Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Roger Daniels Interview
Narrator: Roger Daniels
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: November 18, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-droger-02

<Begin Segment 1>

Q: Roger, what I'd like to you do is if you could you start off by explaining what was the "yellow peril," what did it mean and who were some of the people behind it or organizations that may have perpetuated it, and then how it had an impact on Japanese Americans. Give us a summary of what the "yellow peril" was.

RD: The yellow peril was a notion prevalent in both the United States and some parts of Europe that somehow the white world was threatened by being overrun by yellow people, both as immigrants and by armed conflict. In the 19th century, many people seemed to fear China, but particularly after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 when it became clear that the major power in Asia was Japan, the yellow peril and Japan were roughly synonymous. Starting about that time, 1906, 1907, right up to and including the Second World War, there was a kind of sub-literature about the invasion and the conquest of the United States by yellow armies, almost always Japanese. There were films made on this subject, the Hearst movie company made one called Patria during the First World War, and this was important, I think, for two reasons. Number one, it demonstrated almost a century of prejudice against first Chinese and then Japanese, not only for what they did in this country but for what might happen. But secondly, when Pearl Harbor did come, it was for many Americans a kind of nightmare become reality, they say, well, this happened, therefore that may happen. And in most of the yellow peril novels, short stories and movies, the invading armies were always aided by treacherous and duplicitous immigrants. Butlers who turned out to be really generals in the Japanese army; fishing captains who were lieutenant commanders or admirals in the Japanese navy, etcetera. It just went on and on and on. So this was a kind of nightmare. The worst and best known example of this yellow peril was the movie that John Huston made in 1942 called Across the Pacific. It was the direct sequel to the Maltese Falcon. It had Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor and Sidney Greenstreet. And the villain was supposedly a young Nisei; he was actually played by the same actor who played Charlie Chan's number two son, but he's a very hyper American except at the end of the movie he turns out to be the chief villain masterminding a plot with Sidney Greenstreet to blow up the Panama Canal. So this put out in 1942, was another way of saying to the American public, "You see? These Japanese American, these Nisei," if you want, although most Americans didn't know that term, "they look American, they act American, but you can't trust them. They're really Japanese at heart, and you can't tell what's... from their face and their actions, you can't tell what they believe."

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

<Begin Segment 2>

Q: Let's go back a little bit and talking about the Japanese immigrant experience, what was it like for them to come here. What kinds of things did they face when they tried to set up a life here? In particular, with the alien land laws.

RD: Well, the first thing we have to remember about Japanese immigrants to this country, the Issei, is that they were immigrants and that they had the same kinds of problems that other immigrants had who came at the same time. Immigrants from Europe, Japanese Americans had the same, and immigrants had the same kinds of problems that Italian American immigrants had, Jewish American immigrants had, Polish American immigrants had, but there were differences. One difference was that most of the other immigrants came to the east and were urban, because we're talking about the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century. Japanese Americans, of course, came not across the Atlantic but across the Pacific, and came to California and to other western states, but primarily California. And large numbers of them went into agriculture fairly quickly. In addition to all the other problems -- and most immigrants to this country faced problems, most immigrants were discriminated against in one way or another -- all of them had that kind of wrenching sense of leaving one place and entering another, leaving a familiar world and entering an unfamiliar world. But in addition, Japanese Americans were non-white; they were entering a region which was already prejudiced against Asians; there'd been a long, bitter and successful anti-Chinese movement.


Q: Would you tell us about the Japanese immigrant experience, the Issei, and the problems they encountered trying to set up a life here, particularly in regard to the alien land laws.

