Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview V
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 4, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-05

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is May 3rd, the year 2000 -- May 4th, year 2000. My watch is off, sorry about that. And this is the fifth interview that we've done. We started a little more than a year ago. And just to give some context of why you're here this time, I just wanted to mention that you're here because the University of Washington is honoring you as their distinguished alumnus for the year 2000, just to let the viewers know that, the context of why you're in Seattle this time. But this is the fifth one. And where we're picking up is the last, where I want to pick up is where the, your first trial in Seattle is over, and you've spent the last nine months in the King County jail, the fed tank in the King County jail. And you finally arranged for, to be on bail to go to Spokane. And this was worked out by Floyd Schmoe with the AFSC to do this. And so where I want to pick up is really the trip from Seattle to Spokane. And so if you could just pick it up there and explain how you got from Seattle to Spokane.

GH: Yeah. If I'd known what arrangements had been made, I could have raised more questions and prevented some of the things from happening. I thought, I thought I was being moved as part of the government process, and so getting a sleeper unit, even though I didn't have the sleeper to myself, was an extra privilege. People are sleeping on the seats. So afterwards, they were surprised that one officer was in a bunk of his own, and then two of us were put into a bunk, the other bunk, you know it's a two-decker. And another officer was in sort of a couch, couch bed. And so there are two officers and two of us in that sleeping quarters. And Floyd said his group paid for that, and thought that there would be one, one bunk for me and one bunk for one officer. And I said, he's, he learned of this later and was quite upset about it. But it was all done by then. And I didn't know that the arrangements were different than -- we really got cheated. [Laughs]

TI: Well, in addition to the cramped quarters, why was it needed to have an officer with you? You were out on bail, and couldn't they have just released you and you have gone on your own to Spokane? Because you were going to Spokane --

GH: No. It's restricted area. A U.S. marshal had to be there, too. So there's one officer and then the FBI guy, and then, then what they thought was just me as the prisoner. They took the opportunity to save money and brought another prisoner they were transferring, I think a native person was being transferred. I don't know how far they, we were together. So we were sharing the bunk. And he, he was going to sleep -- I was interested, so I was talking with one of the officials for most of the way over. And they, and one of the officers got a good night's sleep. You know if you, there are some people that can't sleep if somebody's talking. But others can, they're used to sleeping in lectures and so on. [Laughs] So there's situations where you could sleep under any circumstance.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Well, I'm curious, too, you were in jail for nine months, sort of cooped up. What were you thinking or feeling, sort of realizing you were now going to be released?

GH: Well, I'm, I'm like anybody else, looking forward to being out. But I didn't know what the circumstances would be. So whatever circumstances there were, I was expecting it to be cramped, and I was expecting to be sleeping, sitting up sleeping on...

TI: I mean...

GH: seat.

TI: Right. More than just the train ride, I mean, the anticipation of going to Spokane and being released into the general population.

GH: Yeah. Well, I didn't have too many opportunities. Once, when it was well along, the planning was well along, it takes a while to get this set up, get the government -- and actually, government did some of the initial inquiry. They said, "Your fellow's been in there for over nine months. We ought to get him out, and during the appeal." And he says, "Yeah, but Your Honor, you, you said that he couldn't get bail and be treated like other persons who post bail." So, "...and he refused to go to the camp, even, even though that's more freedom and it's more of a normal type community in terms of sex and age distribution than the jail tank." But he, on principle, said he couldn't accept that. So...

TI: And that's where Floyd Schmoe came in and...

GH: Yeah.

TI: ...made these arrangements for you to get, essentially a job in, to open a branch in Spokane...

GH: Yeah.

TI:, to be released to.

GH: Yeah. The lawyer was asked first, and the lawyer says, "I'll inquire." And he inquired with the committee. And the committee on which Floyd was a member said, "Well, we've got different kinds of programs that might be established in terms of Eastern Washington, which is unrestricted as far as Japanese were concerned. So maybe we could have a special office set up there and he could work out of that office." So discussion went on, and eventually it was set up with Philadelphia having enough money to do this. I was given a monthly salary, primarily to survive, survive salary.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well, why don't we, yeah, talk right at that moment? So what happened when you got off the train in Spokane? What was that like?

GH: Well, when I got off, I got off, I was free so far as being in handcuffs or anything like that. And it was up to me to get to someplace. I can't remember if anybody met me there. Eventually, I, since I had connections, experience of staying at YMCAs and so on when I went somewhere, I inquired there and found a room. And I, I, by the time Floyd came several days later, I was already, had a working space at the YMCA. And it was a kind of a social center for certain, certain transient population. So I, it was kind of a natural place for me to settle there as a starter.

TI: What was your first meal in freedom?

GH: I don't know exactly what it was, but I would guess that because I kept craving it, whatever the time of the day, I ordered fried eggs. I was having breakfast each meal because, never had breakfast. We had, when eggs were permitted as part of the breakfast, you know, bucket of hard-boiled eggs would be brought in. And each of us got an egg, plus some toast, bread, and so on. If we had cooked or dry cereal, some variation was served. And so one sign of freedom was having something like fried eggs, which never was part of our meal. Now, if you're in federal prison, fried eggs are one of the options there, I mean, when you go through the line. But we're, I'm talking about people held in cramped tanks, cell blocks, in holding places like King County jail. So when I was traveling en route to Spokane -- Heart Mountain...

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Okay. So let's just set the scene. So this is about February, March, 1943. Then Floyd Schmoe, you meet Floyd Schmoe in Spokane, and from there you're now going to visit some of the camps. Before you even talk about going to the camps, why are you going to the camps?

GH: Well, my, the, the work program that was approved with the federal office, court office, was that I would be working on a Quaker managed process, working on the relocation process of some of the people moving from camps into regular life. And so Spokane being one of the places for those who had either, settling in Eastern Washington or had -- some, some people preferred to locate in Spokane until such time as when Seattle, for example, became available for a move, rather than to move to Chicago, which was one of the big centers during the early part of camp release. Many people headed for Chicago or some of the other cities, Detroit, St. Louis, places like that, Minneapolis. But those who had western return in mind or wished to think about that possibility, found Spokane as a option.

TI: Well, before going to Heart Mountain, what preparation or information did you have to gather about Spokane before going to Heart Mountain?

GH: Nothing in particular. It was a city of a little over a 100,000. It was, at the time, the second city in the state, Seattle being the main metropolis. Spokane, it was about, Seattle was about 300,000. Spokane was around 100,000, little over a 100,000, and then Tacoma, 96,000, something like that at that time. So Tacoma and Spokane were fairly close together in terms of size. And other than that, I didn't know too much. And it was, and one of the things I was doing was to find out what kinds of jobs were short of people, manpower, and, and tried to find situations that would be suitable for potential Japanese releases.

