INDEPENDENCE — An estimated 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. Approximately 18,000 served in Europe in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. In the Pacific, 6,000 served in Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
More than 1,000 Japanese Americans served while their families were incarcerated in Manzanar, including 174 men and women who volunteered or were drafted from the camp.
Thanks to the efforts of the Stamp Our Story Committee, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) issued a commemorative “Go For Broke” stamp last year. This year, Manzanar National Historic Site and the Independence Post Office are partnering to honor their service and sacrifices July 2-4.
On Saturday, July 2, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, July 3, at 11 a.m., Darrell Kunitomi will present a program about his uncle Ted Fujioka’s short but dramatic life. Ted’s letters, written while he was serving in the 442nd RCT, trace his journey and show the raw, wartime patriotism of the era. He was killed in November 1944 in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France. The program will be in the West Theater of the Visitor Center.
For one hour before and after Kunitomi’s programs, Alan Broch from the Independence Post Office will sell “Go For Broke” stamps, and offer a dated “Manzanar Station” cancellation in the Manzanar Store. Wayne Osako, co-chair of the Stamp Our Story Committee, will also participate.
On Monday, July 4, Postmaster Bryan Coombes will open the Independence Post Office from 9 a.m. to 12 noon for stamps and cancellations. At 10 a.m. Monday, descendants of Japanese American World War II veterans will participate in Independence’s July Fourth Parade.
Manzanar is currently featuring part of photographer Shane Sato’s “Go For Broke Spirit” exhibit. The contemporary — and contemplative — photos feature Japanese American veterans of World War II, wearing military uniforms. Sato collaborated with oral historian Robert Horsting to publish two coffee table books, “The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage” and “The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Legacy,” available from the nonprofit Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA) store at Manzanar.
Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence. The Visitor Center is currently open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Confirm hours at https://www.nps.gov/manz.