Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Spark M. Matsunaga Interview
Narrator: Spark M. Matsunaga
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 17, 1987
Densho ID: denshovh-mspark-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

SM: It's amazing, that even in the Senate today, forty-five years after the war has ended... see, I introduced a bill, as a matter of fact, re-introduced a bill just recently, a bill to compensate those who had been confined in these American-style concentration camps, because these were Americans we're talking about. In approaching the United States senators to co-sponsor the measure, I had one senator tell me, "Now why should I co-sponsor your bill?" He says, "Why should we compensate the Japanese? They started the war, they should suffer the consequences of their own action." And, of course, that shocked me. I told him, "These are Americans we're talking about, not Japanese. The Japanese were our enemy in World War II. Now, we're talking about Americans, many of us who donned American uniforms and fought against the Japanese." I said, "These are the ones we're talking about. Their parents were confined in these so-called 'relocation camps' while the sons were fighting overseas, not only in Europe against the Nazi forces, but in Japan as well, as interpreters, as translators of documents. Which in many cases led to American victories, which might have not have been possible. The Military Intelligence men of Japanese ancestry, in fact, have been given credit for shortening the war through their efforts." Now, this is what I'm talking about.

Because I would relate the case of my father, for example, that he had a, he was a Shinto preacher, he had a temple. And on December the 8th he was picked up to be sent to one of these camps, but my sister immediately phoned me. I happened to be in active service six months prior to Pearl Harbor on the island of Molokai. And so when she called me from the island of Kauai where my parents lived and said, "Sparky, you'd better come home. They've picked up Father and they're gonna send him to this concentration camp," or something, said, they're gonna jail him. And so I flew home, fortunately I had made available to me a military plane which took me to Kauai. And then I talked to the provost marshal, he was the general in command of the island of Kauai at that time. And he looked at me at that time and said, "Now, how can I incarcerate the father of a United States Army officer on active service?" and he released my father. But supposing my father did not have a son who was in Uncle Sam's uniform on active service? He would have been confined to camp. For what reason? No reason other than that he was of Japanese ancestry. The FBI as you know had cleared not only those of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii, but those on the West Coast also. Absolute clearance according to the FBI, and J. Edgar Hoover opposed the evacuation on the West Coast. And before, during, and after Pearl Harbor, there was not a single case of sabotage or espionage committed by anyone of Japanese ancestry, resident alien or American.

LD: How do you explain Secretary Knox's statement? Would you tell us what he said when he came after Pearl Harbor to look around, and then what he said in a press conference, and the effects of that. If you start there, when Secretary of the Navy Knox came to Hawaii.

SM: Well, I'm not sure what statement you're referring to.

LD: He said it was the worst case of fifth-column activity since Norway.

SM: Well, he was misguided. Of course, his statement was absolutely denied by the FBI and Naval Intelligence also, gave Japanese Americans and their parents absolute clearance, and he was guided by politicians who were as misguided as those politicians on the West Coast, and there some in Hawaii, of course. There was one, for example, who was head of the Hawaiian Electric Company, I believe, who advocated the evacuation of all Japanese and Japanese Americans from Hawaii. And he was the type of people whom Secretary of Knox talked with.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1987 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.