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-02-0021

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PI: And then after Fred sat down and Victor Stone got up and said basically for a couple of minutes nothing at all, except that the government would not object to the conviction being vacated, but asked the judge to dismiss the petition. And at the conclusion, after he sat down, Judge Patel had already decided the case and read the statement that became the basis of her later written opinion about this. And she read it, and it was basically that the petition had raised serious issues of government misconduct. The record was there from the government's files. And one thing she said was, her last sentence, her paragraph, you know, "The Korematsu case remains on our law books, but it is a reminder to all of us of what can happen during wartime, that no group should be treated this way." And at the conclusion of that, she simply stood up and left the courtroom. And most of us for a brief, seemed like a while, just sat there sort of speechless. And then everybody got up and there was tremendous excitement. People were crying. Everybody was running up to congratulate Fred, pound him on the back. It was really almost like a, like a party. And then we had another press conference. We had one outside on the steps of the courthouse and then a more formal press conference -- I don't remember where it was, at which Fred spoke. And so that was, that particular aspect of the case, the Korematsu case in San Francisco, had, those were the memorable parts of it for me.

LB: What was your personal reaction, being the person who, who found the documents that started this? What was your, what were your personal feelings at the time you heard Judge Patel's opinion?

PI: Well, I remember being just flooded with emotion, being really overcome. I wasn't sure in fact that I could even speak to the press or anybody else. And I just felt overjoyed at what had happened. And in a way, of course, it occurred to me that this, I had started all of this without any real intention at the beginning. As I said, a whole series of fortuities and accidents building up, leading to this. But also just looking around. I remember sort of standing back and looking around at this audience, almost all Japanese American, and just seeing how much this affected them. It was sort of like a, a joint, a big collective catharsis, that as somebody once said, and I think it was Nikki Bridges, who was the wife of Harry Bridges, the leader of the Longshoremen's Union, and she -- Nikki was Japanese American, and this was all captured on film down in the lobby and outside the courthouse. Steve Okazaki was making a film about the cases in the coram nobis effort. And she said, "This is not just Fred's case. This is for all of us. This is for all Japanese Americans." And feeling that that was true. And I also felt, I guess more than I had before or ever in my life, that I had been included in a group that was not my own, you know, different ethnic group, a different racial group, a different, different in many ways, people that I might not otherwise have ever met or gotten to know, and that I, they had invited me in and included me in this group. And of course, I wouldn't become one of them just as they wouldn't become one of me. But that, that these, these artificial boundaries between us had in that experience sort of dissolved. And that was very important to me.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.