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-02-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: I'm sorry, but we got a little out of order because I think we were going to ask you --

TI: Yeah, why don't I do this. I mean, I was -- I want to back up just maybe about two or three weeks, because in mid-April, you were actually thinking and planning on going to another camp. You were thinking because of the --

GH: Conscientious Objector Camp.

TI: Exactly.

GH: Civilian Public Service Camp.

TI: In Oregon --

GH: Yeah.

TI: That you had thought that you were...

GH: Yeah.

TI: Going to do this, that you were very active in the CO group. And in fact they gave you a party. Why don't you talk a little about that. So we're backing up about two or three weeks, mid-April.

GH: Yeah, well this is yeah, mid-April, and then I had my farewell party just before I left, twenty something, April.

TI: Right.

GH: And that's when I was supposed to leave. And so I got my farewell thing all set, and gifts. And then on the eve of my departure, right after the party, I get this telegram. "Your order to go to, report to Civilian Public Service Camp at Cascade Locks, Oregon has been rescinded," period, that's all it said. No explanation or anything. I didn't realize that the drafting of persons of Japanese ancestry was suspended. No more drafting, army or otherwise. So that's natural that they would do this. But they could've explained it. But they didn't -- and I said to Woodbury (YMCA Director), I said, "Gee, I'd better return these gifts, I'm sticking around. And I might outlast these people who gave me the gift." And he says, "No, no, this is yours. We gave it, we don't want it back." [Laughs]

TI: So right at that point you, you were sort of, you had to really switch gears. Because at that point you thought you were going to go Cascade Locks to the CO Camp. But now all of a sudden you were confronted with...

GH: I'm still remaining in Seattle...

TI: Remaining in Seattle, and you --

GH: So I'm subject to what, whatever the Seattle deadline was for persons of Japanese ancestry.

TI: Right, you're really now confronted with that, with that issue.

GH: Yeah, yeah that was for May 6 or something. It all happened all of a sudden. I'm, I'm pretty sure they were sorry they canceled mine...

TI: [Laughs] Is that because...

GH 'Cause they would've, they would've gotten rid of me. [Laughs]

TI: Right. I just wanted to get into --

GH: I would've run into something different.

TI: Right.

GH: They had trouble with transferring one Nisei. There was one CO in Cascade Locks who was ordered to be moved to Tennessee or someplace, outside the West Coast. And I might've found that difficult to do. Because I'm the only one that would've been ordered to move. If they ordered several to move, that would have been different. At any rate, I, I then became subject to move as a person of Japanese ancestry according to regulations. I'm still in Seattle.

TI: Yeah, what struck me as I went through the chronology is it's almost like being a ping pong ball. All the things that happened to you.

GH: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TI: And one day you're thinking one thing, then you get switched to another and it wasn't -- you didn't really have an opportunity to really think through and plan...

GH: Well, well there isn't really...

TI ...your life --

GH: Anything to sit and think through. I mean I'm supposed to go, so I'm, I'm subject to that. That was canceled so I got this that I would've faced anyway. Although I expected to be gone by, before this was over. A week before. But it came out this way. So, I'm glad it did. I was able to -- it took thirty years or something for the case to come up again where I won. I lost it during the war. During the war we never got to first base.

TI: Right.

GH: You know, every -- we're expected to lose. But thirty years, forty years later I was feeling sorry for the Department of Justice lawyers. They were being hammered by the media --

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.