TI: How about your knowledge of the Japanese American population in Spokane?

GH: I didn't have much. And it was, it was still, it was very small population. There was some Japanese there from prewar, and then maybe there was about the same number of people that had gravitated there during the -- I guess we were about one year into the war, so that some of the people from the camp had moved over. And then...

TI: This was even before you were there?

GH: Yeah.

TI: So that population was you had a prewar population, and then you had some that had already migrated from the camps?

GH: Yeah.

TI: Got it. Okay.

GH: And those who were there from the camps were really the pioneers. They, they took the risks moving out to an area that might have been very hostile in different ways, and, and in this respect, it might have been easier to move into a city in the East or Midwest. So, so being a one-man person, I didn't expect a deluge of people applying. And in fact, the job was to develop some potentialities and possibilities, and then, and then to -- so we're talking, when we're visiting the camps at Heart Mountain and then subsequently Minidoka, we could be talking to people who were interested in going out, what kinds of things they were willing to work in.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Good. So let's go, so you visited first Heart Mountain with Floyd Schmoe. So let's talk about that first trip. And even before you get to Heart Mountain, I'm curious, what were you expecting? Because this would have been your first, your first personal visit...

GH: That's right.

TI: one of the camps. So what were you expecting before you got there?

GH: Well, I didn't have very much in the way of expectation, except that I had letters from, not too many from Heart Mountain, but I had letters from Minidoka and Tule Lake 'cause my parents were in Tule Lake, and Auburn people from the valley were eventually at Tule Lake. So those who lived in Tacoma, for example, and Fife, people in communities surrounding Tacoma, went to Minidoka. They went to Puyallup first for the assembly center, and then when Minidoka was opened up, they went over there. Portland was included in Puyallup, Minidoka, whereas in the valley, with the exception of Tacoma, went down to Pine Lake...

TI: Pinedale, I think.

GH: Pinedale, yeah, Pinedale near Fresno, which was very hot, especially for people from Auburn. Hundred degrees, 120 degrees, no trees, and asphalted tents. You walked on the asphalt and it went down because it was melted, you know. And my mother told me that they got newspapers and got them wet as much as possible and moved the mattresses off, and then tried to lie down underneath the wet paper, psychologically feeling little bit cooler. But it wasn't very cool. And they got there, that was their first place from May until sometime in the latter part of July.

TI: So you got some of this information through letters. So was that sort of what you were expecting at Heart Mountain, or what were you...?

GH: No. I didn't, I didn't expect that 'cause it's further north. It's near Yellowstone, and it's more isolated. But these are things that I'm, I'm adding in because I know that the camps in general were in isolated areas, and they were selected for that purpose. So I'm, I didn't have a very detailed picture of what to anticipate. It was a camp of, gee, nearly 10,000 at both places, and they'd been operating for several months. One of the things we, we did was to show -- Floyd had pictures of Mount Rainier and Hawaii and geographic, National Geographic type of pictures that he had taken himself. And when he used to go lecturing, he'd lecture about an area that he covered in photograph before. And then each time he's traveling, he's taking new pictures, and he talks about that one when he's at some other place. So that was one of the things he did to pay for his trips, so that...

TI: Now, would he do things like this when he went to Heart Mountain? Would he show pictures or take pictures?

GH: Well, he, he took pictures. What he was, I don't know what kinds of restrictions he had. I don't think he had complete carte blanche to do whatever he felt like, but he had some advice regarding what, what you could take and what you couldn't. But he, he had that background, so he had a camera, and he would be taking pictures. And then he had, well, he had a 16-millimeter films with him, so he would show -- and that, that's one of the recreations, you know, in camp. They're seeing regular movies, Hollywood movies or others that were given along with lectures.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Let's go back, and now that you're at Heart Mountain, describe what you found, what you saw in terms of how it was structured, just in terms of, you know, you as a trained sociologist, what did you see in terms of the camp environment?

GH: Well, it was camp life. They were living in barracks. Now, I got to see some of the barrack rooms 'cause visiting families, you could see quarters. The walls separating the, themselves from the next was very thin. And there were several bunks. One of these camp cots, metal, like army cots, about 30 inches wide, and what are they? Five or six inches, it's 5 or 6 feet long. That was the cot. And if the family had six kids, you had eight bunks. And generally that was the arrangement. And then people made do with tables that they garnered from someplace, or with wood they made various kinds of things. They were pretty crafty. In fact, you could do a very interesting study of what people in restrictions, what they could manufacture out of what looked like junk and, and discards and so on. And so that's what made up -- now in Minidoka, seems like people had some things that they were able to get in the way of dressers and few things like that. But Heart Mountain, they'd have to go by train only, and they came from a variety of places including, largely, California. And so I don't think they were able to bring very many things with them in the way of furniture. So it's, it's just make do from circumstances, boxes, cartons.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: During this time, there were articles in the media and reports that Japanese Americans were given a free ride. The government was sort of coddling them, that they were given food, shelter, and that life in camp was, they were being coddled, essentially. How would you respond, given that you had a firsthand viewing of this?

GH: Well, I think on behalf of those running the camps, WRA, War Relocation Authority, they had to play the politics between two types of population. One, the inmates, and they had to have them accept the meager supplies and the circumstances. And then the, whatever they ate, there was a certain budget they had to follow which was less than the army on a per, per capita budget. And then supplies would vary. There'd be more rice than in the regular army supply, and things that Japanese would be able to make as counterparts to the rice they would use. But they'd have to, they'd have to try to get the victim population accepting the fare. Plus, the picture they were giving the outsiders, they were being treated as well as anybody could under the circumstances, but they were not being coddled. They were, they were, they had to be austere about it. However, the picture got out that these people, they're being fed at government expense, and the, they only have to do their own clean-up and so on. So that there was a picture that was too rosy to the general public, and to the population themselves, that they were really being treated like prisoners. I think probably the per-capita thing was less than in prisons as well. I mean, you could compare these things and find out, and I think the fare was pretty, pretty low. That's about, I'm only giving you what I experienced going in cold without any kind of build-up. I just picked up certain kinds of what might be possible there, knowing that it's a population that had to settle in, largely with whatever they could carry and then issue of some blankets, and sometimes the mattresses were, they had to make the fillings of the mattresses.

TI: Yeah. One of the reasons I'm curious about this is because here you were, you had a mission to essentially help relocate people from the camps to Spokane. I'm curious in terms of from the inmate population, what they were thinking, reasons why they wouldn't want to go Spokane or would want to go to Spokane. I mean, just sort of understanding where they're at, the conditions, and perhaps their reluctance to relocate to a place like Spokane.

