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

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

EO: So tell me, what was your family doing before the war broke out?

AH: My family, you mean, my father. My father was running a little family vegetable and fruit stand at the time Pearl Harbor was attacked. I was going to high school, my brother was going was going to college and older brother was also in the fruit stand business. I had a younger sister going to school, high school, also. My mother was like other Japanese mothers, working, struggling hard, supporting the family, keeping us fed and clothed. Wonderful, gentle woman.

EO: What was life like? Was it hard?

AH: I think my parents protected us from knowing how really hard it was for us. I recall my mother working from morning to night, taking care of us, making our clothes from hand-me-downs, and actually, I think I thought I was, our family was rather well-off because my parents permitted me to take tap dance and ballet lessons, something that was quite a treat, and something that was rather unusual, I think, among Japanese families at the time. And so, later on, when I found out we could barely make the rent, and yet my parents were permitting me to have these lessons, I felt very privileged and spoiled, and grateful for my parents' consideration of my needs.

EO: Tell me a little bit about your mother.

AH: My mother was not, was so busy taking care of us that when she came over here from the old country, she actually never had time to learn the language. She was working from dawn to dusk, taking care of the house, of course, and sometimes going out to earn extra money to keep our family going. She was my father's second wife, and she, herself, had been married once before, and so I guess they both felt they were lucky to have hooked up with each other. You recall what it was like for a Japanese woman to have been, say, divorced in those days. It was, "Forget a second marriage, you won't have a chance." But my father needed her after his wife died, and so it was, it was a blessed union.

EO: Where were they born?

AH: They came from the prefecture called Kumamoto, which is on the southern island of Kyushu. They were both from the same prefecture. I don't really know what my father's family was doing, I know my mother's family had a tea farm and she often spoke about working on the farm and growing and picking tea leaves.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EO: Well, just tell me, first of all, your mother was musical... just tell me more about her other interests besides work.

AH: Uh-huh. Are we rolling? My mother was a very musical person, and perhaps that's why she encouraged me to, to take lessons, including piano lessons, and dance lessons. She herself played the shamisen, the three-stringed instrument that looked like a banjo. And also, the koto, the thirteen-stringed instrument. She, I think my father, also, although he was not musical, he appreciated, he loved it. He loved to have music in the house. I feel the rest of my brothers and sisters were also quite musical. I had an older sister who sang, played the piano. Another sister who played the piano. My brother, older brother played a violin. So all of us were able to do something in the music line. When we bought the piano, I tell you, the house was so happy. Of course, my family was very Christian so the first compositions played were always hymns, were the hymnals. I think that perhaps I should mention here, at the time that we were removed from our homes, we had to sell the piano for next to nothing, I think it was something like ten dollars, including all the music. It was a heartbreaking experience for us.

EO: Did you have any aspirations to be a musician or a dancer?

AH: Yes, I had hoped to be, actually, a tap dancer. But I realized as I got a little older -- I took lessons for about six years, but I realized I couldn't come, I couldn't fulfill the image of, for the American public, of an American tap dancing star. I could never be Betty Grable with long beautiful limbs, blond hair, blue eye. I think I kidded myself to think, "Well, if I'm good enough as a dancer, all those other physical attributes won't keep me back from becoming famous." But I think in the back of my head, I knew that this was not the real world for me.

EO: Now... did, you were in this, you had had a little vegetable stand?

AH: My father ran a small vegetable/fruit stand.

EO: And then what happened? Did you succeed in that?

AH: Oh, no. My father was definitely not a businessman and he tried several different kinds of small businesses, and always failed in them. The, I think I was told when I was real small -- I never followed up on it because I didn't have that much communication with my father and mother -- but my older sister told me that he once started up a tofu factory, I think this was in Sacramento. Then I know that he did, and I have seen him managing hotels, both in Sacramento, which we left in 1933, and in Los Angeles, where we moved to in 1933.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EO: Where were you born?

AH: I was born in Sacramento, California, seventy years ago.


AH: Our family moved from Sacramento, where we were living, in 1933, as part of the large movement of people during the Depression time, and my father wanted to try something new, so we all moved to Los Angeles. I went to grammar school, high school -- junior high school and high school in Los Angeles, and I was in my senior year when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. I happened to be at a party of my peers. We heard, through the radio, that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. We just couldn't believe it. The party broke up.


EO: Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

AH: When the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, I was at a party of my high school friends, and it was, we were just shocked. It was hard to believe that this had happened. Of course, at the mom-, at that time, we didn't know how it would actually affect us, but we knew it would be affecting us in some way. The party broke up, we all went home. And I think our parents took it much harder because, as you know, as most -- perhaps a lot of people don't know -- that persons of Japanese ancestry who were immigrants were not permitted to become American citizens at that time, in 1942. This didn't change until 1952, ten years later, when they were finally permitted to become American citizens. My father and mother had been here a number of years, but by law, they were, could not become naturalized citizens. So, of course, we were concerned as to what would happen to the immigrant parents who were considered aliens. And of course, as soon as the war broke out, they were considered "enemy aliens." If the immigrant was from either Japan, Italy, or Germany. He automatically -- he or she -- automatically became an enemy alien. We did not think -- at least I didn't, and I think many of us who were second-generation Japanese, Nisei -- didn't think much about what would be happening to us. We were concerned about our parents. We thought we were American citizens, therefore we were protected. We were protected by the Constitution to continue to have the freedom, the liberty that we, all Americans have a right to. I didn't know directly what happened to many of the older Japanese men who were apparently picked up by the FBI agents and immediately, following the war, placed in jails. My father was not one of these who was picked up because he was not a community leader. He was not a teacher of Japanese language schools, he was not a Buddhist priest, he was a little, a small businessman. And so we were spared the shock that many families went through when their fathers were abruptly taken away from their homes and jailed, simply for being an "enemy alien," not for any crimes that they had committed. So when we -- yes?

EO: This was a Sunday.

AH: This was a Sunday, right.

EO: And did you go back to school the next day?

AH: We, as I recall, we did go back to school. Things had changed, though. I think our friends, non-Japanese friends, didn't really know how to treat us. I think they knew that we would be hurt if they ostracized us. On the other hand, just like our neighbors who lived around us, I believe that they felt if they were too friendly with us, they would be labeled "Jap-lovers." Therefore, our friends, our schoolmates were caught in a little dilemma. I think there were those who didn't care what other Caucasians or blacks felt. They were friends, and they remained friends and played with us. But on the whole, it became harder and harder for them to remain our friends. We were treated with a sort of disdain. I think we were stigmatized simply because of, of our ethnicity. And I think that that's one of the most painful experiences, the feelings about the entire wartime experience. That we were judged, not on our own character as people and persons, but simply because of our ethnicity, something that I think goes against the grain of democracy, of the Constitution and every right and privilege that we're supposed to enjoy as American citizens. It was very difficult to accept being non-Caucasian at the, at the time.

