Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roger Daniels Interview II
Narrator: Roger Daniels
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 21, 2013
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-415

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Tuesday, May 21, 2013, and this is the second interview with Roger Daniels. And we are in Seattle, on camera is Dana Hoshide, and interviewing is me, Tom Ikeda. And so Roger, in the first interview, we jumped more to your graduate studies, or how you first got into the Japanese story, then your graduate studies, and talked a lot about that. For the second interview, I actually want to backtrack a little bit and start with some of the biographical information that we didn't do in that first interview. So I'm going to start with some basics. So, Roger, can you tell me when you were born?

RD: I was born on the 1st of December, 1927, in a hospital on the Lower East Side of New York City.

TI: And in New York City, where did you live?

RD: At that time my parents were living in Greenwich Village. Later we moved to Chappaqua, New York, which was a little bit upstate. My father was a freelance writer, my mother had worked in publishing, but stopped working when I was born or shortly thereafter, or shortly before. I'm not a good witness to that particular period.

TI: So it sounds like your mother and father were very much into books. Do you recall lots of books growing up?

RD: Oh, yes, yes. Lots of books. My mother read to me and made me read to her. She was not a particularly religious woman, but she thought that the King James Bible was a wonderful thing to know, so I read to her a chapter of that every day aloud, two chapters on Sunday. If you do that, you're supposed to be able to get the whole thing in a year. And we did that at least twice. There were books everywhere in the house, and as soon as I was seven or eight I had my own library card and read voraciously. I was quickly allowed by the librarians to take out adult books. I can remember my mother reading to me. My father died when I was six; I have no, very few real memories of him. Both of my parents were immigrants, but each was brought to the United States very early in their lives, so that technically, I'm a hakujin Nisei, but really I'm a Sansei in culture, because neither of my parents had any foreign culture. My mother came, was brought here by my grandmother when she was a babe in arms, but she was Hungarian, although the family name was Polacheck, which suggests a Polish origin, they were culturally German Jewish landowners in Hungary and fairly prosperous. One of my mother's uncles became very successful in the United States and was president of a large corporation. My father's people came here in the 1980s.

TI: In the 1880s?

RD: 1880s, I beg your pardon, and settled in Western Minnesota, and their first two children were born there. They went broke in the early '90s with large numbers of other people, and went back to England where my father was born. He was born actually in Wales although they weren't Welsh. Why he was born in Wales, I have no idea. And then the family returned and settled not on the frontier, but settled in Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan where the fourth and fifth of their children were born. So four children born in the United States and the middle one born in England, but he was an immigrant, no two ways about it. He was not an American citizen, and had to take out papers. And he somehow felt an attachment to England because he served in the British army in the First World War. I tried to find his records and didn't do a very good job of it. But he was gassed and had a withered arm, and apparently lost part of a lung, which resulted in his death at forty-three. He was a successful writer of fiction. He was Christian, he'd done public relations work for the Episcopal Church in the United States. And my mother's family was Jewish, although not religious. I'm not sure that they were members of any synagogue. And my father had the view -- he'd become very disillusioned with the church, having done public relations work for them, the details I don't understand, have no knowledge of. But his view was that children didn't need a religious education and should make up their own minds when they became an adult. My mother insisted that although in Jewish law... I want to get this right. Jewish law holds that what's important is the mother, and that a Jew was a person who was the child of a Jewish mother, and has not renounced his or her religion. She thought I didn't have to be a Jew. She thought that she never renounced the religion, told everybody she was Jewish. She said, "I didn't have to; I could be anything I wanted to be." I eventually decided as a young man that although I knew very little about the Jewish religion, I certainly had cultural roots that were Jewish, and that at a time when being Jewish could be a distinct disadvantage, it would be cowardly for me not to say, if anyone asked, that I was Jewish. So I've considered myself, since I was a young man, as being Jewish culturally, but I have no particular desire to be involved with Jewish ritual.

TI: So when you say culturally but not with ritual, so things like a bar mitzvah, you never did that?

RD: No, no. And my children were not. At one time we had thought, Judith and I -- and Judith had a, more of a formal Jewish background than I did. Both her parents were Jewish, her younger brother had a bar mitzvah. She did not have the bat mitzvah, which was less common but did exist when she was growing up. It was certainly an option for some people, but neither she nor her parents did that.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RD: I was very close to my grandmother, who was very much Jewish. But again, she was not, she lit candles on Friday night, and sometimes had a seder, but was not associated with any synagogue in New York where she lived her entire life. And she lived for a long, long time.

TI: And when you say you were close with your grandmother, what would be an example? Did she watch you?

RD: Well, I was born very, very sickly. My grandmother spoiled me. I was, of all her many grandchildren -- some dispute about the number -- but I was the only male. Which meant if there was a dinner at her house, and the children sat at one table and the adults sat at another, I got served before the others although I was, of the grandchildren that were there, there were some left back in Hungary who did not survive the Second World War Holocaust. Of all those who were in the United States, I was the second youngest but the only male, and she doted on me, and I was very important. My grandmother never punished me in any way except once; it was quite a shock. I was at her house and in her care, the precise time I don't know, but it was wintertime and it was in the depths of the Depression, whether before... no, it was clearly while Hoover was President. And I remember complaining that it was snowing, and I said, "I wish God would make it stop snowing so I could go out and play." And she leaned over and gave me, not a hard slap, but a slight slap on the side of the face, and said something like, "That would be a wicked thing to ask for. Because it snows, hundreds of men will get work that they need very, very badly, clear the snow away. So don't ever say things like that." My nickname in the family was Toby for complicated reasons that we need not go into here, but that's what she called me.

And later, when I was a young man, I spent a couple of summers, part of two summers in New York in her house and in her care. And although she couldn't speak English very well... she spoke fine, but it was clearly, she had a fairly thick accent. But when I was a teenager and my mother and I lived in her house for a while, and I had a book of German poetry with English on one page and German on another. She asked me what it was, and I told her, and I began to read. She said, "Oh, no, that's not what it says. It's like this." And my word, she knew German. She read a German newspaper, German American newspaper every day. And she had strange, she wasn't well-educated about geography. I'd heard her stories about coming to America, which always interested me. Sparked my interest very early in immigration. My mother had no memory of any of this, she was a babe in arms, less than one year old when she arrived in the United States. But it was a terrible journey for my grandmother, and her husband was ill, and in fact he died on the ship and was buried at sea. And she always spoke about how horrible it was in the port, she had a sick husband, she was pregnant, she had a babe in arms, and then they spoke funny German there and everything was mixed up, but eventually she got on the ship. And later in life, when I finally saw her papers, I had to burst out laughing. Because remembering that story, and I saw from her papers that her port of embarkation was Rotterdam, and what seemed to her "funny German" was Dutch. Today, everybody in Holland can speak English it seems, but in 1900 that was clearly not the case.

And then many years later, Judith and I were visiting Europe and then Holland, and we were in Rotterdam and we took a very nice -- which we loved to do -- very nice cruise in and out of the city, a one-day cruise. And on the way back, we were sitting on the deck in chairs, not paying too much attention, and my eye caught a sign as we were just coming back at the end of the trip, that identified that pier as the former pier of the Holland America line. And I realized that it was here that my grandmother, my pregnant grandmother, carrying my mother, and with a sick husband who would not survive the trip, it was here that they left Europe and came to America. It was so weird; I believe I shuddered. What a strange moment this would have been. Sometime in the 1990s, so it's almost a century after that had happened, but it was one of those moments where you sort of shudder.

TI: And what kind of thoughts were going through your head? What were you thinking?

RD: Well, by that time, of course, I have a detailed understanding of the immigration process. I've written a book called Coming to America, I've talked about this process. But this was -- and I've known that this was the case, that I'm the son of immigrants, one of whom came through this place, but that it was right there, as we're going by, I suddenly see this. And I think my hand shook a little, and I sort of shivered. They used to say somebody's walking on your grave or some such thing, but it was quite a moment. I talked about it to Judith and explained what that was. How much of that particular story I had told her at that time, I'm not at all sure, but it was quite a moment. But my grandmother was the person who connected me to Europe. I could hear Europe in her voice and in things she would say. She spoke often about her life in Europe, in Hungary.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: As you tell the story, it just reminds me so much of my experiences with my grandparents from Japan.

RD: It's the same kind of... you know, when I taught immigration history, what I made people do, made the students do -- some of them didn't like to do it, or complained about it -- but I made everybody create a family genealogy. And what they had to do was find, go far enough back, some of them did more than that, but the absolute minimum was the demand that they get one person on each side of the family out of the United States from wherever. And for African Americans, I asked that they get one person out of the South. That was a kind of immigration. I never taught in the South. So that the African Americans... and most were able to do that. I said, "If you have problems, come in and talk to me about it." Some people's parents don't want to talk, some of them don't know. But it helped students -- many students told me later that that really helped them understand things about their own family and their own life as well as understand immigration history in a particularly personal way. But that was very important to them.

TI: But the part I like about your story about your grandmother, or being in Rotterdam where she left, when I was traveling in Japan about ten years ago, I had a similar feeling just realizing as I was going to a particular temple where I knew my grandparents had actually visited also, just being in that same place, that same sort of visceral feeling of being connected to Japan and your ancestors, just in that moment, that came unexpectedly, it just hit me.

RD: Where was the temple?

TI: It was in Fukuoka. So a little temple outside Fukuoka.

RD: How did you know that?

TI: My mom told me that they would have been there. And so, again, it was more intellectual, that I knew those things, and had kind of had that information, but when you're at that place, all of a sudden... it wasn't maybe a shudder like you felt, but just a very emotional, this wave of emotion came over me.

