Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Angus Macbeth Interview
Narrator: Angus Macbeth
Interviewers: Tetsuden Kashima (primary), Becky Fukuda (secondary)
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mangus-01

<Begin Segment 1>

BF: This is a Densho interview of Angus Macbeth. The interviewer is Tetsuo Kashima and Becky Fukuda. This is September 11, 1997, and we are actually on the campus of UCLA at the redress conference.

TK: And my name is Tetsuden Kashima. Mr. Macbeth, good evening.

AM: Good evening.

TK: Perhaps we could start by having you talk a little bit about yourself, say where you were born, when you were born and what your education was like?

AM: I was actually born in Los Angeles in 1942, and I grew up here. I left in 1957 and have not lived on the West Coast since then. I've lived in Washington for the last twenty years. I am a lawyer. I took my law degree at Yale and have practiced law in New York and Washington since 1969 (...).

TK: Well, we're obviously talking about Japanese Americans, so I wonder, during your childhood years and up through law school, what kind of acquaintances or interactions you've had with persons of Japanese ancestry?

AM: I knew a number of Japanese Americans when I was in public school here in Los Angeles. They weren't particularly close friends, but you know, they were classmates and friends. I will say that -- this is probably no surprise to you that the exclusion and the camps were something that was never, never mentioned in any of our conversations; and I think before I left California, I had some dim knowledge that something of that sort had happened, but not a very clear one. At law school I read the Japanese American wartime cases and certainly from that had a basic understanding of what had happened legally. (...) Before that at college, (from) American history classes I had a very basic knowledge, but nothing very intimate or very extensive.

TK: And do you remember at what particular time you became interested in, or knowledgeable about Japanese American cases or the Japanese American experience?

AM: I think it really is when I started the work as the counsel to the commission. I came to Washington in 1977 to, at that point, be in charge of EPA's outside litigation in the Justice Department and....

TK: EPA as in Environmental Protection Agency?

AM: Exactly. And the general counsel of the EPA at that time was Joan Bernstein, and obviously later she became chairman of the commission. And in the late summer, early fall, of 1981, asked me if I would serve as the counsel to the commission, which I did. And I, at that time, (...) plunged into this full time. But before that, frankly, you know, I had the kind of knowledge that I think a moderately well-educated American would have, but nothing in terms of any specialized or in-depth knowledge. I mean, take some of the very basic books like tenBroek or Daniels or Michi Weglyn's book; I hadn't read any of those at the time I became counsel for the commission.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TK: You had a lot of other opportunity to take other positions, what made you take this one in particular?

AM: Well, you know, even just reading what you read in law school, you, you're very struck by these cases. This is not what you expect the Supreme Court of the United States to be deciding. Especially when there does not appear to be any evidence that directly ties the defendants in the cases to any kind of clear (threat), espionage, (or) even misbehavior. So that you are (...) grabbed by that, and I obviously talked with Joan Bernstein about what the commission was doing. And by that time a number of hearings had been held, and she gave me some sense, and I think some of the transcripts of what had gone on in the hearings and it didn't take long for me to feel that this was something I would really like to know a great deal more about. And so I decided that it made a great deal of sense from my point of view to take this, take this opportunity.

TK: Do you remember if there's one particular incident, or one particular event that made you suddenly say, "Oh, I think this is worth exploring"? Or was it more of a different kind of process -- gradual?

AM: Well we, it was decided to do it very quickly. And I do remember going over to Jodie's house. She lived not very far from where I lived at that point. And sitting around, literally around her dining room table, just talking about what her experience had been with the commission, and what my reaction was to reading the handful of things that she'd sent over for me to look at a day or two ago. And then her saying that she really (needed) some help here. That this was, it was an important job and a difficult job and we'd work together a lot and she thought that I could really be of aid and assistance. And it didn't take long, in the course of the two or three hours that we were chatting there, I really decided that I would do it.

TK: Did she think that you had any particular talents or attributes that made her come ask you as opposed to many of the persons that obviously she knew?

AM: I think probably two things. She's always believed I had a strong sense of fairness (...). This is a very emotional topic in many ways, and that aspect would be valuable. And she had seen in the time that I'd really been her chief lawyer, that I spent a lot of time, in that case, dealing with briefs, legal briefs, (...) trying to get the writing clear and effective and persuasive. And I think she felt that would be very important in this position and that it would be valuable to her.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TK: Can you describe your first days as you sort of walked in the door? And what you found there in terms of the staff and what your expectations were? Do you remember those days?