EO: Do you, could you tell me... do you remember when curfew was imposed, and that was before the order? There was a curfew, right?

AH: Yes. The curfew that the army imposed upon, upon us was, see, I forget the date of it, but I remember that we were not allowed to be outside of our homes after 8 o'clock at night or before 6 o'clock in the morning. And that curfew covered the territory, it was like 5 miles from our own home. If we had to leave beyond 5 miles, I believe we had to have a permit from the government, from the army, probably, that would permit us to be outside of our home area, which was beyond 5 miles. This curfew was also imposed upon German and Italian aliens. At the very beginning, I believe the government, especially, I would say the government -- when I say "government," I really mean the army -- were strict about this curfew and they enforced it rather broadly. But as weeks went on, it was very apparent that the curfew was meant especially for those of Japanese ancestry. And the restrictions were slowly relaxed against non-Japanese aliens.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EO: Do you remember when the order came down?

AH: The order for us to be moved away from our home was signed by President Roosevelt and became effective on February 19, 1942. The order actually said, military commanders -- of which there were a number -- the Eastern Defense Command, Southern, Central, Western -- the commanders are authorized to designate certain areas as military zones, or prohibited zones, from which they may exclude whomever they feel should be prohibited from their areas. It was a very broad, direct authority. That authority was... President Roosevelt gave that authority to the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who then passed down this permission to prohibit, to set up military zone, and prohibit certain, any persons they thought should not be in those areas, transferred that authority to the individual command generals. And on the West Coast, it was a general whose name was John L. DeWitt, who took advantage of this authority and declared certain areas as prohibited and restricted areas. He was afraid, I believe, that he might get caught in the same kind of situation that General Short and Admiral Kimmel found themselves in after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As you know, they were court-martialed and General DeWitt wanted to make sure he was going to be ready for any invasion by the Japanese forces. And so he went overboard to try to cover his flank and never to be put in the same position as those, the general and the admiral in Pearl, at Pearl Harbor.

EO: But do you remember when those orders were tacked up, and you realized, or how did you hear that you had to move?

AH: Most of us belonged to community groups or churches, and the army took advantage of those organizations to pass the word around. I believe it was in March of 1942, that... mid-March, a little after mid-March, when the first exclusion order, which affected the Bainbridge Island people, right off Seattle, Washington, they were the first group who were ordered to move. And I think they had about a week's notice to move to... and I think that that city, as in other cities later, these notices to move were posted, tacked onto either telephone poles, put up at post offices, displayed at churches and community centers that existed, and that was the way most of us found out. We were all given orders, the head of the family was given an order to report to a certain location to get instructions on when that particular family would be expected to be out of the house, to be moved to a reception center, or assembly center, by the army -- which was run by the army.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

EO: So tell me, now, about having to move. How long did you have, and what did you decide to take, and how did you dispose of things?

AH: Oh. I was all of seventeen years old, ready to graduate high school, madly in love with this young Nisei man, a young man, who lived on the other side of town, other side of Los Angeles. We were all frantic about where each one of us would be moving to. Los Angeles was a big area, it was divided into different sections. Certain areas would be, were told they would be going somewhere, no name, but a certain section of, inland. And therefore, since the army did not notify each family exactly where they would be going, what kind of weather they would be encountering, or exactly when they would be moving, efforts within the, each family started to roll, to get rid of, to sell or to store their household goods. And then trying to separate out what they thought they would need and what they thought they could either store or sell. It was a hectic, frantic time for all the Japanese families. In our family, my father, as a matter of fact, destroyed all of his Japanese language books because rumors spread that if the FBI came to your home and found Japanese language books, your father or uncle, or mother would be taken away and fear just gripped the community over things like that. My father destroyed almost all of his Japanese language books, including a book that he had written -- he had a number of copies of a autobiography my sister said he had written. Also, he had been carrying around the ashes of one of my sisters, a half-sister, and my mother told me many, many years later that he had buried those ashes in the backyard of our home in Los Angeles. She didn't know where, what part of the yard. I've often thought of going back to that house, but I didn't know how to approach the occupant of the house to ask if I could dig up his backyard to look for the ashes of my sister my father had buried fifty years ago. [Laughs] So I've never done it. But I've passed in front of the house a couple of times, and wondered what could I do.

EO: And he had her ashes because -- why, why was he carrying her ashes around?

AH: I'm not sure. You know, I think that he thought perhaps -- she was born in Japan -- and I have a feeling he had hoped one day to take her ashes back to Japan. Either that or he was waiting for, to get settled someplace, in say, southern California, where he could feel, this is where we're going to set our roots, place our roots, and perhaps get our family plot, and bury her there. But I have a feeling it was that he was planning to take her ashes back to Japan.


EO: Did they bury anything? They burned these books. Did you leave anything else? I mean, where, what did you do with your things?

AH: Oh, all right. Many families owned their homes, so they had a lot more problems in terms of their economic situation and property. We were so poor, we didn't own the home, we were renting, so that, that was not as big a problem for us. Our problem was what to take, what to destroy, what to sell. And the neighbors, the persons, the non-Japanese who were not moving, being asked to move, knew that the shorter time we had to leave, the more willing we would be to lower our prices. So there were "vultures" all around, hanging around for days, waiting for the day that we would move, and that we would literally have to give things away. My mother, of course, had some small items, beautiful little dishes from Japan, and I think some heirlooms that she decided to sell -- brooches, obitome -- things like that that I, I know that she had to get rid of, to sell, because she felt we must take what is absolutely necessary as long as we were permitted to take only what we could carry, at the time. And I have heard many stories of mothers who were so furious at the insulting prices that were offered by buyers, that they rather, rather than sell them at these prices, they would break the dishes or the big platters that they cherished so much. I believe those who left for the camps early on did not have the opportunity, or the knowledge at the time, or the permission by the government, that they could store some things. That kind of information came later on and those who moved into these army-run assembly centers later on, say, June, July, they were told that they could store some things. So many of those families were able to keep household goods, furnitures, where those of us who left very early could not do that. I myself -- yes?

EO: At whose expense?

