Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Fred Korematsu Interview
Narrator: Fred Korematsu
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: November 15, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-kfred-01

<Begin Segment 1>

Q: Fred, would you tell us about your family background and a little bit about what your parents did, where you lived, and where you went to school, things like that?

FK: Well, my parents had a nursery right near the Oakland/San Leandro border. And right next to the nursery, it was all open field out there. They had farming at that time. And alongside of it there was a foundry where they cast iron, things for gears and things like that, for motors and stuff like that. And later on, I believe they did some defense work there during the Second World War, but that's where we were. And I had three brothers besides me. I was the third. And, you know, the family tradition was my dad always favored the oldest son. And, of course, the next son, well, he was the smartest, you know, and everything he did was wonderful, you know. And the third son, you know, that's me. [Laughs] And everything I did, I was getting into mischief. So they always, everything I did, they sort of criticized me or something, I mean, that's the way I felt. So I was always, to get attention, I was in mischief, I believe. And then I had another brother that was younger, and he was the cutest, I believe. So that's the way it went. But anyway, I went to grammar school, they call it Stonehurst grammar school, that was about... oh, about two miles away from where we lived. And from there, I went to the junior high school which was about four miles away from there, after that. And then after I finished there, I went to Castlemont High School, which is the high school which is another two or three miles further than that.

Q: Did you have any schooling past high school, and what happened once you graduated high school?

FK: Well, my oldest one, my oldest brother went to Davis in Sacramento, college there, and then from there, after he graduated, he went to Cornell. And my second brother, he went to Armstrong business college. And then I, by the time I decided to college, my dad told me that there wasn't any more funds for me. So if I wanted to go to college, I had to work my way myself or whatever that I can do to go to college. And I picked Los Angeles to go to college, city college, so I can work. I found work over there. But it didn't work out, so everything I did over there, I probably got in mischief. [Laughs] So it finally just didn't work out, so I came back to the nursery and helped out there until the time... it was before the war, oh, must have been a year, year and a half before the war, and then my older brother finished college and he was back home. And my other brother finished college, too, so we all, all of us were back at the nursery. And it's a small nursery, it had four acres, a greenhouse. And year before the Pearl Harbor attack, everybody was getting into defense and so forth, you know, because of the war in Europe. That was getting hot and heavy. And so since quite a few of my buddies were working in defense work, and since all my brothers were home, I figured I could, you know, I'll be more useful working in defense than at the nursery. In fact, I was just in the way more or less, you know. And so I suggested to my parents that I'd like to go in as a welder, and they said it was all right, so I took up welding. And I went to school and took up welding, and I finally passed the test, and I was accepted in the shipyard as a welder.

Q: Did you ever think about going to other kinds of defense work or the military or any plans that way?

FK: Well, at that time, they had, the draft was called, you know. Everyone over eighteen had to register to the draft, and I was going around with a bunch of high school kids that I was acquainted with through, all through the school. And we decided to jump the draft and join the National Guard or the Coast Guard so that we would be, still located on the West Coast, we wouldn't have to go out of the state. So we decided to go and enlist in the National Guard, I think, two or three of them joined the National Guard. Well, I wanted to go into the Coast Guard anyway, but just for fun I went over to the National Guard also to enlist, and they wouldn't even speak to me.

Q: Why was that? Could you describe what happened?

FK: Well, they wouldn't give me an answer. They said, "I'm sorry, we can't accept you," and that was before Pearl Harbor. So a few blocks away, the post office was there, and they enlisted for the National Guards and the Marines and so forth -- I mean, the Coast Guard, it was the Coast Guard. And so another friend of mine decided they would join the Coast Guard. They're all Caucasians; they weren't Japanese. So I went in there and also tried to enlist in the Coast Guard, well, they wouldn't even speak to me. They just sort of laughed and says, "Sorry, we can't accept you." They didn't give me any reason. I had an idea of what it was, because, you know, I was Japanese, that they wouldn't take me. And so they got accepted.