GH: Yeah. Well, my picture was, you know, I'm new. I don't know what, what we could offer them or what the opportunities were. All we could say was Spokane was not part of the uprooted part of the state. It was a possibility to have been included. I had one professor who was, did demographic work for War Relocation Authority and the Western Defense Command, working in, in San Francisco headquarters. And he told me that just like the state of California, all of California was included. California had a sort of a theoretical eastern-western half of the state, too -- but both sides were included. Whereas Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River going up was used as a theoretical boundary. And so east, east, somewhat east, further east from Yakima into Wenatchee area -- and east was the eastern section, and that was talked about as eventually will be included, but it never was. So that part was open for settlement. And knowing that it was a western, part of the west, and the propaganda -- propaganda was pretty vicious. And the persons of Japanese ancestry, guys with buck teeth, and, with, we didn't have horns sticking out, but they were, they were very one-sided in terms of types of people that were being moved out, dangerous people were moved out. So a lot of, lot of population had certain kinds of fears about large numbers of Japanese being settled somewhere, whether they would be safe neighbors or not.

TI: And as Japanese Americans in camps, they understood that, so that perhaps was a reluctance on their part to go into these communities?

GH: Well, I think there was some fear how, how the reception would be out there. And you could, and you get letters back. And so that, that sort of thing was already in process.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Well, when you're in the camps, what did you do? I mean, how did you talk or what type of forum did you have in discussing relocating to Spokane?

GH: Well, we had some contacts, and we met them and we talked to them, and there were schoolteachers and so on. And in my case, both at Heart Mountain and particularly at Minidoka, I had people that knew me in the valley or of populations like me, having graduated in the Auburn area, Auburn High School and university student. I was invited into history classes and so on, and, and would answer, give some descriptions about the situation that they weren't in, what they would be studying and so on. And I found it, I found it quite a challenge that you -- what would you talk about in terms of American principles and American Bill of Rights and principles of freedom, citizens' rights and all that sort of thing, when you're talking about civics and history, and the history courses, history of U.S. and that sort of thing.

TI: Right. Just to clarify for the viewer, you're talking, because they weren't, you weren't going to classrooms to talk about relocating to Spokane. You were talking more in terms of your pending case to the Supreme Court.

GH: Yeah.

TI: And that's what they were interested in.

GH: Yeah, and that one of my work opportunities, being out of prison, work opportunities, was something set up by the Quakers who, who have had experience in having social service type officers who helped with the community in different ways. And in my case, I'll be working on finding housing and finding jobs. And I said, "I haven't done any of it yet, but I may, I may have to do some educating first. That these are people that could be an asset to your community," and that sort of thing. And to bring to the business community -- instead of chamber of commerce, at that time, they had places like, I mean groups like board of trade, they used to call it. It's like chamber of commerce, business-types. And then I'd talk to them about, about the kinds of potential work force.

TI: Right. This is back in Spokane that you would do that to prepare?

GH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Before we go there, I want to go back to when you did talk to high school classes and others about your stand against the government in this case. How supportive were people in the camps for what you were doing?

GH: I think, I think they were quite supportive, and particularly the teachers. The teachers who would be working in camps were generally people who wanted to be helpful to the community. They had some interest in that. They didn't go there to exploit, but to be of some assistance. That was one, one thing they could do. So some of the teachers were very interested in having me come and letting me say what it was I was doing, what for and what I felt about it and so on. And I, I only was invited to some classes, you know, and that was only part of my activities. And rest of the time, I'm talking to individuals and people who wanted me to look up, if I can find this and that type of work and so on, so that I can get some, some focus here and there in terms of particular requests. On that trip -- I didn't take another trip of this type. Takes quite a while to go through. And traveling from one camp to the other, from Heart Mountain to Minidoka wasn't easy because there wasn't a good, clean connection. If you had a helicopter that took you there, it's not bad, but you had to follow the lines that were available, and it took quite a while to go.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: While you're there, were there examples or incidents where people, you could sense that they disagreed with your stand? Whether there were, I mean, people in camp who felt that Gordon, you were doing the wrong thing?

GH: Well, I, I think, I think there were, because there were, there were the, there were definitely people who felt that the thing to do was to be patriotic, and they didn't see my activities as being one of those activities, being patriotic. I said, well, and particularly to students, I said, "Well, one way to show your patriotism is to join the army and go up to the front lines and risk your life and things like that. Another way is to, where you find injustices taking place, fight for more justice exercised, and curtailing the injustices and so on." And in, in one sense, from the way I was looking at it, I was working in that part of being a good American. And in fact, I found out later that there was a high school student, senior student in class, listening to me who took to heart the things I was saying, and wrote a very critical analysis of what the government had done and the injustices that had taken place. And he, he told me later, he says, "If I had to blame somebody, how come I'm writing that way? It was because we had Hirabayashi coming into class telling us he was put into jail for standing up for what he thought was good American citizenship. And for fighting for the Bill of Rights, he got stuck in the jail and so on, and that's not very democratic, and that's not the kind of country I want to die for." And so he, he took that to heart. And then the teacher said, teacher put on there, "You're entitled to your views, but you got to have some evidence for these things, and you have to be, change some of the conclusions about the state of, United States." And he wouldn't, he wouldn't change. He said, "Well, look at the evidence. What are we doing here?" He said, "What are those barbed wires?" And so on. And so he was taken to the principal, principal's office. And he was told, "If you don't change the nature of your paper, you're going to fail this course. And if you fail the course, you're not going to graduate." Well, he didn't change it, so he didn't graduate. But subsequently, he was drafted into the army. And...

TI: Well, how do you feel about that, that this student listened to you, and from that, that from hearing you, he wrote this paper and then wasn't able to graduate from high school?

GH: Well, I didn't know it until later, but I, I thought that was appalling. But I didn't feel particularly guilty about it, 'cause I, I wasn't rabble-rousing, you know, trying to get those students to really raise a stinko...

TI: But, see it's --

GH: ...and have a rebellion in class. I was just describing what happened to me and what there is in the Constitution that we're being educated about and the fact that not everything comes out rosy. We have to learn how during hardship periods, there are things you got to say, that we don't live in heaven, so not everything is rosy.

TI: But how is it that these same teachers, these same educators, who sort of wanted you to come in and share this with their students, would then come down so hard on the student who was essentially espousing the same viewpoints that you were talking about?

GH: Well, that's, that's a line that you have to defend yourself. He, he told me that later on, he went through the army, he got into, he was a very bright person, so he got into military intelligence, passed the screening tests and so on for that kind of candidate. And he got into there. And he didn't have a high school diploma. [Laughs] So when he had a chance to go to university, he got the report from the military about his qualifications, his background and activities, his rank and so on, and they gave him the equivalent of a high school diploma in terms, because of his army proficiency and record, and, and so was admitted to the university. And then the rest was in terms of whether he could maintain passing grades or not, and he not only had passing grades, had good grades, and got his engineering and worked for Boeing. This fellow's name was Henry Miyatake.

