Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
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

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is July 13, 2001. We're here at the Densho studio in Seattle with Mr. Bill Hosokawa. I'm Alice Ito. My co-interviewer is Daryl Maeda. The videographer is Dana Hoshide.

Thank you very much, Mr. Hosokawa, for joining us today for this interview. We're very honored to have you here. And we'd like to start at the beginning and just ask when and where you were born.

BH: I was born in Seattle, January 30th, 1915.

AI: And what was your name given to you at birth?

BH: My Japanese name was Kunpei. Kunpei. First character is from kunsho. And pei is "peace" or "flat," hiratai.

AI: Can you tell us your parents' names and where they were from in Japan?

BH: Yes. My father's name was Setsugo Hosokawa. He came from a farming family in the outskirts of Hiroshima city. I think back then it was about a day's walk from his village to Hiroshima. Today it's about an hour's drive. And my mother, Kimiyo Omura, came from an adjoining village where her father was the soncho, or village chief.

AI: Now, we are going to be referring to some of your writings. You've written so extensively and also some previous interviews. So as we go along, we'll be making those references for the viewers' information. You did write some about your father and how he came to the U.S. in 1899...

BH: Yes.

AI: the age of sixteen.

BH: Right.

AI: And it sounds like he had quite a varied experience working in a number of states in the West: Montana, California. That he learned English, and then later that your mother came to the U.S. in 1913. And I was wondering if you could just tell one or two memories, perhaps your most vivid memories from childhood of your mother, of your father.

BH: The 1913 date for my mother's arrival is, is a guess, I'm not sure. But my father did go back and marry Kimiyo Omura and brought her to the United States. My father had been in this country only a day or so when he was shipped off to Northern Montana to work on the railroad. And that was the reason he came to this country. The recruiter had come to the village where my father lived and apparently the recruiter was well-known in that area because he rounded up a number of farm boys and brought them to the United States to work on the railroad. My father liked to tell about how he and a friend were arguing during working -- their working day about whether the white stuff on the mountain over there was salt or snow. And the foreman became very angry and upbraided them. And my father, being a spunky young fellow, said, "The hell with it," and he set out for California from Northern Montana. He had no knowledge about the geography of the United States. He had no money to travel. So he walked the, along the railroads and rode the freight cars and wound up in Sacramento.

AI: So it sounds like your father was quite a storyteller.

BH: Yes. He loved to talk, and he was very articulate. And I'm sure that some of his stories were embellished a little bit. But yes, he was very interesting, a very interesting person.

AI: Now, tell us a little of your mother. I understand that she was more educated than the average Issei woman of her generation.

BH: My mother's father, my grandfather, was the soncho, the chief of the village area there. And apparently a man of considerable status in rural Japan. And my mother was the youngest of three children. I'm not sure exactly how much education she had, but she worked for a while as the, a primary school teacher. She also had some training in flower arrangement and other Japanese arts, which she abandoned for a long time but picked up again after my brother and I grew up, and she had a little more time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, now, to come to where you enter the picture, you were born in 1915, and I recall reading one of your pieces, describing briefly that your parents did not want to speak English to you as a young child, for fear that you would grow up with an accent.

BH: Yes.

AI: And so when you did start public school, that you really didn't understand English. Could you tell a little bit about that experience?

BH: [Laughs] Yes. We spoke only Japanese at home. My mother spoke very little English, and my father's English was quite limited. And so I suppose my first exposure to English was when I went to kindergarten at the old Main Street School, on Main and Sixth Avenue. And I was there only very briefly, when we moved out a little further and I went to the Washington grade school. And I knew very little English, and I just sort of had to learn by osmosis.

AI: That must have been difficult.

BH: Oh, it probably was, but I suppose it just was a natural phenomenon.

AI: Well, now, at this time, it was obvious to you that you were different because you didn't speak English and you didn't understand what some of the other white American kids were saying. But aside from the language difference, when -- do you recall when you became aware of the difference as far as racially, that you were Asian -- or Japanese American rather than a white American?

BH: Yeah. Well, the student body of Washington grade school was made up mostly of the children of immigrants. There were Spanish Jews and German Jews and Russians and even some Northern European kids. And I don't recall that there was any conflict between them and me, but we did get along, and as we became more fluent in English. We could play together, associate together. And it didn't, not take me a great, long period to become fairly aware of what was going on in the school.

AI: So would you say about second grade or third grade, you had an awareness of, of some of these ethnic differences?

BH: I would, I would say that very early on, the first grade, I could tell that I was different from the other kids. But that didn't seem to make a great deal of difference. And after class, why, I would go home. But by the third grade, I was mixing more with my classmates and visiting their homes, and I don't recall if they ever visited my home, but I became very good friends with a Jewish kid named Harry Glickman. And his folks ran a grocery store on the corner of the block where I lived. And he taught me a great deal about what America was all, all about. For example, I had no idea what peanut butter was, and it was a repulsive-looking thing. But he gave me a piece of bread with peanut butter on it, and I tasted it, and by golly, it was pretty good. So it was that sort of association that helped in the integration of Bill Hosokawa into the American way of life.

AI: Well, now, during your grade school years, was this when your father was in the real estate business?

BH: No. During that period, my father was a -- ran an employment agency. He had a little office down on Main Street, between (Fourth and Fifth), and it consisted of a little room, a telephone, and his desk, and an area where Issei men, mostly bachelors, would come and wait for jobs to show up. And my father knew enough English to answer the phone, and some well-to-do Caucasian woman would say, "I need a boy to wash windows," or, "I need a boy to, to take the rug out and beat it." And he would find someone who was willing to do that kind of work, and send them out. And he took a small commission on their pay, and that's how he made a living.

AI: So your father actually had quite a bit of interaction with the white employers, or perhaps more communication with them than an average Issei might have.

BH: Yes. Occupation-wise, yes. Socially, no.

AI: And what, what kind of opinions or thoughts did he convey to you, if any, about interacting with white Americans? Did he talk much about problems of prejudice or discrimination or just instructions on how to behave or interact?

BH: I can't remember that we had any conversation like that. He was busy, I was busy with my things, and I did not feel discriminated against. And he wanted me to be a good student and he encouraged me to study, learn English, but I don't ever recall him talking to me about any discrimination that I might feel. Now, I know that he was aware of those things. I could hear him talking with his Issei friends about the Ku Klux Klan and some of the hostility that Japanese immigrants were facing in California. But there was not too much of that in Washington at that time.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: I recall also that, your speaking and writing about your father being active in the community himself, that he did a fair amount of volunteer work with the Japanese Service Organization.

BH: Yes. He was quite civic-minded, and I suppose because he wore a white collar and a necktie to work, he was looked upon as a little bit more of a leader than the fellow who went out and washed windows for a living. And he became quite active in the Buddhist church and the Hiroshima Kenjinkai and the Japanese Association. I don't recall that he had any elected office in the, any of those organizations, but he was a leader.

AI: Did he or your mother ever talk to you much about obligation or value for, to do such community service or convey to you some responsibility of yours? That they might have influenced you to take on these kinds of activities in, as you were growing up?

BH: Gee, I don't recall anything like that. I, I do sort of remember that -- my father's activity in community affairs was a sore point with my mother. He spent too much time doing these things, from her point of view.

AI: And I understand also that he was as well, active with the church, the Buddhist church, and, and he sent you to Japanese language school. Did he or your mother have any clear wishes that you become a practicing Buddhist or that you become fluent in Japanese language, that type of desire?

BH: Well, let's take that one, one at a time. My father was active in the Buddhist temple. My mother was not, although she was Buddhist. And they did not encourage me to go to the Buddhist temple, but they did encourage me to go to the Christian church. And some of their friends were members of the Saint Peter's Episcopal Church. And I would go to Sunday school there. And later on, I became friendly with some people at the Japanese Methodist Church, and I would go there. But I was never active -- I was never an active Christian, nor was I an active Buddhist. There was no effort on my parents' part to make me active in the religious movements.

AI: Do you have an idea as to why they encouraged your participation in the Christian church?

BH: I have a vague recollection that they felt that to be more American, it was desirable to be Christian. And so they encouraged me to go to the Christian churches. Now, I would go to the Buddhist church on occasion when there were oratorical contests. I didn't take part, but I would go and listen to what was being said, and some of my friends were Buddhists. But I was not active in the temple.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, moving to your high school years...

BH: Yes.

AI: attended Garfield High School in Seattle.

BH: I did.

AI: And I was wondering, for many kids, high school years are a time that you, one begins thinking of their future, your hopes...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and your dreams. And I was wondering what things you were considering at that time for your future.

BH: Yeah. If we can go back just a bit, there were four of us Japanese Americans in my class at Washington grade school. And all the rest were Caucasians. I don't think there -- yeah, there was one black fellow. But, and we became pretty good friends, and all four of us went on to Garfield High School. I had no idea what I wanted to make as my life work. And I, I got pretty fair grades. I knew where my weaknesses were: math, science. And I did pretty well in history and English. And I thought at the time that perhaps I would like to be an engineer, but mathematics came very hard for me. I got by algebra all right, but by the time I got to geometry, why, they were leaving me in the dark.

And I was qualified to get out of Garfield in three and a half years. But I had a -- I was very much interested in football, and so I decided to go back for my last semester -- I was a mid-year student -- so I decided to go back to school in the fall so that I could play football. And because I had most of my credits, I was sort of killing time in the classroom, in the classes, and I took a course in journalism. And it was very interesting. I liked the work. I found that I had a knack for writing, and so I went on and I became sports editor of the Garfield High School Messenger. And I thought that would be as good a course to study at the university, so I went on.

AI: So really your interest in journalism stemmed from that time.

BH: Yes.

AI: Your last year in high school. Well, you had mentioned having been a part of the, the four Japanese Americans...

BH: Yes.

AI: grade school, and what happened when you went to Garfield? Was there quite a bit, quite a difference in the racial composition of Garfield school then -- quite a few more people of Japanese ancestry?

BH: No, there were not very many Japanese Americans at Garfield. They were mostly at Franklin and Broadway. And I don't think there were more than about eight or ten Japanese Americans at Garfield at that time. There was a number of blacks, a number of Jewish Americans who came from the general district where we lived, and then there were the well-to-do kids from the Montlake area and the Madrona area. So it was a, quite a mixture of ethnic groups.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, then we're skipping ahead, but only because of our limited time, skipping ahead here to your college years. And I believe -- was it 1933 that you began at the University of Washington?

BH: Yes, '33.

AI: And at that time, you already knew you wanted to major in journalism.

BH: Yes. After I got out of high school, Jimmie Sakamoto was running the Japanese-American Courier, a very small weekly paper. And I subscribed to the paper, and it was interesting work. I went down to see Jimmie one day and said, "I'd like to go to work for you." And the paper was in dire straits its entire life, and Jimmie had very little help, and he welcomed me on the basis of my high school experience. And so I was working there part-time during most of the period that I was at the university.

AI: So before you worked for Mr. Sakamoto, did -- you knew of the Courier because of the paper itself...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and because of the, the sponsorship of the sports leagues.

BH: Well, Jimmie's paper started, I think it was on New Year's Day, 1928. And after I became interested in newspapers, I subscribed to the paper and would read it every week.

AI: So then it was -- it seemed natural to you that that would be an opportunity you could pursue that...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and get some experience.

BH: It was an opportunity to get some experience.

AI: Well, Jimmie Sakamoto is a fairly well-known figure...

BH: Yes.

AI: Japanese American history. I wonder if you could describe him a bit, a little bit of his personality, some of, how he expressed his values of "Americanism."

BH: Yes. Jimmie was a very interesting character. He had been a rough kid and a professional prizefighter. And he had, he said he had gone -- was going back East to study at, I think it was Princeton. But he didn't last there for very long. And he learned prizefighting in New York and worked on a little Japanese American paper in New York. And that's what got him started in journalism. He went blind from his injuries in the ring.

