Spark Matsunaga is the person portrayed on the $10,000 I-Bond. Here is a little history about him:
Spark Matsunaga, a war hero who became a United States Senator from Hawaii, dedicated his career to promoting peace and achieving justice. A Japanese-American, Matsunaga served with distinction in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the first Japanese American unit formed during World War II, for which he received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. As a political leader, he was a champion of civil rights for all Americans regardless of race. As a member of the United States Senate, he worked to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and he fought for redress for survivors of the World War II internment camps.
Masayuki Matsunaga was born on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii, on October 8, 1916. His childhood friends nicknamed him Spark; he later legally adopted the name. Matsunaga attended the Kauai public schools before entering the University of Hawaii in 1937, majoring in education and serving in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon graduation in June 1941, Matsunaga was commissioned in the Army and was serving on active duty on the island of Molokai when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Shortly afterward, he and other Japanese-Americans were relieved of their duties and shipped to a military facility, Camp McCoy, in Wisconsin, while the War Department in Washington decided whether they could fight for America. Matsunaga, along with the other soldiers, petitioned President Roosevelt for a chance to prove their loyalty.
In the Spring of 1942, President Roosevelt and other Washington leaders determined that Japanese-Americans in the Army would be loyal to the country; Matsunaga and 1,500 other Japanese-Americans formed the 100th Infantry Battalion and trained for combat duty. In September 1943, the battalion was sent to Italy; Matsunaga was wounded twice in the same night while moving through a minefield. After recuperating, Matsunaga could not go back to combat but received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for his heroic acts, and was assigned to a replacement battalion. Late in the war, he returned to the U.S. where he gave 800 speeches to help Japanese-Americans become integrated into the mainstream of American life after being released from the detention camps where they were kept during the war. The 100th Infantry Battalion eventually became a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of Japanese-American soldiers, the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.
Matsunaga returned to Hawaii in 1946, worked in veterans affairs briefly, married, and then entered Harvard Law School in 1948. After graduation, he practiced law in Hawaii and began his political career, being elected to the Territorial Legislature in what was known as the “Democratic Revolution” of 1954 engineered by veterans of the 100th and 442nd to take control of the legislature for the first time. Matsunaga and other Japanese-Americans were among the leaders in Hawaii’s bid for statehood, which passed in 1959.
In 1962, Matsunaga won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, making the rights of immigrants, the welfare of veterans, and the defense of Japanese-Americans and other minorities his hallmarks. In 1976, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, supporting legislation to establish a research organization called the United States Peace Institute and to authorize the post of Poet Laureate. As a Senator, he was also a major proponent of the use of renewable energy sources and Soviet-American cooperation in space exploration. Perhaps Matsunaga’s greatest achievement in the Senate was obtaining redress for Japanese-Americans who had been unjustly interned during World War II. The survivors of the camps received “token monetary compensation” and an apology from President Ronald Reagan. Another signature legislative achievement was the Spark Matsunaga Hydrogen Research and Development Act, which was passed in 1990 and provides funding for research into alternative energy sources. His last official act was to cast a vote in favor of continuing the Clean Air Act.
In 1990, Senator Matsunaga died while serving in the U.S. Senate. In his honor, the University of Hawaii established the Matsunaga Institute for Peace in which scholars explore ways to resolve differences without resorting to violence. This is a fitting tribute to a man who, having known the suffering of war, sought to bring the joy of peace to the human race.