TI: Right. And we interviewed him, so he's also in the archives.

GH: Yeah. Well, he's one of these very bright persons who is very adamant on some things and he won't change, even when he had, high school diploma -- that's, that's pretty courageous in some sense, or like other people would say, "Foolhardy. Gee, you mean, all he had to do was just change a paragraph or two. What the heck?" [Laughs] Is the way some people would feel. But he, he took it seriously. "I'm not gonna lie about it. This is, I felt honestly about that." And he never gave in on that. Later on, he, he ran into other people, and because of his very firm positions when he took them, on issues of what JACL should be doing, or what, what we citizens ought to do in Seattle, to do this or that, he, he had strong views on some of these. And...

TI: This may not be a fair question, but if you were in Henry's shoes at that point in high school and were confronted with the same situation, what would you have done?

GH: Well, it's difficult to say what I would have done because I don't know exactly what his situation was. But in general principle from what I was describing to you, I probably would find it -- it would depend a lot on how the teacher framed this thing. But my viewpoints were, I have to accept that what I said could lead to that sort of thing, and so I probably would've found myself in similar situation. I would, I would try to survive. I'd try to get my diploma if there was some way of doing it without losing my own self-respect. I would've sought that out. I don't know if he was, he had that, but was too stubborn to take it and was going to kick this in their face anyhow. I don't know that. But I found him to be a very straightforward person, and I had a lot of respect for him. I may not always agree with where he's standing at the moment, but I'd like to have him on my side. [Laughs]

TI: Okay. Good.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay. Let's go back to Spokane, and now that you've been to both Heart Mountain and Minidoka, and you're now in Spokane looking for opportunities for people to relocate. Just talk about that in terms of some of the resistance or support that you got in Spokane.

GH: Well, in, in a general way, I'm working as one person trying to make some openings here and there, so I'm, I'm not very visible. So a lot of people weren't seeing me as somebody shaking the roots here and there. So the quick answer to your question is, not much one way or the other was said about me by others, except those who were very, happened to be one-on-one with me in some way and knew what I was doing. The, I did some things in general. I had, through my experience of working as a student in the University of Washington, through the University of Washington YMCA, which was an independent -- when I say independent, I mean nonfraternity organization, you know, the, you know those Sigma, Sigma Si and Alpha Kappa Delta or whatever, the Greek initials, fraternities and sororities. They, they were very racist. Before the war, it was just out-and-out racist. There's no way around it. But it was accepted as the thing to do, and the city followed, I mean, permitted any kind of discrimination. A restaurant that didn't want to allow a, native Indians or Asians to come in, even if you were dressed decently and willing to pay the price. "Sorry, we don't have room for you." Or, "We don't -- " Some of 'em just boldly said, "We don't allow non-whites to come in here." And hotels were like that. And some of 'em tried to gloss it over by saying, "Well, you know, we have no vacancy." We had professors who had experiments -- people lined up, applying for rooms, and people who lined up after the Asians were turned down, "No rooms," would get rooms. So we knew there's no, no way around it. They had these kinds of situations. And in my own personal experience, I, I had a very tremendous experience in 1940. That's just the year before the war. I was sent on a scholarship from the University of Washington YMCA to go to a leadership training school. The people who came were from organizations, YM and YW on campus --

TI: Yeah. Before we do that, too far, because we did go to that, I think, in interview two...

GH: Oh, I see.

TI: ...pretty much, in depth. But I think there was another incident in Eastern Washington with a restaurant, the, I believe it was called the Paramount Restaurant, during this period. Do you recall that?

GH: Oh. That's in Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho. I had a college friend, Caucasian person, whose father was a lawyer, and one of the well-to-do in the family, I mean, in the community. I stayed, I stayed as his guest at his home. I didn't realize to what extent I was breaking certain kinds of codes, but he being a fairly well-established person, nobody came in as a protest, "How come you're having this kind of disgraceful activity like?" And so I was there. And after being hosted so warmly, I said to him, "I'd like to take you out to dinner. Pick a restaurant. Pick a nice place to go to, and it's my treat." So he said, "Okay. We'll go to Paramount."

And so we went to Paramount, and walked in. I didn't realize there were signs out there saying, "No Japs," because there were sugar beet workers there from camps and so on. So that they didn't want, they wanted to really enforce this not just a silent rule. So they -- oh, we sat down. The waitress came in and took our order. And we just, we didn't order anything special, just regular fare. And, and then wondering, we were getting a little, at least I was getting a little suspicious. Service was so slow. Eventually she came and said, "Are you Japanese?" And I thought, well, here's what I was concerned about. So I said, "No. I'm American. I'm of Japanese ancestry, but I'm American." "Oh, well, if you're Japanese ancestry, we can't serve you." Said, "Why not?" "Well, it's a regulation the boss made." "Is the boss around?" "Well, I'll see. He was here a while ago." And I said, "Well, if he's around, I'd like to, if he could come over, I'd like to ask him some questions." And after quite a while, she came back and said, "He didn't want to talk to you right at the table here, but he's standing over there at the end of the counter, and he's ready to talk to you." So I said, "Okay." So my friend and I got up to go see him, and about three or four steps before I got to him, he started to apologize. He says, "Gee, I'm sorry you have to go through this." And I listened to him, and he was apologetic. He's saying, "You know, I hate to do this, but I'm forced to do it." I said, "Why?" He says, "Well, if I don't, don't follow the line, I'll have people boycotting me, walking out." I said, "Well, we've been in there about an hour trying to get served, but I didn't see anybody protesting, not to us, and I didn't see anybody walking off in the middle of their dinner." And he said, "Well, that's what I'm told would happen." And I said, "Well, you have an empty table right near the entrance. Let me test whether you're correct or not, or your friends are correct or not. If anybody comes in the door and -- they could see me, 'cause you have to, you have to see that somebody's sitting there that's non-white. So I'll sit where he could see me, and my friend could be sitting on the other side, and if anybody comes in, sees me, and leaves, I'll pay for an average meal so that you wouldn't lose, you wouldn't have lost that." "Oh, I can't have you do that." I said, "No. I'm asking for it. I want to test this, whether you're correct or not. I'm curious myself." He says, "No. I can't let you do this." And he wouldn't, he was giving me this kind of response. And about that time, the waitress said, "What do I do with this?" It was what we had ordered. I said, "Well, your boss doesn't think it's safe for me to eat here, so you might as well -- " I could have, if I were angry, I would have said, "Chuck that in the garbage," or whatever. But I didn't say -- those things aren't possible to package up. Otherwise, I could take it off, I could take it as take-out. And he said, "No, no. Sit here at the counter and eat it." Well, it was, it was at least an invitation. It wasn't up-front. And so I, I thought he was being kind, personally kind, up to that point, so I said, "Well, okay." I asked Frank, "How about it? Do you want to sit there and eat it with me?" He said, "Sure." So we sat down, and we took about an hour to eat that. And near as I could see, nothing happened. Nobody left after seeing me or, you know, there wasn't any change in behavior.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: What were you feeling? Were you angry? Were you disappointed or what, what kind of feelings did you have?

