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Title: K. Morgan Yamanaka Interview
Narrator: K. Morgan Yamanaka
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 7, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ymorgan-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so Morgan, we're gonna start again, and where we left off we were talking, you were describing Topaz and you talked about having a job as a fireman. So I'm now gonna go to, like, the beginning of 1943, and there was a form that everyone over seventeen years old had to fill out called the leave clearance form.

MY: Quite familiar with it.

TI: Can you describe that? Describe what you did what that form.

MY: Well, the form itself was no big deal. Nobody ever made a big deal about it. The real question was, naturally, the twenty-seven, twenty-eight and how to answer that question. And question twenty-seven has certain dynamics around it, and twenty-eight another set of dynamics around it. For me, twenty-seven was, regarded, are you willing to go into the military? Well, my reaction to myself was, well I just had recently signed up for the selective service. What more does one need of anybody who voluntarily signs up for selective service other than yes, I'm willing to go in? So I felt that was unnecessary. Question twenty-eight, regarding one's affiliation to the Emperor of Japan, again, had in a way no dynamic involvement for me, being in Japan only through ages two to seven, five years through very psychologically formative years, but politically had really no meaning. Well, they imposed age seven up through seventeen for the last ten years, any political connection related to this answer. Again, there was no correlation with my activities for the last ten years, and this question of one's relationship with the Emperor of Japan. Then the larger question of being in camp comes in about citizenship. Here I'm classified non alien, essentially "enemy alien," which my selective service made very clear I'm an "enemy alien," so to me the logical question was, well, it really has no bearing for me. Twenty-seven is, if you look at my background, it's very clear. Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, I think is also clear. I'm a Kibei, yes, but so what? Ages two to seven makes me technically, legally a Kibei because the definition of a Kibei at that time said anybody in Japan for five years, regardless whether you were age two to age seven. So again, overall had no bearing to me and no direct connection in answering this question, so the logical question for me was to answer "no-no." Well that put me in a certain classification with the government.

TI: Let me back up, because, so I take a look at that and I'm thinking, if I were to predict what you would've, based on what you've told me up to now, I would've said, well, related to military service, you registered with selective service, so that was something that you felt good about. And in terms of the allegiance issue, within the last couple years or year you had renounced your Japanese citizenship, so you had taken that. So if I were to have predicted I would've said Morgan probably would've said "yes-yes" based on his prior actions. But you went "no-no," and that's where I'm thinking, so why? Because, again, it feels like you were on a trajectory to be more "yes-yes" based on the things that you've said, like the government tells you to do something you just do it, "I had sort of this predisposition of being more of a U.S. citizen than Japanese," so why not "yes-yes"?

MY: Because I was really not politically inclined one way or the other. I was not politically active in any way. The action meant little meaning to me. And putting the... my Japanese citizenship was an ethical, moral question of which way does one go in terms of allegiance to whom, and I'm thinking the logical allegiance is to my lord, who is U.S. government, not the President as a person, but the U.S. government as a political unity. So there is where my loyalty stands and therefore Japanese citizenship or allegiance to another country doesn't belong in my thinking, so that's the reason. And yet this political entity called the government tells me: you're not part of us. You're "enemy alien" and we're gonna treat you like one, which they did with the incarceration and selective service. And they say they don't want me, well fine, I don't want them either kind of vernacular thinking. So out of that I felt that "no-no" was the logical response, with the added component of, boy, if you don't want me I don't want you either, you know, four letter F-you kind of a reaction.

TI: Yeah, that's what it feels like, it's more, you say logical, it's almost like a gut feeling that you had back then.

MY: Yeah... no, it was well thought out in terms of the group of us who were thinking, well, which way do we go? There was a lot of that, like, well advertised in the, discussing this question. Which way do we go? Which way do I answer, do we answer? And the "no-no" seemed to be... it was not a political answer. If it was political I think it would've gone along your way, "yes-yes," but it was not a political answer. It was a cultural, social answer which the political, social situation was given to me. Without any question you will do this. Fine, I'll do it. Without any question on my part, I did it. Well, okay, here I am then. And then I'm becoming aware of it, well, what the hell do I do now? They don't want me one way or the other, so I might as well answer "no-no."

TI: And then logically, did you sort of then play it out in terms of, so this means eventually going to Japan, I mean, kind of turning your back to the United States?

MY: That was not thought out that way. It was a reaction to this rather than what might happen this way.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.