And then we used to play, on Saturday night, we used to visit... well, his name was Johnny, I forgot his last name, his house, we used to play cards or we'd go out together. But we always used to meet at his house first, and if there wasn't anything to do, then we'd play cards. And all our girlfriends and everybody, we all joined, meet there at his house first and decide what to do. Well, one day I was going over there, and he comes out of the house to meet me, and he told me that he cannot associate with me anymore. And I said, "Why?" He says, "Well, my commanding officer called me in," and he knew all about me, and that we went around together through high school and all that, but he had orders that he could not play with me anymore. And so did the rest of 'em, even those in the Coast Guard. They were called in, too. So they knew all about me, about, and them, that we were acquainted and so forth, and that we'd been friends through school. The government knew all that already. That was before the war. And you know, I felt real bad about that part, you know. A thing like that to happen, they felt bad about it, too, but they're now in government work, so they said they had to obey the orders.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about Pearl Harbor? How did you feel?

FK: Well, I was shocked. And at that time I was with my girlfriend, she was Caucasian. And it was Sunday morning, and we were in a car up on the hill looking down at the Bay Area, we were deciding what to do, you know. It was a nice Sunday morning, the sun was shining, it was nice, and if we should go on a picnic or what, you know, that day. And then this came out on the radio about the Pearl Harbor attack. And it was quite a shock to me, you know, just couldn't believe it.


Q: Fred, what was your reaction when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

FK: I was up on the hill on Sunday. It happened on Sunday, December the 7th. And I was up on the hill with my girlfriend, Sunday morning, and we were deciding what to do, it was such a nice day, either go picnicking or something like that. And then it came on the air, the car radio. And I was quite shocked, we both were. In fact, we were practically numb from hearing it. And it just completely spoiled the whole day, everything. It just... knowing that we had to get home. And so I took her home and then I went home. And my parents were all shocked, they were all sitting around the living room. And the thing that I was bitter of is that Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. You know, "Why'd they do such a thing?" And you know, in a way, I was wishing that if some country was gonna attack Pearl Harbor, that I wish it was Russia. I just thought about that. Because we've been having problems with Russia all, ever since that time, and I was hoping that something like that happened to Russia and then now we wouldn't have the problem like this if we went to war with Russia instead. But this happened, and I was bitter with Japan for having this happen. So I just didn't know what was gonna happen at that time, the Pearl Harbor attack. But I was just miserable anyway, 'cause the future looked so black. Does that answer your question?

Q: How did the attack affect you or your family? Were there changes in your life and can you tell us about them?

FK: How did it... repeat that question?

Q: How did the attack on Pearl Harbor, you know, that incident, affect you and did it have any effect on your lifestyle or your working or anything in the family?

FK: Well, that time, let's see... my dad had a business, the flower business. And doing business was awful hard to do then on. And since we were right next to the nursery, I mean, next to the foundry, within a few days after that they put spotlights on the whole nursery at night. And they had a guard standing right near our home there, right around the fence there, and watching us. 'Cause I went out one time to, one night, to have a cigarette, you know, I was standing on the porch and then I lit a cigarette. And the guard, the person in the foundry yelled out if I was signaling somebody. Ridiculous. And, but it affected my life because, you know, the future, I mean, I couldn't see what I could do. There wasn't anything that I can do in the future since there was so much racial hatred after that, of the Japanese.

Q: Could you tell us of any incidents, racial incidents that you can remember?

FK: Well, I've heard that, I think out in the country where some Japanese farmers were, some cars went by and shot at the house. And during the curfew, whoever went out, people were watching every... it was not only our house. Any Japanese home, there was some person figuring he's a good American citizen by doing our duties, and they were watching every move each family were doing. Or if they went out, they followed them to see where they were going. So that's, that's how it was.

Q: How did it affect the community, the Japanese American community?