And, but he was a charismatic personality. Very vigorous, very outspoken, a very strong personality. And he worked in a little office, and he had memorized dozens and dozens of telephone numbers. And he would dial the numbers himself. And he had a funny way of looking up on the wall as if he were looking at a calendar when he was looking -- trying to determine what day it was. And it was a little bit spooky to see him do that. Very outspoken. He was kind to me. He appreciated my being there.

And, but the paper was always on the verge of bankruptcy. And during the time I worked there, I received no pay, except his wife would buy my lunch at Mrs. Yagi's Rose Cafe, which was right around the corner. And usually the lunch was tendon, a bowl of rice with shrimp tempura on it. And as I recall, it cost 25 cents. But that was my reward outside of the experience of being there. And gradually, Jimmie gave me more and more responsibility, so that while I was going to college, I often worked afternoons and then late into the night. And just before deadlines, sometimes I would be working 'til two or three o'clock in the morning. And then I'd go home and get a few hours' sleep and then go on to the university.

Jim was the original 110 percent American. And from the viewpoint of today, you might say that he was an unquestioning patriotic American. Anything the government did was to be supported. But that was the sort of attitude of most of the people of that era. And it wasn't until much, much later that people began to question the government, question what the government was doing. Jimmie also had a very strong affinity for Japan. But he felt that we Nisei should be 110 percent Americans. And in the paper, no Japanese words were used. For example, "Nisei." He said, "That's a Japanese word. It doesn't belong in the paper." So we called ourselves "second-generation." It didn't mean anything to anybody except Japanese Americans. And try to put "second-generation" into a headline, it's quite a job.

AI: Well, working so closely with him and becoming very familiar with these views of Mr. Sakamoto's, did you -- perhaps that helped you clarify some of your own views. I'm wondering, did you ever think that he was going a little overboard, or did you think perhaps that sometimes questioning was in order, although that was not his policy?

BH: Yeah. Well, at that age, I wasn't doing a lot of questioning. But yeah, there were times when I, I thought, "Gee, I wonder why we're doing this?" But I didn't have either the experience or the, or the confidence to say, "Hey, Jim, don't you think that you're going overboard on this?"

AI: Right. As a young person.

BH: Yeah. I was just a, a teenager.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, now, at the same time, you're continuing on this grueling schedule, and you're completing your coursework at the university. And I recall in one of your writings that one of your professors came right out and told you that he thought you should reconsider and switch to a different major.

BH: Yes.

AI: And that he did not believe you would ever be hired by a major newspaper. And, what was your reaction when you heard that?

BH: Well, there were three Asian Americans in my journalism class, which was about thirty, thirty-five people. And one of them was Chinese American, a fellow named Edwin Luke, who was a brother of Keye Luke, the movie actor. And the other fellow was Shin Kobayashi. I, I was much closer to Eddie Luke than to Shin. But I know Shin was called in the, the same way I was. I don't know about Eddie Luke. But the professor wanted to know why I wanted to take journalism. And I said, "Looks like it's an interesting way to make a living, and I like it." And that's when he said, "Well, you know, we don't like prejudice and discrimination, but you know it exists. And I can tell you that no American publisher is gonna ever hire you." And I had known that, but it was something of a disappointment to have my professor say that to me. But I, I said, "To hell with that. Why, I'm going to go ahead with this and do what I can."

Eddie never did get a good job on a newspaper, Eddie Luke. He -- his brother was quite well-known in Hollywood, and his brother helped Eddie get a job as a printer -- not as a journalist, but a printer -- on The Hollywood Reporter, an industry newspaper. And Shin went to Japan, and I think he was working for Domei, the news agency Domei. And he was -- I heard that he died in one of the fire bombings of Tokyo. When a hundred thousand people were killed overnight or something like that.

AI: So this is very interesting to me that you had -- you said that you had known of the prejudice and the likelihood that you would face discrimination in a journalism career. And then on top of that, your professor stated it outright.

BH: Yes.

AI: And yet you decided that you were going to proceed anyway.

BH: Yeah.

AI: What, what was it in you that made you make that decision?

BH: Probably inertia. [Laughs] I didn't know what I, what else I wanted to be. I wasn't smart enough to be an engineer. I didn't particularly like business. A lot of the Japanese Americans were going into business. Some of them were going into pharmacy. And I had no aptitude for anything like that. And so I must have said to myself, "Well, what the hell? Might as well go and see what happens."

AI: So now as you were completing your university work and graduating, I imagine as any other graduate -- senior would do, you would start looking for jobs.

BH: Yes.

AI: What did you face then? What did you find as you were applying for work?

BH: Well, this was 1937. And there were not very many jobs for anybody. And out of our graduating class of thirty or thirty-five at the University of Washington, maybe one-third found media jobs. One fellow went to work for a post office. Another became a seaman and went to sea. One fellow went into radio work, a very good friend of mine. And some of the girls who were in the class never did go into journalism. So in that respect, jobs were very hard to find. And, I guess I recognized early on that there wasn't much point in my going around with my diploma in hand and look for a job.

Now, a new Japanese American daily was being started up in Los Angeles. And I was invited to come down and be the editor of the English section. I never took that offer seriously. I didn't want to go down to be in Little Tokyo and working on a very shaky Japanese American paper. And about that time, a fellow named Tad Kimura, who was the English secretary to the Japanese Consulate in Seattle, told me he was quitting to go to Japan and study, and he recommended that I go and apply for the job. So I did, and they hired me. And my function was primarily to handle the English correspondence of the consul general. So I was in effect a male secretary there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Before we go on with the process of your career here, I want to step back a little bit and ask about your involvement with the JACL because at the same time that you were becoming a journalist, you were working for the Courier.

BH: Yeah.

AI: Of course, Jimmie Sakamoto and the Courier were very key in the development of the JACL as well.

BH: Yes.

AI: So I was hoping you could tell a little bit about your participation then and what you saw developing within the organization.

BH: Well, the JACL in the '30s was a very small, weak, and relatively inactive organization. They had a lot of big ideas, big ideals, but very little of the wherewithal to carry out those things. And you couldn't be around Jimmie very long without becoming involved in JACL, and so I did go to JACL meetings. And, oh it was a big turnout when there were fifteen people there. And I remember JACL would invite political candidates, city councilman candidates and others, to come and talk to the meeting. And there would be fifteen of us sitting there. And we had to make a lame excuse, "We're sorry we couldn't get more people out, but every one of these people belongs to five or ten other organizations, and they'll carry the -- your message back." Well, that was a lot of baloney, but that's about all the JACL could do. And most of the time was spent in saying, "How can we get people to attend our meetings? How can we get membership?" Without really having a program that would attract people. And we had -- the JACL at the time had a very vague objective of being "Better Americans in a Greater America." What did that mean? We didn't know. So I was one of the spear-bearers. And there were people like Jimmie Sakamoto and Clarence Arai and Shiro Hashiguchi and Takeo Nogaki, who were a little older than I, and they were the leaders.

AI: At that time, do you think the JACL really was fulfilling an important function then in the '30s?

BH: Yes, to the extent that it was trying to make the Nisei aware of their responsibilities and opportunities as American citizens. They were not very effective, but it was a lot better than having nothing at all like that.

AI: I want to turn to something that you wrote in your book on the Nisei about the search for identity.

BH: Yeah.

AI: And you wrote, "In their schools, however, they had been taught to believe in the American doctrine of freedom of opportunity. They shared in the American dream of progressing as far as their God-given abilities and energies could take them, yet the reality was that outside the classroom, America was a racist society, where skin pigmentation and facial conformations often were more a factor than a person's ability. And when the Nisei began to suspect that for them, what they had been taught in school was largely a myth, the questions were inevitable."

And I'm wondering how much that was a, a personal reaction of your own. It, it sounds as though during your own college years, you did suspect that you were not fully accepted as an American...

BH: Yes.

AI: the majority of white American society.

BH: Yes. I think there was a general awareness of that. And you could tell that at the University of Washington, where there were fifty, sixty Japanese American kids, and 95 percent of them belonged to the Japanese Student Club. And when they (got) out of class, they would rush down to the Japanese Student Club and, and have lunch and then sit down and play bridge or chat among themselves, and there was very little effort to integrate themselves with their fellow students. And I, I was very strongly against accepting that sort of segregation. I never became a member of the Studen -- Japanese Student Club. And I tried to mix with my Caucasian classmates. But at the same time, I was working at the Courier and trying to make enough money to keep going to the school, so that there -- I did not have a great social life. But it didn't take long, and, and you didn't need to be very smart to realize that there were these barriers.

My friend Charles Kambe, K-a-m-b-e, he lived in the University District, not too far from the university. Very popular in high school. And as a senior, he got an invitation to attend something at a fraternity house at the University of Washington. And he went there, and the guy who opened the door said -- asked him what he wanted. I suppose he would've -- he was intending to say, "Look, the Japanese schoolboys work -- come in the back door," or whatever. But Chuck said, "I was invited to your party." And the guy said, "Oh, I'm sorry. There must have been a terrible mistake." His name was Kambe, K-a-m-b-e. And obviously they thought he was a Caucasian. And he was popular in high school and a good scholar. But that was the sort of barrier that we ran into.

AI: So in some instances, it was very clear that the barriers were there.

BH: Oh, yes. Yes. We grew up with it. There was no disillusionment after going to college. We knew that it was there.

AI: The reason I wanted to ask about this is because I think some, in some ways, society has changed over these decades since then, and to convey to students now how different the climate was racially at that time in the '30s, even before World War II started.

BH: Yes. Well, at the University of Washington, as I recall, there were only two people, two Japanese Americans on the faculty. One was Frank Miyamoto, who was just beginning, just getting out of college, and he made very good friends with the dean of the sociology department. And he was encouraged to go on. Later he got his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago as I recall. But the only other one was Henry Tatsumi, who taught Japanese language. So there were no Japanese Americans teaching English literature or chemistry or engineering or anything like that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Well, I did want to move on a bit here and bring us back to the point where you had graduated. And you had mentioned that you had turned down the offer of the job in Los Angeles. You did receive the job with the Japanese consul...

BH: Yes.

AI: in Seattle and were assisting the consul. And then I think shortly after that, was it, that you learned of the possibility of the job in Singapore?

BH: Yes.

AI: Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about that and how you came to take that job.

BH: Yeah. Well, I heard about that job through the consulate. Somehow they had information that this man, Shohei Nagao, was planning to start up an English language newspaper in Singapore. He was publisher of a Japanese language daily, and he wanted to expand. And he was looking for someone with American newspaper training. Papers in Singapore were on the British style, which meant that the classified ads were on page one, and the writing was quite British, and he wanted to try and start a, an English -- American-style, English language paper that would appeal to Britishers, Indians, English-speaking Chinese and others.

And I had no idea where Singapore was. I had no knowledge at all about what things were like there, but I figured there was nothing to be lost in accepting a job like that, and so I told him I would come. And he sent my boat fare, and I headed off to the Far East. First time I'd been in the Far East.

AI: Now, before we continue on with that, in-between here you also got married.

BH: Yes.

AI: Please tell us a little about how you met your wife and about getting married.

BH: Well, there was some social contact between Japanese Americans in the various communities: Tacoma, Portland, Yakima, Spokane, Seattle. And the JACL were in, one sense was a matrimonial agency type thing. You went there to meet some, some nice girls. And the basketball tournaments were pretty much the same thing. And I was on a team that went down to Portland to play, and I met a girl named Alice Miyake, M-i-y-a-k-e. And she attracted me, and eventually she made the mistake of marrying me.

We, I was not married at the time this offer came from Singapore. And I talked it over with her, and I said, "Look, we've got this choice. You can get -- you can marry me and go with me. I don't know what it's like out there. It may be a rough deal. Or we can postpone the, the wedding, and you'll wait for me until I come back in two or three years. Or we can just forget the whole thing." And she made the mistake of saying, "I'll marry you." [Smiles]

AI: And that was in 1938.

BH: Yes.

AI: So then the two of you then went together to Singapore.

BH: Yes. So it was a kind of an overseas honeymoon for us.

