to the armed forces because of nationality or ancestry.”
While the 100th Infantry Battalion continued to train at Camp McCoy, a debate about whether to allow Nisei to serve in the military was taking place. A group called the Board of Military Utilization of U.S. Citizens of Japanese Ancestry that was made up of five colonels and War Relocation Authoritydirector Dillon Myer was formed in June of 1942 to explore that question, and three months later, issued a report against the formation of a Japanese American unit “because of the universal distrust in which they are held.”But a month later, Elmer Davis of the Office of War Information wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt calling for a Nisei fighting unit as a propaganda weapon to counter Japanese claims of American racism. Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, one of the architects of the mass incarceration, also supported the idea, and the War Department came to support the idea. On February 1, 1943, President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Japanese American unit, albeit with white officers.
A soldier and his mother in a strawberry field. The soldier, age 23, volunteered July 10, 1941, and is stationed at Camp Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was furloughed to help his mother and family prepare for their evacuation. He is the youngest of six years children, two of them volunteers in United States Army. The mother, age 53, came from Japan 37 years ago. Her husband died 21 years ago, leaving her to raise six children. She worked in a strawbery basket factory until last year when her her children leased three acres of strawberries “so she wouldn’t have to work for somebody else”. The family is Buddhist. This is her youngest son. Her second son is in the army stationed at Fort Bliss. 453 families are to be evacuated from this area. Photograph taken in Florin, Sacramento County, California, 11 May 1942.
While the 100th Battalion continued its training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and the Military Intelligence Service Language School began to send trained linguists to the battlefields of the Pacific, the call went out for volunteers for the 442nd. The initial goal was for 3,000 volunteers from the continental U.S. and 1,500 from Hawaii. It soon became apparent that those quotas were reversed: embittered by their confinement in American concentration camps, barely 1,000 volunteered from behind barbed wire. But in Hawai’i, where there was no mass incarceration, more than 10,000 Nisei stepped forward. Of these, 2,686 were accepted. They were sent off at a memorable farewell ceremony on March 28, 1943, at ‘Iolani Palace attended by a crowd of some 15,000 people. The new recruits were sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for basic training.
At Camp Shelby, the mainland kotonks and the Hawaii-born Buddhaheads fought over misperceptions and misunderstandings but eventually bonded after a trip to one of the nearby incarceration camps in Arkansas. In August, 1943, the 100th shipped out, landing in North Africa and plunging into battle in Salerno, Italy, where the first casualties were suffered. The 100th were involved in campaigns at Cassino and the Anzio Campaign leading to the Allied capture of Rome. In June of 1944, the 442nd arrived in Europe, and the battle tested 100th became its first battalion.
Despite the sterling war record the 100th and later the 442nd were compiling in Europe, the navy, marine corps, and air force refused to take Japanese Americans for the most part, though there a few individual exceptions. The most famous of these was Ben Kuroki, a Nisei from Nebraska who became a celebrated Army Air Corps tail gunner in both Europe and the Pacific.
In addition to the well publicized exploits of Kuroki and the 100th and 442nd, there were others. In the Pacific, the Nisei linguists of the Military Intelligence Service endured great risk — from the enemy as well as from friendly fire — to perform vital translation and interpretation tasks. On the home front, groups like the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion performed vital construction tasks. By the middle of 1943, Nisei women has been deemed eligible for the Women’s Army Corps , and Nisei women were inducted beginning in November. There were also a handful of Nisei in the Counter Intelligence Corps, most famously Richard Sakakida .
A number of the prewar inductees — collectively known as military resisters — became frustrated at the discriminatory treatment they faced in the army while their families were sent to American concentration camps. While most of the prewar inductees eventually joined the 442nd, a significant number refused combat training—with some even attempting to renounce their U.S. citizenship — ending up either as laborers in the 1800th Engineer General Service Battalion or in prison.
The 442nd took part in the Rome-Arno Campaign in July 1944, action at Bruyeres-Biffontaine, and most famously, in the rescue of the Lost Battalion in October 1944. In March of 1945, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion was detached from the 442nd, becoming a roving battalion. In the spring of 1945, the 522nd took part in the liberation of one of the subordinate slave labor camps of Dachau, while the 442nd was engaged in the Gothic Line and Po Valley Campaign. As the war came to an end, Nisei in the MIS took part in the surrender of Japan and in the subsequent occupation.
Going for Broke
By the end of 1943, U.S. military leaders had grimly realized they were running short of manpower. The political decision to reclassify the Nisei as ineligible for the draft was being reconsidered, as commanders were hearing impressive reports of Nisei volunteers in their training. Mike Masaoka of the Japanese American Citizens League was also lobbying the military brass for the opportunity to show through a “demonstration in blood” that Japanese Americans were loyal Americans.