FK: Well, I don't know too much about that, because I decided to leave after that, away from the family. Because there was so much sadness, you know, this happened, and so much worry because here they lived most of their life at the nursery and so forth in this country, and they were proud of being Japanese, you know. And they obey the law and they did what should be right, they did everything they're supposed to and then whatever they can help other people. And then they concentrate on raising the family and just a normal life. And to have this happen, it put them into shame and so forth. It was even hard to talk to them after that. When the evacuation notice came, they had to worry about what they were gonna take and what they could take, and what was gonna happen to the nursery. So all those things... and they had to do it, and they only were given a certain amount of time to do all that before they were pushed into camp. And so especially my mother, worrying about everything, and the children and all, too. Whatever my problems were, they just didn't have time for me. I had problems myself. I was, I was twenty-one then, and I had, when you were that age, you have a girlfriend and all that, you know, just like anybody else. And she was more important to me than anything else, too, at that time, at that age. So we didn't know what to do. And in order to think clearly and so forth, I had to get away from them, and I, when the evacuation order came, I told them that I would like to leave ahead of time, you know, and maybe to go out of state before this happened. And they said if I can do it, go ahead. So I decided to leave on my own.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

Q: When you heard about the evacuation order... so where did you go, and I guess what kind of plans did you make?

FK: Oh. I discussed this with my girlfriend. I sold my car, by the way, 'cause you couldn't travel more than forty miles or something like that, you were not allowed to leave the city, anyway. So I sold my car, practically, I gave it away, practically. And my driver's license wasn't any good, so I tore it up. And my draft card, they reclassified all the Japanese Americans to "enemy alien," you know, it was a 4-C or something like that. And so my draft card wasn't any good either, so I just changed it, but another name down there, a Spanish name. And I went into Oakland there and stayed at a rooming house, got a room there. And you know, not being with the family... if you were with the family like my family or any Japanese family, you feel the pressure and the worries and so forth going on, and nobody is happy, you know. And they're all worried about what's gonna happen next and so forth. But on the outside, it's different. It's just like a normal life, you know, just like we've been living all the time.


Q: Fred, could you tell us about separating yourself from your family, why you did that?

FK: Because the tension and worries and what's gonna happen next... my folks were worried about that. And what to do with their business, and what to take, you know, and the belongings, and all that accumulated and so forth. They would, you practically couldn't talk to them, you know. And me being the third son, that's the last thing they want to think about. [Laughs] And so I had my own worried, and had my own girlfriend, my own problems, and so I talked to them that I would like to leave, and tried to leave before they evacuate, evacuation deadline, and to see if I can leave the state before this happened. And they said, "Fine, if you can do it, go ahead." So I did. But instead of leaving, I stayed in Oakland in a rooming house and there with my girlfriend we decided what we should do. In between time, I got used to, you know, the pressure and the worries, like that was happening at home, well, it wasn't there on the outside. It was just like a normal day. People going to work, or they're going someplace for entertainment or going out to eat. And the chatter they talk about is like everyday living things. And, well, I felt right at home. I said, well, heck, I'm an American citizen, too. I'm used to all this, so I fell right in with them. And since I've been a welder, I said, "Well, heck, I'm going to go to work." So welding was, welder was in great demand at that time because there was a very shortage of it because of the defense work that that they need, all the welders they can. And so instead of going back in the shipyards, which I knew that it would be impossible for me to do that, because of the strict... what do you call it? Guards and so forth. I went to Berkeley where they were crying for welders over there at a trailer mobile company, which made great big trailers to move ship hulls around in the shipyard, parts of the ship. And so I applied there and they, without hesitation, put me right to work. And once they saw how I welded, the foreman was satisfied. And I got paid cash in those days, you know, they didn't have any check, paychecks or anything like that, they just paid you cash at the end of the week, and that was the way they did it. So that was fine with me, and that's how I worked. And I did that until I got caught, about two or three months.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

Q: Could you tell us about when you decided that you were going to resist the evacuation order, and any plans you kind of made, or discussions?

FK: Oh. No, I didn't plan to resist the order, did you say? You mean fight the evacuation order? When I was in prison, I knew that I was gonna have a hearing of some sort. And I felt that knew I was an American citizen, but with everybody against you, the government against you, and no one to help you, I just figured it was just a slim chance, but you know, I was going to see what I can do and see what happened. Until I got, the guard called me and told me that I had a visitor, and I didn't think he could help me either, whoever it was, coming down to see me. And since everybody was in camp or in the military, my friends were either in the military or in camp, I didn't know who it was, and I assumed it was either a church group, someone representing the church group or something like that, or you know... but not to help me fight the case. Even though when he did introduce himself as an American Civil Liberties representative, I didn't even know what that was. And then until, after he told me, and if I would be interested in fighting the case. And he said he would help me, that his organization consists of lawyers and so forth. And that's when I decided to go ahead with it.

