The “Heart and Soul” of the “Go For Broke” Stamp Campaign Passes Away at 94
Gregg K. Kakesako
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Fusako Uyemura Takahashi, who initiated the 16-year-long campaign to recognize the accomplishments of the World War II Nisei warriors, especially the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, that resulted in the issuance of the “Go For Broke” U.S. postage stamp last summer, died on Jan. 16, 2022 at her home in Northern California.
She was 94 and considered “the heart and soul” of the national campaign to honor all American men and women of Japanese ancestry who served in World War II, not only the 442nd RCT, but the more than 33,000 Japanese Americans who were members of the Military Intelligence Service and other units. It is the first in U.S. postal history to feature an Asian American soldier.
Her daughter, Lynn Franklin said “While we are all still in shock with my mom’s sudden passing, knowing how impactful she has been to the world has been comforting. We are so proud of her for all that she accomplished and for her strength and determination to stand up for what is right … she was a force to be reckoned with … her Facebook postings and the comments tell it all.”
Daughter Diane Yuen said Takahashi was a big San Francisco 49ers fan and died shortly after watching her team defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card game. “We think it was the excitement and stress of the game. She spent all week anticipating it,” Yuen said.
Fusako Takahashi was born on May 10, 1927 and grew up on a farm in Cortez, located in Merced County, California. She was the middle child of seven siblings. During World War II her family was sent to Camp Amache (Granada Relocation Center) — an internment camp in southeastern Colorado — with her family.
After visiting Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum exhibit featuring the soldiers of the 442nd in 2005, she and childhood friend Aiko Ogata King, who was held in the same Colorado internment camp, were motivated to begin the stamp campaign.
Takahashi told The Hawai‘i Herald in an interview (thehawaiiherald.com/2021/05/21/usps-stamp-june-3-nationwide-go-for-broke-stamp-release/) from her home in Granite Bay near Sacramento last year before the stamp was issued that “it was so important that the story of these brave soldiers needed to be told and raise public awareness.” She found “it frustrating at times when I would see cartoon characters and pop culture being recognized (with a stamp), but Japanese American soldiers, who gave so much to this country, weren’t being honored as life’s true heroes.”
Takahashi and King wrote to Sen. Daniel Inouye, who along with other senators urged the postmaster general to issue a stamp honoring the AJA soldiers. Joining them in the campaign were Chiz Ohira and Wayne Osako, co-chair of the Stamp Our Story Committee. Their dream was realized when the postal service on June 3, 2021 issued the “Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII” forever stamp. The stamp features an artist’s depiction of 442nd veteran Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto from the Big Island. Yamamoto died in 2018.
After the war she and Kazuo Takahashi, her husband and a pharmacist, purchased a drugstore in San Pablo. When her husband died, Takahashi took over the pharmacy, hiring a full-time pharmacist and running the store. Her husband, a Military Intelligence Service veteran, died in 1977. He joined the Army from behind the barbed wire fences of Topaz Internment Camp in Utah and was stationed in Japan from 1946-49.
“As we grieve her passing alongside her family, we remember her kindness, leadership, and vision for the 15-year community movement that spread across the nation, and around the world, and led to the groundbreaking creation of the Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp last year,” said Wayne Osako, Co-Chair with Takahashi of the Stamp Our Story Committee.
Aiko Ogata King is 94 years old and lives in a care facility in Camarillo in Southern California. Chiz Ohira, who died in 2018, was married to Ted Ohira, a member of H Company of the 442nd RCT from Kauai. Ted Ohira died in 2007 in Gardena, California.