Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewers: Emiko Omori (primary), Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 20, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-02-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

EO: Let's back up to that. We've now established he's written...

AH: The War Department, actually the Assistant Secretary of War, who was John J. McCloy, was very unhappy with some of the statements that General DeWitt made in this report because it was not consistent with what Mr. McCloy thought was War Department policy. And so, for example, General DeWitt had said in his report that, "We had picked up these people to put them away for the duration of the war." That was one example. And General, Mr. McCloy said, "Oh, no. We just wanted to move them out temporarily, and resettle them someplace else, because we had no idea we would, of keeping them for the rest of the war, and that was not a War Department policy." Also, some of the statements that General DeWitt made in this original version was so racist, so bigoted and it was so apparently bad, that Mr. McCloy did not want the War Department to be pointed to by the whole world, and especially the president and everybody else as being so racist. Mr. McCloy was worried about it, he was worried about many little things. The records I saw showed that there was a lot of conversation -- telephone as well as memos and cablegrams -- depicting this disagreement about the first, about the original report. And then I saw lists of changes, suggested by Mr. McCloy's office, being made. Okay. Then in the same bunch of papers, I saw records showing that changes were made, and the ten copies were all supposed to have been recalled from wherever they were sent. Three copies were sent to the Chief of Staff, three copies to the Secretary of War, and all that. Well, I saw evidences of the frantic search for all ten copies to be destroyed, of the original report, because they didn't want it around. And I did see requests from the Western Defense Command to Washington, D.C., saying "Please send them back, we're reissuing a new one with all the changes, alterations made at the request of Washington, D.C."

Okay, so I had assumed since I saw a "Certificate of Destruction by Burning," that all ten copies of this original report had been destroyed. Now, the only reason I was able to recognize one copy that I saw in 1982 sitting on the desk of an archivist at the National Archives as one of the original, supposedly destroyed copies, was, the reason I knew it wasn't... it was one of the final copies is because I knew the history, I had seen these papers and memos and frantic cables saying, "Please send me back all those copies." Well, I thumbed through this particular edition of the Final Report and recognized that it was, it had notes on the margin, handwritten notes that coincided with the changes I recognized were requested, and marks on the pages, and I thought, "My gosh, this is one of the supposedly ten destroyed copies." And, but I wasn't really sure of myself, so I hastily called Dr. Peter Irons, who was teaching, I believe, at Amherst at the time, and told him of this discovery. And he said, "Well, I'll come down and take a look at it." He came down, I believe, the next day, and he confirmed that that was indeed one of the supposedly destroyed original version of the DeWitt report. Now I knew we had a copy of the version that the public receives, which of course is the final version.

EO: The altered version.

AH: The altered version, right. Now the importance of this discovery was that Peter Irons was opening up the coram nobis cases of Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui and coram nobis as I understand it, is a petition that can be filed by people who had already served their time in jail, had been released, and new evidence had been discovered that their original trial was mishandled, or there was, there was some suppression of material that would have helped them. So Peter Irons had, we had together, but he is the one who really tabbed certain memorandum that referred to the fact that there was an original DeWitt report. And so this discovery of the report itself, together with these internal memorandum from the Justice Department, showed that there was indeed suppression of evidence, alteration of evidence, destruction of evidence. And that helped, this, the combination of these internal memorandum and the Justice Department original -- War Department original report, were the two main elements that made the coram nobis cases of the 1980s a success in terms of vacation of the convictions, the wartime convictions of Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui. So our working together made this possible and I think it helped toward the accomplishment of getting the redress legislation passed in Congress in order for the survivors of these prison camps to receive compensation. All these new discoveries helped to produce the evidence to convince Congress that they should redress the grievances of these people.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.