Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Jimmie Omura Interview
Narrator: Jimmie Omura
Interviewer: Chizu Omori (primary); Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 21, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-ojimmie-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

CO: I know that you testified before the Tolan Committee. How, how was it that you were one of the people who was called to testify?

JO: Well, Mike Masaoka testified and there was a great deal of criticism by the chair, by the panel, because he wouldn't testify sitting down like all the rest. It was protocol for all the witnesses to sit down and testify. And he wouldn't do that. He stood with arm akimbo, feet straddled, his fingers pointing to emphasize a point, or waving. And all that bothered the committee. I wasn't supposed to testify. I had no intention of testifying because I thought it was an exercise in futility because two days before, or on 19th the presidential proclamation came down. And you couldn't do anything about that. No, no committee in the world could do anything once the president said this or that. So I thought it was useless and I was asked if I would testify and I says, I thought it was not worth it. At 4:15, my boss called from the office and said that I was wanted by the congressional committee and I better hop to it. And said there was a courier waiting for me at the office. So when I went there, the courier happened to be my managing editor. And after about ten minutes' briefing, I was told that I was supposed to be at the hearing at 5 pm. We never made it at 5 pm, going from Halway Street to the, next door to the veterans building -- I mean, opera house, the veterans building, it was too far away. And besides we were running into these people going home, so the streets were jammed. But when I arrived at the veterans building, I could see by the clock on the city hall tower across the street, it was nine minutes past. Probably took me another minute to get to the auditorium. And I was the last witness at that committee hearing. So I was asked -- actually, I was asked to speak in, let's say, opposition to Masaoka. In the meantime, in the meantime, the committee had read a letter from a student, what they said, they think. It was an anonymous letter from a student in East Bay, which denounced the JACL as representing the Japanese American society. And those two factors influenced them to call me in to testify. The reason I was selected is because I was the most outspoken critic of the JACL.

CO: Could you paraphrase what you said before the committee?


JO: I opposed the eviction of the Japanese Americans from the West Coast, and I opposed the collaboration policy of the JACL. And I asked the committee to rule upon the loyalty of the Japanese Americans in their own domicile here on the West Coast. One of the most famous statements taken from that testimony is the following: "Has the gestapo come to America? Have we not risen in righteous anger at Hitler's mistreatment of the Jews? Then is it not incongruous that citizens, Americans of Japanese ancestry, should also be similarly treated and persecuted?" Mistreated and persecuted. That has been quoted in many books. And at the time I went before the Tolan committee, I felt that a multitude of Nisei would go up and oppose the eviction. But because not a single Nisei spoke against the government, this stands out historically today.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.