AM: Yes. Well, in some ways it was really quite chaotic. (...) There were a lot of different things going on at the same time and that's partially the nature of what the commission was doing. On one side there was a very big effort to collect a lot of information and documents from the wartime period, particularly from a, quite a wide variety of government agencies. And you know, sometimes they would come in in very large quantities, and it would take a considerable time to digest. Or somebody would tell you there are a lot to be seen at this part of the archives, that part of the archives. At the same time, the hearing process was in full operation. And that also had (...) an enormous amount of human emotion with it. A lot of people wanted to testify. There was a limited amount of time to have hearings and to allow people to testify and there was a lot of jostling and jockeying as to who would be given the opportunity to speak, and why this person should be on the list and not that person. So both of those things were going on at the same time. And at that point... you know, I don't think this is too unusual as a group like this gets a strong feeling of what they're doing and not -- but there was not yet a clear vision of what the basic nature of the report would be. (...) The commissioners, I think, had (...) pretty strong feelings about the nature of what they were looking at. But should this be a twenty-page report? Should this be a five hundred-page report? Should it be a history? Should it be mostly a list of recommendations? What kind of form would we give to what we were working with? That was very uncertain. And that also made it somewhat hard to tell just what people should be doing with some of this material. Another aspect of it was simply getting the testimony typed up and then sent back to people and having them have the opportunity to make sure the language was right and getting it back and so on. And, of course, there was a group of people who had not worked together in the past. So, it was, you know, everybody sort of trying to find their way vis-a-vis each other as well.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TK: Your title was Special Counsel to the Commission.

AM: Yes.

TK: And what did that entail, just briefly?

AM: I was effectively in charge of the staff. I thought Special Counsel was an appropriate title, largely because I was a lawyer and that was an aspect of what I was bringing to the work that I felt comfortable with. But it could just as well, honestly, have been Executive Director. I was the head of the staff.

TK: Okay. And you talk about your staff. Could you just sort of describe them, and how did you see your staff and what kind of people were there?

AM: Quite a mix. The (...) one that I -- I think I singled her out in the introduction of the final report -- is probably the person who's (most) evident was Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, who was just a terrific researcher in the archives. She was actually remarkably reticent about trying to persuade me and the commissioners as to what our views about things should be. Which surprised me a little bit simply because she knew so much about this area. But she was, she was very, very restrained about that. But there really is no one I've ever known who, without being a professional archivist in the federal system, knew as much as she did about quite a wide range of things. From there, there were a number of, of much younger people, recent graduate of Puget Sound Law School, for instance, somebody from the Justice Department that actually is now the Assistant Attorney General for environment and natural resources I brought in to help with the writing for a while. And another person, that again, I singled out, an absolutely fabulous typist. It may sound as if this really wasn't very important, but the paper that, the texts that we were dealing with were honestly a mess. (...) You'd send out, you know, a typed transcript to somebody who'd testified and they would, they'd mark it up in all sorts of ways, and they didn't do it with a typewriter and you'd get back twenty or thirty pages of something. And then you had what we were starting to generate ourselves in terms of drafts. This woman, Terry Wilkerson, was just fabulous at being able to take that and with immense speed and accuracy, give you back something you could, you could really work with. So it was, it was quite a diverse group of people from all sorts of places. A good number of Japanese Americans -- no Aleuts -- which in a way isn't too surprising, because we're a long way from the Aleutian Islands; and you know, a number of other people with an interest in this area and so on.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TK: Before we get to the commission itself, do you remember some of the responses that people made in terms of testimony and some of your reactions to them, the ones that you sent out as rough drafts and they came back? Do you remember some the things that came back that struck you?

AM: Well, you know, more than anything else, is just this heart-rending sense of loss. I mean, people who had spent fifteen, twenty years, in a way in quite routine lives and occupations. I mean, truck farmers, people who ran small stores. Just very solid, unexceptional members of a town or of a city and the way in which their lives were just completely disrupted by the exclusion and the shock of it all. And then a lot about life in the camps, which frequently had two sides to it. There's the deprivation and the psychological battles that camp life produced, and in the loyalty oath's the most obvious example. There were (...) places where people had to make very real difficult choices about what they were going to do, vis-a-vis the government, vis-a-vis other people in the camps. But on the other side of it, too, life goes on. And human beings are going to make the best of bad situations, so that there are these other stories about the baseball teams and the gardens and so on. And there is again, just a very, very touching and powerful side to people who make a genuine and rich human life out of very barren and very adverse human conditions. And there's a lot of that in the testimony.

BF: I was going to ask about what other duties did the staff perform for the commission? You talked about preparing transcripts. Was there also -- was the staff compiling the research and actually sort of summarizing it in memoranda, or simply passing on what they had found, as they had found it?

AM: I think that we -- this is primarily me and maybe one or two others -- gave one or two oral briefings of what we were finding in the documents, but (...) we moved pretty rapidly. One -- let me back up. Because there's one thing that explains the situation a little bit. The life and funding of the commission when I came was uncertain. I mean, I may not remember the dates properly, but I think that as the statute stood when I arrived, all the work was to be finished within about five months, which is a very short period of time. [Laughs] And there was not really anything on paper. So that we -- obviously the statute got changed, of course, that autumn because we started into this, we didn't feel we had the time to do anything extra as it were. And so we had some of the oral briefings and discussion, and we may have had a couple of brief memos, but nothing, nothing very extensive, and then (we) tried to move very quickly into providing drafts of (parts) of what the report would be. And those didn't necessarily come in the order in which the final report was written and presented, but it -- as we got them done, obviously, there were some that pretty much stand on their own like the discussion of the situation of Hawaii, or the German Americans, for instance -- the basic history, I think we tried to present in a chronological fashion, but there were other parts that clearly weren't like that and we sort of went on from there.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TK: Can you give us a verbal picture of the work environment of the commission office that you were at?