AI: Now, in some other reading I've done, I got the impression from at least one essayist that in the 1930s, some Nisei were considering work in Asia, perhaps in Singapore or Shanghai, also in some cases Manchuria, as another place where they might face less racial discrimination. Did that -- had that occurred to you at all?

BH: Well, no. I had never thought of going to seek my fortune in Asia, although it's true. A good many very enterprising and able Nisei went off to Japan. And some of them went to Manchuria to work for the South Manchurian Railroad. There were jobs -- Domei, for example, had five or six Nisei working for them, Domei News Agency.

AI: And so when you got to Singapore, did you and your wife become part of a small group of Americans in that area? Did you have anyone to socialize with?

BH: Well, we had an American consul general in Singapore. And of course, I registered there as an American citizen. I don't recall that I had any close friends among the Americans there. I made close friends with a Eurasian fellow who was part English and part Malay, I think. Very nice guy. And we had some friends among the Japanese colony. And I had some Chinese friends. But I don't recall that we made any great effort to integrate ourselves into the American colony.

AI: I'm wondering what kinds of reactions you received, being a journalist who was an American of Asian ancestry.

BH: Yes.

AI: Specifically Japanese ancestry.

BH: Yeah, I'm sure the British secret police were very much interested. Here was this guy with a Japanese name working for a Japanese-owned newspaper carrying an American passport. What the hell's going on? And I'm sure they were watching me. But I stayed pretty much out of trouble.

AI: So you didn't really have any overtly negative reactions...

BH: No.

AI: ...that, that you could trace to that, to your --

BH: No. My ethnic background and nationality never really became an issue there.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, you worked in this position, editing the, the newspaper for about a year and a half, I understand.

BH: Yes.

AI: And then your wife was -- learned she was going to be expecting your first child.

BH: Yes.

AI: So at that point, what did you decide to do?

BH: Well, she wanted to come back home to have our baby. And it would have been a good husband of me if I had gone back with her or taken her back. But I had no job in the States, and I had been in the Far East for a year and a half. But, I really could not consider myself an American expert on the Far East, American newspaperman -- expert on the Far East. And we talked it over for a good, long while, and we finally decided that she would go home and have the baby in the States, and I would go on to Shanghai and work a while there, maybe a year, to gain a little bit more background before going back. There was no promise of a job in the States, and I felt that I needed to qualify myself a little better. So she went on home. And I went, I went to Japan with her and put her on the ship, and then I went -- came back Shanghai by way of Manchuria -- Korea, Manchuria, North China.

AI: Can you tell us a bit of what you observed during this trip to Shanghai, especially your observations of the Japanese activities in those areas?

BH: Yes. I was aware, of course, Japanese had invaded and made Manchuria a colony, but I was not prepared to see the number of Japanese carpetbaggers who had gone into Manchuria. In many of the cities, they were the shopkeepers, the barbers, the -- they had moved right in. And the military was everywhere in Manchuria, the Japanese military. And so even though the Japanese said Manchuria was an independent nation, it was obvious that this was a Japanese colony. And I -- one, one time I saw Japanese troops, military people on, on maneuvers. And boy, those, those guys were rough. The noncommissioned officer was slapping a pilo -- private because he was a little slow in getting something done. And I rode on a train across Manchuria, and there were soldiers on board, armed guards. And places like Dairen, I would say was half Japanese. So was Hsinking, where the Japanese, where -- supposedly the seat of the Manchurian government, but the Japanese were running the place. And, I ran into some Nisei who were working for the South Manchurian Railway, and they were being utilized because they could handle English. But they had no authority. They were simply guys who could read and write English.

AI: So then you arrived in Shanghai.

BH: Yes.

AI: And, as I understand, you, you had two jobs there? For a while you were with a newspaper and also --

BH: I worked for -- I wrote a column for a British-owned, English language paper called The Shanghai Times. But I spent more time with a monthly magazine, American monthly magazine called the Far Eastern Review, which was primarily a business and industrial magazine. And I worked there. And I was in Shanghai for about fourteen months.

AI: Well, at, toward, by the end of your time in Shanghai, what was your view of Japan as a political force in Asia? At that time, I think in the United States, there were some growing fears that...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...Japan would indeed, become -- take over...

BH: Yes.

AI: it were, the entire Asian sphere.

BH: Yes.

AI: What -- from your perspective there in Shanghai, how did it look to you?

BH: Just the way you said it. Shanghai is a -- was a city of about three million there, divided into three sectors. One was the International Settlement, one was the French Concession, and one was the Hongkew side, which was -- used to be international, but the Japanese took it over. There must have been 40,000, 45,000 Japanese living in Hongkew. And they were ordinary people, shopkeepers and the like. And Hongkew was separated from the International Settlement by Soochow Creek, with Garden Bridge over it. And the Japanese had troops or guards at the bridge. And they checked everyone going over. And almost every day there would be some incident of a Japanese sentry, the Japanese guard, stopping an Englishman's car or an American's car and being very nasty. And there were a lot of Chinese coolies that went back and forth, and they were required to carry cholera inoculation certificates. And if they didn't have one, they were slapped down, grabbed, shot in the arm, and then kicked and, and told to get on their way. Tremendous arrogance. And we heard what was going on in the interior, and --

AI: In the interior of China?

BH: Of China, yeah. And I was certain that war between the United States and Japan was a matter of when and not whether. And since my family was back in the States, I figured I'd better get the hell out of there.

AI: And that's what you did. So that was about October, then, of --

BH: Well, I started to go back to the States in July. And while I was -- I wanted to go through Japan because I wanted to take another look at Japan before I went back to the States. And while I was en route from Shanghai to Tokyo, the United States embargoed all trade with Japan. And that meant that all shipping between Japan and the United States was stopped. And so I found myself in Tokyo with no way to get back home. So I hung around a month, mooching on the generosity of my friends. And then, hoping that something would happen, and then it became obvious that it would not. So I cabled back to my former boss in Shanghai and said, "Please get me on the first American ship pulling out of Shanghai." And I flew back to Shanghai and found myself at the bottom of a list of 600 people trying to get back home. And a month later, they gave me a berth on a ship, a stateroom for two, and they put two cots in there, and they put four of us in there. But I was glad to get on board. And I landed in San Francisco toward the end of October 1941. And I went back to Seattle, and five weeks later the war came.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: It's July 13, 2001. We're continuing our interview with Bill Hosokawa. And as we left our -- off before the break, you had just returned from Shanghai to the United States in 1941, late October. Now, while you were gone your son, Michael was born.

BH: Yes.

AI: And you returned and reunited with your family. Can you tell me just what -- a little of your personal reaction, coming back, reuniting with your wife and meeting your son for the first time.

BH: [Laughs] Gosh. I really don't know how to -- what to say. But it was quite a moving experience. My son was thirteen months old before I first -- before I ever saw him. And it took a bit of getting used to. I'd never been around babies before. And to think that he was mine and that he had grown up into a toddler well before I ever saw him was quite a moving experience.

AI: And so the three of you were then living in Seattle?

BH: Yes. We were staying with my, my parents. I didn't have a job, and I didn't know where to start looking for a job. And meanwhile, the U.S.-Japan relations were getting worse and worse. I went out to the university and spoke to some of the students there about journalism in the Far East. And my professors were very anxious to help me find a place. And they made suggestions like, "Why don't you apply at the Associated Press?" Or, "How about writing to the State Department to see if they would have a position for somebody who's cognizant of the situation in the Far East?" This was at the end of October and five weeks later, here came the war.

Now, I had been ill on the ship coming back. I'd picked up yellow jaundice or something, and I was not in good shape. And so I had a lot of resting up to do, too.

AI: I also wanted to ask what your -- coming from Asia and then being back in the United States after this several years' absence...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...what struck you most about the climate that you found back in the United States? I would say political or social climate.

BH: Yeah. Well, I went back to Seattle, and after a year, and a little over a year in Shanghai and a year and a half in Singapore, these were metropolises, and here was this dinky little town of Seattle. A lot of friends, but I really wasn't part of Seattle. Never had a chance to get back into Seattle before the war came. And it struck me that the city was quite countrified, after being out in the areas where there are millions of people and tremendous political and social forces were being felt. And here was Seattle, a very placid place, very much like it was when I left.

AI: And what would you say about the general awareness in Seattle then in fall of 1941? You -- general awareness of the world situation. You said that in leaving Shanghai, you were very sure that war between Japan and the U.S. was inevitable, and at that time, you were also, as a journalist, very aware of what was happening in Europe. When you got back to Seattle, what seemed to be the general awareness level of the world situation?

BH: I think there was only a vague awareness of the pressures that were building up in the Far East. And the average person on the street, I would say, could be described as fat, dumb, and happy. They really didn't understand what was going on in the Far East. And that would be one reason why there was -- it was such a shock when war did come.

AI: I see. So even though at the time there were headlines about diplomatic relations being very off and on between Japan and the U.S. and some difficulty between Japanese diplomats and the U.S. and Washington, D.C., those headlines did appear in the newspaper of the times, but the general reader or average citizen might not be that aware of what it meant.

BH: Yes. There, of course there was coverage of Ambassador Kurusu and Ambassador Nomura going to see Cordell Hull and coming out looking very somber. But there was no television in those days, and we got the news second-hand through the radio, or the newspapers, or there were newsreels in the theaters. But I don't think the American people were anywhere aware of the seriousness of the situation.

AI: Now, in contrast, what would you say was the awareness of the situation in Europe? Was there some fear that Hitler and Nazi Germany would take over all of Europe?

BH: Oh, yes. There was a very great fear that the German Army, having taken over all of Europe, was about to invade Great Britain. And that fear had led to Roosevelt's lend lease program. We "loaned" quotes, the British fifty old destroyers. We were sending a lot of food and munitions and stuff over there. But the fear of the war spreading was in Europe. In Asia, Japan was running wild on the mainland and moving southward toward Indochina and the Dutch, Dutch Indies, but we had little, very little at stake there. And we were also insulated by 5,000 miles of ocean.

AI: I'm wondering if, if there seemed to be much concern -- again, talking about, say, an average person on the street in Seattle, about the Axis, the Japanese and the Germans together, perhaps conquering and ruling the majority of the world at some point. Was, was that an idea that was --

BH: Well, yeah. The Axis Pact, tying in Germany and Italy and Japan, was viewed, I think, it -- with some concern. But again, Japan was an Asian power. There were 5,000 miles of ocean insulating us. And we felt sympathy for the Chinese, but the great concern was with Europe.

AI: I see. Well, thank you. That helps in illustrating a bit of the climate of the times and what was uppermost in people's mind regarding war.

BH: Yes, there was a good deal of resentment about the Japanese picking on the Chinese. And there were demonstrations against shipments of scrap iron from West Coast ports to, to Japan, and there were efforts to boycott Japanese products. But the imminence, the fear, and the great concern was with Europe.

AI: I see.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, now, you, you did write in one of your Out of the Frying Pan columns, "I feared the war in the Pacific would quickly turn into a race war. Overnight, people like us would no longer be seen as Americans but as dirty, sneaky, slant-eyed, yellow-bellied Japs and worse." And I'm wondering, do you think that other Japanese Americans shared your fear, or was this something that perhaps you had a heightened awareness?

BH: Well, it's, it's very difficult to generalize. There were some Japanese Americans who had no concern. And there other -- there were other ones who were very, very sensitive and fearful of what would happen. I think I was different in that I articulated that fear.

AI: Well, one thing that everyone who can remember that time seems to be able to articulate is what their reaction was on December 7th, 1941. What was your reaction when you heard about the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese?

BH: Well, I heard it from a friend who called me who'd been listening to the radio. And my immediate reaction was, "How could it be?" And then I said to myself, "It's really hit the fan. We're going to be in deep trouble, we Japanese Americans."

AI: When you -- when that occurred to you, what was going through your mind? What kind of trouble?