Q: If we could go back, though, prior to your arrest. Everybody was being evacuated, and you decided not to go, or to stay behind, I guess. How did that come about? Could you tell us what you were doing in preparation to stay behind and not go to the assembly center?

FK: I told you before, I mean, that I left.

Q: Uh-huh, okay. All right. Well, then, could you kind of tell us the circumstances, or what was going on when you got arrested? How that came about...

FK: Oh, how that came about?

Q: Yeah, and how you felt and what happened.

FK: Oh. Well, it was on the weekend, and I had a date with my girlfriend in San Leandro. I don't know what it was, we were gonna go shopping or what we were gonna do.


Q: Fred, could you tell us what were, what was going on when you got arrested? What were you doing, and then what happened after that?

FK: I had a date with my girlfriend that day that I got caught. I assume it was a weekend, a Saturday. I guess we were planning to go shopping or something like that, and I was supposed to meet her at a corner in San Leandro, street corner. And I waited for her, evidently she was delayed for some reason, so I went into the drugstore to get some cigarettes at the same time. I believe someone recognized me, either at the drugstore or when I went back to the corner. They must have seen me before... since I lived there and I've been in town all my life, practically, living there since I was a kid. So someone recognized me and reported me. So the police came in the patrol car, came over and started talking to me and wanted my identification and so forth. All I had was a draft... he said, "You got a driver's license?" I said, "No, I don't." So that's all they had. And he evidently had the military police come along, too, 'cause the jeep finally came a few minutes after that. And he came out, come over and talk to me. He didn't say too much, though, 'cause he didn't know what to say. And he just looked me over and so forth and then they discussed it together, you know, what to do with me. And the police come back to me and says, "Well, we better take you to city hall, and we're gonna do some more talking." So I got in the police car and they took me down to the city hall. And there they asked me a few questions. There was a girl that was working in the office that recognized me and knew who I was. So the officer came back to me and said that, "You know that girl over there? She recognized you and know your family." So then I finally admit that I was Japanese, and then they put me in jail.


Q: Could you tell us what happened after, when you got to city hall after you were arrested? Continue.

FK: After I was arrested at the city hall, and after I admitted that I was Japanese, they sort of rushed around there. I don't know what they were talking about, but then they finally called a lieutenant, and the lieutenant came down, and he was mad that I was still there and not in the evacuation. 'Cause I guess it caused, then, more problems they didn't know what to do with. And so the only solution they had was to put me in jail until they decided what to do. And I remember it was... when I was in jail there, I remember it was Memorial Day, the 30th, and as I was lying in the cot there I was thinking what I did before on Memorial Day, having so much fun, and here I was in prison.

Q: Could you go back a little bit before your arrest. You know, while everybody was being evacuated, what gave you the confidence to stay behind and that you weren't going to get caught? Could you tell us some of the things that you did or what you were thinking of?

FK: Well, when I left the nursery and the family and got away from all this problem and everything, the chaos that's in the family. And looked around me, and, you know, I felt that, well, I'm free. That's what I've been doing all my life. Everybody was minding their own business, and you don't hear of all this, that there's a war on, and race hatred of Japanese and so forth unless you read the papers or listen to the radio, what's going on. But if you didn't have a radio or if you didn't bother to read the papers, I mean, it was just normal living outside. And so I just felt right into it. And since I didn't feel guilty, 'cause I don't think I did anything wrong. I'm not like a criminal, I didn't do any criminal, it wasn't a criminal act, you see. So therefore, I felt like I was just as good as anybody else, and that's the way I felt, because that's the way I've been feeling, that's what I was taught in school. You had equal rights, and you believe the Constitution and so forth. And you live by it, and that's what's soldiers died, for freedom. And I felt that way, and that's why I felt more comfortable on the outside, and I felt more comfortable when I went to work. Because it kept my mind away from all that, you know, and just concentrate on doing a good job.

Q: So did you make any other kinds of arrangements or anything now that you decide you were gonna stay behind, with the risk, you know?