AM: Well, we were in the New Executive Office Building on the ground floor and it was built, I think roughly, in President Kennedy's time. And it's very high ceiling, modern, so it's not ornate, but still kind of grand. And really maybe a little more grand than made sense for the way we had to use it because we really, we had a lot of people in what, in floor space was comparatively modest amount of space, but with these enormously high ceilings, so... (...) the area (had) I would say, probably twice the number of desks it was ever designed to have and you know, most people were in double offices that had probably been originally planned as single offices. So there was a kind of beehive feeling to it. And that was true through most of the time and there was a kind of an electricity of, you know, a lot of activity going on. That I think was true throughout the time. After we issued the reports, there was a period toward the end where everything was a lot quieter, but, particularly until we got the major report done and back from the printer and off to (...) the hands of Congress in very early 1983. I think a beehive is not a bad description of what it was like working there. For instance, I honestly doubt that with a lot of the paper that we got from the archives that we really had a first-class filing system until very far along in this. [Laughs] I mean, things don't come in an orderly fashion, two or three people were all trying to read them at the same time. And luckily I think we, we didn't lose anything, we kept control of it. But there's this sense, that you know, there were boxes in the corner that you had to get through fast and you weren't sure what was there, and you weren't sure quite who read them, by the time another three or four days had gone by, there were usually quite a lot of people who knew what had just come in through the door.

TK: I know a number of staff fluctuated during the years. What was it, about the core number, approximately, of people who actually did most of the work in this?

AM: Well, if, if we count the support staff who were really very important, I think we were in the, probably in the twelve to fifteen range through most of the time. I think that's about right.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TK: Do you remember when you first met the commission members? And if so, what was your opinion, and perhaps what was your reaction at that time?

AM: Well, they were a very impressive set of people. They were almost all of them were very distinguished, and all with very distinguished careers of public service of one sort or another. And I think pretty much without exception, a great deal of interest and concern with what this commission was looking into. This is, it is a very powerful story when you come to understand what it (involves). Obviously, if you don't know the history, it takes a little while to reach, reach that. But once you do, once you've heard the testimony, I think it rivets you. And by the time I arrived, I think that was really true of all the commissioners. And it was a diverse group politically, in terms of background and so on, but there was remarkably little internal dissension and debate. I sensed afterwards that people who, you know, weren't there in the room (...) would assume there was a great deal more debate than in fact there was. And obviously on some things like the voluntary aspect of the recommendations and, you know, what the amount should be and so on, there was serious discussion. But this was not a group who by the time I arrived had fundamental differences on what this story was about and what was important to say to the Congress and to the country about it. The historical part of the report was unanimously approved by the commissioners and we had, for instance, toward the end, a day that we'd set aside for the commissioners to sit down with us and go over the text stem to stern. And I think I'm right in remembering that only three commissioners thought it was necessary to do that, and that there were really quite modest changes that they wanted to make. And I think that that reflected the fact that, from quite an early stage, they'd basically seen these events in the same way. It was not something where there were clear lines of division or difference. And then, you know, given the range of their background -- and the strength of their characters -- I mean, one thing that you certainly came to understand was that they were not wallflowers. [Laughs] And if they disagreed about something or had a different point of view, they were perfectly willing to express it. And I think -- so I think this really strong consensus on the central parts of the report reflected real common experience going through this work.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TK: So you, did you meet on a formal basis with the commission, and if so, what was the nature of the, of the discussion between say you, representing the staff and the researchers, with the commission members themselves?

AM: I think I was in virtually all the meetings that the commissioners had after I came. There may have been once that they met on their own, but I was essentially there all the time. It varied, but I think the basic pattern on the substance of the work is that we would make recommendations, particularly on the writing, and the commissioners would discuss them and say yes or no. There were clearly, from the beginning, a handful of issues on the recommendations themselves -- should it involve money, if it should, how much, for instance -- that there was a regular public debate about. And in there, obviously there wasn't any point in making a recommendation because they all had their, they all had their views. As I remember it, I think what we did there was, was try to sort of lay out for them what the opposing views from the public were back and forth, so that they'd simply have that in front of them as they decided what they would recommend at the end. So, in all, on the recommendations themselves, they didn't need any suggestion on the direction to take, but they needed us to have (laid) the table (...) so that they had everything in front of them.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TK: Do you have any anecdotes or stories that you remember during those days with, in those meetings or with your staff?

