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Title: Bill Hosokawa Interview
Narrator: Bill Hosokawa
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Daryl Maeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 13, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: And so I wanted to ask you a little bit more about the Emergency Defense Council. This -- it sounds like this work with the newspapers and the media was one of the important activities. What were some of the other activities or functions?

BH: Well, there were some families who had no funds. Banks -- bank accounts were frozen. The head of the family might have been picked up. No, no money in the house. No food. So the Defense Council went around and gathered food and then distributed it to these families. And then the federal government required Japanese aliens to file certain documents. And many of these people had -- could not understand. It was very difficult even for English-speaking people to understand what those forms were. And we helped them fill those out. And later on when people began to move, we established a register of destinations so people in the community could keep in touch with each other after we were separated. Some people needed attorneys, and we helped them find attorneys. It was a great deal of confusion and fear, especially among the wives of the men who had been picked up. And many of them understood very little English, and so we tried to help in every way we could.

AI: Now, this was before the Executive Order 9066 came out and, well before that.

BH: Yes.

AI: However, there were some other restrictions placed such as a curfew...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and restriction on travel.

BH: Yes.

AI: What was the reaction among you in the Emergency Defense Council when these restrictions were put in place?

BH: Just feeling they were a damn nuisance.

AI: Did you see them as a precursor to possible increased limitation on your freedom?

BH: Well, at first, we thought this was a very temporary thing and they would lift them in a week or ten days or so.

Daryl Maeda: Excuse me. Was there much discussion within the Emergency Defense Council of alternate strategies that you might have employed? I mean, how did you settle on, on the strategies that you ended up pursuing?

BH: If, the first weeks after Pearl Harbor, there was very little long-range planning. It was a matter of putting out the brush fires, reassuring people that they weren't going to be shot, trying to help people who needed money, helping people fill out all these forms. The federal government really had no policy. And since they were just working from day to day, our primary effort was just to put out the brush fires. And there was no serious talk of imprisonment, evacuation. We knew that several hundred Issei in the community had been picked up, but we expected that they would be released before long. But things kept getting worse and worse. And so there was no overall defense plan. It was just a matter of trying to cope with each situation as it came up. And there was vague talk that there would be concentration camps. But we figured that would be for the Issei. And the Niseis, would say, "Oh, they can't do that to us. We're protec-, protected by the Constitution." So it was a real shock when Executive Order 9066 came out on February the 19th.

AI: So at that time, it, it sounds like you really were surprised that as a citizen, that that order was going to apply to you...

BH: Yes.

AI: And that the concentration camps were facing you as well as your parents.

BH: Yes. Not only surprised, but outraged.

AI: So what kind of discussion or debate did you have within the Emergency Defense Council when this came down and this realization hit?

BH: Well, I think mostly it was, "What are we going to do?" There really wasn't much we could do. We were -- in Seattle, we were looking for some guidance from JACL headquarters in San Francisco. And Mike Masaoka was a one-man staff there. And he and Sab Kido would talk to the federal authorities. And he was trying his best to try and get things cooled off. And he told me that at first, the federal authorities talked only of temporary detention. There was no mention of "detention." And he was as surprised as anybody when -- after we went to the assembly centers, we were sent off to the per-, semi-permanent camps.

AI: So in this early discussion of the exclusion order and the -- realizing that everyone would be removed from the West Coast, as I understand it, there were some people within JACL at the time who thought, "Well, what about, what about resisting in some way or, or protesting that" -- if you look at Hawaii, this exclusion of only a certain minority did not happen in Hawaii. They did have martial law, but it...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...applied to everybody...

BH: Right.

AI: ...across the board.

BH: Yeah.

AI: Did this come up in any of your discussions in the Seattle JACL?

BH: Well, I think the main thing was, "Look, we can't help it if they grab the Issei, but the Nisei ought to be, should -- are entitled to the rights of citizens. And I think there was just consternation when we realized that even the citizens were going to be confined. There was very little talk about resistance. The Nisei were inclined to be unaggressive, and the thought of 75,000 citizen Nisei resisting the force of the United States government, was ridiculous. We were also aware of the, of the rising tide of feeling against us. Very little defense on our behalf, and almost all hostile. Even Dr. Seuss, the, The Cat in the Hat guy, he was a newspaper cartoonist at that time, and he drew some vicious cartoons. And Walter Lippmann, who was a sort of Olympian character, the man who knew everything, and every person of authority in Washington read Walter Lippmann every morning to see what the oracle was saying. Well, he came out to the West Coast and talked to Governor -- who was the governor of California at that time and later Supreme Court --

AI: Warren?

BH: Warren. Earl Warren. And he talked to some of Warren's friends, and he wrote in the paper that it's the, only the wise thing to do, to take the precaution of getting rid of these people. And his was one of the more thoughtful comments. There were vicious things like, "Chase these bastards off into the desert and let them, let them starve," and that sort of feeling. And here we were, Nisei whose average age was, at that time seventeen or eighteen years, and we had very few friends in government and politics and business. And so the question of mass resistance, if it came up at all, was only very briefly.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.