Donald K. Tamaki Interview Segment 1

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Involvement as an attorney helping atomic bomb survivors

0:02:53 — Segment 1 of 13

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September 27, 2015

Naoko Wake Collection of Oral Histories of US Survivors of the Atomic Bombs


Courtesy of Naoko Wake, Densho


Donald K. Tamaki

Donald K. Tamaki Interview

1:12:12 — 13 segments


San Francisco, California

Born in 1951, Donald K. Tamaki spent his formative years in the era of the African American and Asian American civil rights movements. He studied at the Asian American Studies program at University of California, Berkeley, and became a lawyer inspired by the significant social and political changes of the 1970s. In the early 1980s, he joined the legal effort to overturn Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui cases. Tamaki also served as the Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus that served low-income clients in the Bay Area. It was around this time that he became involved with US survivors. He felt that these survivors were important living witnesses to the nuclear destruction, and as such, they would be able to encourage more people to support nuclear-free world. He joined Friends of Hibakusha, a group that supports US hibakusha, and assisted media publicity of the biannual medical checkups of American survivors conducted by Japanese physicians. He says that these medical checkups are not only for spreading anti-nuclear messages, but also for collecting scientific data on hibakusha. Tamaki also states that the overall lack of universal health care in the United States was one of the reasons why US survivors' effort in the 1970s to gain the US government's recognition and free medical treatment for their radiation illnesses failed. The US justification for the use of the atomic bombs, too, was the contributing factor. The interview contains his thoughts on interethnic collaborations, importance of shifting the political "middle," military necessity and national security, and nuclear threats.

Naoko Wake, interviewer


Courtesy of Naoko Wake, Densho