RD: Well, in my case, the shudder came because if I had thought if at any time -- and I hadn't done that -- if I had thought my grandmother came through here, I ought to think about it. Because I was thinking about other things and other aspects of it. And so this really blindsided me. But it's a little spooky, particularly when it involves... and how well you knew your grandparents, but I, of course, knew my grandmother very well. There aren't too many moments like that in your life, for some people, anyway. I think for a lot of people, moments like that, one way or another, do occur. When you suddenly realize connections that you knew about. Language is a funny... German has several different words for "knowing." Kennen, which is "to know," and verstehen, which is "to understand." So I knew about this, that this was a kind of understanding that I hadn't had before. It was very interesting. I would have liked, when it was possible to do so, to actually go out to that place, but we didn't have time to do it because the excursion boat didn't dock at that particular pier. I forget what our program was. This was at a time when we were, we had rented an apartment in Delft, which is very close to both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and the train transportation is wonderful. And it would be much more expensive to have rented a place in Amsterdam itself, but we could get there in half an hour in the morning if we really wanted to do that. And we went various places, we had a rail pass, so we went on the train everywhere, and covered pretty much two-thirds of Holland very, very well. Didn't get to the northern part of Holland, but we did the central and the southern parts and saw most of the big museums, etcetera. And we'd take various cruises; it's one way to get you off your feet, you get to sit for a while. [Laughs] And you can sit on trains, of course. Too much time, probably.

TI: So I wanted to bring you back to when you were a child, you loved books, you read a lot. Were there any particular books or writers that influenced you when you were young?

RD: Well, it's a point of view I reject now, but the British imperialist writer Rudyard Kipling. There was a whole set of Kipling's works in the house, and I read every word of it, including a book he wrote about the regiment in which his son, who served in the war, died. In the Great War, the First World War, died. And, of course, it was in praise of the British Empire, etcetera. And that's not my view of that period of history, but as a child, that was very important, and there was a kind of -- despite his imperialism, his political views, which I reject -- Kipling's a wonderful writer. He really creates a "new world," and some of his worlds were fantasy, animal stories, the Just So Stories, the story of a boy who's raised by wolves, etcetera. But wonderful storyteller. And he tells about history and about other races. So although it's an imperialist view, which I no longer support, it was very important. I read many other things, and by the time of the Second World War, I was very fascinated with every aspect of the war, so I read most of the popular books that were published about the war. Books like Richard Tregaskis' Guadalcanal Diary, several books by journalists rather than historians. Later, I'd read historical works, but that's something else again. But in my formative years, I read a great deal about the Nazis, a great deal about the war, war both in the Pacific and in Europe. Read nothing at that time about Japanese Americans or the 442nd. As I've told, I had this shock meeting with the Nisei from the camps in New York when I was seventeen. By that time, my politics were pretty well established as left or democratic, pro-labor, etcetera.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: But about this time you dropped out of high school. And tell me why you dropped out of high school. What did you do?

RD: I wanted to go to sea. I wanted to get in the war, and I tried to enlist, and they wouldn't have me: eyesight. And I found out that they weren't too particular. And you talk about the Merchant Marine, but there's no such thing, either. Seamen who have seamen's papers, and they work through the union hiring hall and get on ships. And I knew people in the NMU, and somebody whose name I won't mention, got me some phony papers. They weren't phony papers, they were basically legitimate papers, but they were for somebody else, and fixed them up so they sort of described me. I think if anybody had ever made a close study of it, they'd have understood that these had been doctored. But I was big enough, I was clearly an American, and nobody cared very much. And once I'd used them once, I was a known quantity, and I shipped several times to various places, including Murmansk, although not late in the war, so it wasn't very, very dangerous. It was very, very uncomfortable, but it wasn't particularly dangerous, although it was overseas duty and paid very well. But I did this on an off and on basis, and I created a false identity for myself. Not papers, but I pretended to be older, pretended to be a college graduate, was able to get a job -- I'd always done a lot of writing. My father had been a writer, and my mother expected me to be a writer. She was very careful about my writing. I spent two years in a military prep school, 1941 to 1943 in Virginia. And I wrote home every day and my mother usually -- I was instructed to -- and my mother usually answered once a week. And in the letter would be a little piece of paper, very neat, sometimes not so little, listing grammatical and spelling mistakes. And occasionally she'd list a misspelled word and tell me that on such-and-such a date, "You misspelled this word previously." And she was like that. Although she only had a high school education, she'd worked for important magazines as an editor, and continued to do so. Before I was born, she worked for Bernarr Macfadden, sort of an eccentric publisher.

TI: What was her reaction when you joined the Merchant Marines?

RD: Oh, she didn't know about it until after it happened. And you see, it didn't happen like that. You didn't join --

TI: Or you didn't join, that you started, I guess.

RD: Well, I didn't give her a chance to put the kibosh on, because she could have. But I left the house one day, mailed a letter to her, and got on the ship, which had been arranged, I'd signed on, etcetera. And so she found out about it when I came back, and was very upset. But she said, "I don't suppose there's anything I can do about it. You're making money." I said, "I'm saving it for college," so that was a good thing. She didn't like the fact that I wasn't in school, etcetera, we don't have to go into those details very much. If she had known about it in advance, I think she would have picked up the phone and put a stop to it, which she very easily could have.

TI: But looking back at that experience, when you worked at sea, what did you learn from that?

RD: That's a very difficult question. It certainly made me aware of trade unions. I later worked briefly for the CIO. It gave me an independence, there was no way I was going to go back to school. I always intended to go to college, but there was no way I was going to go back to high school. I'd read about veterans who went back and completed high school after having been in various kinds of services, but I had no notion of doing that. I was just, like I was concerned, I was a man. Although in those days it was very strange. Twenty-one was legal age, but they were drafting people at eighteen, and at seventeen you could get into the navy, although if your parents complained the navy would discharge you. But I was passing for twenty-odd and later claimed a college degree I didn't have to get certain jobs, and nobody checked because I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. And if you do that and have a certain amount of self-confidence, in those days, anyway, people didn't look. Now I guess everybody has to look for various legal reasons, but people didn't necessarily check up on references in those days, particularly if it was just a small job. So I was working on a New York newspaper as a junior reporter before I was eighteen. And I learned how to write quickly. One of my jobs was, occasionally, when the senior people didn't do it, was to do the market story, story on the stock market. And I worked for the New York Journal-American, which was a Hearst newspaper, which had its own news service. And the story I wrote under the funny byline "Broadan Wall," which is a...

TI: Play on Broad and...

RD: Broad and Wall Streets, which is where the stock exchange is. So that anybody who wrote that story was Broadan Wall. And this was not only for the Journal-American, but for the INS News wire. And the market in those days closed at three o'clock, and the story had to be moving on the wire by three-fifteen. It was no long story, several hundred words, sometimes less, sometimes more. And if there'd been a big disturbance on the market, one of the senior people would probably do it. But we'd been watching in the office the Dow Jones ticker all day, and you pretty well knew what you were going to say, and what you had to get at the end. And you'd pull this off the wire, this is the broad tape of the ticker tape machine. Not the ticker tape machine, but the broad Dow Jones machine. You'd get the closing prices of certain stocks and get that in there, you'd pick a few most active, whatever they did. It wasn't a very original piece of work, but it meant that I was used to sitting down and writing a hundred words or so in a very, very short period of time. And this is a useful attribute, writing one's words... and I wrote other things and rewrote other things, so that I learned to write. Not fancy prose, but effective prose.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So I'm curious, how did a seventeen year old high school dropout get a job as a junior reporter at a New York newspaper?

RD: Well, it wasn't because of my brilliance. One of my father's friend's mother contacted him, was a former journalist who was the vice president -- strike that, who was in charge of public relations, I'm not sure he was the vice president -- for the New York Stock Exchange. And she wrote him a letter, I don't know what she said. He didn't know exactly how old I was and she didn't tell him. And I didn't look like I was seventeen years old, and I didn't sound like I was seventeen years old. And he thought I had a college degree. I don't think I told him that, but I know he thought that, because I heard him on the phone. He told me, "Well, I can give you a recommendation to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Journal-American." Well, I know how to go through the Wall Street Journal. I didn't realize if I went in the New York Journal-American, I knew I'd be working for Hearst which I didn't particularly like. But I didn't realize I'd be on the financial side. So he had a phone call, and I went to see somebody, financial page editor, and he hired me. And I filled out a form that said I had this and that and the other thing, and nobody questioned it. Nobody had any notion of how old I was, I wasn't yet eighteen. So that was that. And I've been very fortunate. I applied for very few jobs in my life. Most of the jobs I've looked for have come looking for me. Most of the jobs I've had came looking for me. So my early career was based on fraud. But I did the job, and eventually I got fired for trade union activity.

TI: Interesting. Tell me about that. How did they find out?

RD: Oh, it was very simple. I was an agitator. And we almost had a strike, and they laid me off. And the Newspaper Guild, I was an active member of it, they were ready to... I said, "Don't make any fuss. I want to do some writing, and it's useful to be unemployed. I can get unemployment insurance." So I was going to write the Great American Novel.

TI: But you were agitating at the newspaper trying to organize there?

RD: Uh-uh. They were organized already, but they were a very inactive and inert group. It's a complicated story. So anyway, that was that. I got fired eventually, and it was time for me to do something else.

TI: Okay, so you're how old now? Are you eighteen, nineteen years old?

RD: I'd be nineteen. And I spent time on unemployment insurance, living away from home, writing the Great American Novel, a novel about my grandmother. And I ground out about a hundred thousand words on a small portable typewriter -- I'm a lousy typist. And then I sat down and read it, and I realized it was awful. I knew a woman with a fireplace, and I took it over to her place and burned the pages.

TI: Now, do you ever regret burning those pages?

RD: No, not at all. Not at all. I mean, I didn't really know what I was writing about. I was imagining what her life in Hungary was like. I knew something about her life when she came to the United States, I'd heard a couple of stories, but it was just awful. We need not go into that. I don't think fiction is my m�tier anyway. I then decided that I wanted to study history. Actually, an older woman I knew sort of helped me decide. She did work for an immigrant aid society, not HIAS, but another one. And she called me up one day and said, "Roger, we've got this class on citizenship for immigrants. They have to learn about the Constitution, and the teacher we had couldn't make it. Will you take it over?" I said, "Am I really qualified?" She said, "Look, I know you've read history, you're reading history all the time," which was true. They didn't know about the Constitution, and this is just to prepare them for that." So I went in and I loved it. I later found out that there'd never been any such person.