AM: (...) What certainly occurs to me is clearly one of the strongest personalities was Justice Goldberg. He would talk at great length and had complete confidence in himself in these matters. He probably was the one person with whom in the end there was, there was somewhat more tension. And really, partially because he had a tendency to want to deal with everything. There was one point, for instance, when he was really urging the commissioners to include a lot of what seemed at the time to be quite detailed provisions. This or that ought to be done with the Social Security system, this or that ought to be done with dishonorable discharges from the armed services and so on. They were not things that in principle the other commissioners disagreed with, but there was this sense among most of the commissioners that it was important to keep the focus on the big items here. That this would not be an easy matter to persuade the Congress to act on, and that part of being able to persuade them was to present the recommendations and the case in, in very clear, unmuddied terms. And that if you start to get down to how we are going to adjust Social Security benefits in light of three years in camp, that we're losing the big point. A point wasn't that people lost their Social Security payments at that time, it was that something much worse was going on that we were trying to address and set straight. And there's one of the things that we discussed at this conference in the last few days, (...) Justice Goldberg's expression of his views on the coram nobis cases. And (...) remind me again that he told me, and I think a couple of commissioners, what his views were, made it plain and he was going to make them public. But that this was not a situation which he (...) was expecting the Commissioners to do anything about it, nor was he asking advice or direction. He was simply informing us as to what he intended to do, which he certainly went right ahead and did. So it was... at the same time, he brought to all this a background, and he was obviously the only Supreme Court Justice there, former Supreme Court Justice that we had among us, and wide experience, and could talk about the people on the Court. But also add at the times when there ultimately were criticisms of the Supreme Court, a certain degree of stature to do that. I mean, it's a little different when the former Supreme Court Justice criticizes what the Court has done than when a group of lawyers criticize what the Court has done. [Laughs]

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TK: There were also other very strong personalities, Judge Marutani, Daniel Lungren...

AM: Yes.

TK: Are there any anecdotes that you might like to give us about some of those other people?

AM: I've always thought, especially in light of some of the events afterwards, it really was important to emphasize that Congressman Lungren really had no dissent from the historical report at all. And that, I think it's important to see that he represented a conservative constituency and had a conservative record and the fact that he was the vice chairman of the commission and that without question he stood behind the historical account was very, very important. And one of the things that the commission decided to do was to put out the historical report and then have a considerable gap of time before putting out the recommendations so that people, as much as you can through the press and the media, people had an opportunity to absorb the history without being focused on the recommendations. And Lungren very much supported that and it's something that I've thought particularly for someone who is in the end -- and I think everyone knew at the time -- was going to dissent from any financial aspect of the final recommendations. It (...) did express the fact that he really did believe that having the opportunity for the public to understand what happened here and to absorb it was a very important part of what was to be taken away from it.

TK: Judge Marutani?

AM: Judge Marutani. He took, ultimately, (a position_ -- I think this is very true -- (...) that I think many people found maybe a little extreme. He really, once on the commission, refused to talk directly to (...) any of the Japanese American people or groups that he'd been very familiar with and very close to for a great many years, of course, before he was on the commission. And there's, I think, a feeling in the parts of the Japanese American community that this was a little absurd, this wasn't a court. But his view was that it was important that there not be any suggestion of partiality on his side or that he was some special pipeline for (...) Japanese American groups, once he was on the commission. And he was right about that. I remember some people sort of chuckling a little bit, that maybe he's carrying it a little too far, but it's ultimately the kind of thing that you can't carry too far, because you're trying to establish the clear fact that, look, obviously you bring your life history (to the commission) and it's obviously one reason he was appointed, but that once you're doing this job, you're trying to do it on the merits and you're not trying to simply reflect the views of people that you've dealt with and have worked with for many, many years.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TK: Did you feel a sense of historic importance, both in what you were doing and in the, perhaps final outcome, at this time, before the report was actually written and distributed?

AM: Well, you hope for it. You know, one thing that (...) I realized reasonably quickly as I got into this was there are a lot of commissions that get appointed whose final product is quickly forgotten. And there are a lot of recommendations from commissions on which Congress never acts. And it seemed to me that you had to be realistic that it was altogether possible here that Congress wouldn't do anything in the long run for any one of a number of reasons. One, you know, just the simple political fact that Japanese Americans are very unevenly distributed geographically, and so there were a large number of congressmen who really don't have any Japanese American constituents to speak of. And it's not that they're opposed to this, it's just that it never gets on their radar screen. And if there are enough people that simply just don't care or aren't aware of it, there's a high chance that nothing happens. So that given that real possibility, it seemed to be very important to try to leave behind a document that, on its own, would make some impact in the long term and further the ends that the commissioners were pursuing. But it's very, very hard to tell when you're sitting there doing the writing whether you're able to express this in a way that will capture people's interest and imagination, and they'll actually read it through rather than looking at the head notes and the summary. And I certainly hoped that we would leave behind something people would read, and we did our best to send it to all the major libraries in the United States. [Laughs] But there's a difference between the hopes of the people who are sitting there with a pen in their hand and the reality of how the public may receive the book.

TK: Many people have said this is a fantastic book. It has a poignant story, a very -- but told very simply and very powerfully. And people just are amazed that a government report could be so easily readable. Where do you give the credit for this? How did this happen?

