Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mits Koshiyama Interview
Narrator: Mits Koshiyama
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 14, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-kmits-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, now, bringing us up to January of 1944, in 1943 there had been the call for volunteers into the service.

MK: Yes.

AI: But in '44, the government decided to reinstate the draft...

MK: Right.

AI: ...for men of Japanese ancestry. And in February, draft notices were issued out to men including yourself.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: You were still in camp, and you received your draft notice probably sometime in February. What was your reaction when you, when you got this thing?

MK: When I got my draft notice? I wasn't happy at all. I said, "How can they do this?" They take away our rights, punish us actually for being Japanese, having a different-looking face. That's the only reason, the Germans and Italians, they didn't, some of them, the aliens maybe were put, moved out of certain areas, but the citizens weren't put into concentration camps. It's just plain racism. Anybody could see that, but they denied -- hakujin, white America denies it, but it's true. The facts speak for itself. And while we, we, fully understood that we had to just try our best to, like, like my brother, he says, "We'll go along with the draft because the government requests it. Maybe that's the only way that we could become American citizen." But I said, "No. We are, we are American citizens and that we don't have to go out there and sacrifice ourselves just to please white America." I said, "Why can't we go after we get our rights back?" and that we should fight for return of our constitutional rights before we go into the army. I said, "That's only the right thing to do."

AI: Well, now, about this time, at the same time all of this was going on, the Fair Play Committee had formed...

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: Heart Mountain. In fact, I think it was that, late '43, Mr. Kiyoshi Okamoto...

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: ...called himself the "Fair Play Committee of One," calling for your rights back before people were, before men were drafted. And in late December 1943, other men joined him to create the Fair Play Committee...

MK: Yeah.

AI: ...and talking about the principles of democracy and what they called "fair play." Well, now, what did you think about what the Fair Play Committee was saying? Were you, did you attend any of their meetings or discussions?

MK: No, I didn't, I, unfortunately I didn't go to any meetings because I was more interested in social life. But I knew what was going on.

AI: So you heard about it.

MK: Yeah. I had friends that attended. They told me all about it. And I heard that it was a overflowing crowd and there was too many people standing around. So I said, "No, I'm, I'm not gonna go." About Kiyoshi Okamoto, it's right. He, he was one-man, "Fair Play Committee of One." And he went around camp actually, anybody that listened to him, he spoke about the violation of our, our constitutional rights and that, I think he, in his way, he was protesting. And after a while, like you say, many young people joined him and made the Fair Play Committee. It's amazing thing that these people that, in the camps that protested constitutional rights were mainly from Hawaii. It makes me wonder why these people, Nisei from Hawaii are more versed on constitutional issues and rights than mainland Japanese. Our mainland Japanese American leaders, they thought that appeasement was the proper way. But here this Japanese from Hawaii, he's eloquent -- I heard he had coarse language, but he was eloquent in preparing people to understand and study what the government was doing. It was unconstitutional, like he's claimed. We were American citizens, and under the law, we should have a day in court to prove our innocence, what you call due process of law. But we never had that. Why? Because of racism.

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