RD: Well, the Japanese immigrants to the United States, the Issei, most of whom came between 1890 and the First World War, had all of the kinds of problems that other immigrants had. In addition, since they came to the west, which had a long anti-Asian tradition stretching back to the Civil War period, where they had already discriminated against Chinese and the whole country discriminated against Chinese by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, they faced a special brand of prejudice over and above that. Interestingly enough, Chinese had been attacked because they didn't have families, because they didn't settle down, allegedly. Japanese were attacked because they brought wives over, they began to have children, they did settle down on the farms. And one of the things that western states, starting with California in 1913 attempted to do was to stop Japanese Americans from having, owning farms, and they passed a series of alien land acts in California in 1913 and 1920 and in ten other western states in that period. These acts discriminated against Japanese not by mentioning them by name, say, Japanese can't own land, as the Chinese Exclusion Act had said, Chinese can't come here. What these do, they say, aliens ineligible to citizenship cannot hold land. Those Japanese Americans who had children born here, however, those children were citizens. And without going through the long legal processes and fights involved, the courts eventually ruled that it was perfectly legal for these farms to be placed in the names of citizen children, some of whom were babies. And that although California tried to stop this by saying in the second act that no alien ineligible to citizenship could act as a guardian, the federal courts don't allow them to do that. Because they say, not protecting the rights of the alien Issei, who were not allowed to become citizens because they were Asians, but that the children, the baby Nisei, as U.S. citizens, had certain rights, and one of their rights was to have their property held by their natural parents, whether their natural parents were aliens and citizens.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

Q: Could you tell us, or describe for us what the atmosphere was like after Pearl Harbor, widespread rumors or beliefs that were being held about Japanese Americans and how the Japanese American community reacted to the situation and those beliefs?

RD: Well, that's a very complicated question. Let me try to sort it out into different parts. There was certainly tremendous shock throughout the country, I think all Americans, including Japanese Americans, were just terribly startled by this. It was one thing to fear, as many Japanese Americans had feared as tensions grew in the '30s, it was one thing to fear that there was going to be a war with Japan, but that it came so suddenly and without warning and on a Sunday, as some people were listening to football games or coming home from church, depending on where you were, that was it. Then when the enormity of the disaster began to come out and it did not come out right away, all sorts of stories were believed. If they could do this, well, they could do anything. There were panicky attitudes among public officials who should have known better, civilian and military. All sorts of excuses began to be made, Secretary Knox, the Secretary of the Navy, alleged that it was fifth column work that made the disaster so serious. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts also made the same charge in a commission that he headed. There was no real evidence for this, and the army, navy, and intelligence services after the war all agreed that fifth-column work, spy work, by Japanese Americans had nothing to do with it.

Rumors then began to abound, rumors that it's hard to trace the origin. But people began to believe that when the bodies of the few Japanese pilots were found, that they had on class rings from various American universities. In Los Angeles, it was always UCLA or USC class rings. In the Bay Area, it was Stanford or Berkeley class rings. In Seattle, it was University of Washington class rings. Even such a distinguished American as Edward R. Murrow, who comes back to Seattle in early 1942 from London, says in a speech in Seattle, "If Seattle is ever bombed, we can look up and see that some of the pilots will be wearing W sweaters," that being what graduates of the University of Washington would wear. Other stories were that somehow Japanese had cut arrows into the sugar cane fields above Pearl Harbor so that the planes could find their way. This sounds terribly naive, because of course most of us have now flown into Honolulu and we realize that that green lagoon, pardon me, that blue lagoon surrounded by green mountains is one of the great natural targets in the world, and that you don't need arrows in the sugarcane to find those gray battleships down there. I mean, this was one of the easiest targets that a bomber pilot could want, yet they tended to believe that. Other kinds of things were believed in the United States, that somehow Japanese farms and tomato plants pointed to the Boeing plant in Seattle. One could go on and on and on. All of this fed back and was reinforced by the anti-Asian stereotypes, including the yellow peril of the prewar era, and it was reinforced by the shock, the fact that we were losing. And if it had just been Pearl Harbor, if it had just been that one loss, that was one thing, but Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Wake Island. The Japanese were really cleaning up. They were winning everything in sight and there were one or two things could be argued. Either we were being badly beaten by people who were superior in the short term in armament and in planning, which was in fact the case, or there was some kind of terrible plot. And we preferred to believe that just as in a later period, we preferred to believe that we, quote, unquote, "lost China" because of a few diplomats rather than, you know, a revolution that involved millions of people and been going back to 1911.

Q: Then how did the bombing of Pearl Harbor then affect the Japanese American community? With all of this going on around them...

