Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Well, in addition, now is probably a good time to talk about -- a real vocal critic of the whole redress was S.I. Hayakawa, who at this point was a U.S. senator from California.

HM: Yeah. After the '76 convention in Sacramento, Hayakawa started talking in Congress about his opposition to any kind of reparations-type program. And so when he started putting articles in the paper, our only position was to make a rebuttal. So Shosuke was given the [Laughs] job of addressing this thing in The Seattle Times and Seattle P.I. newspapers because Hayakawa's column appeared in one of the daily vernaculars. So that was Shosuke's job. And he did a very good job of addressing it.

TI: Now was there ever a thought to make that a national campaign? You mentioned the Seattle papers. Was there ever attempt to address -- because S. I. Hayakawa's column was syndicated nationally. Was there ever an attempt to go to other newspapers and do the same...?

HM: Well, this is where Frank Chin gets on the scene. And because of Frank's [Laughs] insistence that we respond to some of the things that Hayakawa was putting in his weekly column.

TI: Now do you recall some of the things Hayakawa was saying back then?

HM: Well, he claimed that there was no right for Japanese Americans to make claim for damages of the evacuation. That was done for national security purposes. It was justified. The Supreme Court of the United States found that there is military necessity grounds for people to be moved, and we weren't the only ones that were being moved. He made a whole bunch of declarations that were sounding like he was trying to take the issue for people that were totally anti-Japanese American. [Laughs] But he, himself, was a Canadian. He spent most of his time in Chicago during World War II. He did not go into the Canadian military. [Laughs] And he took a viewpoint that it was the duty of Japanese Americans to serve their country by committing themselves to lawful incarceration. And I didn't necessarily agree with that and neither did Frank Chin -- he thought Hayakawa was a despot from (San Francisco State University). [Laughs] And I guess Frank felt very friendly toward the students rather than to the professor that made certain comments about the students' political activities. So Frank Chin and Frank Abe and Karen Seriguchi, they took it upon themselves to write a response to this thing in The Washington Post. And I wanted to see it in The Wall Street Journal myself. [Laughs] Those guys outvoted me, and we used The Washington Post as a baseline.

TI: So they wrote the, they got an advertisement which was an open letter back to S. I. Hayakawa, sort of refuting or challenging his stance. But, it was supported by the community up and down the whole country?

HM: Yes. It was, in fact, a lot of the JACL chapters supported us. And Frank Chin collected a lot of money. We were still short of a full-page ad, so they had to compress all the [Laughs] statements into a, it was less than a full-page ad, I guess. But he did a good job. Frank Abe and Karen, they all worked like crazy to round up money and get the agreement on the message that they wanted to print. And it did appear. [Laughs]

TI: But it's also an example of sort of a galvanizing effect of, of getting a lot of support from a lot of communities. And actually, S. I. Hayakawa provided that for you, and Frank and those people, because it was easy for the community to sort of get together and oppose what Hayakawa was saying.

HM: Yeah. Well, he represented the bad guy, and we were supposed to be the good guys, right? But, yeah, it did raise some issues though, about the fact that in the wartime sense, what is the right of the individual relative to national needs and national threat? So the problem was here that in the past these kinds of cases has gone on before like, Ex parte Millikan. And this was Millikan v. United States. And got, this was a Civil War situation, but he got thrown into a federal penitentiary during the Civil War because he was thought, that he was a threat to the Union forces. And after the war ended, then he sued the U.S. government for improper incarceration, and he won. And so there was a couple of very interesting precedent cases in the Supreme Court. But the thing that was not obvious at that time, it was the fact -- to the general public -- was the fact that there was some degree of military necessity for the government to throw us into the camp. And when I was in the central records facility I found nothing to that degree. There was no real threat in terms of national security. In fact, my feeling was that they demonized Japanese Americans to the degree, before the war and during the war, that prevented anybody from taking a very objective viewpoint on whether or not we were a threat. And the guys that knew we were not a threat wouldn't speak up. And the guys like General John L. DeWitt go before the Supreme Court and say we are a bunch of spies, and we're transmitting information to Japanese imperial force, and all this kind of stuff. So it kind of corrupted the, the objectivity of any kind of constitutionality issue. But to me that was a major point. And unfortunately, the $25,000 became the targeting figure rather than whether or not that was a moral and constitutional right for the government.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.