Toshio “Tosh” Okamoto, K Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Photo by Shane Sato)
A fundraising campaign is under way for “The Go For Broke Spirit,” a 184-page hardcover book featuring 81 Japanese American veterans of World War II, as well as a follow-up book
Shane Sato, a photographer who has been based in Los Angeles for 30 years, launched a Kickstarter and received $32,462 in pledges from 281 backers, surpassing the goal of $25,000. After Oct. 21, donations can be made and books can be ordered by going to www.thegoforbrokespirit.com.
“I’ve been shooting portraits of Japanese American WWII Nisei veterans since 2000, starting with my ‘The Go For Broke’ series, which was shot in black and white, and had the veterans posing in their club shirts,” Sato said. “I wanted to do another series to continue photographing more veterans, so I thought I would shoot in color. I shot a few test portraits of veterans wearing their personal clothing. People thought that these were just photos of older Asians and/or seniors, and they could not make the link to their service as soldiers.
Ken Akune, Military Intelligence Service (Photo by Shane Sato)
“Around 2007, I decided to use uniforms to help the public ‘see into the past.’ There was a dramatic change in the response. Now people could equate these men, in the twilight of their lives, to the vets who fought in WWII. Having shot over 120 portraits since 2000, I [have been]working together with Robert Horsting, an oral historian, to create the coffee-table book, ‘The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage.’ By combining these portraits with personal photos and a short story of moments in each veteran’s life, we’re providing a ‘then and now’ experience. This project is intended to be photo-driven rather than a history book.
“So far I’ve only been able to photograph along the West Coast and Hawaii and produced this first ‘The Go For Broke Spirit’ book with my own funds. But with your help I can secure travel to the Midwest and East Coast to continue documenting these brave men and their stories to produce the second book, including some of the portraits that we were unable to include in the first book. This second book will complete my two-book series.
“Many people have asked why I waited so long. A lot of times these men were not open to being photographed, but as the years went on, they realized the importance of preserving their history, which might otherwise be lost. In recent years I’ve been getting more response from many of these men.
“This book project was funded personally and it entailed more hardships and costs than I originally expected, but I want to keep the price reasonable to the public so everyone can enjoy it. Please consider pledging more than the book’s cost to not just offset the additional expense, but so I can finish the second book.
“Please help me preserve the images and stories of these heroic men who fought for our country while their own families were incarcerated in camps. This is not just Japanese American history, it is American history.”
Sato and Horsting had a table at Go For Broke National Education Center’s Evening of Aloha on Sept. 23 in Los Angeles and spoke on Oct. 16 at Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans’ annual gathering in Las Vegas.
Shane Sato working on his book.