GH: Well, I knew, I knew that this practice, I knew in Seattle, for example, there's certain places I never went to because it wasn't good experience, good feeling on my part to run into that. And secondly, if I were with somebody else non-white, I mean a white, it'd be embarrassing. It wouldn't be the way to have a good evening. So I avoided those places. So it wasn't new to me. I knew they practiced this. I knew that, I knew that in principle, we all went for this, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and all that sort of thing, Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to it. Never mind the fact that it said that all men are created equal. Even that part, we now change it ourselves, "all persons" because for 130 years, the women weren't persons, let alone didn't have franchise. It took a lot of battling to get that, even though we have this basic principle that one good thing, what is included in "all men," you know, they meant all white men, besides. It wasn't just any men. So it takes, it takes, social change requires a lot of changes, I mean lot of confrontations, before it's accepted. And so I knew, I knew that sort of thing would happen. So I wasn't personally shocked or, or personally angry, but I didn't like the situation. And I didn't want to accept it. So I tried to do what I could in the way of change. After that, nothing happened there except that we finished our meal. Least we had, at least to myself, I was satisfied we made some progress. We didn't just accept it. And about...

TI: Before you go there, what was the reaction of your friend, who was a prominent citizen in this community?

GH: Yeah. Well, he was a young fellow. He was nineteen or twenty.

TI: And yet he recommended this place to you?

GH: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

TI: What did he say or feel?

GH: Well, he was, in principle, with me. Otherwise, he would have, he would have left. [Laughs] And I think he was the kind of a person and, and probably he explained it, what experience he went through, to his parents. And this might have come up, and maybe the parents took some action. I don't know that. He just wrote and said, "Say, that guy took that sign off, 'No Japs.'" 'Cause one of the things I had discussed with him, I said, "You know, this area here was in dire straits with a lack of employees at harvest period for sugar beets. And that makes a lot of difference to your whole economy here. And they came to the camps to look for volunteers. And a whole bunch of people came out. And they worked their backs off here. And then you treat them like this. That's not very good. And you're benefiting from it, economically." So I had this kind of discussion, and he's heard this, so he was probably telling his dad what's happening. And it, it, it's demeaning our Constitution, if you put it that way. And these people aren't living up to it, and, and others who like this principle ought to get after these people who are ignoring it. Well, he said, "This guy took the sign down. And since he was the most prominent restaurant, other people began to take the signs off. And looks like maybe we got that battle beaten."

But that was one thing. If I just left, probably nothing much would have happened. Maybe something, some fight or something might take place later, and something take, some incident happen. But on that, on that aspect, I remember it. Maybe there are experiences that I wouldn't remember now because they weren't outstanding experiences for me that, to remember. But this one I never forgot because we, we put some attention to something. And then we tried to be reasonable and gave illustrations, and gave where some people were actually out doing some good, but treated like dirt. And that didn't seem very, very good in terms of principles that we seem to be proud of. And that came home a little bit.

TI: With this incident?

GH: Yeah.

TI: That's a wonderful story, Gordon.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: We're continuing our interview with Gordon Hirabayashi. It's May 4, 2000. I'm Alice Ito, and the co-interviewer is Tom Ikeda. Dana Hoshide is videographer here at the Densho studio in Seattle, Washington. Gordon, we're continuing on with, you're still waiting as your case is being appealed and going through the appeals process, and you are continuing to work for American Friends Service Committee, for the Quakers in a small, one-person office in Spokane, Washington. And can you tell us a little bit more about some experiences of the people who are coming out of the camps now, and you're assisting them to resettle in Spokane. I think you mentioned earlier about Dr. Paul Suzuki and his wife, Nobu Suzuki, were a couple who came out from camp.

GH: Yes. This, this was the case of a special house they were looking for, and one that usually went beyond the range I was looking around for, for the average person coming in. As a doctor, he needed certain kinds of space, and, and social circles, space, activities, and so on, and wanted to be in a district that had a home of that type. And so we're looking at a little more expensive area than the usual laboring group residence. And we found a place, which was an outstanding house, brick, plenty of room, and so on, which Mrs. Suzuki found appealing, and eventually went ahead and made the arrangements for, for purchase. That was one of the experiences that was good for me to have because we moved into an area that I usually didn't search for, because most of my people were people working and wanting a place that didn't eat up all their income for rent. So that was a refreshing experience, reaching beyond for one of our customers.

AI: Now, as you were looking in these higher-priced homes for a suitable place for the Suzukis, did you run into either subtle or blatant discrimination?

GH: I didn't have to, we didn't look into all the districts. That's one thing. Secondly, I wasn't all that experienced in real estate, so I wasn't, I wasn't aware of where some of the practicing lines were for restrictions. I know some persons who are used to anti-Semitic experience would tell me there are certain signs they would notice, and they look for that to see if it's present in this neighborhood or not, or if it's native Indian or African American. Now, with Asians, it, they were, it was a special type of thing that I could notice in some respects, but not always in terms of the better housing areas. They were a little more subtle.

Now, on Suzukis we ran into very little in the way of frontal opposition. However, after the purchase we did have experiences where neighborhood bullies drove by on a pick-up and tossed a large stone in the big front plate glass window, breaking it, of course. But Mrs. Suzuki was, not only was a combative person who didn't run and fight on first occasion, but also who, who was willing to stand by and, and fought the thing towards security for herself. This was a shocking experience to her, but she didn't blame it on everybody out there. These roughnecks came through, and they weren't those that stood around, they just had some signs saying "No Japs in Here." And we, we knew it was intended for her. It wasn't just somebody just wanting to break stuff. But she, she was very constructive in the way she approached this. She saved that, the biggest rock to use for her pickling process, and so when she was making what the Japanese call takuan, the long, white, what is it, like...?

AI: Radish?

GH: Radish. Long radish. You needed to have weight. And so she was using it for its proper purpose, even though it got to her through improper use.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, now, you mentioned that most of your clients for resettlement were people who were working folks and looking for very affordable housing. Did you have any difficult incidents while you were searching for housing or jobs for them?