BH: Well, I knew what happened to the Germans in World War I. I was aware of the prejudice that Japanese Americans had experienced in our country here, even during the best of times. I was aware of the growing tension, the growing fear of Japanese militarism in the years that I was in Asia. And I was afraid that all of that would crystallize in feeling against us, because we looked like the enemy.

AI: Well, in fact, just the very next day, it must have been quite apparent because of the FBI's actions in picking up many of the Issei.

BH: Yes.

AI: Again, what -- did you immediately hear of and know of those arrests, and what was your thought?

BH: My recollection is that I was not aware of what was going on until I picked up the papers the next morning. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor there, the FBI were -- conducted raids all over Japanese American communities up and down the coast. And I guess there were several dozen people from Seattle picked up. And when I saw it in the paper, I think my first reaction was, "Geez, they're sure acting quickly on this." And, and then I began to wonder, "What is the need to pick up these poor old guys?" Yes, they were prominent in the Japanese American community. And yes, they had, they had very strong feelings about Japan and China. But I could not see them as being any kind of hazard, any kind of threat to the United States. But then I suppose I began to rationalize, saying, "Well, it's only natural for the United States to take precautionary steps like this." And I figured that they would release these people shortly. I knew they couldn't be spies, and they were certainly not saboteurs, they're just gray, old Issei, struggling to make a living. And I knew many of the people who were being picked up.

AI: Well, in some of my own research in looking at newspapers of that, of that week and a couple of the weeks shortly following that, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I noticed that in some of the newspapers, there were actually some positive statements made about Japanese Americans.

BH: Yes.

AI: Distinguishing Americans of Japanese ancestry from the Japanese --

BH: Yes.

AI: -- who were responsible for the bombing. And I'm wondering, from your point of view, having been there at that time, how did you experience what was happening in the newspapers and in the neighborhoods, reactions from white people, yourself during that period? The first few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

BH: Well, I did not have very many friends in the media in Denver -- in Seattle at that time there. A lot of things had happened since I had left Seattle. I wonder if you didn't look at -- see the papers some weeks after Pearl Harbor. The JACL established what was called the Emergency Defense Committee, and one of its functions was to try and change public opinion. And I was a sort of a head of that committee. And I would feed stories into the newspapers. I recall one full-page spread in the Seattle Times, pictures of Japanese Americans doing various things in the community. Peaceful, law-abiding, constructive people. The implication being, "How could these people be disloyal? How could they be saboteurs?"

And we were thinking of all kinds of ways to modify hostile public opinion. And one of the things I did was write to the fellow who, the cartoonist who ran, who worked, produced the Joe Palooka comic. And I asked him if he couldn't have a Japanese American soldier, Joe Palooka being friendly with a Japanese American soldier. And he did produce a panel which the Seattle Times ran. I was doing whatever I could to publicize the fact that, we were Americans. You had nothing to fear from us. "We are your neighbors. We have been born here, we live here, we work here, and we are as outraged as you are about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Of course, it's difficult to speculate, but given the tremendous hostility...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...toward people of Japanese ancestry, if there had been some group of Nisei who had protested the -- as a group or in a more organized fashion, what do you think the reaction or response would have been?

BH: I gathered some quotes here. Milton Eisenhower, who was the head of the -- first head of the WRA, General Eisenhower's brother, he said, "My judgment is that had there been mass opposition, there would have been horrible consequences for the country, where people had been whipped into a frenzy by not very nice folks in the mass communications business and even some in the military. And in view of the hostility already existing, if there had been opposition..." -- and he failed to complete the sentence.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson, in his autobiography says, "Japanese raids on the West Coast seemed not only possible but probable in the first, first months of the war. And it was quite impossible to be sure the raiders would not receive important help from individuals of Japanese origin. More than that, anti-Japanese feeling on the West Coast had reached a level which endangered the lives of all such individuals. Incidents of extra-legal violence were increasingly frequent. And the redress commission found that the violence against ethnic Japanese on the West Coast cannot be dismissed lightly. Between Pearl Harbor and February 15th, five murders and twenty-five other crimes: rapes, assaults, shootings, property damage, robbery, or extor-, extortion, were reported against ethnic Japanese."

And sociologist Jacobus tenBroek who made quite a study of this, says, "On April 13th at Del Rey, California, five evacuees were in a brawl with a local constable, following which a crowd of white residents, some armed with shotguns, threatened violence to a nearby camp of Japanese Americans. In northern Tulare County, a group known as the Bald Eagles, described by one observer as a guerilla army of nearly 1,000 farmers, armed themselves for the announced purpose of quote, 'guarding,' unquote, the Japanese in case of emergency. A similar organization was formed in the southeast part of the county.

In Seattle, Mayor Earl Millikin announced a horse-mounted patrol was ready to escort local Japs over the mountains into Eastern Washington in case of emergency. In Wyoming, Governor Nels Smith warned there would be Japs hanging from every tree if they moved into his state. And Colonel Karl Bendet-, Bendetson told the Commonwealth Club that in San Francisco sometime later that he was prepared to remove 100,000 Japanese in 24 hours."

Now, you can imagine what would have happened if he had called out the military. And the Nisei, especially the JACL leaders, could not take on the responsibility of urging the type of resistance that would lead to bloodshed.

AI: So it sounds like, given this kind of situation and hostility, that there was a very real fear of physical violence...

BH: Indeed, there was, yes.

AI: ...against, against Japanese Americans, and the reality that there was physical violence in some cases.

BH: Yes. And it would have been terrible if... there had been mass violence, it would have made the Kent State shootings look like a picnic. Here were these green troops, young troops, with rifles, itchy fingers. "Shoot the damn Japs."

AI: So that was a very widespread attitude?

BH: Yes, it was. Great -- and I think well-justified fear of violence if the Japanese Americans had resisted in any substantial way.

AI: So for yourself, individually, it sounds like you briefly may have considered raising some voice of protest...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...against this injustice, but then...

BH: Well, yeah. The voice or voices were raised, indeed in the Tolan Committee hearings, in the Seattle hearings. Jimmie Sakamoto was the spokesman, and he said -- no, what I'm trying to recall is Mike Masaoka's testimony in San Francisco. He said, "If this is a national, indeed a national defense need, we, as loyal Americans, must cooperate. But if this is a political maneuver or a way to hurt us economically, or if race prejudice is involved, we must protest this kind of treatment."

AI: And, and likewise, when the Tolan Committee did come here to Seattle to have hearings, there was testimony given by Japanese Americans.

BH: Yes.

AI: And you wrote some about this, that you did not realize at the time that you were giving this testimony, that the decision had already been made...

BH: Right.

AI: exclude you.

BH: Yeah. And I've never said this before, but I think that we made a mistake here in the Seattle hearings by failing to emphasize the legal aspects of the evacuation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and that sort of thing. We concentrated on the economic impact that our removal would have on the economy here. And the reason we did that was that so many people who were hostile toward us were saying, "Oh, we don't need these Japs. We can raise all the food we want here, and they're only a small part of the economy. And so get 'em out of here." And we tried to respond to that sort of attack instead of taking the higher ground of the legal consequences involved here. Of course, it's quite likely that, that constitutional rights would not have meant anything to the people who wanted to get rid of us anyway. Now, there were a few people, the Quakers and the civil rights people, who raised the constitutional issues. But their voices were not heard.

AI: Right. And so despite these voices that were raised against the injustice, the so-called "evacuation" did proceed.

BH: Yes.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: And you and your family were all sent to Puyallup...

BH: Yes.

AI: the, what was then called the "Camp Harmony Assembly Center."

BH: Yes.

AI: What -- can you tell me, what was your own, personal reaction when you got there to that center?

BH: Well, we were put in -- we were told to assemble in an empty lot near Chinatown and put on buses and sent out there. And there were several thousand people already out there. And we were driven through the barbed wire gates, and here was this vast area of chicken coops. Long wooden structures, with doors every ten feet or so leading to cubicles inside. And my first impression was, "Jesus Christ. What are we getting into?" I think the people who were already there had done a remarkable job of adjusting. The mess halls weren't working. The plumbing wasn't working. There was great confusion. But these people showed a stoicism that was remarkable. And my own feeling was, "What the hell are they trying to do to us?"

AI: And at that point, did you feel that you were an American still? How did you --

BH: Yes. I felt that I was an American that was being outraged. Now, I think we ought to say something here about Jimmie Sakamoto's role here. The army had come to Sakamoto and suggested setting up some kind of self-governing system in the camp. And the army, they didn't know any better, they said, "We ought to have..." I forget the various categories, but the people who would keep the camp cleaned up and the people who would take care of the commissary, the food, and people who would take care of the recreation, keep people busy, organize a setup like that. And Jimmie, in this -- in what was called the "defense" whatever, picked people in the community to head up these divisions, and in order to have some sort of self-government set up in the camps so people wouldn't be sitting around twiddling their thumbs and getting mad and things. Well, of course, Jimmie picked people he knew who were mostly JACL people. And there were others who were not involved in JACL who said, "That damn Jimmie is picking all his friends for these fat jobs." What fat jobs? [Laughs] Anyway, there was a good deal of ill feeling about that.

AI: Was this the Evacuation Administration Headquarters group?

BH: I don't know what it was called in the camps, but the evacuation headquarters was in the, the JACL office on Main Street.

AI: So it was a -- perhaps a number of the same people...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...were involved --

BH: Yeah.

AI: -- then, once you were at Puyallup.

BH: Right.

AI: I see. Well, even though you and some others were actively trying to assist in some ways to make this administration go more smoothly, at some point, you obtained the reputation as a "troublemaker" while you were at Puyallup.

BH: Yeah.

AI: Please talk a little bit about how you think you got this reputation and what, whether that was warranted.

BH: Well, I don't know why I was considered a troublemaker. The only -- the one guess I have is that I was too outspoken. When something went wrong, I would go to the white administrators of the camp and say, "This isn't going to work. Now, we got to do it some other way." Or I would go and say, "Hey, we've got problems here. Let's take care of them." And I thought I was trying to help in the administration of the camp. But I'd been there about three months, and the camp had been -- people in the camp had been told that they're going to Minidoka, Idaho. But I was called in, and said, "Hosokawa, you're not going to Idaho. We're going to send you somewhere else." And there were several others in the same category. And I said, "Why are you sending me?" And J.J. McGovern, who was an administrator at the camp, said, "I don't know. The army says you have to go." Well, I knew damn well he knew, but he didn't have the guts to tell me.

So I was sent to Heart Mountain. Tom Masuda, I think, was sent to Poston. He was an attorney. Kenji Ito, another attorney, was sent somewhere in Arizona. And there's another fellow who I didn't know, he was known as a professional gambler, worked at the Tokyo Club, and he was sent to another camp. But the four of us were kicked out at the same time. And I was given about three hours to pack some stuff, and escorted to the railroad station, and the escort took me to Heart Mountain.

AI: Now, many years later, you obtained some government documents about -- that shed light on that incident.

BH: Yeah, some light.

AI: And I'd like to come back to that later on in our interview.

BH: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: But for now, before we go on to Heart Mountain, I wanted to ask you about some of the columns that you wrote for the Pacific Citizen while you were at Puyallup.

BH: Yeah.

AI: Now, the Pacific Citizen was the newspaper published by the National Japanese American Citizens League. And you had several columns where you expressed some of your thoughts and feelings about the prejudice and racial discrimination that was very, again, very hostile from some of the white politicians, particularly in California but also elsewhere. Do you think that it could have been some of these columns, some of your writings at this time that...

BH: Possibly.

AI: ...contributed to your reputation?

BH: Yeah. "He's a rabble-rouser."

AI: And were you aware, yourself, of any of your colleagues that -- or friends at Puyallup looking to you or responding to your writings in regard to their own personal anger, or was there much discussion or just talking about the, the situation?

BH: Oh, I'm sure there were discussions among friends. There were "latrine attorneys" who would get together and gripe and bitch. But I am not aware that these columns had any definite effect. I think I was writing generally from the viewpoint of an American newspaperman who resented injustice. And it's remarkable that the government allowed that sort of stuff to be printed.