TI: There'd never been...

RD: There'd never been any such person. She'd had this job -- I mean, she had other classes, had run other classes, but she just had decided that this was a good thing for me to do. And that helped me decide. I mean, I read a lot of fiction, I read a lot of history, and this was, I had a year off. So I had done some work as a volunteer early on in 1944 during the election. I helped run a sound truck for the CIO PAC, Political Action Committee. And one day the sound truck was for the famous or infamous New York labor leader Mike Quill, who was a wonderful speaker, a hard drinker. He led the transport workers union. He had a limp, he said it was from fighting with the IRA against the British. His enemies said he fell off a bar stool. [Laughs] I don't know what the truth was, but he could talk. He could really talk. And we were up in the Bronx neighborhood where the Christian Front, which was a right-wing anti-Roosevelt group, was predominant. And what would usually happen is I would say a few words first and introduce him, and we'd get in the truck and we'd get on top and do that. We got in there and they started throwing things from the rooftop. Garbage, some garbage cans, he looked at me and he said, "Son," he said, "you stay down here." And he gets out limping, his limp was sort of hydromatic, he could shift into and shift out of it as he wanted to. And he climbed slowly up to the top of the truck, and I'm in the truck listening, I can't see him. But he's standing there quietly, not saying a word, and finally things settled down, and he looks up and he says, "Oh, you micks. Throw your garbage now, you lace curtain Irish. You was eatin' it before Roosevelt came in, and you put this little son of a bitch with a mustache in, and you'll be eatin' it again." And he went on like that for some time. How many votes we got there is something else again, but he was quite a guy. So I had some connections already. Afterwards I did a little work for them on a semi-volunteer basis. They'd pay me so much, I'd pay cash. I didn't want to interfere with my unemployment insurance. But I decided to go out to California and get into the university at Berkeley.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Before we go there, I'm curious, with your union work, what were views about different races during this time, in the labor unions and how they dealt with this?

RD: I had some learning and unlearning to do. We didn't get into the family moving around, but we had moved to Arizona, that was for my father's health. My mother couldn't stand it, so we then moved to Coral Gables, Florida, bought a house there. And this was in 1933. The only thing... I have vague memories of living in Tucson. I remember the mountain outside the town with a big A on it for the University of Arizona. Did I say Phoenix?

TI: You said Tucson.

RD: Yes, I should have said Tucson. Good. The only thing I remember about the trip to Florida was that we crossed the Mississippi River not on a railroad bridge, but on a barge. And my father went into the train, we had a compartment, and my father woke me up out of bed and took me out so I could see the river, the huge river, which was foggy. It could have been an ocean as far as I was concerned. But I somehow have a memory of that. And I have a couple of memories of him. The most important thing that happened with my father -- but I don't have a memory of it, I've just been told about it -- was that he took me down to Bayfront Park, which was a park in Miami, in 1933, in January, to see the President-elect. And we were there -- remember, I have no memory of this -- but I've written about it. Because that was when this man took a shot at Roosevelt and managed to kill the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak. The one thing I remember was after Roosevelt was serving as President, and all the banks were closed, my father driving his tremendous car -- we'd just, had not been long in Coral Gables -- driving this tremendous car, nine-passenger touring car, a little gas station, and my father didn't have any money. And the banks are all closed, and the guy in the gas station doesn't know him. And he's negotiating and willing to leave an expensive watch there for a little gas. The guy looks at him, looks at the car, looks at me, asked my father's address, and he gives it to him, that's in a fancy neighborhood in Coral Gables. So the guy eventually gives him gas, and it doesn't seem to... my memory is that he didn't take the watch. And, of course, the banks were open soon and my father could do that. And shortly thereafter, he went into a hospital and then never came back. We moved from that big fancy house to a smaller but still sizeable house in Miami itself, right in the middle of what's now Little Havana. And the house had a small apartment attached to it, and we rented that, usually in the winter, and that was income. My mother had, my father had life insurance, pretty good life insurance. My mother got a check for a hundred and twenty-three dollars every month, and in 1933 that was pretty good money. The average income was much less than that. And she owned property, income-producing property, so we were clearly reasonably well-off, middle class. She never drove a car, so we had no car. I guess we sold the [inaudible], probably for a good piece of money.

And then I was sent off to prep school for a couple of years. I think she had been persuaded or maybe persuaded herself that I needed some discipline. Be that as it may, I don't know, but I had two good years at that place, and then started school in New York, high school in New York, which I didn't like. And the war was on, and I was interested in doing something, so I just... I assumed it was legal to do so, tenants laws were only 'til sixteen. So I dropped out of school and had some jobs, and then we talked about the rest. I'd made arrangements, or had introduction, to people in the warehousemen's union, that's one of Harry Bridges' unions. And they worked out a great deal for me, a job on the docks, on the raw docks where the sugar boats came in, where I'd work three ten-hour night shifts a week and on weekends, and take home about seventy-five dollars, which was very, very good money in those days. And that meant I could study. And the third day on the job before the university opened -- I'd gotten in with an entrance exam -- there was an industrial accident. I walked away from it, no problem, and then three days later I went down with a bad back. Had problems with the... had to have an operation for a disc. Couldn't get it there, we didn't have the money. So I took a bus back to New York, went out to a hospital on Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island, and I was in the hospital there and had an operation from a fine surgeon. But I could no longer do that kind of work. I went back to San Francisco, and I'm now, actually, an adult. I turned twenty-one about the time of my operation, but I hadn't been able to vote for Truman because my birthday's the first of December, and I was twenty-one on the first of December, 1948. So I couldn't vote in that election. So it was a long time before I was able to vote for a candidate who won. I later lost my political heart to Adlai Stevenson.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Backing up just a little bit, how did the death of Roosevelt affect you? Do you know where that, when you heard about that?

RD: Oh, yeah, very much, very much, very much. I was very depressed, I had no knowledge of Truman, didn't think much of him. I think we probably have a postwar reaction, and that it shouldn't be a depression. So I was very depressed. By that time, victory was pretty well assured, we didn't know anything about the atomic bomb. The war with Japan everybody thought would last a lot longer than it actually did. Anyway, longshore work wasn't anything I could do, there was very little work in San Francisco, there was a recession generally. And for a variety of personal reasons, I was to leave there, and I looked at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and discovered that there were two labor markets in the United States in which there was a job surplus, more jobs than there were people. Those were in Dallas and Houston. I didn't know anybody in either, but I flipped the coin and it came out Houston, so I hitchhiked there, got jobs, mostly in restaurants, started out as a dishwasher and soon wound up as a manager, a night manager, and I could go to school. Entered the University of Houston, didn't intend to stay there at all. It wasn't a very good school then, it was a private school, it was expensive. But Texas, which we think of as not having much progressive legislation, had a very, very good junior college aid program. I'd been in Texas for a year before I started school, so I was eligible for it. So they paid, the State of Texas paid most of my tuition for the first two years. Not all of it, but most of it. My intention was to go to a better school, perhaps back to Berkeley, where I'd never entered officially. But it turned out that there were a lot of bright young PhDs, not a hell of a lot older than I was... they were older, but not much. And they had very few serious students, so I got a great deal of attention. I could go in and talk to people, I went out and after a while I'm drinking beer with some of them, etcetera, and I'm getting, I understand, a very, very good education. So I stay there and do very well.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RD: Gets interrupted for the draft, and suddenly they're scraping the barrel. It's the Korean War, and the standards are changed. My eyes aren't any better than they were when I tried to enlist. I tried to enlist in the navy and then tried to enlist in the army which had lower standards, and couldn't get into either. This was in 1944 and 1945. I tried to enlist on my birthday each year, and it didn't work. But now that I didn't particularly want to go, they wanted me. I could have protested with my back and probably gotten out of it. The physical examination I took was a farce. The doctor who was an older man, I don't know he... he seemed very old to me, I don't know how old he was. Not very clean, dirty fingernails. And he asked me, "What's that scar?" I said I had a laminectomy. And he says, "What's that?" The nurse had to tell him. But I thought about it and thought, "Well, why don't I stay in? If I stay in for ninety days, I'll have veteran status." So I didn't protest, went to basic training, the signal corps training, basic training, which was less rigorous. I had a c profile, and was grabbed by the local public relations people. They saw my background and needed somebody, and right out of basic training, I went into what most people considered a cushy job at camp headquarters. This was at San Luis Obispo. I thought if I was in the army, I ought to be in somewhere interesting. San Luis Obispo was not an interesting place.

TI: And what year was this? What's the timing of this?

RD: I go into the army the day after Thanksgiving of 1952. So in 1953, I'm twenty... what?

TI: Twenty-six?

RD: Yes. No, this is '52, so I'm twenty-five. So I apply to go overseas. I figured with my language skills -- I could read and write German and French.

TI: And this is during the Korean conflict?