GH: Well, I was working in terms of setting the climate so that more opportunities for jobs and for housing would become available. So I was doing some education work, working with organizations like churches, service organizations that have projects for underdeveloped people and that sort of thing. And so I had some inroads that way. And I would be talking about the fact that there are people who normally would be looking for certain kinds of jobs who are capable of certain kinds of skills, but who are available for all kinds at this stage. And Spokane is suffering from shortage of skilled people. And so this is an opportunity that is in front of us, and we ought to take good advantage of it. That kind of approach to, was given in terms of meetings with the board of trade, which is like the chamber of commerce, and groups of that type. And I also had circulating in liberal circles a newspaper that, a newsletter thing that we got out periodically once or twice a month called The Wider Horizon. It was, I liked that name because it, it gave the objectives in terms of region where we're trying to go and in terms of attitudes. We wanted to spread beyond wider horizon. And we used to, I have interview stories of people, interesting people who had moved in, or the types of works they're doing, trips they'd taken recently, and so on. We had that type of human interest things that introduced various Japanese people to the public. And that went on for a year or a little more than that.

So we had public education going along with personal cases and looking for jobs. The opportunities that the, the strategy was to get some openings, get some good cases that the employer would be pleased to talk to other people. "Hey, I got somebody, and boy, I was worried at first, but terrific. I would never be able to find somebody like that in normal periods, but we had a good opportunity." A story like that would help a lot. And so I was aiming to get especially people who, who can present that kind of personality. That was an advantage. And I was looking for opportunities to get people like that as kind of flag-bearers for this kind of experience. And, and in fact, whether they liked to do it or not, the early ones did contribute in that way for the others to follow through, and eventually it would become a routine type of just getting a job.

AI: So in the beginning you had quite a bit of education work...

GH: Yeah.

AI: do to counter the negative images that had been put out about people of Japanese ancestry. But with time, some experiences, it sounds like the experience changed.

GH: Yeah. We, you get some humorous things, too, that you can spread this kind of humor in certain circles. Like we were unpacking some things when the doctor's supplies came in -- not supplies, but his things came. And the mover was helping us, big truck driver type. And the doc was explaining that this one is for, has some birth control tools in there. And the guy said, the driver says, "Oh, yeah, I know about those things." He says, "The first time I used one of those, I called him Jim. That's my first son." And -- [laughs] -- he says, "My second one was Charlie." [Laughs] And he was telling us that they don't always work, you know. [Laughs] And, and so we were able to laugh. And the doc was also, he's moving in and looking for an office in a certain place, respectable place where he could do his business, and you have to do this very carefully and quietly.

AI: When you say "carefully and quietly," why is that at that time?

GH: Well, at every level you have to, you have to, you don't want to waste your opportunities. Now, he's willing to move in. We found some space. We didn't want to just be careless about the opportunities and arouse some oversight. So we had to be very careful about and sensitive about the fact that this, this can be a delicate thing, so let's, let's do this carefully and not take unnecessary chances.

AI: Because of potential...

GH: Yeah.

TI: ...prejudices?

GH: Yeah. He, he's no longer living, and Nobu, if you ever interviewed her, may have a lot of experiences she could tell us about, professional prejudices that you have to overcome. But I wasn't aware of, he was, I thought he was making his way in quite well. And he, his, he is, he wasn't a Nisei. He came over as a young person for education, medical education and so on, and got his degree and stayed, and married a resident Nisei. And so that he, he wasn't the most able English-speaking person, speaking like other Englishmen. But there, I think opportunities for good neighborhood, good neighbor, to become good neighbors and so on are there. Not everybody has the experience that's pleasant in every circumstance, but even within races you have, you have to be fairly decent. The more decent you are, the more likely to have decent responses, so that works the same. That's, essentially that's what I'm saying. And we have to not waste our opportunities with careless faux pas.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay. Why don't we switch gears a little bit? While you were in Spokane, you were, your case was going through the appeal process. And I want to know what, how were you tracking the case? I mean, what was happening and how did you find out what was going on with your case as it went through the appeal process?

GH: Well, in terms of when the decisions would be made -- and when you're appealing and you have special hearings where final data would be collected, I'd hear about those 'cause they're working on them. They let me know what they're doing. And then, and then comes a period when they're taking it under advisement, and we don't know when they're going to come out with the decision. So you have to wait. And so when it's something like that, wait is something you just learn to take.

TI: Well, when they, when your team made its case to the Supreme Court, how did you feel about that? Did you think that you had a good chance with the Supreme Court?

GH: I should qualify this when, when I'm talking about what I thought about my chances. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not experienced in many phases of intricacies of the law. And then we're talking about a case which was inflamed to some extent through the war, and the war is still on. So I'm aware that justice may not have a chance to operate as I'd like to see it. I don't know all those things and what's at stake here. So we were in the dark a little bit. And I can't just look at what I think the Constitution is saying and what I think our situation is in, in the light of that. But I, I had my hopes. I wasn't going in thinking this is a lost cause. But I, I wasn't sure of where we're gonna end up, because there were a lot of variables that, for which I did not know where we were. But I did feel that in terms of logic we should have a good chance at the Supreme Court level. I felt in the lower courts there are lot of give-and-takes and lot of the feelings, the prejudices, and so on are still there that could be expressed one way or the other in the courts. But when it got to the Supreme Court we're down to the basics. We're, my view was, here is the highest level of our court, and these are people who are selected. I'm not saying they're perfect people, but they're selected to be the twelve, no, ten. What is it?

TI: Nine.

GH: Nine. Nine lawyers of great experience who are theoretically defending the Constitution. Every case must meet certain standards relative to the Constitution. That's their job to see that, whether it's doing that or not. And so I thought that we're gonna get the best chance of justice, whereas in the other cases there are lot of other intervening factors that are operating. At this level it's down-to-earth, constitutional. That's what I thought. Now, there are people, the judges are human beings like anybody else. And they grow up with certain viewpoints and they belong to certain churches, and they come from certain other kinds of experiences and so on. And they're, as a human being they're a product of that. Now, they are outstanding jurists, so they try to operate within that. So I, I had my hopes, but knowing that we're at war and I'm on the wrong side for some of those questions, so I wasn't quite sure. But in principle I was optimistic.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, how did you hear about the ruling? Where were you? How was it communicated to you?

GH: Well, I was in Spokane. And I knew some people, and I talked to some about the nature of the decisions. And they didn't know, you know, some of these technicalities. They didn't realize that the decision was made just on curfew, even though I had two cases with the same guilty verdict.

TI: And who communicated this to you? Did one of the lawyers give you a call?