AI: Was there anything else you were trying to accomplish that you recall at that time -- that you were trying to accomplish through your writing in the Pacific Citizen at that time? You were already in Puyallup. The removal had been effected.

BH: Gee, I don't remember what I wrote specifically, but I think my intention was two-fold. One to express myself, and one to try and maintain morale. "We are being mistreated, but don't give up." And I was only a kid in my middle twenties. [Laughs]

AI: So you had quite a bit of outrage.

BH: Oh, yeah.

AI: You were expressing that. And clearly from -- to me, in reading your writings at that time, you've -- it sounded as though you felt perfectly within your rights as an American...

BH: Yes.

AI: express yourself in this manner.

BH: Yes. I believed in the freedom of the press. And I believe that as long as they let us publish it, publish the PC, we should be free to write what we thought.

AI: So although some of your rights and liberties had been taken away, you continued to use the ones that you had...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...remaining to you. Well, then you were given very short notice. I think you wrote, approximately four hours' notice to pack up...

BH: Probably less.

AI: leave to go to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

BH: Yes.

AI: And -- let's see. That, that was in August, August of 1942, and you went only with your wife and your so -- your young son, Mike.

BH: Yes.

AI: When you first arrived at Heart Mountain, what did you see, and what was your reaction to that?

BH: I saw only desolation. The camp was still under construction. The place was overrun with carpenters and tractors and dust. Middle of the Wyoming desert. And I thought, "Jesus Christ, they're going to put 10,000 people here." Now, there were two blocks that were already occupied. An advanced group from Pomona Assembly Center had come to Heart Mountain a day or two before I got there. They were the advance crew, helping to set up the kitchens and preparing for the others who would come later. I didn't know a soul. And one reason for sending me there was that I had, had no constituency. I would be among strangers. But it was dusty and dirty and desolate and disheartening.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, now, at this -- through this period, the vast majority of the people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were removed and went cooperatively.

BH: Yes.

AI: There were a few people, notable ones, who decided not to cooperate. And they were in the news. In fact, of course, Gordon Hirabayashi was here at the University of Washington when he decided not to comply with the exclusion order.

BH: Yes.

AI: And I'm wondering, as you followed the news and, and his actions, what were your thoughts? What was your opinion about that?

BH: Well, I knew Gordon slightly, not well. I knew Min Yasui in Portland. And I admired their courage, but I felt that they were tilting at windmills. I felt that whatever they hoped to gain would not be gained for a long time, and I was, I think I was too busy trying to help the others who were in need of help.

AI: I understand that there were some in the Japanese American community who actually had a negative reaction to the, Hirabayashi's and Yasui's and Korematsu's actions, that they -- a negative reaction in that they felt it reflected very badly on the rest of the Japanese Americans.

BH: Yes, there was that kind of feeling. It's true that those three are lumped together, but I feel that that's not right. Two of them resisted the evacuation orders as a matter of principle, and the third just went into hiding, and there's a big difference.

AI: And you felt that those that, that were standing on the principle, while that was laudable, in your mind, it was not likely to have any practical effect...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...or impact.

BH: I admired their courage, but I felt that there was -- it wouldn't gain us anything.

AI: And of course, as it turned out, their courts -- as they went through the courts, the Supreme Court did eventually decide against them.

BH: Yes. And that brings up something else now. JACL and Masaoka have been criticized for not supporting them. And Mike's explanation is that anything that would go through the courts would take years, and it was more important to address more immediate matters. And he thought that these two, to begin with, would cause more trouble. And he was trying to get the government to be cooperative by showing cooperation with the government. But yeah, they, they caused a lot of trouble. And I think it was a good thing they did.

AI: In what way?

BH: Well, I think it rallied the Japanese Americans to the idea that we were entitled to legal protection. I think we admired their courage, even if it seemed foolhardy at the time. And Masaoka's point was that it would take years and years for this to get through the courts, and it did take years.

AI: Right.

BH: We couldn't depend on that to halt the evacuation.

DM: But, but more than sort of a benign nonsupport for the test cases...

BH: Yeah.

DM: ...National JACL take, took an official stance of being opposed to...

BH: Yeah.

DM: ...the test cases. But what was their reasoning for, for actively opposing the test cases?

BH: I don't know. But I would think that they were saying, "Well, these guys are causing us more trouble than we need."

DM: In the sense that it was creating negative public relations or --

BH: Yeah. That and forcing the military and the government to take more stringent, restrictive actions against us. Provoking the government.

AI: So there was some very real concern that as bad as the treatment was, that it could be worse.

BH: Yes. Absolutely. There was talk about deporting all the "Japs." How you can deport a citizen, I don't know, but it was seriously talked about in Congress, and the State Department -- there was a document in the State Department archives in which -- what's his name? I can't remember his name. One of the higher-ups said, "We have been considering deportation of these people, but how can we do that when they have so many of their men in American uniforms, fighting for the country?"

AI: Which came just a little bit later in the camp chronology.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: I want to go back now to your arrival at Heart Mountain. And from your writing, I understand that very soon after you arrived, you were offered the job of editor, founding editor of the camp newspaper.

BH: Yes. One of the first Caucasians I met at the camp was a fellow named Vaughn Mechau, M-e-c-h-a-u. He was a reports officer, former newspaperman, and he and I hit it off very quickly. And when he became aware of my background, he asked me if I would go to work for the, his reports department. And one of the functions of the reports department was to publish a newspaper. That seems to be a contradiction in terms, a newspaper in a concentration camp. But he asked me if I would take the job as, as editor.

I had been afraid in Puyallup, Camp Harmony, that since I was being blackballed, I would not be given any assignment of any consequence in the new camp. And I didn't want to be washing dishes or whatever. And so I was very pleased when Mechau said, "We want to use your experience as a newspaperman to start a newspaper." And we had many conversations. How do you publish a free newspaper in a concentration camp? And we knew that we had to tread a narrow line between asserting ourselves, like I had in the PC columns, and not riling up the people to the point where there would be revolts. So that was the job I had.

AI: This is fascinating to me that you and your supervisor had some very explicit discussion about what the role of the newspaper would be...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...your role as editor and the policy of how to cover and what kind of editorial statement might be made in such a newspaper.

BH: Yeah. He knew what I was doing when I was running the paper. But I never felt it, felt obliged to say, "Hey, Bonnie, take a look at this. Do you think it's okay?" I didn't feel any obligation to do that.

AI: So really he left it to your judgment...

BH: Yes.

AI: make a judgment call as to when to describe something in a way that, that related to people's rights or perhaps restrictions on rights...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...How to do it. How to convey it.

BH: We took a very strong position against politicians, members of Congress, even the senator from Wyoming who did some very bad things to us. And we really took after him in the paper. And of course, that was good for camp morale. I'm sure his staff read, the senator's staff read this stuff. It didn't change him, but it was very good for the camp, people in the camp. Said, "Hey, we've got a newspaper, it's sticking up for us."

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: It's July 13, 2001. We're continuing again with Mr. Bill Hosokawa. And I'm going to read from your book, Out of the Frying Pan, where you're writing about Heart Mountain and your work on the Sentinel, the camp newspaper: "The Sentinel had a dual responsibility. It had to give voice to its readers' anger, supporting their demands for justice and providing articulate leadership. But it also had to be cautious about fueling the anger of citizens unjustly imprisoned. Achieving this middle ground was difficult and the balance often precarious, as we discovered shortly after publication began." And then you go on to discuss the issue of the fence around Heart Mountain camp. And perhaps you could comment on that...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and the dilemma you faced as the editor of the Sentinel newspaper.

BH: Well, the fence was a very big issue. One of the main causes of resentment in the assembly centers was that they were all fenced in. And when they, these people first came to Heart Mountain, there was no fence surrounding the camp site. There was really no need for a fence. You could walk 20 miles through the sagebrush and not run into anything. And after the camp was pretty well settled, the army decided to put up a barbwire fence around the camp and put up watchtowers. Until then it was open. You could walk anywhere you wanted to. If you wanted to walk 20 miles through the sagebrush, you could get to town. But when the decision came to build the fence, there was a great deal of resentment in the camp. And I think the resentment was unanimous. And the camp administrators were very much aware of the feeling of the people in the camp. But this was a military order, and there was nothing much they could do about it.

As I recall, some of the camp leaders got -- organized a petition-signing campaign, as I recall. And they sent that on to the WRA. And of course, this was important news. It had to be covered. And we did cover it with a -- it was the top story with a headline all the way across the top of page one. But at the same time, we had the responsibility of not stirring up the anger of the people so that there might be an incident. And that would've been very, very dangerous. So the paper had a responsibility to report the news without being provocative about it. And I think we managed to do that by playing the story right down the middle, the top story on page one. But we reported it objectively, and that satisfied the readership.

AI: I wanted to ask a question about, you were concerned about stirring up the people...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and that it could become dangerous. Could you give an example of being, perhaps reporting it less objectively. In your mind, what would've been a dangerous statement to make? What was it that you were working to avoid?

BH: Well, we -- the story, the news story was written very objectively. The WRA was putting up a fence. The people did not like it. They were going to send the, a petition to the WRA. And it would have been very easy to write the story so that it would stir public anger. And it might have incited demonstrations or a riot or whatever. And so we, we made it as objective a story as possible.

AI: So in other words, you really strove to describe the facts of the situation.

BH: Yes, absolutely.

AI: But did refrain from providing some opinion that might have been -- have an angry tone.

BH: Yes. That's very well put.

AI: Well, at that time, what made you so concerned that, that people could be provoked into such anger that they might actually riot or that there might, they might actually become violent?

BH: Well, there was a good deal of pent-up anger in the camp anyway. Here only a few months earlier, these people were free and living in their own homes, and suddenly they were in the middle of the Wyoming desert where the living conditions were very uncomfortable. And they had come to the camp, four or five days' train ride, no, no Pullmans, sleepers. They sat up, and there was no -- it was just finger food that they had on the way. And they were confused and unhappy and angry about the treatment they were getting. And the decision to build a fence was just the, the last straw.

AI: If there had been some sort of violent riot of some sort, what do you think might have been the consequence that -- what, what was it that you were trying to prevent there?

BH: Well, I was afraid that if there were violence, that the government would crack down even further. They had the guns, and they ran the place. We had no rights. And they could surely have cracked down. They did have violence about that time in Manzanar, and I think there was a young man, maybe two, who were killed. And I felt that any great resistance or violence on the part of the residents there would only result in crack -- in a crackdown that would make things harder for us.

AI: So in your mind, the administration of the camp was ready and able to become perhaps more, I'm not sure if "oppressive" is the word, but could institute some kind of punishment?

BH: Well, there was a military police detachment of something like 400 men who were just a few yards outside the camp. And they were armed, and it was their duty to climb into these watchtowers at night and focus their floodlights on us. And they, I'm sure they had their orders to, to shoot if necessary. And aside from that, I felt that the less cooperative we were, the more re -- oppressive the management would be. Now, most of the WRA people that I knew, and I knew a good many of them, knew they had a very difficult job. They were trying to make things as, as good as possible for us. They sympathized with our plight. They knew what kind of quarters we lived in. They knew what kind of food we were fed. And many of them sympathized with us. They were our jailers, but at the same time, they were very sympathetic jailers, most of them.

AI: So it sounds like individually, many of the administration staff were responsible, sympathetic to the situation, but they had a job and a role to do and --

BH: Yes, that's true. And many of them, there were some who were quite hostile and provocative, but they didn't last very long. The camp director was a man named Chris Rachford, R-a-c-h-f-o-r-d. And he was from the Forest Service, but he was a very sympathetic sort of fellow, and he -- I think the job got too big for him because he resigned after three or four months. And a fellow named Guy Robertson, R-o-b-e-r-t-s-o-n, took over. Now, Robertson was not nearly as, as sympathetic as Rachford was. He was much more a bureaucrat. But he would listen, and he would, I, he -- I knew he would do his best to, to help us. But at the same time, he was much more strict about abiding by the rules that had been set down in Washington.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, now, we're moving into 1943 at Heart Mountain. And at the same time that you're the editor of the Heart Mountain Sentinel newspaper, you're continuing writing your columns for the Pacific Citizen.