FK: Well, what happened was I happened to overhear at work that the Japanese were all evacuated into camp. So I did buy a paper on the way back from work, and I saw the pictures where the Japanese were being, Japanese Americans were being marched into camp, you know, I saw the picture, and it sort of made me sick to my stomach. But that was the only time that I felt kind of lonely, you know, like, "What am I gonna do now?" I can see my parents going in, my brothers going into camp, and I'm not there. That was the only time that I felt sort of all alone.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

Q: Okay, could you tell us about, you know, getting over to the assembly center and what happened after you were arrested and you were in jail, right? How you were feeling.

FK: Well, from there, from the San Leandro jail, they finally decided to transfer me over to the Oakland jail, and they handcuffed me. See, before that, I want to go back. I don't think that the San Leandro jail had the facilities to keep a prisoner very long, because every time, when it was time for, to have my meal, two officer would come and open up the jail and handcuff me, and we would go to the restaurant and eat. And he would take the handcuffs off, naturally. And we eat, and they tell me, "That's the regulation, I'm sorry we have to do this." And so for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they took me to the restaurant. So I guess they figured they had to get rid of me as soon as they can, so finally, I was moved to the Oakland jail. There, I was there for about a week. And since I'm a federal case, I was transferred to the federal prison in San Francisco. There, where I met, I was surprised to see three other Japanese there, and I got well-acquainted with one of the Japanese Americans, a person that came from Hawaii. And he was very talkative, so he was explaining. The other Japanese, they were, see, we had some free time in the morning, where everybody goes out in the courtyard area. And they were walking around, but they wouldn't speak to me. And I assume they had their worries. This fellow that came from Hawaii, this Japanese fellow, we just got attached to each other, I guess. He was telling me all kinds of story of Hawaii and everything, but he also knew how they got there, too. I assume they did some talking. And one of the Japanese Americans, he was very young. Well, he was a college student, and he came back to Centerville, the town he lived in, to get his typewriter. He forgot, he left it, he was gonna go back to Nevada, I guess. But someone spotted him, so he climbed up a tree. And the next door neighbor spotted him, I guess, and called the police and said, "Hey, there's a Jap up in the tree." So that's how he got caught. And then the other one, he was a cook. And he was a cook for a long time for this family, I guess, and they were attached to him, and they gave him a farewell party for him. And he was supposed to leave, but he hid down in the pantry instead of leaving. And one night they heard some noise in the kitchen, so they went over to investigate, there he was in the kitchen looking for some food. So that's how he got caught.

So anyway, one day, I got a call from the guard, and told me I had a visitor. And I didn't know who it was. I knew all my friends were in camp or they were in the military. But I went anyway. And the man introduced himself to me and went to the visiting room, and he was a very nice fellow, easy to talk to. And he told me, he asked me how... no, he asked me how I was treated in the federal prison, and I said, "Fine." He asked me if I needed some cigarettes or something like that, you know, just to break the ice, and we talked for a while. And then he said, "Would you like for me to represent you at the hearing?" And I said, "Well, I never had done this before, so I'll be glad to have someone to represent me." I said, "By the way," I asked him, "who do you represent?" And he told me the American Civil Liberties Union, and I thought it was maybe a church or something like that.


Q: Tell us about your girlfriend, and the circumstances where you, what happened when you got arrested.

FK: Well, at first, my parents and my girl's parents didn't mind us going together just as long as we were friends. But when we got serious, seriously, we were practically engaged, then they wanted to break it up, yeah. They just didn't want us to get any serious than we were. So that's what happened. So I never have seen her after this incident happened when we got caught. They called her in, too. And I see the police chief talking to her for quite a while, and then took her home. So that was the end of it. I never did see her again.

Q: Do you know what they talked about?

FK: I haven't got the slightest idea.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

Q: Could you tell us what your hearing was like and how you were feeling during that time?

