Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Peter Irons Interview II
Narrator: Peter Irons
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Lorraine Bannai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 27, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-ipeter-02-0013

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PI: Now, the question was, was I going to do anything with this other than use it for a book? I knew right away that I had to share this with Aiko, that it would be of interest to the commission. And I also knew that I didn't have much time to go through these records before somebody might come over and say, "Can I look at what you're, review what you're looking at?" So that one day -- I think this was in late September of 1981 -- that one day I worked as hard as I could all day long just going through records, files, as fast as I could, looking for information. I found a lot more that I thought showed some evidence that the government, first in the Korematsu case and the Hirabayashi case, had been engaged in misconduct, legal misconduct. The memo I first saw from Edward Ennis showed that quite clearly. And so I would go through these records as fast as I could, clipping them with paper clips and little slips of paper, the ones that I wanted. And my instructions were that at the end of the day I could turn these over, and they would have them copied and sent to me in Boston at some point. But I became deathly afraid that somebody would say, "We can't let these out," and it would take months or years and maybe even another lawsuit to get them. So what I did is I called Aiko at the commission that morning, and I said, "Aiko, I found some really amazing stuff here in the Justice Department files, and you really need to see this." And if I remember correctly, either I made photocopies sort of surreptitiously at the Commerce Department. I think actually that's what happened, or Aiko came down there and picked them up, one or the other. But at any rate, I got copies of maybe fifty pages of the most important material and got those out of the Commerce Department building that day. Took them over to the commission. And Aiko went back later on with her commission badge and authority to get more records that I had not been able to copy. But in that first day, we found or I found and gave to Aiko the documents that really became the basis of the coram nobis cases. And at that point I thought about the possibility of reopening the cases through coram nobis. It made a connection in my mind, but what I did not know was are any of these people still alive? Where would they be? Would they have any interest at all in reopening their cases? And I decided to contact them.

LB: When you decided to contact them, were you contacting them because you thought there was a case, or had you thought about talking to them as part of writing...

PI: Both.

LB: ...your book?

PI: Both. Both. I had initially wanted to contact them just to interview them for the book. But this all happened so quickly in this research, literally within a few weeks, that I also wanted to talk to them about the prospect of reopening their cases.

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