Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Ernest Besig Interview
Narrator: Ernest Besig
Interviewers: Chizu Omori (primary), Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: October 1, 1992
Densho ID: denshovh-bernest-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

CO: Well, looking back on it all after all these years, how can we prevent something like this from happening in the future?

EB: The question is: is democracy going to continue in the United States? It's a tough question. And I think there are all kinds of problems here in the U.S. I don't think there's an absolute guarantee of the continuance of democracy. I believe in freedom and I support it, but I don't think that our government is necessarily one that is absolutely established. We have to re-win our freedoms constantly, and that is the only position that I know. Re-win your freedom; it's, you've got to fight for it all the time if you've got to, you're going to retain it.


EO: What do you think were the causes of the exclusion?

EB: The causes of the exclusion? Well, the Pearl Harbor incident is the matter that resulted in the military going overboard. They didn't go overboard as much in Hawaii as they did here in the United States. Things were misrepresented, there were falsehoods. There was no evidence that the Japanese had done anything, that citizens had done anything. But the Pearl Harbor impelled the military to demand protection and protection against Japanese who resided here.

CO: I've always been aware that these decisions were being made in Washington on the East Coast where they really didn't have, they didn't know what life was like out here. They didn't know any of the Japanese Americans. If you want to look at it that way, it's pretty racist. I mean, they just sort of decided this group was dangerous or something.

EB: Well, Japanese, after all, on the Pacific coast, had been engaged in successful businesses, farming businesses. And there, there were Caucasians and others who were opposed to them, who wanted their businesses, they were jealous; it's, that's what helps to create problems. You've got a business, you're making more money than I am, you'd like him out of there. So you seize on this, as they did, up and down the coast.

CO: Some people gained a lot.

EB: Oh, of course. And you remember the Japanese, in many cases, had "friends," so-called, take over their properties, keep it for them, while they were detained. And unfortunately, they forgot all about who owned them, these things, at the end of the war.


CO: Were there attempts to regain some of this lost property or whatnot after the war?

EB: Were there attempts? Yes, there were attempts, but... and there was opposition, too, against Japanese coming in and trying to reestablish themselves. And it seems to me there was... did we put up a thousand dollars reward for some difficulties for any attacks on Japanese? That was a long time ago and I had forgotten that for the moment.

CO: The ACLU did that?

EB: Yeah. Of northern California.

EO: You mean a reward for the apprehension of someone?

EB: Apprehension and prosecution of somebody who was attacking Japanese, returning Japanese.

EO: Did you ever pay it?

EB: You're asking something about forty or fifty years ago, what I was doing with money then. Or the ACLU was. Some of these things are difficult to remember. Do you remember what you did with that $50 or $1,000 you had in your pocket ten years ago?

EO: But this is more. You would have had to go to court.

EB: Well, going to court was a usual practice with us, not unusual at all.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.