Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
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-02-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Let me, let me give some background so, for -- on dates. The Japanese in Seattle first started being evacuated to Puyallup the end of, of April, like April 29th was the first date. And then the first week or so of May was when they're doing this. So it was during this period that you came to this decision --

GH: Yeah, it, it was...

TI: It was right as you were helping volunteer...

GH: Yeah, yeah, that's right.

TI: Volunteering as the Society of Friends...

GH: It was about the first week of May.

TI Is when you made this -- which was very close...

GH: That's right.

TI: To the point when you turned it in. But what I wanted to do was, was follow up -- during your volunteering, of evacuating the families, helping them. Why don't you talk about that and how you, you decided to, to help the friends evacuate. And what was your role in, in that part?

GH: Well, my role was humanitarian only. Just helping particular families with some of the difficulties in the move.

TI: And in general, what families needed the most help?

GH: Those who, primarily those with children whose wives had the responsibility solely to close up the house. Those were the main ones. The fathers were interned. And I was, in all of this I was -- see up to that point in general I expected to be on the last bus. And I didn't expect, I didn't think of it in ways that by going I'd be willie-nillie, agreeing with the process.

TI: It must've been difficult, I mean when you're helping families leave their homes and going there.

GH: Yeah.

TI: It, there musta been some, some memories, or emotional moments that you can recall in doing this. Can you recall any of those?

GH: No, no, not on that aspect. I know it was difficult. And I was just admiring them for -- particularly the women -- this was the Japanese Language School teacher, gee who, who's about five feet. Physically a small person, but I heard of her as being a very excellent teacher and so on. And she, she was the mother of the violin teacher. A violin person, a prodigy sort of, Kazuko Tajitsu. And they had, they, we had three artists, you know, Mary Amano, the photographer's daughter who was a pianist, and my classmate, what the hell was her name? She's a opera singer, soprano, excellent soprano. Not many Japanese sopranos you know. And those three frequently were asked, if they're lucky, all three of 'em were invited, if not just one or two of them were invited at meetings, at events for performance. So I knew those three. Well this is, this I didn't realize was the mother of Kazuko Tajitsu and she was in the group that being moved. And the father was picked up. And she was a teacher, language school teacher, and each, each one had something to carry you know. And I just, I just had been able to -- see I was obeying the law, I mean that was an overriding factor, and secondly I'd been keeping my left and my right hands from intermeshing so that the discrimination, racism and the citizenship, Bill of Rights, you know, I was keeping those apart so I could hold both things. And then periodically a question would come up. If I couldn't do it -- if I turn down, the hell with curfew, how can I accept this? It had hit me and when, when, if I had some discussions with people -- how could you, how can you help these people and then, when you, when you couldn't accept curfew? If somebody asked that, I would have faced this sooner. I mean it's just, you know, by habit you're keeping it apart, so I, I kept it apart. And then when, when I had to put it together with a question like this, then I, I couldn't do it. So, then I knew I couldn't do it and then I knew I couldn't stay at the Y. If I couldn't stay at the Y, wherever I stayed I have to be hidden. I'd involve somebody else. Ah to heck with it. I'm gonna turn myself in.

AI: Did you discuss this with anybody? I mean, from that moment of realization that you couldn't do it, who, who did you share this with? Who did you talk to?

GH: Well, one person I mentioned, Bill Makino, he was gonna go with me. I said well --

AI: When you say go with you, you mean refuse to...

GH: Yeah, yeah.

AI: Go along with the...

GH: He said, "I, I feel the same as you." But then I said to him -- he came back after -- we had this discussion -- he came back after visiting his family. His father is ten years older than mine, and, and he is the only offspring, only son. So he didn't have all the buffers like I did with older brothers and so on, and a younger father. And they put tremendous pressure on him. He hadn't faced these things. See he wasn't a conscientious objector all the way through. He just got this citizenship thing and he says, "I agree with that. This is unfair." And so, now, I respected him for it, but I was not comfortable that he could withstand all this difficulties that would come up at various points. And it wouldn't -- he should, he should be able to get another chance to appraise this. So I said to him, "I would welcome your company, but I want you to think about something. Your, your parents, you're the only offspring, and your dad's older than mine. You're, you should, you should think of it this way. If there's any way you can convince yourself that you can go along with your parents and help them in this situation, you go with them. You come stay with me only if you have, you cannot do it. You cannot, you cannot find any way you could go with your parents." I said, "Give it, give that a good honest try. And if you can, you should go with them." Because I thought, if he could go, I didn't want the burden of his ill, uncomfortable feeling, you know suffering. It's enough, it's enough if he's clear-headed, all the way through and had thought about this. He hadn't had a chance to think about these things much. So, I said, "Don't answer me now. Tell me tomorrow sometime and we'll, we'll discuss it if you have any questions." And next day we discussed it some more, and he decided maybe, "Maybe I should go." I said, "If you can, you should." I didn't want him around if, if he had this, this feeling. Only if he didn't, he can come with me. So that was a good way to resolve it. And he, he turned out to be a -- he's passed away recently. He was very successful as anti-spy, you know military intelligence. He was very bright person. So he succeeded well and he retired, and then, since he was good he was hired, contracted to do other, all kinds of other things at a good salary. So he did well.

AI: Was he, excuse me. Was he the only person that you really had this kind of conversation with at that time?

GH: Well, well yeah, because we're the only ones together. All the rest -- I'm the only one left at the Y -- before, they were, they're none staying there except me. And then he came in because I had an extra bunk and, and he didn't. He had to go back and forth and he wanted to stay late sometimes, and then didn't have a chance to go home. So I told him, well you can stay here during the -- until your time to go. And then, then when I came to this decision, I couldn't go. He said, "I feel that way too." But we got it resolved, and I was glad he could go, 'cause I didn't feel he had a chance to really, fully discuss it. And I thought, I thought there would be some difficulties. 'Cause it's hard enough with hard, hard nailed pacifist to face it. But me, I had no alternative really. I would lose my own self-respect if I -- you know, I had no choice. I had to do it.

TI: Did you want to ask anything else on this area? Go ahead if you want. Go ahead.

AI: I was just going to clarify that -- at about this... was it about the same time then that you had that conversation with your mother, and your parents explaining that you were not going to --

GH: Well, yeah, well, I had this little, little earlier with my parents. But, I had faced that I couldn't go. I couldn't even answer her tears. So I had faced that Waterloo and made an answer. But I expected to -- well this was, no, this was, no I, I faced my parents a little later. 'Cause I, I wouldn't have faced that problem if I were not, if I were going, if I were going I would've come home. And I wouldn't leave from Seattle, I would just go on to the valley. In fact, the valley left about ten days later, after Seattle.

AI: In other words, if you had decided to go along with the evacuation you would have returned home to your parents...

GH: That's right.

AI So that you...

GH: That's right.

AI: ...would have all traveled together.

GH: After Seattle I would have, I woulda had somebody take me to Sea -- the valley.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.