AM: Well, we tried to do that. There was one point in one of the drafts where Senator Brooke called me up and said that he had really read fifteen pages of this carefully, and he just had a number of editorial suggestions. And we sat there on the phone and he went through it. And basically what he was doing was removing all the unnecessary words and anything that was a bit of a purple adjective, he toned down. And you know, in fifteen pages he probably had twenty of those. And my first reaction, I think as any author was, you know, "Lord I've worked hard on this, it can't be that it really needed this kind of work." But then I picked it up a day or so later and he was right. And it brought home to me, very powerfully, really just what you're saying. Make it simple, make it direct. This isn't a story you have to over tell. You really don't have to load up the adjectives, because it speaks for itself very strongly. And after that, I went back over what we'd already written and then really tried to keep it in mind as we went forward and aimed to make it as simple and clear and direct as we could. So if we've succeeded in that, I feel very, very happy with it because that's, that is something that we were consciously trying to do.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TK: Were the recommendations already written when the final draft was done? Or was there a time gap in terms of the recommendations itself? I know the printing time was different, but was everything already finished when PJD was published?

AM: No. The broad outlines of the recommendation, we knew from discussion essentially where they stood. But the final approval of all right, this is what we're going to do, and this is the language we're going to do it in, was kind of guessing a little bit at the time, but I think a month or six weeks after the report was published. I think I'm right on the timing there.

TK: Okay. And then the addendum was written. Was that done after everything was published or was that done...? How was the addendum written? Could you explain the addendum, sorry, and then tell when it was written?

AM: Well, now (...) let me just be clear we're talking about the same thing. Because there are two somewhat different things that were done separately and one was dealing with a claim about the "Magic" cables, which clearly followed publication, and another was studies particularly on the economics and what the economic losses were, that was done separately from the main text. And there were actually two, and I think only two, additional -- projects isn't quite the right word, but it's pretty close -- that the commission decided to undertake at the point when most of the text was written, but wasn't off to the printer yet. And one was this, one was the economic study and the point of that -- well, there were a couple of things that we were aiming at. One obviously was, in a way, to put the $20,000 or whatever that monetary amount would be, in context. So that one could show without too much trouble that this is not excessive, in fact, this really is something that in most cases is symbolic and lends weight and seriousness to what the government would do accepting the recommendation, but it is not full recompense. And also, it helped deal with what had happened under the Japanese Evacuation Claims Act and that was always a difficult problem (...) because it's very hard out of individual cases of that age to get a sense of how fair was this or how unfair was it. So it was trying to fill out one whole side of what the impact of the exclusion had been. And then we also had a workshop, conference of academics, Harry Kitano was there, for instance, for a day or two in Washington, talking again about some of the longer range impacts of the camp experience on the Japanese American community. And, I mean, in the nature of things, the commission wasn't there coming to any sort of set conclusions, but felt that this was, it was a very important topic and one (...) it's not easy to sketch out with precision, how this really affected people's lives in the succeeding years. Because obviously, there are lots of things that play into life histories and a lot of changes that took place in the surrounding American society. But we thought it was something that was important to explore and to at least have some opportunity to air and to talk about. Those additional papers are really drawn together much closer to the point when the recommendations were put out and, I may be a little off on the timing, but I think that the additional material and the recommendations were released more or less at the same time.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TK: Do you know how many copies were printed, and once the original Personal Justice Denied went out, were there any surprises in your mind in terms of the reactions from, for example, the New York Times or the L.A. Times or, or other sources during that initial release and reaction?

AM: Well, (...) you know, in fairness, people working on a deadline in the press don't really have an opportunity to dig very deeply before they have to give their reactions. I was certainly gratified that there weren't any serious attacks on the substance of the historical record. Apart from this one question on the "Magic" cables that came up in the succeeding six months which the Washington Times played a good bit, there really was very little else. Even at the hearings the Congress started to hold thereafter, the next year or two, the Defense Department has a handful of historians who were constantly working on military history and one of them testified, and there were some differences of opinion. But what I would call professional differences of opinion, not a real attack that, "Look, you just have this dead wrong," but rather, "You know, I would draw a somewhat different inference from this bit of the evidence." So that I felt very gratified by that. I did not think in the end that the "Magic" cable issue really, really changed anything. It was true that we hadn't found that particular batch of cables before we finished the report and, you know, the reality is there's probably always a little bit more in some archive somewhere. You do the best you can. But I thought after I read them all through and worked it out, as we said in the second publication, that it really didn't change the conclusions we came to. In a way, I regretted that it didn't get book reviews just because I would have liked to have seen more fully what people would have said if they'd had the time to sit and read it carefully. But I think, certainly for me, the fact that the University of Washington has decided to republish it has been a vote of confidence that it's a book worth reading.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TK: Once the book was published, once recommendations were made to Congress, what was, what happened to the commission staff, to the commission and what happened to the life of Mr. Angus Macbeth?

AM: [Laughs] Well, there were roughly six months between the publication of the historical report and the recommendations and the staff slowly came down in numbers over that period. We got more and more of the work done, and frankly, we were running out of the money Congress gave us. One thing that we had really wanted to do and we simply didn't have the money to do at the end, was to print the testimony of the hearings, particularly the Japanese Americans. And we simply ran out of funds. We weren't able to do that. So, partially from the financial pressures and partially just because the work was declining, we slowly brought the numbers down, and then the last major job after the recommendations were out was making sure everything that we had went into the archives so if anyone in the future wanted to look at any of this and see it, they could find it and work with it. And I had been, I wasn't there full time through this period. And I began to spend more and more time back in private law practice and then, really returned to it completely after we'd finished off the last job. I mean, I've always tried to be available and helpful when things relevant to the commission's work and its recommendations have come up, and testified in Congress three, four, five times in the succeeding years. There were a number of hearings held on the recommendations before anything actually happened. And I tried to aid and support other people in that effort as well. But I sort of went back where I'd come from. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TK: On Personal Justice Denied, some people have said that once it was published -- although I'm not sure what the first run was -- that there was a long period in which it was sold, but there was a goodly number that was simply disposed of by the, by the Superintendent of Public Instructions or Documents. Is this true or not?

