BELLINGHAM — In 1942, James Okubo was a sophomore at what was then Western Washington College of Education.
The Bellingham resident, who was born in Anacortes, became a popular pupil with a brief sense of humor. He turned into a member of the college’s ski club and an aspiring dentist.
By spring of 1942 — mere months after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor — Okubo and 33 other Whatcom County residents of Japanese descent have been taken from their homes and pressured into internment camps in states along with California, Colorado and New Mexico.
Despite having just earned the exceptional grades of his college career, Okubo by no means again to earn his degree.
But on Saturday, what is now Western Washington University offered Okubo a degree, something Western President Sabah Randhawa stated changed into “lengthy overdue.”
“Today we come together to honor the existence of James Okubo, to provide him the degree that rightfully should have been his nearly eighty years in the past,” Randhawa said.
Anne Okubo and Bill Okubo familiar the diploma on their father’s behalf. James Okubo died on the age of forty-six in a car accident during a family ski journey in 1967.
“I assume he would have been extraordinarily commemorated,” Anne Okubo said.
Until lately, Bill and Anne Okubo didn’t recognize their father was pressured to go away Western. They slightly knew of his life inside the internment camps or his next provider in the Army in World War II and knew little in their Japanese lifestyle.
“I didn’t want to be Asian, I desired to be blonde and feature blue eyes like any of our buddies,” Anne Okubo said. “We knew we had been Japanese, however, we didn’t want to be Japanese. Our dad and mom’ era paid a completely high charge of being Japanese.”
Other than a small scar on their father’s hand, nothing would have informed the Okubo children that their father had served in the Navy — let alone that he become a conflicted hero.
After being compelled from Bellingham, James Okubo become sent to the Tule Lake internment camp in California, consistent with the university.
While there, he enlisted inside the Army and, due to the anatomy classes he had taken at Western, was assigned as a medic to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit of Japanese-Americans that might pass on to be one of the most enormously decorated units in military history, the college said.
While serving in France in 1944, Okubo crawled a hundred and fifty yards thru heavy fire to help rescue soldiers who have been wounded in the back of enemy lines, treating 17 of them.
Days later, he ran through gunfire to pull a fellow soldier from a burning tank and keep his existence, according to the university.
“Like those different (veterans), he would likely feel that he was simply doing his job,” Bill Okubo stated of his father. “(That) there has been nothing special that he did.”
For his heroism, James Okubo turned into nominated for the Medal of Honor — the Navy’s maximum award — however because of a notion that medics have been ineligible for the award Okubo received the Silver Star.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton posthumously offered James Okubo the Medal of Honor. Two military homes, along with one at Joint Base Lewis McChord, are named after him.
Bill Okubo discovered of his father’s connection to Western after being invited to the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Plaza at the brand new Anacortes High School in 2016, he said.
“Every time there’s been a celebration around my dad’s Medal of Honor award it’s been an opportunity to analyze extra approximately him,” said Bill Okubo, who was 7 when his father died.
James Okubo is considered one of two veterans from Anacortes to have acquired the Medal of Honor and be venerated on the high school.
“This memorial looks like it is able to be in Washington, D.C., it’s so high-quality,” Bill Okubo said. “It becomes really a special acknowledgment in my mind and it felt like he becomes at peace.”
For Anne Okubo, the awarding of the honorary college degree has a unique meaning that her father’s navy honors, she stated.
“This is an acknowledgment of his personal achievement,” she stated.
It becomes vital to her that Western commemorated her father, no longer just for their family however for the destiny, she said.
“The lesson that I see of all this and why you talk about matters inside the beyond is so that you don’t repeat the errors of records,” she said.