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Title: May Ota Higa Interview
Narrator: May Ota Higa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 17, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-hmay-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Which church was this?

MH: Congregational Church headquarters. I was working there, and then the War Department sent a guy over to question me, and my boss, Dr. Gibson, said -- Gibbons, Dr. Gibbons said -- he was gonna take me away someplace to question me. And Dr. Gibbons says, "No, you're not taking May out of here. If you want to question her, you can use my office, and you do it here. You're not taking her." So he questioned me even though he knew everything about me. He knew what newspapers I read, what books I checked out of the library, what friends I had, what meetings I had gone to, everything. Just had a dossier on me, and I think because I had just come back from Japan. I was really amazed; they knew what meetings I had gone to.

TI: And what did they tell you was the purpose of the interview? What were they looking for?

MH: You ask for a purpose when the War Department comes?

TI: Well, but did they ask you, I mean, did they tell you why they wanted to talk with you?

MH: They said, "We need some information from you." That's it. And I don't think that the ministers in that office asked, either. They just assumed that if the War Department came and wanted to do something, you do it, no questions asked. And nothing came of that.

TI: And do you remember what kind of questions they asked, though? What were they interested in? Was it about your experiences in Japan?

MH: Yeah, they were interested in why I went to Japan and why I came back and what I did after I came back, and what organizations do I belong to now, and all that sort of stuff.

TI: And the information that they had, you said they knew what books you checked out and all that, was that all the way from, back from Seattle?

MH: From Seattle.

TI: So it was all that.

MH: Uh-huh.

TI: Well, that's interesting. So they, so they had an FBI file on you.

MH: They had. They had something on me, and I --

TI: Something you might want to do is they probably still have that file...

MH: Do you think so?

TI: the National Archives.

MH: You think so?

TI: It might be interesting for you to go look at it.

MH: And then I worked there as a, as a clerk and the ministers were very nice to me and I enjoyed it, and the person who did the packaging for booklets that they sent out was Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who did the tower, his father. His father worked there in the same office, that was kind of fun. And Minoru and I have been good friends, were good friends.


TI: And we should, we should note that he designed the World Trade Center.

MH: World Trade Center, oh, he designed many, that beautiful science building entrance with...

TI: Yeah, the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, the arches.

MH: That ethereal-looking thing. I just love that one.


TI: And what was he like? Could you tell at that point that he was destined to do wonderful things?

MH: Oh yes, oh yes. He was winning prizes, and oh, yeah. [Interruption] He knew he was good, and he... but he was truly a genius. Truly a genius. And he told me all about that towers and said that he had built it so that the fires couldn't go do down below certain floors, he had them sectioned off. But if they strike it from the side, even if the thing doesn't catch fire, if it falls, the top floor is... yeah, he told me that every so many floors, it's insulated so that fires can't...

TI: So he told you this when he was designing the building?

MH: Huh?

TI: This was after he, the building was built, or when he was designing it?

MH: Uh-huh. Well, he... this was... gee, when did I... I was in contact with him for a long while. He did the hotel in Los Angeles, too, and we went there to eat dinner. This was, yeah, way after. But I think it was after the towers were built.

TI: That's interesting.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.