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Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview II
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 25, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-02-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Gordon, I'm gonna bring you back. [Laughs] That's interesting, but I'm, I'm -- in thinking about essentially it's fall quarter 1941, you made a couple of major decisions, one to become a conscientious objector to, or actually to, to apply for that, as well as to join the Society of Friends. Later on that, that quarter was December 7, 1941 and I'm not going to talk specifically about that date. I want -- I'm really more interested in the period following that, that there was a lot of, of anti-Japanese sentiment going on in the media, and I'm sure that you were sort of confronted with articles and people talking about that. I wanted to find out what your reaction, or how that affected you during this period.

GH: This is before we were moved, huh?

TI: This is yeah, before, this is when you're in...

GH: Seattle, Seattle.

TI: Winter quarter so you're going to school, January, February, March of 1942.

GH: Yeah, yeah. And, and in other words, just the eve of --

TI: Correct.

GH: People started to go into Minidoka

TI: Correct.

GH: In May and so on.

TI: And so it wasn't clear that, that people were -- the Japanese were gonna be evacuated. But the media was portraying a very anti-Japanese sentiment at that period. And you were going to school and studying, but I'm sure you were aware of these things and I wanted to know how it affected you.

GH: Well, when it was curfew it was -- it didn't make much difference where I was staying. I was staying at the Y. When it became, staying after the deadline of all the Japanese being gone --

TI: Even before...

GH: At Eagleson Hall.

TI: Yeah, even before we get there, I mean just maybe a personal reaction. I mean when you saw those types of things. How did you react to that?

GH: Well, I didn't react unusually to it. That is I didn't react overly against it, or let it influence me to moderate my position. Right, I did as moderately as I could. I didn't -- at, on the curfew thing I made a personal decision to break it.

TI: Yeah, let's, let's go into that now, because let me give some background. So, February, February 19, 1942, that's when President Roosevelt signed...

GH: Yeah, Yeah.

TI: EO 9066, Executive order 9066. And then about a month later, that's about March 24th, a curfew was imposed on, that affected Japanese aliens, as well as, Uni -- U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry. So, why don't you --

GH: And also to Italian and German aliens.

TI: Correct. So their, the aliens of, of Italy...

GH: Three countries, yeah.

TI: Germany and Japan, but in terms of U.S. citizens only...

GH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Japanese Americans.

GH: Well, I, I objected to it but, I was following my overwhelming teaching to be law abiding. And so I, my first reaction was to -- well, that's an order so I'll follow the orders. My dormitory members -- I think there were about fifteen of us in there, and I was the only one of Japanese ancestry. I had another Japanese there for awhile who, who was active in the young people's group. He was a year behind me. And, and I said, "Well, I've got an extra room, and I'm the only one in my room, you're welcome to stay here, at least you can stay off the streets." And I'm taking care of the furnace and polishing the floors and so on, certain times a week. It was my, part of my room arrangement. And so, "You're welcome to stay." And he, he came in and he was, well we were discussing this. He was a very bright person. He went to Oberlin College --

TI: Is this Bill Makino?

GH: Yeah, Makino, yeah. And he got to a place where he says, "I feel the same as you do." And, and then one day, I'm dashing home. "Hey Gordon, it's five to eight." I grabbed my stuff and it takes about five minutes to get home so I was just dashing home, and it hit me. A question that I should've faced earlier, just hit me. How come I'm dashing home and all your time keepers are still there? I didn't -- I just needed the question to be raised. I knew I couldn't answer it. You know, without saying, "I can't do it." I turned around, and went back, to the library. "Hey, what's, what's the matter?" I said, "Well, you guys are here." "Well, we got work to do." I said, "Well, I got work to do too. I decided if you guys are here, I'm gonna, I'm gonna work with you. I'll go back when you guys are ready to go." Nobody turned me in. And I didn't take that until it hit me. And when it hit me I knew, gosh, I can't do it. That's two-faced. The only reason I'm subject to go is because of my -- the way it's stated. I'm a person of Japanese ancestry. In fact, there were, there were Canadians in the group, who weren't even citizens, but they didn't have to go. Well, so I couldn't, I couldn't accept it. And we left it that way. And then later on -- order to remove, go to Puyallup. That was already in effect and I was, I was responding to information that was received by the American Friends Service Committee, that I had volunteered for, to go and pick up so and so, who's father is interned, but the mo -- mother has to get all the kids together and so on, and get to this pick-up station. And I said --

TI: Gordon, before we get into that, because I do want to cover that, that whole sequence --

GH: Well, let me just...

TI: Okay.

GH: Finish why I brought this in now, 'Cause this is on the removal. On the rem -- I'm picking them up and taking them to the pick-up point and leaving their gear and so on, and watched them get on, everybody get on. And then I'm waving them good-bye. People -- I used to get letters from people saying, "Well, I saw you waving good-bye and I thought you'd be on the next, you know, the last bus that would leave." And I wrote and I said I thought I would too. But a question arose during the process and I, the, the question was this -- that's why I think it'll fit here, this part of it -- if I couldn't accept curfew, how could I accept this? Soon as that question hit me, I knew answer, the answer. I couldn't, I can't accept it. It's worse. This is worse. And it, but, but I had, I had to refuse this, whereas in curfew, I didn't say anything to the government, I just ignored it. If I ignored this, they could go after YMCA as harboring a criminal. [Laughs] And harboring them, and harboring me to break the law and so on. Now, some were willing to do that, but that's not what I wanted to happen. I didn't want to accept that. I couldn't accept it. And so I -- well ancestry -- if they, you know if they gave me some reason to go, that I could defend myself against, that's one thing, but ancestry is no reason. So, I can't accept that as a reason for going. That's the only reason I had to go now. And I didn't want to have the YMCA caught in the middle as harboring. So I told -- I had the arrangement with Art Barnett, my legal advisor...

TI: Let me, let me give some --

GH: That I would turn myself in rather than that...

TI: Right.

GH: So I didn't stay at the Y.

TI: Right.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.