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-02-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So, we're talking about you're, you're at the FBI. You've, you've turned yourself in. What was the reaction from the FBI? I mean they kinda knew you were coming. Well, they knew you were coming, and so how did they respond?

GH: Well, I think, I think they felt that this guy -- we'll give him another chance to register. Because after that, I spent the whole rest of the day going from one station to another. Maryknoll station, which was one of the main registration places for Japanese to come and register --

AI: Just to clarify it. All the people of Japanese ancestry had to do so-called "registration"...

GH: Yeah.

AI: In preparing to be, so-called "evacuated."

GH: Yeah. Some responsible person in the family had to register the family. Each family --

AI: And each family was given a number at that time.

GH: Yeah. I guess that's what happened. But, so I went there first. And I went over and they said, I said what is this? Says, "Well this is the place for registration." I said, "Is this the same thing that you're asking me to do the, yesterday?" He says, "Yeah, it's the same." "Nothing new?" "No." "Well, I feel the same as yesterday so I, I can't sign that." And, and they fussed around. And I guess they telephoned around and gee I waited in the car -- said well, could you wait in the car. So I went back and sat in the car. Gee, seemed like half hour later they're taking me, I didn't know where they were taking me. I went to Fort Lawton. And then they gave me another chance to register. So they did this three times. And --

TI: And during these three times did they try to convince you to sign it?

GH: No. Well, they tried to persuade me to sign. This is the thing to do. I said, "I, I can't do it with the way the thing is stated now. I'm opposed to it. You could do whatever you want, but you, you're not going to get my consent for it." And so, eventually I was checked in to -- they left me at the federal tank of the King County Jail. And then after the weekend, this is Saturday, the last day, see. And I was taken to federal tank of the King County Jail. And on Monday they came and said, "We're taking you over to the U.S. Marshall's Office. The chief officer of the uprooting process for the Northwest is going to see you."

TI: And this was a, a military officer that you were...

GH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Going to.

GH: Yeah, you know, at Los Angeles, and at San Francisco, and at...

TI: Right, so there were...

GH: Seattle.

TI: Three main, sort of...

GH: Yeah.

TI Headquarters.

GH: Yeah, Northwest, head of the Northwest. His name was Colonel Bendetsen? Something. Well it, no, it, it was not Bendetsen. It was somebody, Italian name. He was like a Nisei Italian. [Laughs] Except that he wasn't an alien.

AI: And before you went to that meeting on Monday, I wanted to ask, what was going through your mind as you were in that, in the jail?

GH: Oh, I expected to be in jail. They, that's where they put people you know, who are accused of violating the federal law. In the federal tank. And then eventually there'd be an arraignment, and a charge, and a court date set and so on. So this was the beginning process, shifting from uprooting to the judicial process for an objector.

TI: But, Gordon, although it was, it was a part of a process that you could -- would logically know would happen, I mean this was your first time in jail. How did you personally feel being in jail?

GH: Well, it was -- physically, I hadn't seen the federal tank. I, I took sociology, but my, I wasn't in the class that visited the jail. So the first time I physically saw it. And I saw couple guys walking back and forth, and I thought boy, they're going stir crazy. [Laughs] I was doing that myself after a while, you know as a way of escaping the noise around me you, you sorta walk back and forth talking, if you're talking with somebody, or by yourself. Walking back, exercising, and then I got so that if I wanted to think, I had to get up and walk. When I got out you know. 'Cause that's the way I clouded off the environment, immediate environment around me. And I just was able to think for myself. So, I found I had to do this frequently, after I got out of jail. But, when they called me out, I got out to see this guy. And he, he complimented me, that he's heard some really nice things about you. "And I been looking forward to meeting you," he says. He says and after, after our discussion, I think, I think things will be different. I was wondering what he was talking about you know. And, and he said, "I been talking with Presidio and with the headquarters, and they're all interested. You'll be glad to know that in Southern California, the biggest numbers of people went through, hundred percent success. Northern California, next big headquarters, everything went through, hundred percent success. And, then when we finish this discussion, we'll be hundred percent here too." And until that point I had a feeling that somehow, when the dust settled we'll, we'll probably have fifty to a hundred guys like me with whom maybe we can get a mass case going. And he's now telling me that a hundred percent success. Except me so far, and it's gonna be over after he finishes talking with me. He says "I'm expecting a call from Presidio and I wanna be able to tell him that everything's settled." I said, "What do you mean everything is settled? There's some good news around here?" And he said, "Yeah," he says, "You know you violated a lotta things and if they add these on, tack on consecutively, you're gonna have a long jail sentence. But they're willing to forget all that and they're giving you a clean slate. And soon as you sign this statement here, we're all set. I'm, I've got a car here ready to take you to Puyallup." I said, "Well, I appreciate all you're saying, and all you're doing. I haven't changed anything. And you said you haven't changed anything in the regulations. I don't know how, how we're going to manage this." And pretty soon the telephone rang. And he said, well this might be Presidio. And he went over and he got on and said, hello. And he said [motions with hands] [Laughs] And so, "Yes, I'm talking to him now. Yeah, he's a fine gentleman. Yeah, I think we're gonna have a good discussion," and so on. He repeated those things, and then talked for a little while longer, then he came back. In the meantime gee, I'm feeling kinda sorry for this guy. The only guy without a hundred percent you know. And, and so, I'm trying to figure out how I could accommodate him under these circumstances. So, after he comes back and talks, and we talk some more about whatever he could accommodate, and there's no change. So I said, "You know, I have, I have one suggestion by which you could get your hundred percent. You've got your car here all ready to take me down there. I'm not, I'm not physically objecting to your doing this. It's just that I can't consent, give you the consent myself under the circumstances. You know, you tell me hasn't been, those circumstances haven't changed. But I don't see why you can't take me down there without my consent. Why do you need my consent to throw me..." [Laughs] "And all you need to do is just get a couple of your guys to escort me down to the car, throw me in the back and drive down forty miles, open up the barbed wire, drive me in front of the administration building, put me down, plunk me down there, drive out, close the gate, I'm there." Hundred percent. And it seemed like for a split second or so he's thinking about it. [Laughs] Then he says, "We can't do that." "Why not?" "That'd be breaking the law." I said, "You mean you think breaking the law, putting me in without signing is, is worse than hundred and twenty thousand people that were forced to be moved out?" [Laughs] That's worse! And he says, "Well, I can't do that." And, well they, so actually, they had to take me back, you know. But he thought for a moment he was gonna get his hundred percent. But that, that was the best I could do, to suggest, suggest, without his changing anything, and me changing anything. That was the only thing I could suggest.

TI: That's a, that's a good story.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.