AH: The furniture could be stored sometimes in Buddhist churches, or community centers. The government itself offered in certain areas to store the furniture, but with a caveat: you store them at your own expense, at your own risk. And, of course, as, when many folks went back to that area later on, they found their homes and property vandalized, broken, stolen.


<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EO: Aiko, let's go back to high school. What happened when you, in your high school? Tell me about a couple of incidents that happened.

AH: Okay. When I was going to high school -- this was Los Angeles High School -- we lived during that time in a very hostile environment, hostile to ethnic Japanese. There was a strong feeling of hostility against people of Japanese ancestry. Therefore, we had difficulties going, buying homes in certain areas, and this anti-Japanese feeling carried itself over into school. When the war broke out, after Pearl Harbor, as a matter of fact I think it was about a month after Pearl Harbor, I was reminded by one of my classmates a few years ago who came up to me and he said, "Don't you remember that Principal So-and-so called us" -- we, of Japanese ancestry, who are ready to graduate that summer -- "called us into his office and said, 'All of you don't deserve to graduate. Your people bombed Pearl Harbor.'" We were in a state of shock. He said, "Don't you remember?" I think I pushed that in the back of my mind and just tried to forget it. He had never forgotten it. He was bitter all these years, this friend of mine. The Japanese American students tried their best to be the best citizens, worked two hundred percent harder than everybody else, because we were always under scrutiny, disliked, so we were out to prove that we were just as good, if not better than the quote, "mainstream" students.

As a matter of fact, this young man, whose name was Shishino, he and I, we had known each other since grammar school days. We worked very hard to get good grades. We were able to reach the pinnacle of scholarly success for high school students by becoming members of the California Scholarship Federation, which was quite a thing at the time. And all of us worked very hard to be good students, to be good citizens. Therefore, after working for twelve years to reach the top of the mountain to graduate, after having lived through and in this hostile environment, then to have our high school principal talk to us like that was, in Hayawa Shishino's mind, the most devastating experience of his life, and his bitterness has carried him over all these, with him all these years. I know that I was really disappointed and devastated to think that I wouldn't be able to graduate and wear a cap and gown with all my other Caucasian friends. And to be deprived of those, of that diploma which we worked so hard for was a big blow to us. It was proof that the feeling we had been carrying all the time, sort a self-hatred for not being white, showed its, showed its ugly face and ugly head at that time. I think that I may not be alone in saying that I grew up with a certain amount of self-hatred, I could never be Betty Grable, I hated not to be blond, I hated not to, to enjoy the kind of attention that blonds got. And this school incident was another example of why we had the self-hatred, why it stayed with, remained with us through our lives.

EO: Did you ever get a diploma? Did you ever get your diploma?

AH: Yes. Oh, fortunate, wonderful. Mr. Shishino took steps, although it was forty-something, almost fifty years afterwards. He wrote, after all those years, after those decades, he wrote to the Los Angeles Board of Education and complained about the treatment he and our fifteen other members of our class received during the summer of 1942. And fortunately there was a young Japanese American on the Board of Education at that time, who took his complaint and his grievance seriously. He discussed the situation with other members of the Board of Education of Los Angeles and made arrangements to have a wonderful ceremony for those who were, who still survived from the, that class of summer 1942 in Los Angeles High School, and had a wonderful ceremony in Los Angeles High School for those of us who are now grandparents and great-grandparents. And oh, the funny part of this whole thing was that the member of the Board of Education whom Mr. Shishino contacted was my son-in-law. So he, when my son-in-law found out that I was a member of the class, of course, he made a special effort to make sure that this happened. And so we were presented our 1942 diplomas in 1989, I think it was. And that seemed to have set a trend, because I know that after that, other cities up and down the West Coast did the same thing. And even UC Berkeley, I think, two years ago, had a ceremony, and UCLA, a ceremony to honor those who would have gotten their degrees, or who were dishonored at that time and the school wanted to make up for it. So it turned out to be a lot of fun for those of us who were now grandparents to be receiving our high school diplomas.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EO: Okay, so now let's jump back to where you're about to have to leave for the assembly centers. So what, what happens?

AH: Yes, okay. I think you, we were talking about how we decided what kind of clothes to take. What did we do about our personal property? Since we were not told exactly where we would go, it was hard to decide, do we take summer clothes, winter clothes? Sneakers, boots, or what? So I found what few things I selected were totally inadequate for the kind of weather that we finally did encounter when we went into camp. At the time, I mentioned to you a little while ago, that I was engaged to a young Nisei who lived on the other side of town. We found out that the persons living in the area where he lived would be going to a particular assembly center, whereas my family would be going somewhere else. And so foolishly, and desperately in love, we eloped, so I could go with his family. That is what I did. So I ended up in a camp called Manzanar where my parents did not move for another month or month and a half, they did not go to the same camp. They went to another camp called Santa Anita. It was a horse racetrack, and it was a pretty miserable situation in which they found themselves. Not that Manzanar camp was much better, but it was at least not horse stables.

EO: How did your family take this?

AH: My family was distressed; I was such a spoiled brat and I just did whatever I wanted to. My father pretty much disowned me for a while. He wouldn't contact me. I only wrote a couple of letters and I'd say my life in camp was pretty miserable because I knew I did such a dishonorable thing and it haunted me all the time I lived in camp, that I had disgraced my family by my behavior. Then I was too busy in camp. Here I was seventeen years old and a year later I became a mother in camp. I had my first child in camp, so busy learning how to be a mother when I hadn't yet grown up myself, so... [laughs] And then thinking about my poor parents, oh, I did wrong, that the camp life all in all, with everything else so wrong, it was a miserable experience for me.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EO: And when you got to Manzanar, how did you get there?

AH: We first boarded a train in Los Angeles, went north and we were, we came off the train and buses were there to take us to this desolate, desert area, to this camp called Manzanar, which was still being built, actually. An area between the towns of Independence and Lone Pine in the eastern half, sort of north, not too far from the border of Nevada, in northern California. The day we arrived was hot, dusty. When we got off the bus we were, we lined up and were told which barrack we should go to, to leave our suitcases, then told to go to a certain area where we were issued a sack, long sack which served as the mattress cover, told to fill it with hay, which was, served as our mattress for the period that we were in the camps. It was devastating.

EO: Tell me a little about the landscape and conditions, weather conditions at Manzanar.