RD: Yes, this is during the Korean conflict. And everybody tells me, "You may get sent to Korea." Says, "Well, if I get sent to Korea, I will get sent." But I figured that I could get into intelligence, and I applied for that, and they were very interested in me until they looked at my file and discovered that my mother was born in Hungary, and that was a communist country. Well, that somehow disqualified me from being in intelligence. And they said, I remember a sergeant who told me, "Son," he says, "you'd have to apply for clearance, and by the time we got clearance, you wouldn't be in the army anymore. Now, if you want to sign up for a five-year enlistment," or whatever it was, I think it was probably a three- or a five-year enlistment, "then we can consider you." Well, there's no way I was going to do that, so I took my chances and went to Korea. Got pulled out of the pipeline once we got there. I was signal corps and trained as a photographer, but I got pulled out and sent to an engineer unit because -- I later discovered -- the man, the sergeant who was in charge of the personnel, he'd been there for years, was going home, there was nobody good in there. He had gone to the two replacement depots, one in Pusan and one in Incheon. And the 2nd Engineers were a beer supply place. One of the units was... so he had lots of beer to use to get bribes, so he worked it out with the two sergeants who ran those repo depots, that he wanted somebody whose scores were in the 99th percentile, and they sent him to me. And he told me that there was a good desk job here, but that I would have to spend two months reading and boning up on all the army regulations. He said, "You know how to study, you can do that." And then he had a job for me, which would mean I would get promoted and etcetera. So I did that, and did it successfully, and eventually, very quickly, despite being a two-year draftee, which usually meant that the highest you could get was private first class, I was very quickly made sergeant. Because he had a job for me, and being in charge of a number of other people, and then the rank went with that particular job.

So I wound up doing all kinds of very interesting things, had a comfortable war, got shot at by accident a couple of times. I learned something I didn't know before, that I had a great deal of executive ability. I could run and manage. I'd managed small restaurants, but that's nothing. I had a complicated staff. I was assigned to the 2nd Engineer construction group, which was a large, regimental sized group that had units all over Korea doing important work. One unit was in charge of the railroad in Pusan, Seoul, another unit was building the prisoner exchange establishment up at the DMZ, another unit was building bridges like highway-style bridges across the Imjin River, etcetera. So it was a very large, complicated operation. And I did inspections of all of these places.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So I'm curious, here you are a draftee, not here very long. How did you get your authority? How did people, why did people listen to you?

RD: Three stripes on the arm. And because I knew the answers to their questions. I had our personnel... each of the component units in this group sent one of its GIs, usually a corporal, to handle their work in the regimental personnel center. I was the director; I was in charge of S-1 of personnel. There was a national guard sergeant who came in there who didn't know anything, had no particular competence. But I told him what to do when the inspector general inspection came, I was in charge, and we passed. In other words, I did the job. I was even decorated, not for valor, but for administrative excellence. I was good at it. And yes, some of those guys who had been there for a while resented me at first, but when they had a problem, I was the one who could solve it; I knew how to solve it. And the colonel eventually came to rely on me, and it almost got me into... not into trouble, but it eventually almost put my plans in jeopardy. As I was just about ready to wind up my career over there because my time was up, Dien Bien Phu fell.

TI: I'm sorry?

RD: Dien Bien Phu fell. Dien Bien Phu, the Vietnamese fortress. And there was a lot of scurrying around. The colonel called me in one day, "It says here you can read French. Can you really read French?" I said yes. He handed me something he had ready for me. He couldn't read French. "Well, we need you." And immediately, he says, "You have to apply for top secret clearance before I can even talk to you." So I filled out this incredible questionnaire and took it down to army intelligence in Seoul. And they took one look at it, stamped it, and says, "It's approved." I said, "How can you do that?" He said, "Well, this is a theater approval. It would take" -- as I'd been told before -- "it would take two years for one of these things to clear, and we need you right away." So I had top secret clearance; in fact, I was even cleared for atomic. Why? Well, I got back, and he handed me some material, and I discovered what was happening. We were being prepared to go to Vietnam. If a certain radio signal had been received, coded signal, certain selected personnel were supposed to go to the airport in Seoul, be flown to Clark Field in the Philippines, and then be flown into Haiphong, which was still in French hands. And I'd gone over with an officer to a meeting in Tokyo where French soldiers and civilians briefed us on what to expect. It was planned down to a pretty fine detail. We knew the building we'd be in in Haiphong, and it was a building, modern building, glass windows, second floor. And it happened that there were four corner offices and one big central office where I had put the colonel and myself, because I was his leading sergeant there, and assigned S-1, S-2, S-3, S-4. The colonel looked at this and, "Sergeant," he says, "you've got it wrong. I get the windows." And I said, "Colonel, I have this pamphlet here, it's in French, but let me read you what it says." Among other things, it described the Viet Cong habit of throwing satchel charges through windows. He said, "Maybe that's a good idea after all." [Laughs] I mean, we'd have guards, but... and the unit's first job was to improve the MSR, the Major Supply Route, between Haiphong and Hanoi, for the heaviest possible tanks that the U.S. Army had. So this was... where this plan came from, God only knows. Nothing in the published literature talks about it. My notion is that it was dreamed up by somebody in Tokyo, but I don't know. But we sat on it for a while and eventually a message came through, coded, which said, "This operation will not take place." And we know that there were debates in Washington. By the way, the other thing that I had to do -- and this was what upset me -- I had drafted an order extending my own service in the military indefinitely, at the convenience of the government.

TI: I'm sorry, you agreed to this, or you drafted this?

RD: I drafted this. It wasn't an option; they could do that to you at the convenience of the government.

TI: Because you were viewed as a necessary resource?

RD: That's right, "military necessity." [Laughs] Have you ever heard that phrase before? I don't think anybody used those particular words, but that's what it was. I would have had no choice. But that didn't happen and I got out in time.

TI: But it sounds like this was pretty, for a young man, pretty exciting, interesting situation to be in? If that order had come differently, would you have done so because you would want to, or you'd still be reluctant?

RD: I didn't want to do anything that would extend my service in the military.

TI: Even though this could have been pretty interesting, exciting type of work into intelligence?

RD: No. I would still be doing the same kinds of clerical work, just in a different situation. And I wouldn't be doing just S-1 work. And the reason is that I had French.

TI: So in some ways, you just dodged this bullet.

RD: Yes. It didn't come up.

TI: Now with your term ending, did they try to encourage you to stay?

RD: No, they knew better than that. And there was no particular reason for it. In fact, I had a choice. I could have gone home on what they called a banana boat, which would have meant I would have left a little early and gone back not the way I came, which was across the Pacific, but down through the Suez Canal, etcetera, and I didn't want any part of that. But some people thought it was, get out of duty. But I just wanted to get home and get out of the army. I got out and came into Seattle, spent a few hours at Fort Lewis, got on a train, went back to Fort Sam Houston -- I mean Fort Bliss, where I was discharged, and then went back to Houston, finished my college degree. Now I had, by the way, GI Bill money. And went on to UCLA.

TI: Okay, so you graduated university, you said, in 1957?

RD: June 1957. September '57 I started my PhD. I got a master's degree in January of '59. In March of '59 I passed my doctoral exams, my PhD exams, and then spent the rest of 1959 -- well, not the rest. I had to finish as a teaching assistant, but from March on I was doing nothing but dissertation work. And then for the full year after that, I researched and wrote my dissertation, which I finished and handed in. But as I think I've already said...

TI: Right, your advisor was overseas.

RD: Yes. But I finished in July 1960.

TI: But your PhD was conferred to you in 1961?

RD: Right.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So Roger, we're going to start up again. And now we're going to jump to the latter part of your time when you were at UCLA as an assistant professor of history. And so we're sort of in the late 1960s, '67, '68.

RD: Well, let's see, when did I come there?

TI: The second time you were there from '63?

RD: Yes, '63. That was the fall of '63, I'd spent two years in Platteville. Our son Richard was born in Platteville. Are we on now?

TI: Yes, we're on now.

RD: Our son Richard was born in Platteville, we came back to Los Angeles, bought a home with the help of Judith's parents, not too far from UCLA, short bus ride. But we couldn't afford Westwood, no two ways about it. Actually, when we first got married, we lived in an apartment in Santa Monica for the year that I spent after the dissertation. Judith and I got married in October.

TI: Okay, so this was your first...

RD: The first year there.

TI: Before Platteville.

RD: Before Platteville. Then we spent two years in Platteville and came back, and Judith resumed her studies at UCLA, I began teaching at UCLA, and we bought this house in West Los Angeles. When I first got back -- and I think I said this before -- Irving Bernstein, who I'd worked for in that Institute of Industrial Relations, told me that I had to meet this Harry Kitano who had just come here, who was very interested in the things that I would be interested in. And he told Harry the same thing. So Harry and I got together and had dinner or lunch or something. Eventually there was a delicatessen that we went to on Pico Boulevard quite regularly, a place called Junior's, which was just recently closed, gone out of business. Really a good delicatessen, and we were almost charter members there. Harry and I, as I think I said, �never had a cross word about anything apart from baseball. We were both great fans of the UCLA basketball team, and those were the great years.

TI: John Wooden?

RD: I knew John Wooden, met him. We had... I forget what year Pauley Pavilion opened, but it opened when we were there, and I had two prime seats for as long as I was still at UCLA, just where I wanted them to be, upstairs in one corner.

TI: Oh, your seats were sort of in a corner in the upper tier? And why there and not lower on the court?

RD: You can't see anything.

TI: Oh, you can't see the plays.

RD: The pattern. No, I learned that... well, I didn't learn it there, but I later learned that the hockey coach in Buffalo, whose name I forget at the moment, very funny guy. He always said that that was the place where he sat, he liked to sit upstairs in the corner because you can see the whole pattern of play. If you're down on the floor, you miss a lot.

TI: So this is a little bit of a segue. But you were there -- and I'm a big fan of college basketball -- and during the heyday of UCLA, they were truly a dynasty in the true sense of the word in terms of college sports. What made UCLA so good?

RD: Well, they had a good coach.

TI: Well, some would say a great coach.

RD: Well, he became a great coach. He had a long period of good coaching in which he didn't win anything. I mean, he won games, but his first championship team was the team that won before Alcindor.

TI: Like Walt Hazzard? Was it that team?

RD: Yes, but that team had nobody bigger than 6'6". Fred Slaughter was the center at that time. But I was on campus -- did I talk about this?

TI: I don't think so.

RD: When Lew Alcindor came to campus. He was so gawky. And shortly after he came to campus, couldn't have been two weeks, I had this big course, five hundred people in it, in Haines Hall 39. And I come in from the back, it's an amphitheater, and god, there he is standing at the podium.