AM: I don't think so. My impression was that it -- I can't remember honestly what the size of the run was at the printing. But my impression was that it sold out pretty quickly.

TK: Why didn't they republish it then? Or bring it back out, or do they not do that?

AM: They didn't work like normal publishers. You know, "It's a report to Congress, we printed it, we gave it to the public," you know, "That was last year, we've got some other report to Congress this year." They just never acted like a commercial printing company. We actually took over some of the printing (work), because if you just sent it over to the GPO, which we could have done, they'd print it, but you know, they'd just print it like a government report. And so we decided it was worth it from the Commission's point of view to find a printer ourselves, and a font and a paper weight and everything else, to make this look like something you'd want to pick up and read. And we did it that way. I forget just exactly the terms of the arrangement with the Government Printing Office, but then they got the final product and the commission itself... we had copies to distribute to all of Congress, obviously, and a number of places in the Executive Branch and a number for people who had testified and so on. And then we sent copies to all the depository libraries in the country. And that eats up a good number of copies in the end, just doing those things. Because there are 535 members of Congress before you start and a number of them naturally called and wanted another copy and you can't be in a position of not having any. So I think just for immediate distribution, apart from the libraries, the commission probably had 1,500 or 2,000 of them and then there are the libraries and then the rest went out to the government bookstores. But my impression always was that they sold them out pretty quickly. There was a good deal of demand in the Japanese American community alone. And I think a reasonable amount other places, too.

TK: I kept using them in my class until they ran out.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BF: You said earlier that lots of government commissions end up at a dead end, accomplishing nothing. What factors do you think contributed to this commission ending up with final recommendations that eventually passed and became law?

AM: I think there are a lot of different things. One, I think ultimately clearly the most important, is the justice of the cause. It is a situation when people know about it -- and I say that because education here is an important part of what we were trying to do and we recognize it had to be done because there really was a great deal of ignorance as to what had happened. But the justice of the cause is enormously powerful. And there is not a history of wrongdoing among the people who were sent to the camps. And they were taken from their homes and put in the camps, some obviously could leave and go east and so on, but they couldn't go back to the West Coast 'til beginning, really, of 1945. And that's a big thing in this country. So that I'm sure it is very, very important.

Secondly, obviously was the determination in large part of the Japanese American community to see something done about this, because that meant there (was) a group of dedicated people who were going to do their best to keep this on the agenda. And then I think very important in the end was that there was a champion of the issue, particularly in the House committee. It went through, I forget, two, three Chairmen of the House Subcommittee before we got to Barney Frank. And you know, Dan Glickman, he'd have a hearing, and Sam Hall, he'd have a hearing. But you realize pretty quickly that these were hearings that really weren't aimed at going anywhere. They'd give everybody a chance to say what they had to say, but neither Hall nor Glickman was going to take the time and energy to actually do anything about this. And Frank made it clear very early on that for him, this was a matter of priority and he intended to see this through and introduce the bill. And when that's clear, it changes the situation quite a lot. Because at that point, when it gets clear, through the House, other congressmen start to pay attention to it. Because now it's no longer simply something that, you know, "I'm from someplace in Kentucky or Missouri, I never heard about this, my constituents have never heard about it. And it's nice of you to drop by, but really I've got to see somebody from the home district now." It begins to switch because you're going to have to vote and you at least want to do it with a minimum degree of intelligence. And once people knew that a vote would come, they started, I think, to pay more attention.

And then you come back to what I said to begin with, the justice of the cause becomes very powerful. But if there hadn't been someone like Frank who at some point said, "I'm going to put it on the agenda, we're going to have a vote," it could have gone on a long time without anything happening. Congress works very much through the committee system and especially something like this, which doesn't have a wide impact geographically, it's very important that there be an appropriate subcommittee or committee chairman who says, "I may lose, but I'm going to have it out there and we're gonna, we're gonna see what you all think about this."


BF: -- whether it was vote trading or some sort of strategy that kept down opposition or something? Because I guess I'm just really cynical. [Laughs]

AM: Well the hard part was -- and this is really what Frank did, was sort of the opposite, was getting up interest. (...) I'm not thinking of anyone in particular in Kentucky or Missouri, but the real problem is that in so much of the country, basically (the question is), "What's it to me?"

BF: Right.

