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-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: What were some of the specific activities at the YMCA that attracted you?

GH: Well, they had programs on -- certain ones were study groups. Study groups on philosophy, religious philosophy. At the beginning there weren't anything in, in particular in terms of pacifism or anything, but there were things that had implications that came out to that kind of issue. Increasingly as time went on and the world war in Europe had already started. We'd be hearing stuff, news accounts when Czechoslovakia fell and Austria went with [inaudible] and things like that. And I belonged to the -- as an American I opted for ROTC and through a friend of the family who had -- selling suitcases, clothing, variety of used clothing, which included -- they had some ROTC outfits that fitted me with slight adaptations --

TI: Now this is, I didn't realize this. What, what does it mean to be -- to go through an ROTC program? This was when you were...

GH: Yeah.

TI: In those early years.

GH: And I was a science major at first, mathematics. So, I got in on more of the artillery type courses rather than infantry type. And, and Japanese were given exemptions with -- in fact I had to ask for it to get it... and this is before I was labeled as a pacifist.

TI: So, it was just --

GH: I was, I was a freshman student coming in -- everybody was expected to take, just like PE...


GH: ROTC. So I took ROTC, and they had certain kinds of courses. They have courses in military this and that.

TI: But the Nisei students were exempted?

GH: Yeah.

TI: Unless they, unless they requested they would not take the course.

GH: Yeah, and most of them didn't request it. And, you, you had to, you had to take alternative courses, three core credit, in sports or health or something. And so you had to make it up some way.

TI: But then you requested this. And I guess I just -- I'm jumping ahead a little bit because later on we talk, we'll talk about your pacifism. But what -- why do you think you requested the ROTC?

GH: I, I requested it because it was an aspect of involvement in American student life, American citizenship aspects and so on. And so if, if this was part of what was available and open to American students in general I wanted to be a part of that, too. So, I, I was going after fair treatment, open treatment, open involvement. And later on, after 1940, it changed. See, by that time I had finished my two years of -- that, that's -- two years was all that was required and I finished that.

TI: Of the, of the ROTC training.

GH: Yeah. I had finished that. So, I wasn't involved in that any more, but by -- about that time I was getting to a place where I found it less and less encouraging for me to continue in it. And so when I finished it, I figured this is the end of it I've, I'm risen above that. [Laughs] That was my view.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.