FK: Well, when we went into the court for the hearing, there wasn't very many there. The government attorney, the judge, myself, and Mr. Besig. And there were a few others, but they were all the government officials, I think. And they put the bail at five thousand dollars. So Mr. Besig posted the bail. And he did that real fast. He was prepared for it. He wrote out the check, and so we were free to go, so Mr. Besig and I decided to leave the court. And as we were just about to get out the door, there the MPs were. And one of 'em drew a gun and he says, "I'm sorry, we have orders that you cannot leave." And we argued, Mr. Besig argued that, "Well, he's a civilian. He hasn't got anything to do with the military. You're military men. We haven't got anything to do with you." But he got all frustrated and everything, and he says, "Well, I'm sorry, I got orders from the high command that you can't leave." So the attorney, the government attorney and so forth, heard this, and he was running back to the judge and so forth and whispering to him, and then they raised the bail to ten thousand dollars, assuming that Mr. Besig didn't have that kind of money. But he laughed, you know, and he could have, go ahead, and he had the money to do it, I guess. But he finally said, "Well, let's see what happens. Go ahead with the military." And so they took me, and they took me down to the Presidio. You know, it's an unusual thing to do, because I'm not a, I'm not a military man. Why take me down to the Presidio? And yet they took me down to the Presidio because they didn't know what to do with me, and they didn't, they had orders not to release me out in the street. So I stayed at the Presidio for about, oh, almost a week, I guess, three or four days or more. And I really enjoyed it at the Presidio, because the meals were terrific and they treated me real good. And, in fact, it was better than the prison. I didn't mind, I says, "Hey, give me a job here at the Presidio and I'll stay here the rest of the war." "Oh, no, no, I can't do, we can't do that." [Laughs] And finally they had orders to take me to Tanforan racetracks. He says, "Come on, Fred, we have to take you down there." So they were halfway down there, and then there was a military man up there, up ahead, that waved us back, waved us down, and told us that they had to take me back to the Presidio again. I don't know, someone was trying to rush me out of the Presidio, I think, without, without any authority. So they took me back to the Presidio and I stayed there another day, then they finally got the real orders to take me back to camp, take me to camp in Tanforan.

And as I was going to that camp, Tanforan racetrack, I can see from the freeway the Japanese people in there, and the kids and everything, you know. And you know what that reminds me of? A... what do you call it, an Indian reservation camp like. Because all the kids were dark and brown from the sun, you know, being out there in the sun. And it was dusty and everything, you know, at the... it seemed like it was an Indian reservation camp. I mean, it didn't look very... I don't know what you'd explain it. Like people that haven't got very much money and had to be put into a camp. And, but anyway, as I arrived in camp, I told them that I'd prefer to have my own stall for the time being before I meet my folks. I want to think of what to say to them and so forth. So they says, "Okay," so they assigned me a certain number stall. And I went over there with whatever belongings I had, which I didn't have very much, because the FBI took everything, they didn't give me anything back, all my clothes and everything. And I looked up the number, and I opened the door, and here the door, the front door, they had a gap about, oh, about six to eight inches from the ground, and it was dirt floor. And there inside, they just had a cot and a straw mattress in there. And there's gaping holes all on the walls, and the wind just blew in there, and the dust blew in there and everything as I sat there, as I lie down on the cot to think it over. And I guess I was there for about forty-five minutes, and I said, "Boy, this is really a miserable place," you know. No heat, there isn't any heat or anything. I mean, it's made for horses, not for human beings. And I just wonder how in the world the people lived in this this long. And then all of a sudden I hear a knock on the door, and I open it and it was my brother. He says, "Hey, you can't stay here, you got to come and see the folks." And I said, "Well, I want to stay here and think it over a little bit." "No, no, you're coming with us." So, "Okay," I went. And it was way on the other side, and I was surprised the way they fixed up their stall. And they filled up all the cracks, and they put newspaper for the walls, you know, papered it all up, and they made it more homely as possible. I was surprised what they did.

Q: How do you think living there affected them?