AM: You know, "It's nice of you to come by and I don't object to your trying to tell me about this, but you know..." And, if anything, they had heard from some group of people who went on about Pearl Harbor. Now that tended to die down. Another thing, those congressmen, it didn't take them too long to say, "Look, this really (...) isn't the same as Pearl Harbor." They kinda got past that, but it's very hard to get congressman to care about something that a) isn't really a national problem in the sense that, we're going to be attacked by Russia in the morning, or the economy is coming apart, and doesn't affect their district. (...) The California delegation, Oregon, Washington, you know, places where Japanese Americans are, and Alaska because of the Aleuts, they were all interested, but down state Illinois? "What's it got to do with farm policies?" is sort of what you get.

BF: Well, the political realities, yeah, were completely stacked against it.

AM: And I think oddly, I think one thing in the Senate was that, and I wish I could remember this in better detail, but Jesse Helms got up and made some speech against it, which, was so frequently with him, totally intemperate. I think he probably speeded up the deliberation and probably delivered a serious number of votes to the pro-bill side. This was just so Neanderthal what Helms was saying, that people sprung into action to demonstrate they weren't any part of that stuff. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BF: I was going to ask you, when you realized that Barney Frank was going to really take this seriously and take this on, was that a moment for you personally, that you realized whoa, this could really happen?

AM: Yeah. And I had slowly begun to think that what was going to happen was that Congress would only act when the number of people still surviving who would be eligible under the recommendations was reasonably small. Because part of it obviously is that you take $20,000 and you multiply it by whatever you think the number of survivors is, and when we started it was over a billion, and on the other hand it is clearly an aging population and as each year goes by, the number become smaller. And it's a somewhat cynical view of the Congress, but there was a side of me that thought, yeah, it's altogether likely at that some point, of course, everyone will stand up and say what a terrific thing this was. And, of course, it should have been done ten years ago, but, you know, press of other business or whatever, but now we're going to do it and everybody thinks it's just terrific and, of course, it only now costs a hundred million dollars or whatever. But when Frank took it up, I thought, "This really changes it." And you're not sure what the end result of the vote will be, but for the first time, there really will be a vote. He has sufficient seniority in the system and he's certainly going to do it.

BF: How did you feel when that, when you kind of had that, that realization?

AM: It's exhilarating. Finally, it was (...) five years after the recommendations. Well, along about the fourth year, you begin to think well, maybe it never will happen. Or maybe it'll only happen when there's not many people left who were in the camps.

TK: Weren't there other people that you considered to be key to have made this a successful venture, besides Frank?

AM: Oh yes. It's just that, and I've singled Frank out because you have to have someone in that particular position and that was something that just didn't happen for a long time. And he didn't have a Japanese American constituency and I don't think he really had a prior record here. So it was a little bit fortuitous or seemed fortuitous and lucky that he took it up. There's no question that Japanese American congressmen, senators and members of the House made very substantial efforts here and that there were other people in the House and Senate who were clearly friendly and who spoke up. It's simply that the way those institutions are organized, you really need to have the subcommittee chairman or committee chairman who wants to move your legislation.

This is telling a story about something else entirely, but it just illustrates it. My brother-in-law is a judge in the Eastern District of New York, and at the time when his appointment was going through, he spent time every so often in Senator D'Amato's office, D'Amato obviously being a New York senator who's one of the people sponsoring the nomination. And he described to us one evening, because it happened in D'Amato's office, the wine importers, I think it (was), had a hearing on some bill of importance to them that D'Amato had helped with a little bit and they were coming back to tell the Senator how terrific the hearing had been, and how much they thanked him and they were just feeling wonderful and going back to New York and now everything is going to get fixed. And the senator looked at them and said, "When did they say they were going to get the report out?" And the fellow said, "Well, we didn't ask about the report." He said, "You didn't ask about the report? You know, these people aren't going to do anything for you if they don't give you a report. Now look. You got to understand how it works here. You go right back there and you ask them, and you tell them I told you to ask them, when they're gonna get the goddamn report out. Because no report, no action."

And, that's what he's conveying is exactly what goes on in a lot of Washington. If all you want to do is make a speech, we're here to listen to you, that's fine. [Laughs] But now you actually want us to do something, now that's a little different. I mean, "You didn't tell us you actually wanted us to do something." You know, I had fears that this was going to be talked to death. We'd have the hearing in the House and the Senate every year or two for a long, long time. But getting to the report for the bill would be hard and, and for that, (having) the right person in the right place is really what it comes down to.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TK: Did you feel any pressure from any person or groups during this process when you were writing to have a report come up with certain kind of conclusions?

AM: Sure, I mean, there, there were very frankly and directly expressed views from a number of different groups of what they thought the final conclusion should be. The major Japanese American associations, excuse me, organizations had views and expressed them. Not that I recall from people in Congress, but I don't know how much difference that would have made either, just because we had to report to all the Congress and there would have been, you know it would have been different voices coming in, and obviously we had a present member of Congress on the commission and a number of people who had been members of Congress -- Father Drinan, Senator Mitchell, and so on, Senator Brooke. I think they would have listened politely and simply done what they wanted to do. There were a lot of clearly expressed views but the makeup of the commission was such that the commissioners really were thinking this through for themselves. At the same time, there's no question that some of the views make a difference to how you to get to the ultimate result, and I ran through some of this at one point today.

