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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

LD: So you understand, what is your understanding of the position, the motivation, of those people who refused the draft, who resisted draft, the sixty-three or so that came out of Heart Mountain and ultimately went to Leavenworth. What do you feel about draft resisters?

SM: Well, of course, there were many like Tashiro who went through experiences such as that. There were, in fact, five recorded killings of those -- at least five -- of those who had gone to close to the barbed wire fences and killed on the spot. And there were other instances, many, where, well, the Commission's report, the nine-member Commission report, which was submitted to the Congress in 1983 relates many incidents such as, where the father of the family, the elderly, was in dire need of medical assistance, medical treatment, but was given none because there were no medical facilities in the camps. And he died as a consequence. There was a case of a retarded child who was not allowed to go with the family into these camps. They wanted to take the child, too, because they said they wouldn't allow any retarded child into the camp. So the child was left at some foster care home, and shortly thereafter died. And if you had had these personal experiences, well, it takes much, much more than human effort to say, "Okay, I will volunteer for service, I'll go to combat to prove my loyalty."

LD: What about those draft resisters or army protesters who were already in the army who decided to not go on to the service who felt that they were not only not willing to cooperate because the government mistreated, but also who felt they were defending their constitutional rights?

SM: Well, I think as Americans, they were trying to prove a point. And they were those, as you know, who violated curfew laws in order to be intentionally arrested. There was the case of Yasui, for example, who unfortunately passed away before his case could be reheard by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court has now decided to hear those cases because of new evidence which had in fact been suppressed by the government prosecution. And I think if those cases are reheard now with the new evidence put into trial, I think they might come forth with a new decision on the part of the courts. And if that happens, it will prove that those who had objected to complying with orders which they felt unconstitutional will have a really, perform a great service to this country. Because in this bicentennial year, when we celebrate the adoption of that great document we call the Constitution, the one big blot on that document is the treatment, the denial of life, liberty and justice to a group of Americans for no reason other than they were of Japanese ancestry. And I have appealed to my colleagues in the Congress, especially the Senate, and I was able to get a co-sponsorship, a total of seventy-one, for my bill to compensate those who had been confined in these camps. I appealed to them on the basis that in this year of celebrating the bicentennial of that great document, let us remove that one blot on it by passing the redress bill. And that has, I think, brought about the response that I have received so far.

LD: They do see that? Do you feel that when you make that argument, they see it as a blot on -- your colleagues -- have seen it as a blot?

SM: Yes, and many of them have decided to co-sponsor with me because of that.

LD: What do you think of someone like John McCloy's, John J. McCloy's position?

SM: Well, I think he...

LD: "I think John J. McCloy..."

SM: He made a position, he took a position from which, whether because of age or because of refusal to admit to an error at the time, he keeps on saying what he does. But Earl Warren, on the other hand, who was very active in the evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and California in particular, when he was attorney general for the state at that time, in his autobiography and before a group of Sansei, Yonsei, that is, Japanese Americans of third and fourth generation, apologized to them. And he admitted in his autobiography that it was the greatest mistake he ever made in his life. So there are those who, upon reflection, find that it was a mistake, prompted more by political expediency at that time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1987 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.