Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Daniel Inouye Interview
Narrator: Sen. Daniel Inouye
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Beverly Kashino (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 30, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-idaniel-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: I'm going to now jump forward to, because later you enrolled at the University of Hawaii as a pre-med student, and the government then asked Americans of Japanese ancestry to volunteer for military service. And I wanted to ask you what your reaction was when you heard about this.

DI: Well, we greeted this with jubilation. Now keep in mind that on February 19th, the executive order was issued authorizing the army to set up concentration camps. Now, we in Hawaii had no idea that these camps had been established, all we knew was that every so often we would hear that so and so disappeared. I had no idea that there was a camp in Ewa on this island until after the war, that some of my neighbors were there, school teachers and priests. And there were those who just disappeared from our neighborhood, and we found out after the war that they were in other camps on the mainland. There were hundreds from Hawaii who were shipped out, but the major numbers of us were not affected. We were left here.

TI: And then going back to your case so when the government said Americans of Japanese ancestry could volunteer for the service --

DI: Well, we had asked for it. On March 17th when the government of the United States designated Japanese as 4-C, which is a designation for enemy alien, many of us took this as personal matter, an insult to us. We considered ourselves just as good Americans as our neighbors, and so we began petitioning Washington. We began offering ourselves to do anything, dig ditches, string barbed wire, what have you. And an organization called the Varsity Victory Volunteers was formed, made up of university students who went out to dig trenches and put up barbed wires, and I was too young for that, but then I also signed these petitions. And when the president of the United States issued a statement saying that, "Americanism is a matter of mind and heart, it is not and has never been a matter of race or color," and declared that if we wished we can volunteer and become part of this special combat team, and when that announcement was made, together with several of my classmates, we literally ran from the campus to the draft board. That's a couple of miles. We ran there and we signed up.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.