BH: Yes.

AI: And you had during this time a couple of columns that were rather hard-hitting, and I want to just read a short quotation. You wrote about the "California mind"...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...being as bad or worse than Jim Crow.

BH: Yeah.

AI: And you also equated some United States' nativists with the fascist Nazi storm troopers. This, this seems to be a very strong statement to make. And I'm wondering how, if -- whether you saw your role as a journalist differently there at, in your column for the Pacific Citizen...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...because you're very outspoken.

BH: Yeah. Well, the nativists in California, it's true that they were bigoted fools, and they were filled with prejudice and hate, especially against the Asians, Orientals. And I felt that they were fair game to be attacked. We had to fight back. And the Pacific Citizen being published independently outside of the camps could be much more outspoken than the, the camp newspapers. Now, we were concerned mainly with what was going on in the camp, although we took note of what was going on in Washington or in Congress. But PC was in the business of defending the rights of Japanese Americans. And Larry Tajiri was the editor, and he put no restrictions on me. And many of the things he wrote were just as strong or perhaps even stronger than what I had written. And he was demonstrating what a "free press" means.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: Well, continuing on during 1943, this was also the year where the government reversed itself on allowing Nisei into the armed services.

BH: Yes.

AI: And in fact, there came a call for the Nisei men to volunteer from the camps. And with, along with this call also came the registration or the ques -- questionnaire with the so-called "loyalty questions," the controversial ones being number 27 and 28. And I'm wondering if you would just describe for us what was the climate of the camp then as this questionnaire came out and people began having concerns about...

BH: Yeah.

AI: to answer.

BH: Mostly it was a confusion that developed gradually into anger. The questions 27 and 28 seemed to assume that we had other loyalties other than to the United States. And they were very poorly phrased. Women were asked if they would be willing to bear arms and march into battle. And whoever drafted those questions was com-, was an idiot. But we were stuck with them. And I don't recall exactly what position the Sentinel took. I'm sure that we did not say that, "These guys in Washington are damn fools," and, "Don't answer the questionnaire." Maybe we didn't say anything. But I would have to double-check that. But there was no, no doubt that they had made a terrible blunder.

AI: And my understanding is that some people were very concerned that the way they answered might commit them or their families to some course of action...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...that would possibly separate the families. That, that the questionnaire had the logo of the Selective Service on it, so some people were concerned that if their boys answered "yes-yes," that might be taken to be -- interpreted as an automatic volunteering for service, that some were concerned that there then might be this separation of the families. What, do you recall, yourself, what -- how you interpreted the questions and how you decided to deal with that?

BH: Yeah. I wrote "yes-yes." I was very leery about the way the questions were phrased, but I said, "What the hell?" This -- I know I'm, I don't want to go to war right now, with my wife pregnant and a little baby, but I said, taking the broad view, "Well, yeah, I'll -- I want to demonstrate my loyalty by saying 'yes-yes.'"

AI: Did you, yourself, know families that were, had tension or conflict within them as far as the decisions on how to answer?

BH: I can't recall any specific family, but I, I do know that it existed. Many Issei fathers were very much upset when their sons answered "yes-yes." And there were others who said, "You are American. It's up to you. Do what you feel is right. And if you say 'yes-yes,' that's okay with me."

AI: Now, as a result of this, the questionnaire and the, based on the answers, of course, people were separated. And these so-called "disloyals," for those who decided to answer "no-no," were separated, not only in Heart Mountain but the other camps as well, and sent to Tule Lake. And likewise, people from Tule Lake who answered "yes-yes" and desired to move were, were sent to the other camps. What was -- can you recall your opinion at the time about the government's decision to, to label people in this way based on this questionnaire, labeling them loyal or disloyal and, and carrying out this segregation?

BH: Well, the whole idea of trying to determine loyalty by questionnaire was ridiculous. But apparently the government had, the government had no choice. It, it felt that there were elements -- as I understand it, the government felt that there were elements in the camps that were in conflict with each other which led to unrest. And the "no-nos" in many cases would have a bad influence on people who were willing to say "yes-yes." And so it felt that by -- as I understand it, they felt that by segregating the "no-nos," who had indicated in a positive way that they preferred not to be Americans, it felt that it was wiser to segregate them in their camp.

And there was a public relations component here. The government was trying to get the people out of the camps into greater America. And if he could say, if they could say, "Look, we've put the bad apples over here, and these people are fine. They're good Americans, and we'd like you to absorb them into your community." I'm sure that that had a very large part of the decision to segregate. And as long as there was this dichotomy within the camp, some very strongly anti-American and some very strongly pro-American, there was conflict.

AI: Although as you've pointed out, the questionnaire itself and the answering "no-no" did not necessarily mean a person was anti-American.

BH: No, he could be very angry about the whole thing. And he would say "no-no" because then he would say, "To hell with America," without meaning to be disloyal.

AI: I think that's a point that some people may be confused about.

BH: Yeah.

AI: That, that a person could answer "no-no" and still be a loyal American. However, in this situation...

BH: Yeah.

AI: you've just described --

BH: Yeah, they had to be black or white. There was very little room for a, a neutral color.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: Well, following this segregation process, that occurred in August and September of 1943.

BH: Yes.

AI: And shortly after that, you decided that, to try to find a way to leave camp.

BH: No. The sequence is a little different. I had been trying to get out before that. And it just happened that a job came up, and I was scheduled to leave the camp just about the time this, the, the shuffling occurred.

AI: How, how did this job come about?

BH: Well, I don't know this from firsthand information, but I understand, I heard that Dillon Myer, the director of the War Relocation Authority, recognized the professionalism in the Heart Mountain Sentinel. And he was anxious to get me out of the camp. And he had gone to Gardner Cowles, C-o-w-l-e-s, who owned the Des Moines Register and Look magazine and some other publications, and he called up a fellow and said, "We have a guy in the Heart Mountain camp who's a pretty good newspaperman. We're trying to find a job for him. How about offering him a job?" Now, that's hearsay. I don't know what happened. But anyway, they did offer me a job sight-unseen. They did not ask me for my credentials. They just said, "Come on to Des Moines, and go to work."

AI: At the Des Moines Register.

BH: Yes.

AI: So it sounds like this might have been an example of the WRA administration looking for some model people to relocate, to move from camp, relocate, out away from the West Coast to the Midwest or East Coast and perhaps serve as a model to other Nisei?

BH: [Laughs] Well, the policy of WRA was to move as many qualified people out of the camps back into the American mainstream. And of course, it was easiest to find places for people who were well-qualified. For example, if you were an auto mechanic, you could go anywhere in interior America and get a job. If you were a cook, you could get a job. There were very few Nisei newspapermen who had experience, and I don't think that I was looked on as a model. It's just that I happened to be a kind of guy who could go out, and they wanted me to go out and perhaps demonstrate in some way that all of these "slant-eyed Japs" in the camp weren't hostile toward the U.S.

AI: Well, so when you left, it was in October of 1943. And that was you, your wife Alice, your young son Mike, and as I understand, also your mother-in-law?

BH: Yes.

AI: Could you say a bit about what happened to your wife's mother? As I understand it, she did not go to camp with the rest of you. She had been taken separately to --

BH: Yes. She lived in Portland, Oregon. And my own family was in Seattle. During the FBI roundups, Japanese -- Buddhist priests and Japanese schoolteachers, language schoolteachers were particularly picked for detention. She was a widow. And she made a living by teaching piano and setting type in the newspaper, the newspaper her husband had owned. She also taught Japanese language, and that put her in the pick-up category. So she was one of the few women who were detained by the FBI. And she was sent off to Crystal City, Texas -- Seagoville, Texas, first and then Crystal City. And there were some other Japanese women, schoolteachers, there. She was not the only one.

And while there, she noticed a growth on the side of her face, and the doctors in camp couldn't diagnose it. And we were -- my wife and I were very much worried. And we asked that she be allowed to go to the Mayo Clinic for diagnosis. And my wife and I and our son, baby son, were allowed to go there to join her. She spoke very little English. And there we learned that she had Hodgkin's Disease, which in those years, was untreatable. And they said she had two years to live. Well, we then asked that she be transferred from the Texas camp to join us in Heart Mountain. And she was there for about a year or so, and -- maybe less. And when we set out for Des Moines, Iowa, she was allowed to go with us.

AI: That must have been very difficult.

BH: Yes, it was. She was uncomfortable, and the treatment she received in the camp was inadequate. And, but they sent her from the Heart Mountain camp to a hospital in Billings, Montana, where they had better facilities. And they sent her up there for x-ray treatments once a month or something like that.

AI: Well, now, turning now to Des Moines, Iowa --

BH: Yeah.

AI: The job that you were going to was copy editor...

BH: Yes.

AI: the Des Moines Register. And you've written about that and you've written a lit -- some about the reception that your family received there in Des Moines. I'd like to ask, what stands out in your mind about that time when you and your family first arrived in Des Moines?

BH: Well, I went there first. We went from camp to Kansas City, where my brother was. And my wife and son and mother-in-law stayed there while I went on up to Des Moines to look for a place to live. And the Quakers had a hostel there, and I was there about ten days and spending my days looking for a house to rent and working nights. It was a morning newspaper, so I worked nights. And eventually I found a place that, to rent, a rickety old place in the not-very-nice part of town, but housing was very difficult to find.

What impressed me about the Des Moines Register was they hired me sight-unseen. They didn't ask me or test me to see if I could do the job. They just said, when I got there, they said, "Take your coat off, go to work," which I did. And I had the background and the training, so that I caught on very quickly to their, their style of doing things. And they gave me more and more responsibility as the weeks went on. And I'm forever grateful that they had the courage to hire somebody from a detention camp, and do -- to take a role, an increasingly important role in a very important newspaper.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Because you've done some writing on this and because our time is limited, I'm going to make a jump in time now...

BH: Yeah.

AI: 1944. And during, all this time, you have continued your column in the Pacific Citizen. And in one of your columns, you, you pointed out the hypocrisy of the United States in World War II, fighting for freedom on the one hand and yet at home, incarcerating Japanese Americans. And duri-, in the summer of 1944, Governor Earl Warren of California gave a keynote address at the Republican National Convention. You, you were noting that he paid homage to the Constitution as the "guiding star," he so-called, of the United States, and that he went on to say that quote, "There shall be one law for all men," end quote. And in your column, shortly before the Fourth of July that year, you basically blasted his hypocrisy, Warren's hypocrisy...

BH: Yeah. Yeah.

AI: And you wrote, "We condemn the irresponsible, selfish, and expedient policy like that taken by Earl Warren toward the Japanese American issue. If he or anyone else can be so callous about one small unpopular point of principle, it is logical enough to assume that he would choose the expedient out in larger issues." And given that powerful leaders and political leaders were so willing to disregard the Constitution at that time, what did you think would be an effective way for Japanese Americans to protect their constitutional rights, if any? What -- did you think there was any way for Japanese Americans?

BH: Well, under the circumstances, all we could do was protest our love of country, our patriotism. And military service was one way to do that. And another way would be to retort in our piping little way, our protest against that kind of hypocrisy. Now, the Pacific Citizen had what? Circulation of 15,000 or so at that time, and it was just a little pipsqu-, pipsqueak. But at the same time, the press was free, and I felt an obligation to say what I thought I would -- I should say.

AI: Also in 1944, there came the refusal of some Japanese American men to be drafted. And this became very controversial, and of course, as we all know, at the Heart Mountain camp, there was the largest organized...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...resistance to the draft.

BH: Yes.

AI: Recently in, in a 1999 interview with Frank and Joanne Iritani, you said, "I respect the fact that they felt it was their moral obligation to oppose the government, so long as the government was oppressing them. But what they don't realize is that by taking the position they did, they were endangering the position of the hundred thousand Japanese Americans who were being looked upon with great suspicion. And they have given the government and the anti-Japanese people in this country a great opportunity to say, 'All of you are disloyal.'"

