MOH Recipient James Okubo Posthumously Awarded Honorary College Degree

By Faye Higbee

James Okubo was just one of 120,000 Japanese Americans that were sent to internment camps in WWII. He was attending the Western Washington College of Education to be a dentist, when he was forced to leave the school for an internment camp at Tule Lake, California. He never graduated from the school. But on Saturday, he was posthumously given an honorary degree (Kie Relyea via Stripes).

Our family had a friend from Hawaii, who had been forced into that camp. The strange fact is, many of the young men actually enlisted to fight in WWII, entering one of the most famed units of the entire war: the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It became one of the most decorated military units in US History…and was made entirely of Japanese-Americans.

James Okubo served as a medic with that unit after enlisting in 1943. In acts of extraordinary heroism, he was awarded the Silver Star, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor after the records were reviewed in 2000.

His MOH citation reads:

Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

James Okubo’s family accepted the honorary degree for him on Saturday. He died in a car crash in 1967. He had never been to Japan and never spoken Japanese when he was thrust into the internment camp. His actions during the war proved his loyalty to the United States. Seventy-seven years after he was ordered to the internment camp, he was finally granted a Bachelor’s degree.

Featured photo: James Okubo via Wikimedia