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SALT LAKE CITY – For Japanese-Americans who lived in the U.S. during World War II the end of the war didn’t just mean the victory of the country over Japan. It also marked their release from the internment camps they were forced to live in during the war and their need to find financial assistance they couldn’t get from banks. They found that assistance in the newly formed National JACL CU, and 62 years later the credit union’s field-of-membership remains unchanged-members of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). The formation of National JACL CU was the idea of Hito Okada, a past treasurer of JACL who retired from the CU in 1976. According to National JACL CU President Terrell Nagata, as the “money man” for JACL, Okada was often approached by other Japanese to lend them the organization’s money to use for transportation costs to jobs or other personal needs. “Many Japanese-Americans kept their money in suitcases because they couldn’t open accounts at banks or get loans,” explained Nagata. “But Okada couldn’t lend them JACL money because it belonged to the organization. That inspired him to organize the credit union.”

That and becoming acquainted with Karl S. Little, the “father” of the credit union movement whom Okada had the opportunity to meet when he moved to Salt Lake City to join the National Headquarters of the Japanese American Citizens League to handle their fiscal problems. It was 1942 and the Utah State Credit Union League, as it was known then, was still in its infancy. In order to get assistance to organize a credit union in the state, Ogada had to contact a member of the league, and that member turned out to be Little.

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