AH: Manzanar was, of course, a desert, and all around us was sagebrushes. There were mountains way, way beyond, east and west of that area. There was no way that anybody would even want to escape from the place, because the nearest place was so darn far away, and besides, if you're Asian and you escape, you can't melt into the crowd. I mean, it's ridiculous for anybody to think they could escape and be, go undetected. The area was known for... what do they call it? Dust storms where it looked like a tornado, shaped like an upside-down cone. We were besieged by these dust storms day after day after day. The summers were desperately hot and winters were quite cold. The ill, those persons who were ill, the people who were senior citizens, and mothers with little infants, the infants, these persons were the ones who suffered the most because of the unavailability of water in the barracks, the unavailability of food, immediate, which was of such importance.

EO: Can you recall... they had not told you where you were going.

AH: That's right, they didn't tell us where we were going or for how long.

EO: Can you recall how you felt when you saw this place?

AH: Yes. As I got off the bus, I could not believe that people were going to live in a place like that. I'd never seen a desert before and there was no civilization. It was just barren, sagebrush-filled area. And it was so depressing. I think the parents, the Issei, were happy to be there simply because at least they were together with their family and they weren't separated from their children. And I must say, many of the Issei had some free time for the first time. They didn't have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn, farming, or running stores and they did have some free time. But I think they also lost their liberty which to me was one of the biggest deprivations that we suffered those three or four years. Loss of liberty was something I felt very, very strongly.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EO: Describe to me your living space.

AH: When we first were assigned to barracks, I was sharing a room, there were seven of us. The room size, I believe, was 16 x 20 feet. There were three different families: my brother-in-law, his newlywed -- and his wife, newlywed, a sister-in-law, her husband and a small child -- a little girl -- and me, my husband and I. So there were seven of us in this room, 16 x 20. We separated our living quarters by putting up slats and putting blankets or sheets, I think it was blankets, GI-issued blankets, to give us a little privacy. That's the second thing, privacy. We just didn't know what it meant anymore. These barracks were built so quickly and with poor quality wood that, where the wood shrank, and it was, the tar paper was slapped onto it quickly, so the walls between each apartment -- and there were four or five apartments to each barrack -- the walls between each apartment did not go all the way to the ceiling. So if somebody sneezed in apartment 1, you could hear it in apartment 5. If you snored loudly it could be heard. [Laughs] Which now it stands to reason that if something like carried, like that carried... conversations were never private because you could hear everything. The lack of privacy did a lot of damage in the camps, I think. You couldn't, you had to go outside if you wanted to carry on a confidential, private conversation.

EO: And here you are, true newlyweds, one young couple, and you have no privacy. This is sort of your honeymoon.

AH: Oh yes, it was some honeymoon. I don't know how the others felt. I know how I felt. That I had never had any sexual experience before I went to camp, and so making love on a straw hay mattress was noisy. Every time you moved a toe, crackle, crackle, crackle... [Laughs] I don't know how I lived through it, or perhaps we just respected each others' need for, for togetherness and sexual activity that we ignored it. But I couldn't ignore it very easily. It was difficult. It was very difficult to have a honeymoon under those situation, under that condition. But I managed to have a child, and one year afterward, unfortunately not a very healthy child, due to the lack of nutritious food, lack of milk during my pregnancy as well as for my child after she was born.

EO: What was the food like?

AH: At first it was just dreadful. It became better after the residents had learned to, after the residents had cultivated the land and started growing the vegetables. But it was, I guess it was supposed to be like army fare, but I think it was less nutritious. I'm sure it was. It was boring. And when you have to cook for so many people, I don't think you can ever expect real delicious food, unless you go to a fancy restaurant. Now this was a situation in which each camp prided itself, prided itself -- is that right English? -- on how little they spent for each resident. They would report back to the government in Washington, "We only spent 49 cents per person in our camp." Some camps would be bragging they only spent 35 cents. So you could tell the quality of the food was not good just by that, the price, virtue alone. And of course, there were a lot of problems with people stealing from the mess halls.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EO: So tell me about your pregnancy and giving birth, and about your daughter.

AH: All right. First my pregnancy. Since I was young, it was a pretty easy nine-months' gestation. It would have been easier if we had not had to have our meals, three meals outside of our own apartment. Our own apartment finally -- served as bedroom, living room, and of course, the main things we lacked were kitchen and bathroom facilities. So three meals a day we had to get in line for food and being pregnant and suffering what most pregnant women go through -- what is known as morning sickness and nauseous periods, waiting in line for our meals during that period was very, very difficult under the, the conditions that existed there: the dust storms, the heat, the cold.

Then when... I think the lack of real good milk at the time which was considered very important for pregnant women to have, that, I think, affected my fetus, the fetus, the embryo a great deal. When my child was born in the camp hospital, she was born with an allergy to the powdered milk that they permitted babies to have during that time. And it was not diagnosed that she had an allergy to this powdered milk and that she should have what was called at that time, Carnation milk in a can. I requested that for my child, but they said, "No, that, all those, that has to go to the army." To the men in the armed forces, and we would not be permitted to unless we could afford to send for it from outside. And, of course, we couldn't do that, we were earning minimum salaries which ran from twelve dollars a month, sixteen dollars a month and nineteen dollars a month at that time. Nineteen dollars for the professionals, sixteen dollars for semi-skilled -- for skilled, and twelve dollars for the unskilled laborers. We could not afford to buy canned milk. So my daughter suffered tremendously. She was hospitalized in the camp, went in and out, in and out, with stomach disorders because of her inability to, to get this milk, which was, of course, the lifeline for infants at the time. Most children double their weight, most infants double their weight, birth weight, at six months. My child had not doubled her weight in a year, she was so sick.

EO: How did this make you feel?

AH: Very angry. I was very angry and felt so responsible for my child. There's nothing, nothing at all that I could do about it. And I think the lack of this important nutrition at this time of her life has affected her whole entire life. She didn't have the basic ingredients to be a healthy person.

EO: What was the hospital like?

AH: Oh, the hospital, very sort of primitive. The doctors were mostly Japanese American doctors. The white, Caucasian doctors served as supervisors, overseers. The nurses and the doctors were primarily Japanese and they were skillful. We, I'm sure, although I didn't know anything about hospitals and supplies at the time, but I have read what Japanese doctors who served in the camps said, that they lacked medicine, they lacked the proper equipment to do the necessary work that they needed to do as doctors. I think the, we were probably very low down on the totem pole in terms of priority as far as the government was concerned at the time.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EO: Tell me about... now, you have a baby, and sort of how you cared -- where did you get diapers? How did you get baby clothes?