I was wondering if you could expand on that and explain what you meant about, by saying that the resisters were endangering the hundred thousand Japanese Americans. And if you could be more specific about what consequences you feared.

BH: All of us were under suspicion. That's why they put us in prison. The best way, the only way, to prove that we were Americans, loyal Americans, anxious to be Americans, anxious to serve, was to serve. I recognize the right of individuals to follow their consciences. And if this group in Heart Mountain would say "no-no" and insist that they would not serve, that was their individual right. But at the same time, I felt that that sort of action would lead to the kind of publicity, which our enemies could use to say, "See? We told you. These Japs are disloyal. They would sabotage the U.S. government. They hate the United States. And we ought to get rid of the whole damn bunch of them." I felt that they were endangering the, the futures of the rest of us, while at the same time, I recognize and respect their right to follow their own consciences.

AI: So even though a number of those men, on their questionnaires actually answered "yes-yes," at the same time, they were resisting the draft on a principle of, which was to insist that their constitutional rights be clarified...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...and their citizenship be clarified. So while you respect that position...

BH: Yeah.

AI: had a greater fear that even that being a principled position could lead to some practical consequences that could be very negative.

BH: Yes. Correct. I'm not sure that some of them had said "yes-yes" and then resisted the Selective Service Act. I don't know that that's true. I, I do know that some of them said, "Yes, if my family's allowed to go back to California," or wherever.

AI: Well, continuing just a bit on this, at the end of your book, Out of the Frying Pan, you, you comment on the dangers of presentism.

BH: Yes.

AI: The problem of applying today's standards, present-day standards to actions in the past. And could you say a bit about how you see that applicable in this case of the, the draft resisters of World War II?

BH: Well, there's been a lot, very bitter stuff said by both sides, the "no-no" people and mostly the veterans. I think that many of them are judging what happened sixty, seventy years ago by today's standards. And that's, I think that's what I was referring to in this matter of presentism. You have to understand the situation that existed many decades ago. And it's unfair to stand back from the position of seventy years of difference in time and say, "Hey, these guys were wrong," or "These guys were right," by present standards. These standards were -- situation was different at that time.

AI: One more item that came about in 1944, and that was that the United States Supreme Court cases...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...were heard, and of course, the Supreme Court ruled against...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...Hirabayashi, Korematsu, Yasui. And, when you heard that news, were you surprised? What was your reaction?

BH: I was disappointed and outraged.

AI: But were you surprised?

BH: I don't know. I don't recall whether I was just surprised, surprised or just angry.

AI: You thought that the United States Supreme Court should have ruled the other way?

BH: Yes. Absolutely. The minority briefs and, I forget the man I've quoted often --

AI: Justice Murphy?

BH: Murphy was one of them. They made a very eloquent condemnation of the, of the evacuation. Phrases like, "This precedent will stand like a loaded gun pointed at the American people," and things like that.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: Well, at, at the very end of 1944, you made a comment in your Frying Pan column, "The evacuation has opened new vistas of opportunity for the Nisei. It has accomplished in a sudden, revolutionary, and oftentimes cruel manner something that would have come to pass in a generation or two. And the Nisei and their offspring will profit when the pain of being wrenched from their homes is forgotten." In the same column, you go on to say that the prewar Japanese American communities were isolated, surrounded by prejudice, but that now, due to the evacuation, the Nisei had lost their provincial, narrow outlook and discovered the real America. What, what was it that you believed had been accomplished, even though at a painful price?

BH: Well, back in 1941, the, I would say 95, maybe even a larger percentage of the Japanese Americans lived on the West Coast. And they were concentrated mostly in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco area, and Seattle area. Today you find Japanese Americans in every state of the union. There are hundreds of them in places like Florida, for example, or Boston, in Massachusetts. And back then we were hemmed in, partly or largely by pressure from the outside which resisted our going out, and partly because we were afraid to go out.

Well, we were torn out of that kind of situation and scattered all over the country, so that today you have what, 12,000 in Chicago doing almost everything from practicing law to manufacturing contact lenses to whatever. In Colorado, we have the president of the State Senate is a Sansei. And a few years ago, the mayor of the third largest city in Colorado was a Nisei. And we have members of Congress who are Japanese Americans. We have the chief of staff of the U.S. Army is a Sansei or Yonsei from, from Hawaii. And so fields of opportunity were opened to Japanese Americans who had the talent, the education, and the background to succeed, whatever success means.

But back before the war, a Japanese American could go to the University of Washington and get a degree in pharmacy. And what he could do was open up a little drugstore in Japantown. He wasn't going to be hired by a big pharmaceutical company to do research. And that was true in most other fields. We have Japanese Americans who are officers in very large corporations, business firms, because the door was opened and these people were given an opportunity to exercise their talents and their abilities, their education, their skills. And that sort of opportunity did not exist in 1940. It used to be said that there were more Nisei wearing Phi Beta Kap-, Kappa keys piling oranges and polishing apples in the markets of Los Angeles. Well, you don't find that now. These guys with the Phi Beta Kappa keys are taking the kind of role in the American system that they are entitled to by their education, by their intelligence, by the drive and whatever. Economic success. We have politicians elected in areas where there are not an overwhelming number of Asian votes.

And so out of the terrible experience of the evacuation, we were blasted loose, blasted free from the confines of the Little Tokyos, where we were confined partly because we didn't have the courage to go out, but more by the pressures from the outside keeping us in there.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: Well, moving ahead in time once again, I'm going to move us up to 1946. And you and your wife decided to move back to the West.

BH: Yes.

AI: And move to Denver, where you joined the Denver Post staff. And I'm wondering if you would just say a little bit about that transition to Denver...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...and how, what you found there when you came with your family.

BH: Well, the, our reception in Des Moines was very warm. We made some very good friends there. And I was working for a newspaper that I was proud to be a member of. But the climate was uncomfortable, and I missed the mountains, and my son had allergies, and we decided to come West. The Denver Post had been a terrible, terrible newspaper. And I write about that in a book called, Thunder in the Rockies, which is a very strong history of the terrible things that the Denver Post did. But after the war, the ownership of the Post realized that they were behind the times. They had to change. And they brought in a new publisher, the big boss from Portland, Oregon, who I knew by reputation. He had been publisher of The Oregonian in Portland. And so I had heard that they were hiring, and so I had written, I wrote to the Post, asking for a job. And few weeks later, I got a reply saying, "Yeah. Come on and come to work for us." And about that time, I got cold feet, and I wondered, "Can this tiger change its spots completely? Do I really want to go to work there?"

So I got on the train, overnight -- they had an overnight train from Des Moines to Denver. And I got on the train and rode all night and washed up in the men's room of the Union Station and went up to see Palmer Hoyt. And I told him of my concerns. And he said, "You don't have to worry about that. You'll go as far in this organization as your abilities will take you." And I said, "Mr. Hoyt, that's fine. I'll come to work." Well, I was making $62.50 a week in Des Moines. And the scale in Denver was $60.00, and they had federal restrictions on pay increases. And I went back to Des Moines and told my boss that I was going to quit and go on West, and he said, "How much are they going to pay you?" And I said, "$60.00." "How much are you making here?" I said, $62.50. "Well," he said, "I'll raise your pay by $2.50 if you'll stay." [Laughs] And I said, "Frank, I appreciate that, but I've made up my mind. I'm going back, I'm going West."

And I was very well-received in Denver. And the one incident that I remember very clearly, we were in the city room, which was quite a large room, and I was in the back of it. And a Chinese American friend from Seattle who was going through Denver at that time, he came to see me. And he looked me up and came to the back of the room where I was. And he said, "You know what happened out there? I told the receptionist, 'I'd like to see Mr. Hosokawa.' And the receptionist, the receptionist said, 'He's the man in the back of the room with the blue, blue shirt.'" And this Chinese guy said, "She didn't say, 'He's that Japanese guy back there.'" And that really impressed me.

And Hoyt was true to his promise that I would go as far as my abilities would take me. I was given one responsible job after another, and the last seven years at the Post, I was editor of the editorial page, telling 400,000 readers, a guy who had been imprisoned because he was suspect, his loyalty was suspect, now telling 400,000 readers what to think of what the president is doing or what Congress should be doing or whatever. And I really enjoyed that job.

AI: That must have given you a great deal of satisfaction.

BH: Yes. And there was no question from the public. I was recognized as Bill Hosokawa, the guy from the Post.

AI: Rather than --

BH: The "Jap" kid.

AI: ...Hosokawa that...

BH: Yeah.

AI: Well, one of the notable things that happened in 1950 in your career was that you became the Denver Post's first war correspondent and covered the Korean War.

BH: Yes.

AI: And I know that you have written a bit about this, but at that time, you were thirty-five years old. At that time, you had just had your fourth child. So you had four children.

BH: Yeah.

AI: And, but you did accept this assignment.

BH: Yes.

AI: And in, in particular, I wanted to ask, because you hadn't, haven't written much about the, this aspect. Was there anything about covering a war in Asia, where again the U.S. was fighting an Asian enemy, and then you being, covering it as a journalist, an American with an Asian ancestry, Asian face, did anything come up in regard to that?

BH: No, because we were -- the angle that you bring up, we were also fighting with Asians. They were our allies, and we were going out there to help save them. It wasn't white man versus yellow man. There was that ideology there.

AI: And so that was a very significant difference from --

BH: Oh, yeah, sure.

AI: ...World War II. Well, continuing on --

BH: May I interrupt you just...

AI: Yes.

BH: I went to Vietnam also. And here, at the time I went, which is 1960, '63 or '64, we had only 20,000 men there. And their mission was to help the Vietnamese, South Vietnamese develop the wherewithal to resist Communism. And the men that I encountered, they were mostly professional soldiers, and they were very dedicated to the idea of helping the Vietnamese fight off the Communists so that they could build up their own country. And shortly after I came back, there was the Tonkin incident, and suddenly, it wasn't the Vietnamese fighting the Vietnamese with us helping the South. It became our war, and we had a half a million Americans doing the fighting for the Vietnamese. Well, that changed the, the entire complexion of that war. And, but the time, at the time I was there, I thought we belonged there and we were doing a very noble thing.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: Moving away from your coverage of the war, of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, also significant in the '50s was the African American, or at that time, black Civil Rights movement. And in 1954, of course, was the Brown v. Board of Education case decided by the Supreme Court. I'm wondering, what was your reaction to that decision at the time when you heard that?

BH: I thought it was about time.

AI: And did you, did you see or feel any direct connection between that case and the efforts of the African Americans, between that and the struggle of Japanese Americans for equality as full Americans?

BH: Well, I felt that there was no comparison. The blacks have had a very, very rough time, and over a longer period. And because of education and lack of education and the old prejudices that exist in the South and all that, they still have a very rough time. There, there really is no comparison. Our difficulty was much more low-key, and the, the worst part of it was concentrated in the evacuation period, when our rights were suspended. But the blacks had no rights to suspend. They, they just were slaves without chains. And I was running the newsroom at the time of the Little Rock violence there. And I was partly responsible for sending a black reporter we had and a white reporter and sending them down together to Little Rock. And they covered the, the demonstrations there individually and then got together after, at night, to compare notes and then file a story for us. When the Post hired its first black reporter, the boss called me in and says, "Take him out to lunch and we'll see how he is." And so there was some faith in my judgment, an awareness on the part of the management that this guy might be a great newspaperman or he might a rabble-rouser. And they wanted to be sure.

AI: And when you made that assignment for a white reporter and a black reporter...

BH: Yeah.

AI: both go to Arkansas...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...that in itself at that time, must have been unusual for a newspaper such as the Denver Post or any newspaper, comparable newspaper, in a city of that size.

BH: Yeah, I would think so, although that was such a big story that many people sent their own correspondents over there. But the idea of using a black and a white together was quite different. And not many newspapers had black reporters at that time.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: We're -- I'm going to fast-forward us in time here and come up to the time of the late 1960s and early 1970s, where there began to be some initial calls for some redress for the Japanese Americans...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...who were incarcerated during World War II.