GH: Eventually I heard from my lawyers in Seattle. So they're not right there. And they're trying to find out, 'cause the decisions came and they get the result. But they, they have to make certain kinds of surmising to determine what were the crucial factors. The way it was, it was, unanimously there was one vacancy, so eight-to-nothing against me in the curfew case. And the other case was, was not, in fact, it was, they were not, they were not allowed to handle the other case because the law specifies that you only handle cases that are required to satisfy the sentence that's involved. In my case, since they were concurrent sentences, it was determined that only one, one of these is necessary, and that, that was the curfew. They found the curfew one easier to do, to uphold. And on that, they passed it with three, what you would call demurrers, demurrers, which means there were three who felt moved to write certain qualifications, going with the majority but qualifying that it's under these circumstances and...

TI: Can you recall those three qualifications?

GH: I think, I think they had to do with the fact of whether, I think justice, justice would be exercised in times of war. See that, that's a variable that's very difficult to determine. Theoretically you say well, that has nothing to do with it. Where was the Constitution? Constitution was not suspended, so it should have been operating, war or not. So where are we? But they made certain qualifications about, about that. And I think, the only thing I could say at the time is that they qualified it to some extent, but not, not to make a negative decision. However, two of those, something like eighteen months later in the Korematsu case when that finally got up to the Supreme Court, it was on, it was on the same principles, but on the exclusion order rather than curfew, the one I didn't get. And, and on that they had three, it was six to three. So there were, there were two factors operating there. One, the demurrers, they felt it went over. It not only went to the brink of constitutionality, it went over. And for exclusion order it went over. That's one factor. Second, was discussing curfew versus exclusion order, well, the principles are the same. It was both based on ancestry. They felt it was not, the three people who voted negative, felt that, that was going too far, to uproot people and so on. Curfew was simply a restriction: confined to the home during certain hours. Not, that's the only, it was primarily restriction. You had to get special permit. And then the fact that only, only one, one of those people whose ancestry was at war, not himself -- see, see, I'm an American citizen, only, we were at war with my ancestors.

TI: Right. Now, the question, I guess, as you're talking, that I'm thinking about is, here you have the Supreme Court, as you said, is there to uphold the Constitution, to rule on things dealing with constitutional issues. And your stand has been that as a United States citizen you have certain constitutional rights. And so the highest court of law has ruled against you. That must have shook you, because so much of your stand was based on the U.S. Constitution. How did you grapple with that as an individual after the ruling came down?

GH: Well, it was, it was disappointing. I think we, we have to admit that. It was disappointing, and for a while I thought the Constitution failed me. Then it occurred to me that it wasn't necessarily the Constitution that failed me, it was the people who were placed in the responsibility of upholding the Constitution. People, these are nine people, and for a variety of reasons they came to their decision. And in my view they made an error. They made an error, but, and forty years later my views were upheld. It was reversed. Nothing was changed in, in terms of what happened to us. I mean, and there's no way in which we could rectify that. But injustice took place and the nation said they made an error. There's nothing much you could do beyond that except to take that to heart and try to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I think, I think we're involved in that sort of thing when the issue comes up about the Rape of Nanking.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Before we get there, though, but what lesson -- I mean, as younger people or as students learn about the Constitution of the United States -- what lesson can they take away from what happened to you, your case, and then, yeah. What would you say in terms of, here you stood for certain constitutional principles and the Supreme Court ruled against you, and yet forty years later it was rectified, as you said. But what lesson would you tell students about this experience?

GH: I think, I think the experience that we have to keep in mind is a, is one of citizenship and what citizenship means. It was one thing for the Founding Fathers to come out with a preamble on which they placed their perspectives in writing the constitution for the kind of country they hoped to have. Gee, this was done by the Fathers of the Revolution. We're not even a country yet, yet we're talking about the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, a statement that's used, I don't know, by so many countries. And we're drawing up similar statements at the birth of their country after being subjected as part of some empire. I think the thing we have to take in mind is a broader perspective in, in accomplishments of time. When does justice take place? And what, what happened to, to have it happen? You fight for certain principles. Some part of it is accepted. The rest of it didn't make it. But over the years continual battles take place. And the next time this case comes up again, we get the effects of those battles, battlefronts and human rights, and so on, that have taken place. So that in our country it took 130 years for women who, who accepted that statement about "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." They added to themselves and women, too. But it took 130 years of constant battles to have it become legalized. Abraham Lincoln made a statement, a proclamation, Emancipation Proclamation that, you know, the slaves are people. But it took a number of years, and the first one that came out, Plessy v. U.S. [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to Plessy v. Ferguson] in 1895 or '93 or something, which said you could have segregated justice. If, you could have inequality as long as, you could have segregation as long as it's equal. Now, what, what determines it? What, what the Supreme Court said in throwing that out, see, from 1893 to 1940, '54, the...

TI: Is that Brown v. Education? [Ed. note: Interviewer is referring to Brown v. Board of Education] Yeah.

GH: Yeah. So that's about, yeah, it's about fifty years. It took fifty years of multiple cases of issues and constant battling before it was, the very fact that you, why do we have segregation? In order to be unequal. In order to have privileges. That itself was considered fundamentally unconstitutional. So segregation, segregation at first was okay as long as it's equal, and they pretended that blacks were getting the same treatment when they weren't. But the major reason for segregating was to maintain the privileges. So that's, that's what became accepted. The women got, got the franchise in 1980, but they're having to fight for justice. In the academic world, for example, periodically we have test cases to show that women -- although they are in the assistant professor, associate professor, full professor, but in much less, lesser percentages. And if you consider the periods -- 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 2000 -- you find differences increasing equality. It means you got to fight for it. You gotta be constant. That's, that's the part that, of reality that we have to keep in mind. The principles in a loose sort of way takes place somewhere long before people are willing to see it operationally. And it, it's, that's what you have to work towards, and it takes time. And lot of battling going on. It didn't come, it didn't come just because you just waited.

TI: Good. Okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So the Supreme Court decision came down. And so at that point the appeal process ran out, and so your sentence would then be in effect. What happened next?

GH: Well, when, when that happened, I thought, "Well, at some point there ought to be another hearing. This isn't acceptable." But how do you get a hearing once the Supreme Court has decided? I mean, that's the final body, final appeal. I didn't know the answer to that. In the meantime, we were working on various other kinds of equality statement that we have adopted to one extent or the other. We're battling to get it more fully in practice. Now, what's happened in, with people like Peter Irons and Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, and who was the person who died recently, who wrote...?

TI: Oh. Michi Weglyn?

GH: Michi Weglyn. She, she's been pointing out certain things which, which finally got accepted as part of relevant data. So it's -- see, these are data that are from the past. It was there before, but it was not envisioned that way and it was overlooked. And in the new context recently, well, in 1988, the, in, it didn't get to the Supreme Court. But the circuit court came out with a powerful statement in our case.

