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University to Award an Honorary Bachelor’s Degree For Japanese American World War II Veteran

Japanese internment detainees

On June 15th, Western Washington University will award a posthumous bachelor’s degree to James K. Okubo, a former student incarcerated for his Japanese ancestry during World War II. According to the Monroe Monitor, his detention along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans in 1942 disrupted his education and prevented him from getting his degree..

The Seattle Times reported Okubo had dreams of becoming a dentist. Both professors and peers admired the sophomore as an excellent student.

A few months later, labeled an “enemy alien” because of his ethnic background, he boarded a train to an internment camp.

In 1943, Okubo enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a decorated veteran, KGMI reports. He received a Silver Star in 1944 for his efforts in saving fellow soldiers in France and a Medal of Honor in the year 2000.

He also served as a medic for the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of almost all second-generation Japanese Americans. During battle, Okubo dodged fire and grenades to carry wounded men to safety.

After the war, Okubo settled in Detroit and became a dentist. However, he would die in a car crash in 1967 at the age of 46.

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