TI: All seven-feet-four of him.

RD: Whatever it was. I think he was still growing. And he says in a very high-pitched voice, "Professor?" So came in, I looked up, "Yes, sir?" He'd lost his pitch pipe, and he was in the class before, and it might have been there, would I ask? So I said, "All right." And I said, "Class, Mr. Alcindor here thinks he may have lost his pitch pipe. Did any of you find a pitch pipe in here this morning?" They said no. And then he looked at me and said, "Thank you, Professor. How did you know my name?" [Laughs] How did I know his name? Just a wonderful example of how naive a young giant can be. He became, of course, he was highly intelligent. He was a history major, by the way. He was never in any of my history courses, and he took mostly Middle Eastern and African American history. But one of my teaching assistants, in a year that he wasn't my teaching assistant, had him in a class, and it really bothered him because this was a big guy. He was 6'6", my teaching assistant, he'd never had to look up to anybody in his life. And to have to look up to his student and look way up, it just bugged him. He couldn't get over that anybody could be that big. But, yeah, those were great days.

TI: And you mentioned you knew John Wooden?

RD: Yes, I knew him.

TI: Because wasn't he also a student of history? Didn't he also enjoy history? For some reason I...

RD: Not to my knowledge. But he was a gentleman, which not all coaches are.

TI: I've read some of his work, and amazingly, because I coached a lot of youth sports, and it was never about winning. He never talked about winning, it was about these other fundamental things that eventually led to winning, but he never really talked about winning a game. It was about separation, those little steps which I so appreciate.

RD: He'd occasionally get thrown out because he really went after referees. But the strongest words he used were something like, "Oh my goodness, that was a terrible mistake."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So we're at UCLA, you now know...

RD: Know Harry.

TI: ...Harry.

RD: And Harry had an existing contract with Prentice Hall to write a book about racial prejudice in California, and he asked me if I would like to participate. I said that might be very interesting, and he talked about how it would work, and this sort of thing. And I remember we went up to Berkeley to see the academic editor for the series, a distinguished sociologist called Neil Smelser, S-M-E-L-S-E-R. That may be wrong, but you can find him. And he gave us some good notions, and we put together, I think, a very, very nice book. This was fairly late in my time at UCLA. I remember I finished my part of the writing in Wyoming. Harry and I, as I said, just had no problems. To our surprise, Prentice Hall changed the title. I forget what our title was, but it was about California because that's what the book is about. But they made it American Racism. I think we called it California Racism, but I'm not sure about that. Or I think we called it Racism in California, and they changed the title to American Racism. I called up the editor in New York, not Smelser, because he didn't have anything to do with it. And I said, "What's all this about?" I said, "Are you going to change the content?" "No, the content's the same." I said, "We're talking mostly about California." He said, "That's all right. This will sell books." And he was absolutely correct, because it sold. It was the first paperback book available for adoption to use the term "racism." Came out right at the start of the '70s, and was really hot stuff, and it lasted for a long time.

TI: And who would buy this book? When you say it's "hot stuff," was it other universities?

RD: This was for adoptions. I mean, we used to get these computer printouts of everybody who'd bought 'em. And one of the things I kept noticing was that semester in and semester out, we were selling hundreds of copies in Anchorage, Alaska. Well, I eventually put some inquiries, and it turns out that there was a course that everybody in that college had to take. This was the big campus of the University of Alaska which is in Fairbanks, it was a subsidiary, although Anchorage is a much bigger city. And there was this course that everybody had to take about... I forget what they called it, but something about "varieties of ethnicity in America," and this was it. Later, all kinds of books, there were many, many competing books. And Harry and I went on to write a book that was really about American racism with separate chapters on every Asian American group.

TI: So that was later on, Asian Americans.

RD: Yes. But that was a term that I don't think we used in the first book. That was a new term. And that book changed over the years. Because when we started writing about it, Japanese Americans were the most numerous group. By the time we did our last edition, Japanese American population was declining, and five other Asian American ethnic groups had over a million persons.

TI: So Japanese Americans were then number six, I think it was.

RD: Yes.

TI: It's amazing when I look at the differences. But going back to the book American Racism, so it sold well. How important is that to a young professor? I mean, did that provide a pretty good revenue stream for you in those early days?

RD: Well, it was not so much that it dwarfed my salary, but it significantly supplemented my salary, and it was like found money. In the early days, we had our budget and this sort of thing, and we knew we could do that. And then these checks would come in, and they were, you'd get two a year, and there were two of us. But my checks would be, except for the first one, which was very big, my semi-annual checks were never as much as a thousand dollars. But they were several hundred dollars, and they came twice a year, and that was very, very convenient money.

TI: And so did it surprise you how well the book did?

RD: Oh, couldn't believe it, couldn't believe how well it did. And at the same time, by that time, The Politics of Prejudice -- on which I hadn't made a penny -- had been picked up as a quality paperback, and that began to have significant income. Never as big as the American Racism book, but there was another energy stream.

TI: And so I noticed, in Politics of Prejudice, that was reissued several times. Originally '62, second edition '78, enlarged 1981, and then another one in 1999. American Racism, that didn't happen. Why wasn't that reissued?

RD: Because the field had gotten beyond it. Asian America took its place. It was reprinted many times, but we never changed it.

TI: And tell me about American Racism. So it's about racism in California, so what did you focus on? What was the new ground covered with this?

RD: Well, it was all new ground; nobody had done anything like that. We talked about Indians, native peoples; we talked about Hispanics; we talked about Chinese; we talked about Japanese; we talked about Filipinos; we talked about racism as a phenomenon; we talked about prejudice. And "prejudice" is in the subtitle, but what is the subtitle exactly?

TI: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice.

RD: Yes. So this was new stuff.

TI: And with this new material, did you and Professor Kitano go out and speak more about this? Or what roles did the two of you play?

RD: We began to be popular for interviews and this sort of thing. Harry and I also put together the first academic exploration of the incarceration. We had a meeting on the UCLA campus, public meeting, with a number of outside speakers, a conference, for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the incarceration at a time when nobody was talking about it.

TI: Right, so you talked about this last at the last interview.

RD: Okay, we know all about it.

TI: But I was thinking, so the book American Racism came after that conference. Was that being written, or was this combination happening with you and Harry at this point?

RD: I can't date it precisely. The book did not take a hell of a long time to write, we were both pretty quick. So I can't date that. My wife probably has the contract in our files and can date it. I'll call you and you can insert it here if you want to do that.

TI: But at the same time, it was interesting going back to the title, you were thinking this was about California racism.

RD: I think the original title was something like Racism in California: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice. And they just changed to American Racism.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So I'm wondering, was there ever confusion about what was happening in terms of the Civil Rights Movement in the South in the United States in terms of... because it's about the same time?

RD: Well, I had... Harry and I were both on, one of the other things we did in common was we were both members of the very important faculty committee on racism on campus. Don't know what it was called, but that's what it was about. And we tried to spur the campus into doing more, and we each had roles in doing that. I know when the Johnson administration -- and I can't date this precisely -- first put forth opportunities for federal money to get disadvantaged persons into colleges, I was put on the committee to establish the criteria for the University of California, who we would be looking for. I remember having, not an argument, but a discussion, because they'd come in with these lawyers, had the kinds of groups who out to be considered, and they had left Filipinos out. And I said, "How can you leave out Filipinos?" The lawyers didn't know what I was talking about. They said, "Are there many of them? Are they disadvantaged?" And I was able to demonstrate that this was the case, and there was federal data to support it, so there was no problem about it, but the university could set up its own criteria. So the university people had to be educated to these administrators, and some faculty had to be educated about these matters. It wasn't always easy; they didn't like it.

I got involved with a number of civil rights activities. The one I'm, guess I'm most proud of that isn't involved with Japanese Americans or Asian Americans was that I helped organize a delegation of UCLA historians and one UCLA sociologist who flew down to Atlanta and then got on the kindergarten bus of the Free For All Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia, a black Baptist church, because both Greyhound and... what was the other company? Trailways had refused to charter a bus for people going to Montgomery for this thing. And a very distinguished group of professors went. The UCLA group had the only assistant professors in it, simply because at UCLA -- and I don't know who started this -- I brought the word to the department, because I knew the historian who was organizing the whole thing, a then-University of Chicago professor named Walter Johnson, who was a real political wheeler dealer. One of his books was called How We Drafted Adlai Stevenson, which will give you an idea of the level that he was working at. He called me up on the telephone and said, "Why don't you see if you can get somebody else to come?" And the department, or some of the department held a meeting, and they decided not only that they would come, but that they would ask every department member to make a donation. More for professors than for associate professors, and more for associate professors than assistants. We didn't have any instructors yet. And we'd see how many people we could finance to go, because a large number of people wanted to go. And some of the full professors went, John W. Caughey went, who was a distinguished professor. But most of us were assistant professors. Well, there was another one, a European professor named Jerry came. But I couldn't have afforded that. It would have eaten up a year's royalties, and we didn't have that kind of loose money lying around.

So we went, and we marched, we walked slowly in a procession the last day, which didn't go very far. It was several miles, although the crowds were nasty, and we were well protected with regular army troops, Alabama National Guardsmen who had been federalized, lots of FBI and U.S. Marshals around. But it was quite an experience, and then there was a long wait, long, long, standing in the hot sun, listening to long speeches, and eventually to one superb speech by Martin Luther King. But none of the speakers were terse. [Laughs] And, of course, on the return, we didn't get back to the airport in time for a plane, so we had to spend the night there in a motel just outside of the airport. I went into a diner and I picked up a paper, I didn't look at it. I sat down at the table, and I remember a loud voice saying, "Well, that served the bitch right," at about the time I opened the paper and read that Viola Liuzzo -- I don't know if her name was in the paper -- but that a woman had been shot and killed leaving that, driving a car with a young black person in it, he wasn't killed. I sort of halfway got up, and then sat down right again. That wasn't the place to make a speech.