AH: Yes, that's right. Isn't it funny? I didn't think too much about it. Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards were two large stores that probably made a whole lot of money on the Japanese camp residents. We read those two catalogs from the two companies like Bibles. I think I remember memorizing what page the chocolate candies were on in the Sears Roebuck catalog. What page the diapers were on, or the, all those necessary things were, in the Montgomery Ward catalogue. We bought diapers -- during those days there were no Pampers or Huggies. We bought diapers through the catalog. Baby clothes, layettes. Of course, it was something. I remember going through these books and thinking well, this costs three dollars, we only get sixteen dollars. How much of that -- what do we have left for the rest of the month? Fortunately, we didn't have to pay rent, or buy our meals, but everything still cost the same for us as for people who lived outside of the camps and they were making a hundred dollars a week -- or maybe not that much -- a hundred dollars a month as opposed to what we were making, sixteen dollars a month. It wasn't easy. I remember being pregnant and saying, "I've got to have this box of chocolate," and order it, wait for two or three weeks, anticipating every day a box of chocolate, and then a notice coming, saying, "Sorry, we're out of stock." I remember crying and crying when that happened. [Laughs]


EO: So, let's talk about...

AH: I was talking about the diapers.

EO: Right.

AH: Right. The latrines, the men's latrine, the women's latrine and the laundry room, those three different structures were built between rows of living quarters, barracks. We mothers especially, young mothers, knew we wanted to wash our diapers in real hot water, so we'd have to get up very early in the morning before the hot water supply would run out. We'd get up very early, do our laundry and, of course, there was no washing machine then. We had a washboard, and some very rough soap, that looked like lye or whatever that is, big soap, washing, rinsing and drying on the clothesline. No sooner than we, when we had hung our diapers, we would hear somebody yelling, "Here comes the dust. Here comes a dust storm." We'd rush and take these diapers, thirty-six diapers usually for me, every day. And try to get them off the line before the dust storm came, oftentimes successfully, sometimes not. When we were not successful, being in the dust storm, there we were again back in the laundry room washing all of this again, and it wasn't just diapers, of course, it was all the other clothes, the sheets, everything was done by hand. I think nowadays, I'm so pleased for young mothers who have the Pampers and diapers -- Pampers and Huggies, disposable, easy to take care of, so that they have more time to be with their children. I think that's a real blessing and I hope young mothers will appreciate the progress that we've made in this country. [Laughs]


EO: Oh, I think we were just talking about diapers, kind of the the day-to-day of having a newborn in that situation.

AH: Yes. Having a child in this, in the camp was certainly a very interesting, traumatic, experience. It is, having a child anywhere is. When you don't have running waters and you have diapers, I'll tell you, it's something else. Having running water is something I appreciate to this day because I was deprived of it during those three years in camp. I think one never realizes how important it is to have a little faucet. When you have a child and the child has to be, has to use diapers, six, eight, ten, twelve times a day you have to change the child, you understand how important it is to have running water, to swish out the soiled diapers and then be able to wash them right away for use, immediate use later. And in the camp, since we had no running water, it was not easy. Every time I changed the child's diaper I had to run outside to another building to rinse it out, bring it back again and stack them up, so that the next morning, I could wash all those thirty-six diapers. The lack of water also was very important in homes, in apartments like my mother's. My mother was very ill, so was my father. And so ill that they actually had to use bed pans. Now imagine not having running water when you have a house, an apartment with somebody who is ill who requires the use of a bed pan. You have to keep running back and forth and back and forth from another building in order to rinse out bed pans. These day-to-day, the deprivation of the niceties of life was something that most of us who had to go through that don't forget.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AH: My father died in the camps. He died in a camp called Jerome which was in Arkansas. We had a family, a funeral. My sister who lived in New York City came for the funeral. Oh, there's an, there's an irony to this story. My sister was an alien, she lived in New York City before the war broke out. Since she lived on the East Coast, she was not placed in the camps. And she used to come to visit us who were American citizens imprisoned by our own government. My sister, an alien, used to come to visit us in the camps.

EO: Let's back up now. You are in Manzanar and your parents and the rest of your family are in Arkansas. So tell me now how you found out that your father was ill, and how you got over there.

AH: I received word from my family that my father was quite ill. This was in the summer of 1943, about a year after we had, I had already been living in Manzanar. So I requested a transfer to the camp where my father was, which was Jerome, Arkansas. It took many months for them to finally give me approval. At the time, they said -- they would permit, the government would permit me to take my little daughter, but that they would not permit my then-husband to go because he was only a son-in-law and not a son. So I took my child, and on a four-day train trip, went from Manzanar camp to Jerome, Arkansas camp. That train trip was a nightmare. I was not, I didn't have a seat reservation so I had to sit on my suitcase for two of the four days, and my child had, had pneumonia, or bronchitis at that time She was only eleven months old. Ten-and-a-half or eleven months old. And so here I had a sick baby, sitting on my suitcase, getting across from California to Arkansas on this old train. Fortunately, on the third day, an American soldier took pity on me and let me have his seat. I was ever so grateful for a seat on this train.

I got to Arkansas, and just as I pulled in... on a truck, that's right. I was on a train, the truck met me at the train station and my daughter and I got off and we were assigned a certain barrack. My father was just at that time being put on an ambulance to go to the hospital, so I grabbed my daughter and ran to the ambulance and he just held her for a minute, he had had a heart attack. He had been unwell, but he had had an attack. He held her for a minute and he went to the hosp-, they took him to the hospital. I went to visit him every day, of course, and this was in December of 1943. Ten days later, after I arrived, on Christmas morning, he died in the camp hospital. But at least he got to see my daughter once. For that I was very grateful and he was, too. By that time he had forgiven me for my transgressions. [Laughs]

EO: Describe a little to me, once, about the night he died.

AH: Yes. He, he had an oxygen tank in that room, and the lights for some reason did not work in the whole camp that night. We were told that you could not use candles in, in a room where there was an oxygen tank, with a danger of explosion or something like that. And there were, there was an inadequate supply of flashlights in the hospital. So here we were, groping in the dark and my father said, "I'm thirsty, thirsty." He wanted water. Here I was trying to give him water in total darkness, trying to find the straw, trying to find his mouth. He was pretty immobile. He knew he was dying. I was glad to be there at the time. And it sort of made up a little bit for the trouble I had caused him by my rash elopement. We were, although we didn't communicate a lot because our, the language problem was very big, we, we had a little same wave-, same wavelength communication, relationship. So I was glad to be there when he died.

EO: What state of mind was he in?