But, for instance, the basic number from the Japanese American community was $25,000. Now, that just sets up a certain dynamic that the commissioners have to deal with. You really can't produce a higher number like $30,000 because -- especially given the fact that when you multiply this out it's always going to be a big number -- because then you go back to Congress with that and there's going to be a number of Congressmen who are maybe interested in doing something here, but also interested in protecting the treasury, and they're mainly going to say, "Well look, this is absurd, even the Japanese Americans say it's only worth $25,000. How can you possibly think it's worth $30,000?" At the same time, I don't think you can come in right at $25,000, because then you get the argument: "All you are is a shill for the groups that have been pushing $25,000 and it's clear you haven't really thought about this for yourself." And there's a tendency then to... well, you have to come in somewhere under whatever that number is, and you then start to weigh -- obviously if you pick a round number and a number that shows the seriousness of what's going on -- but you're also balancing at the other end what's the total number when you've multiplied it by whatever the number of survivors is, because the bigger the final number, the harder it is to pass, just as a practical matter. Someone today reminded me of what Senator Inouye said at one point here, which is, "$20,000 isn't nearly enough, and a billion and a half is far too much." And that got it. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TK: Someone has written that Personal Justice Denied has had far-reaching implications and effects after it was published. It said, international effects in terms of Canada and their redress campaign, has had affects on the coram nobis cases. What's your take on this? How do you feel about the other kinds of effects besides the particular redress for the Japanese Americans?

AM: Well, I think it did in Canada from what I know, and that struck me as reasonable. I'm not an expert on the Canadian situation, but my impression was it was really pretty analogous to what happened in this country and so, the fact that Canada tended to take this seriously and follow along with it, I, struck me as pretty reasonable. With the coram nobis cases, there's good reason it ought to have some impact. I mean, we certainly concluded that there was no military necessity. And that ultimately is part of what was the heart of the coram nobis cases. Given the fact that (...) you have to bring that kind of case on the basis of some evidence that you discover well after the close of trial for obvious reasons. They turned a good deal on what had been going on internally in the War Department and Justice Department that wasn't publicly known. But the ultimate force of the position that was being pursued was that there was not a military necessity, of course, in a couple of cases for the curfew alone, and in Korematsu's case for the exclusion. And that's certainly where we came in as well.

TK: Just as a final question, it's been many years. You've devoted a lot of time to a very successful campaign. Look into the future. Are there any statements you'd like to make about how you think Personal Justice Denied might be remembered, should be remembered, and how do you feel about it now after it's been published seventeen years later?

AM: (...) Two things that I would address there. One is simply what I hope (that) it helped (...) the Japanese Americans and the rest of the country. I hope that it was a real contributor to a reconciliation (...). This was, these were terrible events, but I think that Congress -- and I hope behind it, the constituents of Congress -- is responsible, it took the apology seriously and meant it, and meant to make it something that was solid and meaningful by paying $20,000 to each person who had been excluded. And on the Japanese American side, I hope that it was accepted that way, that it was recognized that the rest of the country formally and in reality was recognizing the mistakes and the injustice that had occurred and was trying to make it right in so far as you can make those things right. You can't in the end, obviously, but you can make it clear that you want to. And you can try to be reconciled and to move on to something else.

The other thing, of course, is what may lie ahead for us. And there, honestly, I think that the educational part of all of this effort is what's most important, because you know, what happened here shows the frailty of any legal system when emotion runs very high and there is a possible scapegoat who has very little power and ability in reality to defend itself. And that could happen again in some set of circumstances. And you hope that people take away from it all, and away from the report, a sense that if we're tempted by this again, by our baser instincts that we have, we've been through this at least once. We need to try to behave as soberly and fairly as we possibly can. And I think that if people take that from the use of the report in high school classes or colleges or just reading it or (its) seeping into the collective memory, that that's the most important thing. I don't have much doubt, that if you had a case like this today, in today's atmosphere without a lot of high emotion, the courts of the United States would say the government can't do that. But these things don't happen in normal times. They happen when people are very distraught and very upset and when their worst instincts mix with some fear of what may happen to them and they do not act in the way they would if times were quieter.

Which is not to say -- I don't want to end by making this sound as if it was all war hysteria because part of what happened here clearly was that there was a long history on the West Coast and California in particular, of real prejudice against Japanese aliens and people who weren't allowed to become American citizens and Japanese Americans. It was that (...) instinct (...) that came to the fore again. But I don't think it would have happened in that way if there hadn't been at the same time the fear and real emotional pressure and force that came from the war as well. And I think, ultimately, it's whether plain human beings faced with it again will have the courage and the fortitude to do what's right. And that depends, I think, more on education than it does on legal principles, because we've had the legal principles. We had the legal principles then. And that's really, in the end, what the Endo case stands for. I think the fact that the Supreme Court didn't get to it 'til November of 1944 is a demonstration that (only) at that point we were really willing to come back to saying a loyal American citizen cannot be held by the government. But the courts weren't willing to come back to it until they thought the danger had passed.

TK: Thank you, Mr. Macbeth.

AM: Thank you.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.