BH: Uh-huh. Yeah.

AI: And my understanding is that there were a great number of Japanese Americans who were quite uncomfortable with the idea of asking the government for any sort of reparations or redress.

BH: Yes. Yes.

AI: Can you talk a little bit about that...

BH: Yes.

AI: ...and what that negative reaction was about?

BH: Yeah. I was among those who opposed the redress movement, and I felt that it cheapened our sacrifice, to put out our hands and say, "Give us some money for what we went through." Cheapened the sacrifice, cheapened the, the ordeal that we went through. We wanted pay for what, in effect, we did to save the nation in the war. I changed my mind when they came up with the idea of the Congressional Commission, the relo-, what did they call that?

AI: The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...Civilians?

BH: Yeah. That would have the advantage of making a very intensive fact-finding, fact-found report to Congress, which would prove that a terrible wrong was done to us. And it, when we could come up with that kind of back, backing, it was far different from people who had suffered saying, "Give us some money for what we went through." And when that commission was approved and Dan Inouye and others got that bill through Congress, then I thought, "Yeah, this is, this is, this changes the picture altogether. Now, the main emphasis at the beginning was money. "Give us money." The original idea that Clifford Uyeda proposed at the JACL convention in Salt Lake City was $25 dollars, $25,000 dollars and it was called "reparations," which has an altogether different connotation from redress. And I was very uneasy with the approach that we were taking, but I changed my mind when it was made into a redress effort and included an apology from the, from Congress and the American people.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: Well, continuing here, I did want to ask you about the, now, the findings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians as well as some findings that came out of the research done for coram nobis cases, the reopening of the Hirabayashi, Yasui, and Korematsu cases, did come to light some government documents showing that, in fact, there was no military necessity during World War II that justified the incarceration, the mass incarceration...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...of the people of Japanese ancestry. And what was your reaction to hearing this, this news, these findings?

BH: The, I thought the, the redress commission hearings were very interesting. But a lot of that information was known. And many of the witnesses were just telling about their own experiences, the bitterness, the injustice. It was information that had to, had come out, and I'm glad that Congress was made aware of this sort of thing. But the coram nobis cases were much more significant because it, they showed misconduct, official misconduct which affected us adversely. And this business of evidence being destroyed or suppressed was outrageous, and I'm sorry that the government decided not to challenge but to admit indirectly that they were wrong and, and reverse the, the previous convictions. If that had been allowed to go to trial and that evidence made public, it would have been much more effective.

I knew, or I had suspected a long time ago that the decision to evacuate was, was made without a great deal of thought. The records show that Biddle, the Attorney General, wanted to protest, but he deferred to Stimson, who was a senior member of the cabinet. Well, what if Stimson -- if Biddle had got up in a cabinet meeting and says, "Damn it. This is wrong." It would have caused the cabinet to do some more thinking. And when Stimson called Roos-, Roosevelt, he wanted to see Roosevelt, but Roosevelt was too preoccupied with the business of fighting a worldwide war. Stimson said, "We've, going to make the decision to move the Japanese off the West Coast. And Roosevelt's only advice was, "Well, be as reasonable as you can." That's documented. And Jesus, they're talking about the rights of 120,000 people and constitutional principles that are the basis of American democracy, and the president says, "Be as reasonable as you can." That's outrageous.

Well, in many respects, the Japanese American problem was a very minor one compared to the problems of fighting a global war. But it's deplorable that they considered it a minor issue. And the reason was that we were not integrated. Outside pressures kept us pretty well confined to our ghettos. Issei could not become citizens, and they were looked on as dusty little "Jap" farmers, most of them, and the Nisei were ten, twenty years too young. There weren't enough people who had made their way into the greater communities. There weren't enough people who could be spokesmen. There weren't enough people who could be role models. Average age was what, seventeen, eighteen? And our leaders were in their early thirties.

It couldn't happen today. Dan Inouye and all those other guys in Congress and federal judges, civic leaders. We have made a place for ourselves in American society. And that did not exist back in 1941. We were just the, oh, the little "Japs" in Little Tokyo here. And only a few people would say, "Look, these people are Americans. Born here. They have citizenship. They 're entitled to all the privileges of American citizenship." There were very few people who stuck up for us. So in that respect, the evacuation, I think, was inevitable.

AI: At that time. Now, today...

BH: Yeah.

AI: ...we, we now in the U.S. have some other groups of immigrants that are very small, ethnic minorities. Do you think that some sort of a suspension of constitutional rights could happen again, this time affecting a different small minority group in the U.S.?

BH: I can't say that it would not happen. I think it's unlikely to happen. But it could. During the Iran crisis, a lot of Americans were out to get them "damn Iranians" who were in the United States. And in Denver, there was an Iranian college student with a wife and children, and he was afraid of what was going to happen and went out and bought himself a rifle. And there were some redneck kids who says, "Let's go out and get us an Iranian." And they went to his apartment with baseball bats and broke in a window and threatened the guy, and the guy was afraid for himself and his family, and he got the rifle out and shot and killed one of the rednecks. Well, he was acquitted. Self-defense. But there are enough thoughtless people who would get all excited about something like that, and I think yes, it's possible. I don't think, although I don't think there'll be a, a far-reaching, widespread type of discrimination.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: What do you think now is needed to change our societies to really make that possibility, to eliminate that possibility? What needs to change?

BH: Passage of time. You aren't going to change people's minds by writing editorials or passing laws. People are going to break laws. But I think time has to pass before we realize that, and get used to the idea that this is a country made up of all kinds of people. Now, I'm concerned a little bit about overreacting on our part. Geez, we get all excited when the Pacific Citizen runs a headline, somebody called us "Japs" or the radio guy said, "Chinks." Well, that's unpleasant, but is it worth making a big fuss about? Often it's much more effective to keep your voice down low and try to reason with these guys instead of getting all excited about it and screaming murder.

AI: Well, in fact, that, that touches on a, a question of balance that I, I did want to ask you about. You had written in 1993, "Over the years, I had been concerned about being excessively militant about our problems, about Japanese Americans being perceived as oversensitive pests and crybabies. 'Protest strongly against injustice,' I urged. 'Insist vigorously for fairness, but don't make a career of looking for matters to complain about.'" And over the years, there, you have had many columns in which you did clearly protest against injustice. And again, referring back to some of your columns in 1943, saying, "Are native fascists professional race-baiters, politicians who can find no better way to get into the papers than to lash at the defenseless evacuees?"

BH: Yeah.

AI: "Superpatriotic sadists, whose motto is 'Kick 'em while they're down,' and countless others of peanut-sized brain capacity are having a field day."

BH: Boy, that's pretty strong stuff, isn't it? [Laughs]

AI: That's a very strong statement.

BH: But I think it was warranted.

AI: And, and how do you draw this line between being vigorous and, and making a strong, warranted statement, and being oversensitive, complaining?

BH: Oh, I think there's a big difference. If they pick you up, your family and all of your neighbors and throw you in a concentration camp, that's a little different from some disc jockey saying, "Go see the movie 'Pearl Harbor' and see what we did to them Japs." Little bit different.

AI: I'm wondering whether one disc jockey making that kind of statement is perhaps just one small step toward again, a more broadly negative attitude that --

BH: I don't think they have that kind of influence. At the same time, I think it's important to protest that sort of insensitivity. But much of that is done out of ignorance rather than malice. And I think it's important to, to understand the difference. So overcoming ignorance is an educational thing.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: I wanted to turn now to ask you about your uncovering of some govern-, government documents...

BH: Yes.

AI: recent years. In fact, I'm not sure when you got this information or what motivated you to find the information, but that there were some government memos dating back to World War II that did describe you as a subversive and actually did document that your fam-, you and your family's removal to Heart Mountain, separating you from your community, was designed to punish you. How, how did you happen to find these documents, and what was your reaction when you saw them?

BH: Frank Chin sent them to me. I didn't even know they existed. And it sort of disturbed me at the time, but I also kind of laughed at it, saying, "This is the level of American military intelligence at, at that time." I don't know where they got that information. Actually I was called before the grand jury in (Seattle) before, long before the evacuation. And that was at the time that Thomas Masuda, an attorney, and Kenji Ito, also an attorney, were called before the grand jury. And as I recall, Tom was, the charge against Tom was that he was taking movies of the Armistice Day Parade in November of 1941. And the charge against Kenji was that he made speeches defending Japan's policy in Asia about the same time. And both of them were indicted, but they were acquitted. The charge against me was that when I was working for the Japanese Consulate, I wrote a letter to the, the Bellingham, not Bellingham, what's the naval base across here?

DM: Oh. Bremerton?

BH: Huh?

DM: Is it Bremerton?

BH: Yeah, Bremerton. Bremerton Sun, I think, that they, this newspaper was. That I had written them a letter on Japanese Consulate paper, stationery, and signed the letter. And the letter had asked if they had a copy of a particular edition, issue, that they could send to me. We wanted to buy it. And the story that they were looking at was the, some kind of a table showing such aircraft carriers had come in and others had left Bremerton out in public. Well, the grand jury figured that it was not an indictable offense to write to a newspaper to ask for a specific issue. [Laughs] So I was not tried.

I, I don't know where they got the idea that I was subversive in, or possibly subversive in "Camp Harmony" in Puyallup. I was outspoken. My son caught the mumps there, and there was no hospital. And his illness was not severe enough for them to take him out of the camp and put him into a public hospital. So they put him in a, one of those big barns out there, and that was the isolation ward. There was nobody else there. And my wife had to take care of him. And I went up to the director of the camp and said, "This is wrong. You can't, you shouldn't be able, you shouldn't be doing this sort of thing." And I don't think anything came out, came of my protest because, when the kid got well, he was allowed to come back. But it could've been that I was quite outspoken and protesting what I thought were wrongs, correctable wrongs, puny wrongs, picayunish wrongs, that hurt us, that could've been avoided. And because I was outspoken, I suppose somebody said, "Oh, he's a subversive. He's pro-Jap."

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: A different kind of question now.

BH: Yeah.

AI: In, in reviewing the history of your, your life and your work, it occurs that in some ways, you've been a, a kind of a bridge, played a role of bridging between Japanese Americans and white Americans.

BH: Yeah.

AI: You worked in a number of capacities trying to facilitate communications, understanding. I, I did want to ask you if you thought that was an accurate commentary, and --

BH: Well, yeah.

AI: And if so, what --

BH: My profession is communications. And I felt that there was lack of understanding, rather than misunderstanding. Lack of understanding. And in the Pacific Citizen and Heart Mountain Sentinel, I expressed my views. In the greater newspaper field, the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, elsewhere I worked, I did not espouse the cause of Japanese Americans specifically, but I was very strongly for justice, fairness for all Americans. And in much of that activity, it, it referred to the blacks and the Hispanics in the Colorado area, and by that time, the Japanese were doing pretty well.

AI: Well, this brings us to the end of our formal questions for you, except one last one is whether -- is if you have some last commentary or additional commentary you'd like to make or words that you would like to pass on.

BH: Well, I often feel that we take ourselves too seriously, even though I have written some very strong stuff. We, we need balance. And we have to stop crying about petty things. When there's a basic issue, yeah, let's speak out strongly. But I don't agree with, say, the Pacific Citizen running a front-page story that the disc jockey said "Jap" and that sort of thing. That isn't front-page news. There are much more important issues at stake. I think we ought to pick the field in which we want to make a stand. We can't be alarmists about everything.

Now, Pacific Citizen made a big issue about the "Pearl Harbor" movie. Well, I don't know what Tateishi accomplished by talking to the people at Sony Pictures or MGM or whatever it was. But I saw the picture that was shown to the public, and I didn't think there was all that much to be concerned about. And so let's pick our fights and pick our places where we're going to make a stand. You can't be crying wolf all the time.

AI: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Hosokawa. We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

BH: Okay. It was fun.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.