TI: Right. Before we even get there, let me give some background. So the people you mentioned, a lot of them did a lot of research primarily, I believe, in the National Archives where they uncovered documents that showed that the government suppressed information that would have been relevant to your case. And in doing so that, that opened up the coram nobis cases that relate to your case as well as the Korematsu and to Yasui case. And so, and it was then overturned -- well, not, I'm sorry, your case wasn't overturned per se, but it was reopened. And...

GH: Well --

TI: ...not at the Supreme Court level, but at the federal circuit court of appeals?

GH: Yeah. It's, it's legally, you have to discuss this with people beyond me in terms of the legality. In one sense only the Supreme Court can change a Supreme Court decision. A lower court, like an appeals court, court of appeals, cannot overrule a Supreme Court decision. However, they can over-, overrule certain kinds of cases at the appeals level, at their level, which they did. And they got, they did this powerfully, pointing out -- the government finally stopped arguing substantively on the legal part. They were trying to bring in all kinds of factors, relevancy factors, circumstances, technicalities that would overthrow the, have grounds to overthrow the court case. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in my case said in no uncertain term that, when the government said, the two aspects that are of interest to me, one is -- let's see, now, how do I best illustrate this?


TI: And again, we're at the coram nobis where we're about forty, a little more than forty years later in 19-, about 1983 that you start going through a series of hearings with the government that took another look at your case. And I guess a place where I'll start is, the government had several arguments, but two that come to mind are one, the duration, the length of time from when the Supreme Court ruled back in the '40s to the '80s, and that was one of their arguments, that it was too long to reopen it. And the second one was whether or not you suffered as an individual because of this ruling. Let's start with, first, the duration, and can you talk a little bit about why that argument didn't hold much water?

GH: Well, the duration, the, they pointed out that Grodzins,in his book, American Betrayal [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to Morton Grodzins' book, Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation] -- I don't know exact title of it, of that book, 'cause I haven't read over the bibliography recently, but one of those that came out in the early '50s, I believe, or late, late '40s -- where the government said, "All these arguments that you're pointing out, he's already made those. Why didn't you make those appeals then?" And, and the answer to that was that until the archives produced the evidence that Grodzins was making in his case, we didn't have the grounds to put that forward. We agreed with the sentiments, but we didn't have the grounds. With those archival records, we do now.

TI: And what period of time, from the time the information was uncovered at the National Archives to when you reopened the case? What period of time are we talking about there?

GH: We, archives, I think archives was opened sometime in the '30s.

TI: No, in terms of, I'm sorry, Peter Irons and Aiko Herzig, those individuals actually finding the documents that pertained to your case.

AI:About 1981 or '82?

GH: Yeah.

TI: Okay. Because...

GH: We filed the writ of error coram nobis. We filed that in January of 1983.

TI: Okay. Good. So your answer to this was, it really has only been a short period of time since this evidence has been uncovered...

GH: Yeah.

TI: ...that, to the time of your reopening the case?

GH: We had, we had hypotheses prior to that, and some of those have been demonstrated now. But at the time we didn't have the documents to do that.

TI: Good, okay.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Talk about the, addressing the suffering issue?

GH: My law team was very concerned about how to point out that I was suffering -- my food, my work opportunities, and so on. I, I was fully occupied 'til retirement. So he said, so they said, "It's hard to demonstrate that you were suffering." And if you're not suffering, what right do I have to appeal to remove the suffering? To which the appeals court stated, any American citizen who has been deprived of his rights from such factors as ancestry or religious creed or something of that type, if he's been deprived on those grounds then he is forever aggrieved -- and threw that question out.

TI: And so through this process, and again, I'm not sure exactly what level this is. This is the circuit court of appeals?

GH: This is the circuit court, which is immediately preceding the Supreme Court, and...

TI: So they vacated your conviction, but yet did not overturn the Supreme Court?

GH: Yeah. Well, they have no authority to overturn the Supreme Court conclusion, but they, they overturned the -- on data that they have now they overturned the grounds for, that were, were suppositions in earlier books, suppositions we subscribed to. However, we didn't have the data to back it. That supposition was based on pretty good sense it seems, because the data substantiates it. But it wasn't 'til the, the data was in hand that the appeals court was presented with the data from the federal archives.

TI: Well, it seems, I guess, I'm not sure what the right term, unfortunate, that this process didn't go all the way to the Supreme Court, just so that you were able to get your day at that level to address some of these issues at that level. I mean, what, how do you feel about that?

GH: I feel that. I felt we ought to wipe that out. Too bad we didn't wipe it out, but at the time the government today had so thoroughly overturned the thing foundationally that the government didn't feel they had any grounds to succeed by appealing. The only way you could appeal to the Supreme Court is for the losing side to put in arguments for a new hearing.

TI: So after the circuit court of appeals found in your favor, the government lawyers essentially gave up.

GH: Yeah.

TI: They said they did not want to...

GH: They threw the towel in.

TI: Although they would have to be the ones to appeal to the Supreme Court?

GH: That's right. That's right. That's the way the system is.

AI: Could you say a little bit about the nature of the evidence, the data that was found that was, why it was that it was so convincing that the government attorneys decided not to appeal?

GH: Well, the evidence, we found evidence of suppression of information which was available to various departments, statements by naval intelligence on the, and the Federal Communications Commission regarding investigation of the data of possible spy sounds they detected, and other kinds of information that were supposedly subversive information. They checked out everything, and not a single one dealt with foundational information nor, or connected them with Japanese population, residents.

And on, and the viewpoint regarding the, the basis on which the uprooting took place, it was not on the fact that there was evidence of espionage or sabotage, that sort of thing, against the persons of Japanese ancestry, and that we didn't have the time to investigate it. It was the fact that no data was presented, and that on the basis of emergency, which was later denied to have been the existing situation. Therefore, the decision to use the citizenship -- you know, they said, "We couldn't, we didn't have the time to investigate the suspective, suspects from solid citizens. There was, there was no evidence. There was no evidence we found that, that they were suspects even." So the grounds, absence of grounds of doing this, and they used those grounds to move us. I was, I was subject to those statements only because of my ancestry. And being tested on that grounds is enough to throw it out, they said. And they, they said this without, with such force that -- you know they said, "Any time somebody's rights are absolved because of such immutable things as race or background or origin, has nothing to do with behavior." Therefore, it's thrown out, and they didn't have anything to refute those arguments. These are getting down to technicalities. Did we have the right to appeal in the first place? Well, we do. We did have the rights. And the conclusion holds. So, in this sense, I didn't get my time back. There's no way you could do that. So... and those who, who suffered from shame and all that type of personality depravation, they had to suffer it. But after, ex post facto, afterwards, they got their thing back. It means, we still had to work hard for it, and we, we made some grounds. We can only keep it if we keep working at it. We don't, there's nothing that says, "Now, we can relax. We're okay now." It's only okay if we look after our doors.

TI: That's good. I think that's a good place to stop.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.