FK: Well, since everyone was in the same boat, and they made the best of it, you know, and now that they don't have to worry about what's gonna happen to their business... because for the last few months before the evacuation, their business was practically standstill, and that included all business of the Japanese Americans. They just barely had enough food to live in, I mean, to eat and so forth. And so now that they're in camp, they didn't have to worry about that, so they're more or less, that relief of the pressure of how to make a living was gone, and they were more trying to be as comfortable as they can. And they were meeting more friends, because they're all in, all in the same boat.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FK: [Reading] When I was in school, we started each day with the "Pledge of Allegiance" to the American flag. I studied American history and the Constitution of the United States, and believed that persons born in this country was free and had equal rights. I've always been a good American citizen, I was willing to defend my country before the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor in 1941. I had tried unsuccessfully to join, first, the National Guard, and then the United States Coast Guard. My Caucasian friends were accepted, but I was turned down. Later, I participated in defense work until the union forced me out without a reason. When the exclusion order was posted on telephone poles in 1942, I felt angry and hurt and confused about my future. I could not understand how the United States government could do this to American citizens without a hearing or a trial. It was not right that all Japanese Americans were interned while Americans of German or Italian descent were allowed to be free. For forty years, I have carried with me the remembrance of being treated like a criminal, and classified as an enemy alien of the United States, even though I was born in Oakland, California. I feel that as an American citizen, I did not do anything wrong. I have always felt that the United States Supreme Court's approval of putting American citizens into concentration camps on the basis of race is unforgivable and should be corrected. I wanted you to know that Japanese Americans are loyal American citizens, and obey the laws of the land.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

Q: Fred, could you tell us how your conviction has affected your life?

FK: When I first came back to California after this was over, the evacuation was over, and a chance to get back into California, I worked with my brother in real estate. And I wanted to be a real estate broker like he was. Well, in the application, they stated if I had a prison record, and therefore I knew it was useless to apply for... I knew they would turn me down. Also for either any civil or state or federal job application has the same thing, so therefore I knew I couldn't get a job in those places. And also, I was going to go into a big firm like Bectal which has retirement benefits and so forth, and good profit sharing, that could help me out in retirement, so forth, but they also in their application ask you if you have any criminal record. And also any jury duty. I was called for jury duty, but they all, in their form, they asked me if I had any criminal record or prison record, and I stated "yes," and I never heard from them. So I knew it was useless for me to try to apply for a job that had any question regarding if I had a criminal record. So therefore, I could not get any job that would give me some retirement benefits. So I've been working with small companies that didn't have any retirement benefits to it. So it sort of affected me, and I know quite a few of my friends are already retired, because they worked in a company with good retirement benefits. And that sort of affected my life. I'm still working, trying to work.


Q: Could you tell us when you were recognized, or how you were recognized at city hall after your arrest?

FK: Well, the officer was questioning me, and then there was a girl in the office there, back in the distance there, and she was talking to an officer there and pointing toward me, I saw her. And then that officer came over to talk to the officer that was questioning me, and then he turned around and told me that the girl in the office recognized me and knew my family. And therefore I decided to admit that I was Japanese. And they all got excited they had a Japanese, and I was eventually put into jail. I was fingerprinted and so forth, the normal procedure of a criminal. Formality, I guess, and then I was put in prison, in jail.


FK: At that time that they... at the jail there, the federal jail, they were also taking how I got caught and so forth. And I just happened to mention about -- I don't know why I mentioned about the plastic surgery, but Mr. Besig said, "You didn't have to say that because it's not what we're interested in," what I did. "So you didn't have to say that," and gee, I almost bit my tongue, 'cause I wish I never did say that, because it came out.


Q: Fred, could you tell us a little bit about your plastic surgery? What you were feeling, why you decided to have it done at that time?

FK: Well, at that time, when my girlfriend and I were thinking of all kinds of ways of staying there until we had a position where we can leave without being recognized and so forth, that was during, after the evacuation. And she happened to pull out the newspaper magazine section regarding plastic surgery. And she says, "What do you think of this?" And I looked it over, and, well, I didn't think it was a good idea, but she says that was one alternative, 'cause she couldn't leave at that time, too.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

Q: Fred, could you tell us a little bit about your plastic surgery and how you were feeling at that time, why you decided to do it?