On Jan. 20, 1944, Secretary of War Henry Stimson announced the reinstatement of the draft for all Nisei men. Young Japanese American men were now considered loyal enough for compulsory military service. These draftees from the detention camps subsequently fought in some of the bloodiest battles in Europe.
The Nisei soldiers shared a spirit, and a motto, of “Go for Broke,” Hawaiian gambling slang for wagering everything on one roll of the dice. They wanted to give it all to defend their country and prove their patriotism.
The Japanese American soldiers helped drive the German army out of Italy and continued into eastern France, fighting nonstop for nearly two months in the Vosges Mountains. Their last-ditch effort rescued over 200 soldiers from Texas, who had been stranded behind German lines for nearly a week.
By the time the Nisei troops emerged from the Vosges, the number of dead and wounded outnumbered the living. One company had started out with 185 men, but ended up with only eight. This terrible casualty rate earned the 442nd the nickname of the “Purple Heart Battalion.”
Approximately 18,000 Nisei soldiers served in the combined 100th and 442nd, and collectively they and their units earned more than 14,000 awards, making it the most decorated military unit for its size and length of service in all of U.S. military history.
One top military official in the Pacific theater credited the Nisei MIS interpreters with saving tens of thousands of American lives and shortening the war by as much as two years.
The Nisei soldiers might have prevailed over the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific, but they came home to racial prejudice that had only intensified during the war. In 1981, MIS veteran Mits Usui recalled that as he returned to his hometown of Los Angeles, wearing his U.S. Army uniform, a bus rider called him a “Damn J*p.” Inouye described how after he was released from the hospital as a decorated second lieutenant with a hook replacing the arm he had lost in combat, a San Francisco barber refused to cut his “J*p hair.”
Vigilantes were terrorizing the veterans’ families so they would not return to their West Coast homes. Some were threatened with bodily harm. The government promoted stories of the Nisei soldiers’ valor as part of a pro-Japanese American publicity campaign to combat the terrorism.
For U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, President Ronald Reagan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was important recognition of the Nisei’s wartime sacrifices. That legislation officially apologized for the incarceration and provided token reparations payments to the surviving incarcerees. A decorated 100th/442nd member, Matsunaga recalled, “We feel now that our efforts at the battlefront – giving up our lives and being wounded and maimed and disabled – all this was for a great cause, great ideals … to remove the one big blot on the Constitution that has been there for over 45 years.”
Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service (front; bronze duplicate). US Mint design: Obverse-Joel Iskowitz Reverse-Don Everhart
By the end of the war, the 442nd (including the 100th prior to becoming part of the it) received some 4,000 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 559 Silver Stars, and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses among many other decorations. In the immediate aftermath of the war, only one member of 442nd received the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor. However a review in the 1990s resulted in 20 additional Medals of Honors being awarded in 2000. Among the decorations received by the MIS are a Presidential Unit Citation, 5 Silver Stars, and 3 Distinguished Service Crosses.
An estimated 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the military during and immediately after World War II, about 18,000 in the 442nd and 6,000 as part of the MIS. Approximately eight hundred Japanese Americans were killed in action during World War II.
Formed in part for their propaganda value, the exploits of the 442nd and 100th received great publicity during the war that continued into the postwar era. In addition to being the subject of numerous books and articles, their story was told in the 1951 feature film Go for Broke , starring Van Johnson with several Nisei veterans playing supporting roles. Veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill to get college educations and many took on leadership roles in the community, helping to turn back discriminatory legislation in the continental U.S. and leading a political “revolution” in Hawai’i, where a group of Nisei veterans including Daniel Inouye , Spark Matsunaga , and George Ariyoshi went on to hold the highest political offices in the new state in the 1960s and 70s. As historian Franklin Odo wrote about the members of the Varsity Victory Volunteers—but that applies to Nisei veterans in general—”Most of the others did extremely well in their work and lives. And while they did not actively seek to create a ‘ model minority ,’ their achievements, as well as the roles assigned to them in the postwar era, became integral to that new racial construction, first in Hawai’i and later in the nation.”
Nisei veterans formed a variety of clubs and organizations after the war that served social, community service, and political functions. In recent decades, sons and daughter organizations have also formed to continue the legacy of the veterans as their numbers have declined.
In 2005, surviving Nisei veterans and their families launched a campaign to have the U.S. Postal Service issue a stamp honoring all Japanese Americans who served in World War II, including the women who served. The campaign has had support from bipartisan local, state and federal legislators, as well as from French citizens and officials who have not forgotten the Nisei heroes who freed their towns from German forces. The stamp is one of only a few in U.S. postal history to feature an Asian American or Pacific Islander.
The new stamp is based on a photo of U.S. Army Private First Class Shiroku ‘Whitey’ Yamamoto with the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, Antitank Company in Touet de l’Escarène, France.