AH: I think... he was a religious man, and I believe that he... he told me one time during this ten day's period when I would visit him, he said he'd been searching for God all his life and he said, "You know, I didn't have to look for him, He was always inside of me. I don't know why I was looking all over the place." I managed to understand that much of what he was trying to tell me. And he, he went rather peacefully. But I do recall something that I think my, my Christian family would be not too happy to hear: that just before he died, he was giving a chant, like the Buddhist chant -- I don't know the proper word for it, but it sounds like, namyohorengekyo, something like that. And I thought, "Here's this Christian man, what is he doing, coming out with this Buddhist chant?" It was some childhood memory surfaced, either that or he, he believed that we all, regardless of what religion, we all worship a god and that no matter what house of worship you go to, whether it be Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, that we are just taking different roads to the same destination. Maybe that's why it was no problem for him to be chanting a Buddhist sutra, chant, and still be singing hymns in the next breath. He was a remarkable man, I think.

EO: Can you describe to me about his disillusionment?


AH: My father was not a businessman. He liked to read books, and as I mentioned earlier, he even wrote an autobiography, in Japanese, so I don't know what it said. But he believed so much in education. He felt that this country offered unlimited opportunities for people to use their brains, extend their knowledge. He was a schoolteacher in Japan before he came over. I thought he taught English, but I found out from my sister not too long ago that he taught mathematics. Being a third son, he knew that he could never inherit anything in his family, from his family property, so he decided to try his luck in the United States and when he found out what great opportunities there was for education here, he just thought that this was the best thing for him to do. To place his roots here, because he wanted all of us to take advantage of this opportunity in this country. And he, of course, felt that one of the good things about this country, it was not a monarchy, it was not like in Japan, it was a democratic institution and he felt very strongly that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was God's gift to, to the people. I suppose it had to do with all the social programs that Mr. Roosevelt instituted and helped to get this country out of depression. Therefore he believed, he was happy about the democratic way of life here. But then, when the war started, he was rather disillusioned that Mr. Roosevelt, his idol, would abandon principles and take action upon a people based only on their ancestral background. He was quite disappointed, I'm sure, at Mr. Roosevelt's action.

EO: Do you think it contributed at all to his death?

AH: I don't know how much physical... no, I don't think physically, but of course, our physical welfare has a great deal to do with how we feel emotionally, mentally. And I know that he was affected. So, yes, I guess it is possible that his, he became a little depressed as a result of the incarceration and the unfair treatment of the people. That, of course, meant how would it affect... there was such a question, how was it going to affect the rest of us? His children, after the war was over. He had such high hopes for all of us to be able to go to school, to become, make something of ourselves. So I think it weighed heavily on his mind, the fact that this camp experience would be a horrendous barrier to our future. I guess most of us were, since we didn't know what was going to happen, were worried that we might all be put on a ship and sent to this strange country of Japan we had never been to. I think there was always that fear. I'm sure, I'm sure my father was worried about that, too.

EO: And tell me about, what, about the funeral.

AH: My father's funeral was held in a barrack that served as the church. My, the... since my father was a religious person, he had many friends who were very steeped in religion. It was a very bleak affair, since it was December. It was cold. I'm trying to recall what the coffin was like, where we got the coffin. My oldest brother, I'm sure, arranged for it. I was more worried about my mother and how it would affect her. I don't remember the details about where the coffin came from, what was, who took care of all that, I'm sure my brother did. But my father asked to be cremated. We had, after the service, the coffin was taken to a local town, I think it was Denson, Arkansas. And my mother received the ashes and she carried around the ashes with her for many years. When we moved to New York City I recall the family bought a plot in Queens, Long Island. And I might be jumping ahead, but I think I better mention this story before I forget.


AH: My father had died Christmas, 1943, and my mother had been carrying around his ashes, so twenty years or almost twenty-seven years later when I was working in New York City and my mother decided that she would finally put his ashes into the ground, I asked for a day off from the job that I was working at in New York City. And my supervisor extended his condolences to me and said, "I didn't know that you had, even had a father here. That he had died." I said, "Don't worry about it, my mother's been carrying him around for twenty-something years. We just decided to put him in the ground." The expression on his face was something else. I wasn't very smart to, I wasn't very kind to warn him what the situation was, but it was a sort of a funny story I like to tell my family and friends. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

EO: Now, during this time, we should skip back, I think you must be back in Manzanar when the registration happens? Because you're, because this was '43 when your father dies.

AH: Yes, it was.

EO: Well, it was '43. So it was right after that. So you are going to --

AH: Registration was February 1943.

EO: February, right. So it was early in '43. So you're still at Manzanar.

AH: That's right.

EO: So, can you... first of all, do you recall the Manzanar riot at all?

AH: I remember that there was this, what is called a "riot" now, some people call it "uprising." But I do recall this happening and hearing, I was not anywhere near the scene of the riot, but I recall hearing about someone being killed and about arrests being made, beating or beatings having taken place. I do recall that. And then there was tension, tension in the air because of this, this incident.

EO: How did it make your feel?

AH: It was worrisome. I was pregnant, about seven, eight months pregnant at the time. And my husband of that time was very protective and he wouldn't permit me to travel very, go very far out of the block, simply because there was a lot of worry about my being pregnant, but because there was, there were fights. We heard about informant activities and people getting beaten up. I recall going to one movie which they showed in the recreation hall. Every block had a rec. hall, a recreation hall, and movies would be sent from one block to another block. I remember being at one where there was a fight. And these benches and chairs started to fly around. It was a scary experience. I don't know who instigated the fight, or the reasons for the fight, but twice that kind of thing happened and I remember being whisked away by my then-husband, back to our barracks, because of this kind of problem that existed in the camps during those days. It probably had to do with actions being taken against an informer... those who were alleged to be informers for the administrative, white administrative... administration.

EO: This was going to be your first, your second Christmas in camp?

AH: Let's see... '42. This was '43, right? This was '43. But the riot was the first, December '42. So that's the first Christmas. That's right, it was the first Christmas.

EO: How did you celebrate?

AH: I don't think we celebrated at all. No. No one has ever asked me that question before. So now I'm going to have to go back and try to remember what we did at the first Christmas. I know that we didn't have a church, I didn't go to a church. I know we had no money to buy any gifts and I'm sure we didn't -- I don't remember a Christmas tree. That must have been the first Christmas I ever missed going to a church.

EO: Did you have a job?