But a fascinating thing happened as we got back. We spent the night at the "black school," Tuskegee. There was no way you were going to get public accommodations if you want to sleep in there. But after the march, we went back, it was still daylight when we got to Atlanta. As we left on the bus, as I got off the bus, Walter Johnson said, "Roger, go back and look through the bus. These guys are careless, they'll leave all kinds of things." And I went through the bus, and I guess he was right. There was a briefcase, there were sweaters, there were a couple of lunches, and I had an armload. And they've all gone, and I'm walking back, and two things happened at about the same time. I realized that I was jaywalking, not across a runway but across a fairly busy street, and that two policemen were bearing down on me. One a very stout fellow who was sort of a stereotype if you were going to cast a southern sheriff, and next to him a real raw-boned younger man. This guy was a sergeant, the other man was red-haired, wasn't wearing a hat. And I thought, "Oh, boy. Went through all that stuff with no problems, and now here I'm going to get a ticket." But what happened was they came up to me, and the sergeant looked at me and he said, "Did you men get off that bus?" And I said, "Yes, we did." And the fellow who looked so mean to me, looked at me and said, "Did those rednecks over there give you any trouble?" These were Atlanta policemen, and understood certain things. So they said, "Well, listen, there's a press conference over here for you folks. Let us help you with the stuff you've got." So they reminded me again that you shouldn't make stereotypes. I really thought that I was in big trouble.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RD: Later, Walter Johnson asked me to fly back to Atlanta at my expense to participate in a school that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was setting up for the white volunteers who would go and register voters, and I helped to organize a group of students who went. And so I went there and talked and spoke and got to meet Dr. King and had two conversations with him. And then I went on, feeling rather guilty as I wasn't going where they were going, they went to Macon, Georgia, where some of them wound up in jail. But I had, again, through Walter Johnson, met some of the black political leaders. Because this was the time when Georgia was electing, for the first time, black legislators. And when I found out that the UCLA people would go to Macon, I asked one of Walter Johnson's black PhDs who taught somewhere down there, man named C.A. Bacote, B-A-C-O-T-E, about who I could talk to about putting in a word with the authorities in Macon about these students who were going down there. Bacote made a couple of phone calls, and he arranged for me to see a man who was fairly high, a white man, in the Democratic Party. And he grunted and he said, "Well, yes." And he got on the phone, and he said, "Well, you go and see Sheriff So-and-so in Macon." So I arranged to be driven down there and went and talked to him and said that some important people really cared about this, and that we hoped these students would take care of themselves. But if they didn't, which was probable, and if they got arrested, "Fine, you arrest them. But don't put the girls in the drunk tanks with the whores, and try and make sure that the boys don't get roughed up. Because if that does happen, I guarantee you that there'll be some high powered political pressure. But we're going to tell them, I've told them and other people will tell them, to obey the law, and if they break the law, you do what you have to do. But try to treat them in a decent way." And they did get arrested, and nobody complained of particularly bad treatment. I mean, no jail is nice to be in. Gordon Hirabayashi describes the jail that he was sent to here in Seattle as "cockroachy," which I guess is probably what most jails are like. I don't know, I've not been in them. But I then went on to do research at Hyde Park, and I remember I felt terribly guilty that I wasn't down there and doing that, but I had to do it. And the reason I could do that was I had a fellowship which included airfare, so I had just put Atlanta in as a way station on to New York, so it only cost me a few dollars more to go there. And the Southern Christian Leadership Conference paid for my hotel.

TI: And how concerned were you about either your safety or the safety of the UCLA students?

RD: I was terribly concerned about the UCLA students. I was not particularly concerned about my own safety; I don't know why I wasn't. My wife was terribly concerned.

TI: I was going to ask about Judith, because I know you really looked to her for her advice.

RD: She did not object. She later told me she was very... I hadn't realized how nervous she was about it, but she was quite nervous about it.

TI: And she was nervous about your safety or the students' safety?

RD: My safety. She was not concerned about my trip to Atlanta, that was not a problem. Well, she was concerned about anybody getting hurt, but going to Alabama was dangerous, but we were really very well-protected. I wasn't concerned about that. I've never have been particularly concerned about my own safety.

TI: But in looking at the situation, were there dangerous situations that you were placed in during this time?

RD: I don't think so. I didn't feel any dangers. If Lyndon Johnson's troops hadn't been there... well, I wouldn't have been there. No, I don't feel that was in any way dangerous. There were people who were going places, to deepest Mississippi, to Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, to certain counties in Alabama, that was dangerous. The people who marched that first march and gotten beaten so cruelly at the Pettus Bridge in Selma. That was dangerous. What I was doing wasn't dangerous. Atlanta was... well, the Atlanta cops at the airport. I mean, something bad can happen anywhere.

TI: How important was it for the professors at UCLA and students and other universities, other parts of the country, going to the South? How important was that to the movement?

RD: I think it was more important for the people who went, and for the society and to the places they went back to with their stories than it was bringing any particular change in the South. It was good for the morale of the civil rights people, some of them, that they had this support, but this was mostly a black struggle done by black people. Although there was this... when a couple of white young men were killed in Mississippi, that was something. When a white minister was killed in Alabama, that was something, but black people fell like, not in windrows, but large numbers were killed all sorts of places. The white kids killed at Kent State had a tremendous impact. Black students killed at Orange State in the South, very little impact. I don't know what the total casualties were, but they were mostly black casualties. It was black people who paid it, and black people who got it done. Everybody else was an auxiliary. And it was good, and certainly they had majority support, had congressional support, and white people going south, and a few of them getting hurt, did help focus support. But the movement was really a black movement.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: When you returned back to Los Angeles, how did you and the others share your experiences of what happened?

RD: Well, there was a huge meeting at which we all spoke. Got a lot of publicity in the newspapers. My mentor Saloutos happened to be department chairman at that time, and he'd, first of all, made no objection to us leaving, and everybody just cancelled classes. Classes were going on, we were missing work. Teaching assistants took over mine. One outraged taxpayer called him up to complain, and Saloutos reported that he told him, the guy said, "What are those history professors doing down there anyway? They should be teaching." And Saloutos said that he responded, "Our professors not only teach history, they make history. That's what they were doing." So there was support, and later, I think one of the funniest conversations I've ever had in my life, Dr. King came to campus, and we had to get permission, they still had a speech code then, it was hard to get permission. Then we had to get permission to raise money. And I'm dealing with a very, very nice man, the vice chancellor, political scientist, I forget his name at the moment, who actually asked me, "I can approve this, but won't it embarrass Dr. King for you to people to be asking for money?" My jaw just dropped. I said, "If you think you can embarrass a Baptist preacher by asking for money, you don't understand what Baptist preachers are like." [Laughs] Of course he wants money. And they made a nice contribution, they passed the hat, and there was a fancy luncheon for Dr. King. And one of the students who was in charge, who'd been in charge, who'd been down in Macon and was in charge of collecting money showed up. I arrived for dessert, and with cash. [Laughs] So there was generally a good feeling, although I'm sure there were faculty who thought that that was not what people ought to do. But there was no significant objection in the history department. And, in fact, we were subsidized, not by departmental funds, but by the individual donations, into a pot to pay for the tickets.

Now, I continued to teach. I seemed to be well on the road to getting tenure, my tenure was approved by the department, and then I was informed that the administration had denied my tenure, which was a shock.

TI: Now, was that a very unusual move by the administration?

RD: Yes, highly so. Highly so. And I was shocked, I had published a well-received book, which was the standard, I had glowing reports of my teaching, I had been invited to join the only university social organization I've ever been associated with, the Golden Bruin, which was a student-faculty association, and I was much sought-after to talk at various student affairs. I had plenty of university service, etcetera. I cannot definitively say what happened. Many of my colleagues were furious, three senior American historians formally protested. I was advised by many people to fight it, I said, "I have no intention of fighting it. I'm going to teach history somewhere, I'm going to write history, and I'm not going to spend my time trying to overturn a decision." And I had great support from my senior colleagues. I had a year, but I didn't want the year; I wanted to get out of there.

TI: But going back to your decision not to fight it, here Los Angeles was so convenient for you. You had a house, this was where Judith was from, and you had done really all the things that would be needed to get tenure, and you're denied in a very unusual way. Why didn't you fight it?

RD: Because I didn't think it was worth it. I knew it would take a great deal of energy. In addition, I was having some serious health problems in Los Angeles. It was not a healthy place to live, but that wasn't the big thing, although I'd had a couple of really serious episodes. I remember getting very violently ill at an outdoor wedding ceremony, and Judith got me in the car, and we drove, went straight to the beach where the air is clearer. But as I say, I had the next year. I could have spent the next year there, but I didn't want to do that and I made that clear. And those days, the old boys ran the world. And without my applying, John Caughey had made some phone calls, and the University of Wyoming chairman called me and asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed for an appointment there, at the OAH meeting, and I said, yes, I'd be happy to be interviewed. And I'd been assured by Caughey that they were going to hire me, "unless you do something very stupid." So we had a good interview and they hired me. They hired me as an associate professor with tenure, and the next year I was made a full professor, and that was that. Oh, Wyoming was a great place, we can talk about that later. I would have loved to have stayed there, would have been happy to stay there my whole life, except that the public schools were horrible. The elementary schools were okay. Most of the teachers in the elementary schools, there had once been a university lab school, but there was now no longer. But the public schools were good, and most of the teachers were faculty wives. But not in the junior high school and the high school. They were all mostly UW graduates, extremely racist. I met the vice principal of the junior high school, who, knowing that I had a young son, said, "We got too many" -- he didn't say Mexicans, he used another word -- "but we get rid of them pretty quick. You don't need to worry about that." So there was no way that we were going to let our kids into those. So it was indicated that we ought to leave, but I'd done nothing about it because the decision was several years away, but I was afraid to stay there. I was already acting head of the department. But I had a job opportunity in my third year, and I took it.