FK: Well, I did a stupid thing by doing that. At that time, we were undecided what we were going to do, you know, and we were thinking of all kinds of ways so that it'd be easier for me to stay and not be recognized, so that I won't have to get caught in evacuation. And I was discussing it with my girlfriend, and we were looking through the Sunday magazine section of the paper, and she pulled out an article regarding the plastic surgery, how they improve the face and so forth. And she says, "Hey, look at this." And I looked at it and read it, and she says, "Do you think it would work?" And I said, "I don't know." "Well," she says, "shall we look into it?" I said, "We haven't got anything to lose," so we decided to try it. So I went to see the doctor, it was in San Francisco, and he said that he can, said he can do pretty good work on me. But actually, I had a broken nose from playing football and then never had it fixed. And what he did was he just fixed my nose, you know, and whatever little thing he can do, but actually, he didn't do what he said he was gonna do, he just took my money, that's what it was, actually. Because everyone recognized me in camp when I went there, they knew who I was and so forth, so there wasn't anything, change, except I didn't have a broken nose anymore. [Laughs] And I forgot how much money I spent on it, but it was quite a bit. So it was very foolish for me to do that, but I had to make the report in -- no, I take that back. I didn't have to because it was unnecessary for my case, but I did state that. And some papers are picking it up as a big issue, and I don't think it is, regarding to my case.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

Q: Fred, could you talk about what kind of support or what other Japanese Americans said? Did you have any help in making a decision?

FK: Well, while I was in camp, the first time I was in camp, my brother, he was involved in various Japanese activities. And he thought it might be a good idea for me to get some suggestions and opinions regarding to, if I should fight the case or not. So I obeyed because I wanted to know their opinion, if I should fight it or not. So that night, he had a gathering of about thirty young people there, in a room, and they were discussing it to themselves or in little groups. And I stood around and waited for someone to speak, but no one actually came up to speak to me. Finally one did, and he said, "Fred, we're all in camp," and they're undecided on if I should fight the case or not, because... or if it, there's no way that they can help me. So therefore it was up to me to decide on what to do. And I assume that one of the main reason is their families are in camp already, and they don't want to make any more disturbance. Well, they didn't do any disturbance, but anything to upset the parents right at this time because they were too upset already being, just being in camp. So I think that was one of the reasons why decided to not say anything.

Q: I heard that other Japanese Americans view your stand, do people see you as a troublemaker? Was there any support from Japanese American groups in the camp like JACL?

FK: No. They were very quiet about my actions. Maybe majority of 'em just avoided me, so I assume that I got myself in this problem, and therefore it was my problem and not theirs.

Q: That's the, that's the way you felt?

FK: Yeah. So they tried to avoid the question, or they tried to act like nothing ever happened. Therefore I had to take the load myself.

Q: Did you feel like other Japanese Americans could have taken a stronger stand, that they were perhaps too docile in reporting to the camps?

FK: Well... if they weren't in favor of it, I would think that I would be much happier that I had them backing me up on this. But to do, to do this by myself, I just wonder if I was doing wrong or not doing the right thing, or maybe putting them in shame by bringing the issue up again. And because the Japanese people, they liked to... they're peaceful people, and they like to leave things alone if they can, because they were in enough trouble as it is because of this Pearl Harbor attack. They sort of feel, and the country blamed them, so they feel they had this sort of a guilty complex, even though they had nothing to do with it.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

Q: Can you give your opinion of, just your general opinion of what the decision, the evacuation decision, the executive order, can you summarize just how you felt, feel about it in terms of now, looking back?

FK: Well, looking back, I felt that it was wrong because any person that do wrong, a criminal, would get a fair trial. Would get a hearing, and to see and to prove that either they're wrong or they're guilty or so forth. And to be pushed into this evacuation and also threatened with punishment because you look like the enemy, they don't say you're an American citizen, because they've taken the American citizen away from you, which is wrong. And I felt I was an American citizen, and I had just as much right as anyone else. And as far as defending the country, I tried my best to do that, or even if I had to go into the military to fight. And being denied everything, and being accused as the enemy, which I have no part of it, I don't even have any ties with Japan, nor have I ever been there. To be accused like this, well, I just thought it wasn't fair. It was wrong.

Q: Was there a conscious moment -- you started, you were originally arrested for more personal reasons. Was there a conscious moment where it became away from the personal issue, your girlfriend was no longer there. Do you remember at the moment -- you could have gone into the camp instead of going through this whole legal process. Do you remember making that decision? Being put up to having more problems, going through the whole legal process?

FK: I didn't, I didn't think that way. I just, at that time, when things are going so fast, you can't -- and I was so young.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.