Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: William Hohri Interview
Narrator: William Hohri
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Gary Kawaguchi (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-hwilliam-01-0003

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WH: But when the war broke out, my father was picked up on the night of December 7th. And that was, of course, a pretty stressful experience, and it kind of demonstrated the... I guess the story is told over and over again, but a couple of guys from the FBI came in. My father was this, I don't know what the term is, sort of pack rat, or someone who collected things. So they started going through his stuff and I said, "Lots of luck." [Laughs] He's got a lot of books and other things, papers and everything else just trying to find something, and of course they couldn't read Japanese. It was just kind of silly. All the stuff was in Japanese.

TI: When the FBI guys came in, how were you feeling? Were you frightened or were you angry, or what were some of the feelings you felt when you saw these men going through?

WH: Well, it was just very intense. There wasn't any time to reflect on anything. And I remember one statement my mother made, which, you know, I tried to do this on television. Of course, "No, no, we don't want to talk about that." And she said after they had gone, my mother says, "Gee I had to take a leak, and it just all went away all during this period." [Laughs] Just to give you an idea of the stress that she had undergone. And I think that says something. But the whole thing was kind of bizarre because they didn't understand what was going on. You know, they just took him away, and there's no reason given. And I think technically the law was probably, could not be activated until the following day. Because war had not been declared, so he wasn't an "enemy alien."

But he was on the A list, and I've recently discovered why he was interned. He had a hearing -- and this is the other thing about the internment of the Issei on the West Coast, not the East Coast, on the West Coast -- is they had hearings, which are required by law, but they were held in the camps. So his hearing was held in Fort Missoula, Montana. And I got a copy of the transcript. That's the thing I want copied. And in the transcript of the hearing, which I just got a couple of years ago, Western Division of National Archives in Laguna Niguel. There's two things that are interesting. The hearing board is the Southern California Hearing Board, holding hearings in Montana. It's not the Montana Hearing Board, it's the Southern California Hearing Board. That's where the hearing should have been held, in Southern California. In New York, when the Issei were picked up, the hearings were held in New York and the Issei could marshal whatever support. You can't use an attorney, but you can bring in friends as character witnesses. My father had no such option. He didn't know anything about it. And that's the way all the Issei were treated.


WH: [Reading] It says: "The Board feels that whereas the subject is a preacher, and it is a hardship to deprive his church of its minister, still, that very fact coupled with his membership in the veteran's association above referred to and the fact of his trip to Japan, Korea, and Manchuria, in 1940, makes him more potentially dangerous than as if he were a farmer, storekeep or the like." In other words, he was being interned because he was a preacher, and that just blew my mind. If they had said he was being interned because he was a member of the veteran's organization, which, of course, to me, is benign. I mean, if you want to join... the Japanese like to join everything. And then the fact that he went to Japan, Korea, and Manchuria, was that was the twenty-six hundredth anniversary of the founding of Japan, and a lot of Issei went to Japan. You know, I mean, who wouldn't? So... and it must have cost him a lot of money. He had to save his pennies to make that trip because we didn't have any money. But the fact that he's a preacher is the reason they interned him. I just can't believe it. I read this thing and it says... but anyway, I think that was, this business of being interned was... I don't know whether it's more striking, you know, as a event that occurred, 1941, or whether it's more striking because of this document that I retrieved, you know, back there in 1995 or '95. I mean, I just don't know. I can't... I have a hard time.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.