TI: And this was at SUNY?

RD: To go to SUNY. And the only real problem -- we loved Wyoming, but the salary wasn't very good. Even if we decided to send them away to school, which we didn't want to do, it would have to be down in Denver or Boulder or someplace like that. The salary wasn't very good, and the SUNY salary was much, much better.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: But before we go to SUNY, I think it was when you were at Wyoming that Concentration Camps USA...

RD: The Asian American book was finished there, and the writing of the book -- because when I left Atlanta after the school, I went up to...

TI: To Hyde Park?

RD: To Hyde Park. And earlier I had gone... no. And the next year, or in another year, I went to the National Archives and met with Stetson Conn before I went there. That was not that summer. This summer was the summer of Hyde Park, so I did a lot of the basic research for that book and for the Roosevelt biography... which I didn't know I was going to do a Roosevelt biography then, but I knew I wanted to write a big book about the New Deal. So I did some of that research then.

TI: So the Hyde Park trip, at that point you knew you were going to still do the book Concentration Camps USA?

RD: Oh, yes, I always knew that.

TI: So that was part of the research, but also collecting all this other information for your other book, or a future book?

RD: I've always done that. I'm always on the outlook for thinking about what I'm going to do next and next and next. And I've collected a lot of information I've never used. So some of it I've passed on to other people, others just is still sitting, and I may use it yet.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So in the last interview you talked a little bit about the help you got from Stetson Conn, getting his notes, and so we talked a little bit about the creation of the book. I wanted to ask a little bit about the reaction to the book after it was published.

RD: Well, the reaction to the book was very, very good. I did a preview of it at an American Historical Association meeting in Boston. My friend Walter Johnson was there, thought it was stunning, and, being a wheeler-dealer, he had since moved to the University of Hawaii, sort of retirement. And he made arrangements, without my knowledge, although he told me about it later, and he went to Holt, which was a publisher, and got an advance copy of the book, and arranged to have the chapter dealing with the, part of the book dealing with the draft resisters printed in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

TI: That's interesting. I didn't know that.

RD: And then Walter Johnson, if you look at the pictures in Concentration Camps USA, you'll see a page showing the pictures in the story that appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. And then I was invited out that summer to lecture at the University of Hawaii. The first lecture that had ever been given in Hawaii on what happened to the stateside Japanese Americans. And I was really treated royally there. Somebody you know arranged the social part of the visit.

TI: Professor Ogawa?

RD: Yes, Dennis arranged the social part of the visit, Dennis Ogawa, which was very nice. But the department spokesman, spokesperson, told me that, "You're going to be talking in a big auditorium, and we just don't get big audiences." They'd just had the distinguished University of Chicago professor William McNeill, who was a world class historian. And apart from a few faculty, there were eight people at the lecture. When we got there, the fire marshals were clearing the aisles which had been filled with people. It was absolutely packed, more than eight hundred people. There were all kinds of questions.

TI: And who, how would you characterize the audience? Who was there?

RD: Nisei and some haoles, but it was mostly Nisei who wanted to hear what was going on. And in addition, the picture that appeared in the Star-Bulletin, and the story appeared in the Star-Bulletin, was the material about the "draft dodgers," so-called, the draft resisters. And lo and behold, there were a number of them who had wound up in Hawaii and none of them were Hawaiians, they just wound up there. And several of them came to see me, they had some of their documents about their cases and this sort of thing. They had been pardoned, Truman pardoned them all, but the Department of Justice never notified anybody, never tried to. The fact that Nisei had been pardoned wasn't publicized, and these people hadn't known that they were citizens.

TI: Until they read your book?

RD: Until the read the excerpt from my book that appeared on the front page, the story started on the front page of the Star-Bulletin. It was big news in Hawaii.

TI: And so up to then, these men were kind of living under this cloud.

RD: Yes. Actually, people who lose their citizenship, for instance, like the renunciants, if they wanted to, they could just go somewhere and say, "Here's my birth certificate, I was born here," which was evidence of it. They don't go out and tear their birth certificates up. There's no way really to enforce that, and they don't try. So that any renunciants who wanted to could vote, could do all sorts of things.

TI: That's interesting. I never thought of that. And here... well, but the renunciants went through this horrendous legal process to get their citizenship back.

RD: That's right.

TI: Even though they had, you're right, they had birth certificates.

RD: And most of them had been turned loose. And neither Wayne Collins -- and I write about this in the book that will be published in November -- neither Wayne Collins nor the Justice Department had the foggiest idea where most of them were. Which is one of the reasons why it took so long. All Wayne Collins had to do, once the principle had been established, was to get them to sign an affidavit. He gave them samples, and the affidavit, they had to say that they were in fear of their lives and a few other things like that that he laid out for them in these sample affidavits. That's all they had to do, they had to file the affidavit. The Justice Department didn't have any information on which to base a counter file. All they knew was they'd made an application that had been approved so that it was just automatic. But because of the way Judge Denman had granted the original petition, they had to be established. Well, let me be more precise. [Interruption] The minors were all cleared automatically by the clerk. But everybody else had to file an affidavit, have it presented to the Justice Department, and had to have the Justice Department make a response, and in most cases they had no response to make. And if they had no response to make then the judge would say, "All right, done." But it took until 1968 to get all of that done. If they'd kept names and addresses, it could have been done a lot quicker, but that's why the procedure took so long. Now, how many of these people actually suffered, other than psychic injury, because of this is not clear.

TI: So that's similar to the draft resisters, where they were pardoned even though they didn't know it.

RD: Yes, that's the other way it led.

TI: So going back to that talk you did in Hawaii? So what were some of the questions? I'm curious what people were asking.

RD: Oh, the most basic questions: "Did that really happen?" I mean, they didn't know anything about it. Did I talk about the students in my class last time?

TI: You did, about that two that...

RD: Well, if that was true in Los Angeles, imagine what was true out in Hawaii. I mean, obviously there was some knowledge of it, but the crowd was just incredible.

TI: Now, did you get any pushback from any of the Nisei veterans who served with West Coast Japanese Americans who perhaps had a very negative view of the draft resisters?

RD: Not there, not there. I didn't see anybody who looked like a veteran. I certainly at meetings have had verbal conflicts with veterans, by people who feel that I'm too soft, etcetera. The fact that I served in Korea sometimes helps shut 'em up. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So were you surprised at the reaction of the Japanese American community to Concentration Camps USA? Because you didn't write about the community, you really were writing, earlier you said, the oppressors, the government.

RD: Well, I knew about community actions, I mean, I'd had this reaction. Remember, I'd been talking to all kinds of people. I had figured out, by the time Concentration Camps came out, I had talked to more than a thousand people who'd been incarcerated. I did not do oral history interviews, I usually didn't even take a note. But I just talked to people, and I'd go outside and I'd take a note or write it down, or write it down when I get home, or don't write it down at all and count on my memory to remember the details. I've got a very good memory. You know, liars and historians need good memories, and I have generally a very good memory. But the basic reactions of Japanese American people that I've been with and in contact with, have been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm treated with, given too much honor and credit. I got a certain amount of stick in the early days from white people. Even got nasty anonymous phone calls, and the occasional letter after I'd been quoted in the papers or had said something somewhere, and occasionally somebody would stand up and ask a question. And that's continued since I've been out here. I went back... some time since 2005, in other words, in this century, I talked at Green Bay where one of my students teaches, and there were a couple of old vets who tried to say that that was all right. I don't argue with them, I just say, "Look, I'm a historian, this is what I think," etcetera, etcetera. "And, yes, by the way, I served in the merchant marine in the Second World War and in Korea. Where were you?" Well, it turned out one of these guys had never left the United States, which is ad hominem stuff, but that sometimes works.

And you get asked crazy things. Craziest thing I was ever asked was at a speech in a liberal arts school, college in Michigan. First question, in a brightly lit room was, "Are you a Japanese American?" [Laughs] I was really taken aback. But the faculty people who sponsored me were really taken aback, they told me later. And I almost gave him a smart answer, and I thought, "This kid may not be playing with a full deck. I don't know what's going on here." So I simply said no, my parents were immigrants, my mother's people came from Hungary, and my father's people came from England. And he said, "Thank you," and sat down, and the rest of the questions were normal.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Yeah, I wanted to go back. Because you started the research and some of the writing when you were at UCLA, and continued when you were at Wyoming. I wanted to talk about the influence of being in Wyoming, close to Heart Mountain, and how that influenced the book.

RD: Well, it influenced it tremendously. Had I stayed at UCLA... as a matter of fact, my plan was to talk about one camp in particular. I talk about all of them with the focus on one camp. It's a short book, it's limited in scope, it wasn't all the camps. I couldn't do that. I had all sorts of things to cover. But once I was at Wyoming, I hadn't started the writing yet, where they had a full run of the Heart Mountain Sentinel and other things, and where I had a graduate student who I could suggest and he agreed very quickly, brilliant student named Douglas Nelson, who wrote a master's thesis which became a very well-used and popular book, not a lot of sales, but significant sales. He wrote a history of Heart Mountain itself, and as I say, we explored Heart Mountain together. But the draft resistance came as a shock. None of the histories that had been published up to that time, including books by Bill Hosokawa, including the one he wrote with one of my former colleagues, senior colleagues at UCLA, a historian of Japan, none of them mentioned this. Bill Hosokawa knew all about it. He'd written editorials against the first of the resister movements, and we talked about this. He thought it was not good for the Japanese American image, and that's what he was promoting. He was much more interested in that than in writing an accurate history, although most of what he's written is accurate. And he didn't say draft resistance didn't happen, he just refused to acknowledge it. And nobody else knew anything about it, and nobody had said very much about it. So I discovered that. And before that, the only talk about resistance had to do with things like the protests at Manzanar. And those were protests, but they weren't organized resistance. And it's importance that this resistance took place, and it's important that people knew about it. It wasn't just Gordon and Min and Fred and Mitsuye, who were tremendously courageous in 1942. But here are these guys, not doing the normal thing, but protesting. The geography of the protest is very interesting.