AH: I looked at my records in the archives, records in my folder. And apparently I had a job a few weeks as what was known as a timekeeper, someone who kept records of how many hours persons worked, probably in the mess halls. What time a person came to work as a cook or a dishwasher. But that was -- I noticed it was just for a few weeks. That must have been when I, much earlier on before I became sick as a result of being pregnant.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EO: So just before we get into registration, there were some other things that we had talked about... about, like, just as a woman, some of the basic necessities, what, were you able to get these basic necessities? Were you able to get Kotex?

AH: Oh yes, uh-huh. The first month, or second, first couple of months we were there, I was still, as... let's see. Yes, I was still having my regular menstrual period. But unable to get sanitary napkins to help me over those periods. We had, therefore, to tear up rags to use in place of sanitary napkins, and the, what was set up as a cooperative store for necessities like toothpaste and things like that, a little shop set up, one could buy some items like that there. But if one didn't have money, one couldn't buy anything. So I remember being short on supply of sanitary napkins and making do with whatever I could get a hold of. Of course, once I got pregnant, which was three months into the camp, then that stopped. But there was also the fact of toilet tissues. That was in short supply or sometimes non-existent in the latrines. And I recall we were tearing up magazines and trying to soften them up by rubbing them together -- [laughs] -- and using them. So I've had sort of a phobia about toilet tissues all these years, and my husband, present husband, sees to it that I always have a supply, extra dozen on hand, just in case. I don't know if you remember, but fifteen, twenty, fifteen, twenty years ago there was a scare that there was going to be a toilet tissue supply... not embargo, shortage. And I recall -- my daughters make fun of me -- I recall rushing out to the supermarket and getting loaded up, loading ourselves up with toilet tissue. But it's a hangover from camp days when the toilet supply was non-existent, practically.

And the toilet, of course, the bathroom situation was another real, real, horrifying situation. When we first went into the camps, it was, the toilets were not separated. No one had any privacy to answer nature's call in private. And the shower was sort of like a community shower for the women. And Japanese women are known to be pretty modest about things like that. And it was a very hard adjustment for many to make to share showering facilities and toilet facilities. Eventually the toilets were separated, which was helpful. I recall many women waiting until the dead of night -- I think men, too, probably -- so that they could have their regular bowel movement in private. Many of their neighbors all had the same idea, so you'd find in the wee hours of the morning that the latrines would be just as busy because everyone was looking for some privacy.

These things, the lack of privacy, the shortage of water, the lack of running water, the inability to make your own food when you wanted to, and, of course, primarily, the lack of, the loss of liberty, these were major, major denials that we suffered. And I think it's something we take so much for granted as free Americans, we take our life too much for granted. So going through an experience like camp the way we did makes me and I'm sure many other Nisei and Nikkei, appreciate freedom.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

EO: -- state of mind of you in the camp and everything when this questionnaire comes into the scene here. And so do you recall how you were feeling and when you heard about the questionnaire?

AH: I recall that when the questionnaire came out, there was a lot of confusion because we didn't know the purpose, really, behind the questionnaire. Was it going to be used to segregate us, was it going to be used as, as an instrument to perhaps repatriate, or expatriate members of the family? There was a lot of worry because there was a lot of confusion, and the confusion reigned even among the administrators of the various camps, I believe. The effort to get this questionnaire was actually started in Washington, D.C. in order to determine how many men would be eligible to serve in the armed forces. Actually, it sounds, it doesn't sound like a logical, logical reason, but there was an effort by the War Department to find out how many Nikkei, Nisei, and Kibei men would be available as fillers for -- not fillers -- to, to establish a combat team. And at the same time, the War Relocation Authority, the civilian agency that administered the camp, wanted to have this questionnaire in order to establish who would be qualified to leave the camps for employment or for school outside of the camps and outside of the prohibited military areas.

So, because of the nature of some of the questions in this questionnaire, people were confused. They had arguments, they had block meetings. There was antagonism from one group to another. The loyalty questionnaire asked, "Are you, do you have allegiance to the Emperor of the United States?" for one.

EO: Emperor of Japan.

AH: Emperor -- I'm sorry. How did -- my mind isn't working right. Emperor of Japan. And of course, that infuriated many of the American-born Japanese because they never had any allegiance to the Emperor of Japan to begin with and to be asked to forswear allegiance was such an insult. And for the first-generation Japanese men, of course, they, if they forswore allegiance to the Emperor they would become countryless, they would be people without a country, since this country would not allow them to become American citizens, the only tie they had was to Japan. Therefore, it was a dilemma all the way around.

And in my case, it was, I was still in Manzanar at the time, and there was no problem, actually, in the family in which I was married, to which I was married at the time. The children were all American-born and they, they had no ties at all to Japan, and so there was no question as to the fact that they would answer loyalty questions in the affirmative in terms of their loyalty to the United States. The irony of it all, though, was that if they were willing to serve in the United States army, then they were very much, the men were very much willing to forgive this country for the transgressions against them because to be drafted to serve and give your life for your country out of prison camps in which one was placed forcibly, I think it's really quite a true measure of loyalty to, to a country. And in my case, my husband at the time was drafted out of the camps to serve in the armed forces. There are many families I know that faced a lot of internal problems because a part of the family would feel one way and a part of the family would feel another way about this loyalty questionnaire. But in the case of my family and the family into which I was married, we just didn't happen to have that problem.

EO: How did you feel about your husband going off to fight?

AH: Oh, I thought it sucked. I thought it was such a travesty of justice. How can a country... at the time I didn't look at constitutional issues in detail, I just knew and I felt, a gut level feeling that it was wrong. It was wrong to place those of us simply because of the way we looked, simply because of the country from which our parents came. It was wrong of this country to put us behind barbed wires, place us in prison camps and then expect our men to serve and fight and die for the country. I felt, I was really angry and, of course, because I was young and I just had this child, it was a sad situation for me to think that it's possible he would go off to war and be killed. For -- after having had all this happen to our, to our community, the injustice of it was, was overwhelming at times. Of course, in retrospect, after I find out the historical facts, it makes me even more angry to think that it actually happened.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

EO: So let's get to those historical facts. How did you find out about these historical facts? What got you interested in them?

AH: Okay. So many years after the camps, we were very, very busy trying to rebuild our lives. So we didn't think too much about the past, we tried to put it behind us. Then came along the Civil Rights movement. Our children, by that, third-generation children, Japanese Americans called Sansei, they became, many became involved in the Civil Rights movement and many of these young folks started to ask about their own parents' past, about the camp life, which many Nisei parents never talked about. And there were different reasons in different families for the silence. I was living in New York City at the time. I read a book written by Michi Weglyn, called Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps. I met Michi Weglyn, inspired by her book, and inspired also by a group of other Nisei women with whom I became affiliated in an organization called Asian Americans for Action. Very progressive group, mostly Nisei women. I had never been involved in anything with political connotation to the group's activities as I was in this, this triple-A group. And they were very, very influential in my life, turned my head around, made me start to think about minorities, about injustice, about inequality and it was an eye-opening experience for me to find out more about -- and to think about the camp experience and what it meant to me personally, what it meant to our families, what it meant to our community.

