Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0023

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TI: And so the two of you moved down to Washington, D.C., or that's where he was living.

AH: He was already working here in Washington. He had been discharged from the army, and so he was working in private industry.

TI: Right. And you're, at this time, fifty-three years old, about fifty-three?

AH: I was born '24, '78, fifty-four, yeah.

TI: Or fifty-four? Fifty-four. And so what do you do in D.C.?

AH: Oh, well, I didn't do anything for a while, but then I decided I'd like to know what kind of information the FBI had on me for having marched in the streets in New York, anti-Vietnam War demonstration and all that. So I wondered if the FBI had anything on me, so I went down and they said, "No, we don't have anything. Maybe New York office has, but nothing." And I decided, "Well, I want to find out what they have in terms of the camp life on my family." So that started me out. And by that time, I had already met Michi Weglyn and got to know her pretty well in New York for the last two years or so before I moved down there. So I told her I was gonna find out about my family. She said, "Well, yeah, look at some of my footnotes, and if you're interested, follow." So after that, I found out about my family, the information they had, 'cause it's quite extensive. And then I started looking into the camp situation, because the archivists were all so helpful. They said, "We have such wonderful stuff here, nobody's looking at it. Not enough people." They knew Michi and Roger Daniels were looking at it, but very few (other writers, scholars and researchers).

TI: So just a handful of you were looking at these key documents.

AH: At that time, yeah. That's what got me started.

TI: So, Aiko, another interview that we have at Densho is that the Omori sisters did, and so they really go into your archive work. And so I'm going to kind of move on. The one thing that hasn't been talked very much about, because we talk about your role, but I want you to talk about Jack's role, especially during the redress, coram nobis, the role that Jack played during this period.

AH: Oh, right, okay. Well, Jack was still working when I first started doing archival work, but then he did retire, so he wanted something to do. So I asked him if he would pick up on the archival work searching for information for the Commission on Wartime Relocation. And so, oh, he was very happy to do it. And the more he learned about it, the more incensed he got at his own country. And he got -- I might have mentioned this in a previous interview, but he became incensed at the idea that here he was in his paratroop role, paratrooper role, fighting the enemy, Japan, for our constitutional guarantees, the freedom, liberty, equal opportunity, equality under the law, and at the same time, we were being mistreated, we American citizens. And the more he thought about it, the more he thought, "Gee, we were fighting for principles, and I lost so many good friends, fighting for principles that we were not living up to ourselves." And it just made him so mad that he got into this archival research of an injustice against the Japanese American community like a bulldog. So he helped me dig out things. I would ask him to look at certain records that I didn't have a chance (to see). He would look it up, and we would Xerox these copies to give to the Commission, so that they could come up with their recommendations (to) Congress. Then we were asked by the National Council for Japanese American Redress, William Hohri's group, to do research for them because they were planning to file a class action lawsuit. So Jack helped me on that, because I was tied up with the Commission office a lot. So he helped me to pull together the things that would be helpful to the class action lawsuit. Then the coram nobis lawyers said they could use some help, too. So Jack helped me, and we tried to help the coram nobis cases do the research. And just about the same time, the Smithsonian was planning to open up its exhibition on Japanese Americans. What was it? "A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the United States Constitution," and they asked me and Jack to be consultants on the content of the exhibition. So we were busy helping the curator on that. Then after the bill was passed for Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the Justice Department asked Jack and me to be the consultant on locating all eligible people for redress. So we were involved with that, to especially locate (and verify names) of people who applied for redress but (whose) names weren't on official records. We were able to direct the Justice Department to the master list, which was the most useful one, listed everybody who was in the ten camps, and those who were in the internment camps, which was different, of course. So we were able to locate rosters and names of those who were in the internment camps. And especially for people who applied, but whose name didn't appear, they asked us to find. So Jack was involved with me every step of the way.

TI: That's good. And another piece that I've come across is work around the "magic cables," which is where his counterintelligence background, I think, helped in interpretation of that.

AH: Right. He was very convinced that those who said the magic cables justified the actions taken against the West Coast Japanese Americans, he said that's not true. Because those magic cables were not verified or... what is the word in cryptology they use? Confirmed and... we discussed this at great length with Michi, because she had collected a lot of the magic cables. And we were fortunate enough to have access to additional cables that became public, that became declassified. So I shared that with Michi, and together we were going to write something about the falsehood of magic cables -- of Pearl Harbor being a sneak attack, through the magic cables. Well, Jack studied this a lot, and with his background on intelligence, he decided he'd like to write a piece, which he did, and I think you might have seen it, in the Amerasia Journal in 1984, to try to debunk the fact that the magic cables was one of the main reasons to show that it, (the government), was justified to incarcerate, expel and incarcerate the West Coast Japanese. His background prepared him well for that.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.