Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gary M. Itano Interview
Narrator: Gary M. Itano
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 21, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-479-17

<Begin Segment 17>

LT: Let's go back to the DB Boys, because in the early 1980s, you were contacted by Paul Minerich. What did he tell you? Who was Paul Minerich, by the way, and what did he tell you?

GI: Okay, Paul Minerich is the son-in-law of one of the DB Boys, Mr. Tim Nomiyama. And Mr. Nomiyama challenged Paul, that, "If you're such a good lawyer, you'll be able to get my dishonorable discharge reversed to honorable." And Paul took the challenge on. So he, I think, Tim, directed him to me, knowing that I was kind of an activist and that I would be interested, and I just climbed on board.

LT: So Paul was able to submit paperwork to file an appeal on behalf of you and how many other DB Boys?

GI: I think it was eleven in total. But it was kind of funny because my mother declined their invitation to be represented because of the way she told me, she wasn't sure these guys knew what they were doing. And her knowing how significant this challenge was, she just felt that there's maybe not just an off-the-cuff way, that it had to be addressed. I'm not saying that that's how it was addressed, but she just didn't feel comfortable that it would be carried out properly. But I had no idea, so I just went along. Because it was part of my bailiwick of activism.

LT: So Paul had filed an appeal on behalf of the Disciplinary Barrack Boys, and was invited to the Pentagon for a hearing on December 8, 1982. And who went?

GI: So it was eleven DB Boys, Paul, myself, and some of their wives. And we actually got a tour on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, which was really strange, this group of Japanese-looking people on Pearl Harbor Day. But we got to see the hearing room, which was kind of a room that would hold twenty people, and there was a platform on which there was a table behind which the panelists would preside. And then we would be in the audience, and I think there was a lectern for whoever the witness was at the time to be presenting. And so the next day is when we actually had the official hearing, I guess. You know, I think we had part of the hearing on that first day, because I remember talking to Paul that night about it, and then there was another day, or maybe there was three days, but there were two separate. Because there was an evening between the first part and the second part.

LT: So on December 8, 1982, DB Boys hearing at the Pentagon was held, and there were five army board members who were sitting on the platform you mentioned, they would be trying the case, and the chair was Gordon M. Hobbes. What do you remember about the men when they went to the hearing?

GI: The DB Boys? They just got up and gave their testimony, like, well, they did what they did. And I think they were basically echoing their statements from their court martial. I don't know if they were told to study it or anything like that, but it sounded like they were certain of what they were talking about.

LT: Did they ask questions, did they read statements? What do you remember about how they spoke?

GI: I think the questions were really pretty straightforward. I'd have to see the transcripts to really know, but it seemed like, what did you do, why did you do it? And they would just say, "I was upset about not being treated equally," or, "I didn't like how when the President came, we were sent over to the back and put under armed guard as though we were going to do something wrong," and stuff like that.

LT: Do you remember what Paul said?

GI: Well, I think Paul was just trying to consolidate all of the various statements and feelings to the panel so that they would better understand and come up with a good decision.

LT: Do you remember anything more about the mood with the men testifying, the judges upfront, the interaction between the judges and the men?

GI: It was very congenial. The judges were, when they introduced themselves, they were very welcoming. And they said that they understood the reason this appeal was being made. And the reason that they agreed to hold this hearing in the first place, because they agreed that there was sufficient evidence that the appeal should be granted. And then it just turned out that way.

LT: How long did the hearing last?

GI: You know, for me, it was so intense, the time just flew right by. It started, and before I knew, it was over. I'm thinking, "What just happened?"

LT: Do you recall which DB Boys made statements?

GI: I think they all did. I'm not certain of that, but again, it was just a big blur to me, I was just soaking all this in, and it was pretty amazing.

LT: Any idea how long it lasted?

GI: It must have gone on for hours to get all these guys in.

LT: So when it was over, what do you remember?

GI: Well, I remember us walking down the halls of the Pentagon back to where our cars were, whatever, and it was just kind of like everybody was very relieved and laughing and joking and in a very good mood. And I remember Paul said, "Well, we've got a dinner scheduled for this evening, so everybody, I think we're going to go back to our hotels and stuff and then convene at this restaurant," and that was a great experience.

LT: Were there any regrets?

GI: Oh, no. I've never sensed any kind of regret from any of these guys. I mean, despite all the hardships that they had endured, I think from these guys' perspective, is they weren't terminated on the spot, so everything after that was kind of gravy. If they were allowed to live, then hey, they could live and they could do all these things and have this very righteous result.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.