EO: What was it about this book that got you inspired?

AH: The book, so meticulously researched by Michi Weglyn, came out with facts, documented facts, which she published in her book, that told the story of the internment, we call it the internment, we won't get into terminology now, but let's call it the internment of Japanese Americans in, in these camps.


AH: The first time I started to think about historical reasons, historical facts behind the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, was due to the fact that I had read Michi Weglyn's book. Michi Weglyn wrote this book called Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps. In it, it was obvious that she had pulled out from the National Archives papers that proved certain theories that she had. But I subscribed to some of her theories about why this happened, after having seen not only the one, the documents that she dug out, but those that my husband Jack and I have seen subsequently after we started our research in the National Archives.

EO: What are those theories?

AH: One of the theories that she put forth is the hostage/reprisals theory. Once in the war, it was quite apparent, I think, to the War Department and to the leaders of this country, that they were fighting an enemy, Japanese soldiers, who would never give up. They would rather commit suicide than to be taken prisoners or surrender, which meant America would not have many prisoners of war, American -- Japanese prisoners of war, soldiers or sailors. Whereas Japan already had quite a pool of American citizens who were interned by Imperial Japan. Now, international conventions call for the exchange of prisoners. Here Japan had this huge pool of American citizens, America would not have any prisoners, Japanese prisoners. So if Issei and Nisei -- from the West Coast primarily, because that's where most of the Japanese American community was congregated -- were placed in a holding situation where they could easily be exchanged, picked up and exchanged for American prisoners, that made the situation easier for the State Department to deal with if we were all already in one area. And there are documents in the archives that imply the fact that now this government does have a population of Japanese, ethnic Japanese, on whom reprisals can be taken if Imperial Japan mistreats American soldiers, or American civilians who were interned. There are these documents and Michi Weglyn had discovered them. So it makes a lot of sense to me. So we were hostages. Hostages for exchange purposes or possible, at least threatened, reprisals. That is one of the main premises, I think, of Michi Weglyn's book.

Of course, the other reasons that this actually happened to the Japanese Americans was political: men who were trying to reach certain offices, elective offices and playing on the emotions and the war hysteria against persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. And then there was the economic picture. Japanese farmers were able to turn what was thought to be un-arable land, into wonderful, arable, fruit- and vegetable-producing acreages, and of course, they were envied by other non-Japanese farmers who would like, who would like to get their hands on all this business and all the property. There was economic reason, there was political reason on the state/local level and then there was this national reason for carrying out the forced removal of the Japanese population from the West Coast.


AH: You know, my husband and I had been doing research in the archives on this subject for many years. During the course of this research, I had come across, in the military records, papers that indicated that General DeWitt had issued a book called, we call it, the Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942. And that was his way of explaining to, not only to the War Department, to the government, to the public, why he did what he did, which was to forcibly remove Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Okay. Now, in the course of my research I found papers that showed that the War Department in Washington, D.C., was very unhappy with the report that General DeWitt had issued. General DeWitt and his assistant, Colonel Bendetson, assured the War Department that, "Oh, we only printed ten copies of these, so don't worry. If you're not happy with it, we'll make changes."

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 18>

EO: Do you remember that moment that you, when you and Peter decided this was, that this was it?

AH: Yes, I was, when I saw it, I just about hit the ceiling, I just couldn't believe that this -- and I'm not a professional researcher, so a professional researcher may have had a different kind of high, but I did experience a high that I couldn't believe I had, I had made this discovery. It was all the more surprising, because I had operated for the past few years under the assumption that there were no more of these copies, so it was like finding a little gold nugget. That doesn't happen too often, I think, to researchers, and I think when it happens in the archives you can just feel an explosion, and that's the way I felt.

There was another incident similar to that and it also involved Dr. Peter Irons. He was looking for a particular oral transcript in the 1943, 1944 trial of Korematsu, and he is a dogged, determined researcher. He even looked up what stenographic company had taken the notes down in 1944 of that trial. Because we didn't have the tape recorder or video camera at the time. So we relied on shorthand notes for trials at the time and we tried to trace the stenographic company, I called them, he found out the name of the company, he found out they had gone out of business and of course, anything that was older than thirty, forty years, they had discarded. So that was out, but he, for several years he kept looking for this one oral transcript of the solicitor general in the Korematsu trial, that was Charles Fahey. He never gave up hope, one day when he was in the archives -- and he traveled quite often from wherever he was -- whether it was Washington, or San Diego or New Hampshire or someplace, to go to the archives to dig up, try to locate this one transcript. One day he found a little 3 x 5 or 5 x 8 card in the archives that said it might, this might be what he's looking for. And he didn't have time to look for it, he had to go back to teaching class, so he gave the assignment to Jack and me to follow up on it. So we did what was necessary, got a little bit of resistance from the Justice Department, but we were able to track that down to the record center in Suitland, Maryland. The Justice Department lawyer who was fighting Dr. Irons in these coram nobis cases didn't want us to be the first one to handle it. He himself had been looking for it, this Justice Department lawyer. It was a very important document. He himself was looking for it. And so when we told him, "We think we found it," he said, "Well, when I find it, you give me the citation for where it is, when I find it, I'll send it to you." I said, "No, no. We'll meet you at the archives over there in Suitland, and then we'll look at it together." Of course, he couldn't say no.

The next day, we got to the archives and sat near a window where we could watch everybody coming up and we saw him sauntering up, sort of trotting up. We followed him, no matter where he went we were right on his tail to make sure that he wasn't going to get rid of the, the document and finally when he, there were a lot of little things that happened in-between time, but the bottom line was when he finally opened up the box, the important document of which there was only one copy was in a box thrown in with all kinds of unrelated materials and this made me think that archives is, it's a hard search. You will find sometime like this little, I call the second nugget, gold nugget, in a box with other information, other materials, other publications, totally unrelated to the subject. But here was this wonderful, oral transcript of Solicitor General Fahey which proved that the Justice Department, in defending the War Department in the Korematsu case back in 1944, sort of instructed the Supreme Court Justices to rely upon General DeWitt's report as truth. Therefore justifying the action taken against Japanese Americans.

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