TI: Geography? Explain that.

RD: Well, some of the camps had almost no draft resistance at all, and several camps had a lot. The Heart Mountain case was the first, and the trial that took place in Cheyenne -- that's the picture that's in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- is still the largest trial for draft resistance in American history.

TI: I didn't know that.

RD: Well, there was practically no draft resistance in the Second World War. At the end of the war, we had an army in the millions. There were fifteen thousand cases of persons whose sentences were considered by a Presidential Pardon Commission. The Pardon Commission decided -- and this is in the administration of Harry Truman, fairly close to the war. It would have been better if they'd waited a while. But they decided only to grant pardons to two kinds of people. The first set of pardons were to people who went on to serve in the army after being convicted. The next set of pardons, and the last, was to prisoners of conscience. But the largest number of those who conscientiously resisted the draft, were Jehovah's Witnesses. The difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious protesters was that Jehovah's Witnesses insisted that everyone who was a Jehovah's Witness was in fact a minister, and thus entitled to automatic, and the government refused to grant this and refused to grant pardons to those people. And I suggest in the book that's coming out in November, that one of the reasons no one paid much attention to the fact that Truman had pardoned the several hundred Nisei draft resisters was that all the fuss was about the non-pardons to the Jehovah's Witnesses. And the media can usually focus on one aspect of a subject at a time, and that's the aspect that people like the American Friends Service Committee pushed, Clarence Pickett pushed that. It got nowhere, but that was the only thing. And Truman did not explicitly comment on the fact that Nisei had been done. He did a lot explicitly about Japanese Americans, as you know, but he did not say anything there. In fact, I've had to call it to the attention of the Truman Library, and I've suggested that they change their website to include this and one other action of his that was somewhat less favorable. He also signed an order which enabled the government to begin sending renunciants back to Japan, so there's one more positive and one negative thing to add to Truman's list. But the reaction from the historical community has been very favorable.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: You mentioned how there was a real favorable response also from the Japanese American community. Back in the '70s, it wasn't common for people in the Japanese American community to use the term "concentration camp."

RD: No.

TI: And I think it's fair to say that if a member of the Japanese American community used the term "concentration camp," they would be, I think criticized for that. How was it for you using the term "concentration camp" during this time?

RD: Well, some people would object, and some people continue to object on principle. Scholars have objected, Alice Yang Murray, for instance, who I know and like and respect, I think doesn't feel comfortable using it. Some Jewish organizations think that the term belongs to them and to them only, which is ridiculous. I've always used it. Roosevelt used it; he knew what he'd done. The first public mention he makes of the camps occurs in a press conference in October. Have I talked about this before?

TI: Yes, you did.

RD: All right, you've got the details. All in all, I have people stand up, quite often they're Jewish, in one or two cases they've been Holocaust victims. And I don't holler at them or anything else, I just say, "Well, that's your opinion, but there have been concentration camps before the Nazis, and after the Nazis, and there's certainly an American concentration camp existent today on Guantanamo." Nothing else you can call that. They're playing at law down there, but counsel, lawyers keep resigning. It's incredible that that place is still there. But that's the most appropriate term, and I think it ought to be used. And by the way, that sometimes stodgy organization, the Library of Congress, had, by the time I published Concentration Camps USA and before, had in its subject headings a whole list of concentration camps, and in runs in one nice, close, alphabetical symmetry, Concentration Camps, United States of America; Concentration Camps, Union of South Africa; Concentration Camps, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." And then there are other places as well, but those are a nice, tight shot group.

TI: Do you know when the Library of Congress did that, or started using the term "concentration camps"?

RD: I knew that once, but it was that way in 1970 when I got challenged.

TI: Now, there are some who argue that for the common person in the United States, the definition or the thinking of what a concentration camp is was heavily influenced by what happened during World War II in Europe, and that the Japanese American community, by using the term "concentration camp," is sort of playing off that. They're, perhaps, sensationalizing or trying to make what happened to Japanese Americans worse than...

RD: Well, the Japanese American community didn't use it very often, and sometimes complained.

TI: But more currently now.

RD: All right, well, they've been educated. No, it's a foot massager; it goes nowhere, it means nothing. It's only a word, but words do matter. And it's important what you call things, it's important what you call a person. And these things change. We've seen a great change, and a great change for the better, in social attitudes toward race in the United States. And I like to feel that I and others like Harry have helped to change that. I'm not saying we changed it, we helped to change it. Takes an awful lot of people, awful lot of time, an awful lot of changes, and you can't, we still haven't changed everybody. But certainly, I don't have to tell you how the racial climate has changed in this country. And it may be that the language has changed more than the deeper feelings, but if the language changes, the deeper feelings will follow. At least that's my view.

TI: Well, and the case, again, of "concentration camps," I think it is a much more accepted term within the Japanese American community now than it was even ten years ago, twenty years ago. And yet, are you surprised at how slow, or the reluctance of the community? In particular, versus using some of the euphemisms. You still hear Japanese Americans calling them maybe a "relocation center."

RD: Well, I'm not language police. And certainly, "relocation center" is a legitimate term used by the government to obfuscate. But there are some things that... I mean, Puyallup Assembly Center is a proper noun. It's not an improper noun, there was a place called that. There are all sorts of plaques up saying various things, using these particular terms. It's not like the three letter J-word or the four letter K-word, or the six letter N-word. "Relocation center," "assembly center," "internment camp," all of these are real things. I do object very strenuously to anyone calling war relocation camps "internment camps," because "internment" is a legal term, refers to what you do a person who is not a citizen of the country in which he or she is living. Those people can be interned; citizens can't be interned, period. And nobody in the government was calling any of the WRA camps internment camps during the war, that's a postwar...

TI: And where did that confusion come from? Because even I talk to Niseis, and they agree that during the war, they never called it an internment camp. At some point they started calling it that. When did that happen or why did that happen?

RD: It happened because people didn't want to say "concentration camps." In one way, the person most responsible for its continued use is Daniel Inouye. I advised the JACL continually on redress, and we're going to talk about that eventually, but it comes up now, so let's talk about this part of it now. And it was understood that when they finally drafted the bill, they'd run it by me. And one afternoon, I'm working at my home in Cincinnati, and the phone rings and it's one of Senator Inouye's administrative assistants, and she says, "I wanted to send this to you, but they're moving very fast and I'd better read it to you over the telephone. It's a short bill, can you listen?" And I had her read it, and I had her read a couple of paragraphs twice, and I said, "It's all very good except for one thing. You can't call it 'internment' in the title." "Why not?" I don't know if it was that sharp, but she was kind of taken aback. I said, "Because," and I talked for a while, and she was a bright person. She said, "I understand that, I'll explain to the Senator." Called me back the next day or maybe that day and said, "The Senator has already gotten more than fifty signatures as co-signatures. If he changes anything he has to go back, and he's not going to go back to anybody. It'll have to be that. So the Commission became -- and I'm sure if that had not been the case, I don't think it was his personal objection or insistence on the word "internment," it was his personal objection to having to go back and get people to do something they'd already done, and give up a second favor. Because every favor he got had to be repaid in his world. And one thing that I wish you would put in your piece on Inouye, which you didn't, is that he's the first non-white person who became a real power broker in the Senate. He was a Senate oligarch, and he was the only one. The other Nisei have all, some of them have done very well, but not like that. And that's quite an accomplishment.

TI: I will get that to our editor for the encyclopedia. But what you're referring to is the naming of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, CWRIC.

RD: Yes. We'll return to that later, I'm sure, because that was a fascinating experience.

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<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Anything else about Concentration Camps USA before we move on? So we talked a little bit about the reaction... I mean, the New Ground, we talked earlier about Stetson Conn helping you with things...

RD: Well, what happened is that the arguments I made in that book quickly became standard in most textbooks. And I think that was important, it became... and it established me as an authority. The first book was very interesting, had done very well, but this one... because the book got adopted and used in a lot of places, and talked about in a lot of places, and it meant that I was somebody who got called on to settle questions and to be emulated. So it was good for me, and it was good for the topic.

TI: And how much do you think... because as we'll talk about later, the redress movement really started gaining momentum in the '70s, mid-'70s, later '70s, and especially in the '80s. But they needed a base, some kind of strong content base to make their case. And do Japanese American groups ever mention the importance of your book as part of that?

RD: Well, I had a real ego trip at the ceremony for the opening of the Korematsu Center. And I was invited, I participated, you were there. But at the dinner that I don't think you went to, when all the attorneys -- not all of them, but a great many of them -- turned up. And by the way, it was the first time most of them had ever met one another. Time and again, some of them publicly, some of them privately, said how much they had learned, or how only when they read my book did they understand some of the things that had happened. And that made me feel very good. And I came home from that meeting, Judith asked me how it went, and I said something to the effect of, "I could have walked on air all the way home." I didn't, I took a taxi. But that was very nice. It was very nice to come to know Min first, then Gordon, I knew Gordon better, and eventually Fred. I never met Mitsuye Endo, she didn't want to meet anybody. I guess the Nichi Bei obituary for her made the point that her daughter was an adult before she had any notion of what her mother had done, and that she never talked about it. I knew people in the Chicago JACL hierarchy who knew her and were in contact with her, and on two separate occasions a decade apart I asked people to see if she would talk to me or answer a questionnaire I would send her, or talk to me on the telephone, and she didn't want to be part of it. And, of course, I respected that privacy.

TI: That reminds me of the story that Karen Korematsu tells me about how she heard about her father's case, where I think she was in school and someone mentioned Korematsu v. U.S., and she asked her father, "So are we related to this person?" And her father said, "We have to sit down and talk about this." [Laughs]

RD: Yes, well, that's that old Nisei habit, "Don't tell our kids anything."

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.