PALO ALTO — A campaign is under way to have a Palo Alto middle school named after a Japanese American soldier.
Since 2016, Palo Alto has worked to rename two of its middle schools, Terman and Jordan. Some 1,600 submissions (500 unique names), including Steve Jobs and Gandhi, were sent to the city in a public process.
A 13-member committee was formed to recommend new names to the Board of Education. That committee has so far honed the many submissions to a short list of finalists they are researching. The list of finalists is subject to change. It is also possible a place will be chosen for the name, versus honoring a person.
One of the current finalists is Fred M. Yamamoto, who served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. He died at the age of 26 in France on Oct. 28, 1944 while taking part in the famed rescue of the Texas “Lost Battalion,” which was trapped behind enemy lines. The battle was a success, but the Nisei soldiers took heavy casualties.
A 1936 graduate of Palo Alto High School, Yamamoto was a member of Page Mill Methodist Church, the precursor to Aldersgate Methodist Church in Palo Alto. When his family was incarcerated at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming, he became a staff member of The Sentinel, the camp newspaper, and was the first to volunteer for the Army.
Several members of Page Mill Church enlisted, but Yamamoto was the only one who didn’t come back. Among those he left behind was his sweetheart, Michiko Yamada, whom he planned to marry.
Pfc. Takehiro Oshiro, who served in the same company as Yamamoto, was quoted as saying, “Fred was never one to sit back — and we GIs admired his courage and forcefulness … His faith in democracy never faltered, and some of us who for the moment had lost sight of the Nisei’s part in this conflict were bolstered by Fred’s realistic outlook.”
The board will hold public meetings on March 13 and 27) to hear the public’s comments about the finalists. Individuals and organizations interested in expressing support for Yamamoto are asked to contact Brad Shirakawa or write/email a letter of support. Go online to https://fredyamamotoschool.wordpress.com/ and go to “How You Can Help.”