RD: Well, they were, you know, there's whole range of people here we're talking about in the United States, at least, we're talking about a community of a 125,000 people. So there were a wide range of reactions, but their basic first reaction was the American reaction. They were stunned, but doubly they were particularly horrified because for about a third of them, Japan was their native country. The others knew that their parents came from Japan. In addition, there was great fear as to what was going to happen to them. And some college students, for instance, had speculated before the war and small publications of Japanese American students who published at University of California, Berkeley. What would happen to us if war came? Well, we'd be in trouble. Some of us might be shot, we might be placed in concentration camps, but I think that most did not really -- although they knew their position would be perilous -- did not really feel that this would happen.

Then after Pearl Harbor, there's a whole succession of events. Aliens, some Japanese American community leaders, mostly older persons and these are aliens, are rounded up and interned. Then various kinds... then there are a whole series of restrictions. Then on the 19th of February, Franklin Roosevelt promulgates Executive Order 9066, which, while it doesn't mention Japanese by names, everyone, the newspapers, most Japanese Americans, realized that was aimed at them. But it still wasn't clear what would happen. Then DeWitt begins issuing proclamations: You can leave this area of California to go to that area. Then at a later date, they were frozen, not to leave. Then there's a curfew from dusk to dawn. Then comes Proclamation No. 1 which evacuates and sends first to Puyallup and then to Manzanar the people from Bainbridge Island. Then everybody starts getting rounded up in 107 regions and off to god knows where. And by the time they go to the assembly centers, Santa Anita, Tanforan, Puyallup, they don't know --Portland -- they don't know where they're going next. The relocation centers hadn't even been built, some of the sites hadn't been selected, so there they are cooped up, and there is a progressive demoralization and nervousness and a great deal of confusion.

Q: Were there any racial incidents or attacks, violence being taken against Japanese Americans during that post-Pearl Harbor period?

RD: Yes, there was violence. Some of it, one, the most spectacular event, was probably misdirected. There is still an unsolved homicide on the books of the Tacoma Police Department. Because on Monday morning, December 8, they found the body of an Asian who had been decapitated and he was Chinese. Now it may be that this was a different kind of murder, but the assumption was that this was somebody's notion of revenge for Pearl Harbor with a slightly wrong target. There was a great deal of harassment; shots were fired at people. People were beaten, were insulted, rocks were thrown through windows, there was all things considered, I guess, less real violence of this kind than one could suggest, pardon me, than one could suspect. And there's no clear evidence that any Japanese American was actually killed in these sorts of, in this kind of violence, either then or earlier. Although there were a lot of assaults as opposed to the anti-Chinese movement which had hundreds of corpses. We don't know that any Japanese Americans were actually killed, and I guess we should be gratified that that was the case, but there was a great deal of ostracism, of hostility, of physical violence, of threats, of a kind of terrorism.

And there were Japanese Americans who were very pleased sort of to be taken into protective custody. Similarly, at the end of the war, when they closed down the camps, there were some people who were so demoralized by what their own country had done to them, that they actually had to be evicted from concentration camps. Didn't want to leave. They didn't know what the world out there was like anymore. And I think that more than anything, that says more than anything else, now, that's a minority phenomenon. But there were people who behaved in this way.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

Q: Could you discuss the role of the Japanese American Citizens League? Like what its function was for the community and then how people, the Japanese American community perceived them. The kind of attitude that the JACL was taking toward this whole thing of impending fate.

RD: Well, this is a very complicated situation, and I have to talk about one or two things before I can really explain the way in which the JACL operated. First of all, you have to understand that no Japanese immigrant could become a citizen of the United States.


RD: They're the community spokesmen and leaders with no preparation, I mean, some of them, Masaoka was what, twenty-five, twenty-six, something like that. And I'm not not trying to put down how old are you, maybe your age, you know, I'm not trying to put down people twenty-five, twenty-six. But it's a strange, what? But it's one thing running your own show or doing this or doing that. It's another thing becoming the spokesman and the person responsible not only for yourself but for your parents, for old people, etcetera. It was a...

Q: Okay. That's kind of what I wanted.

RD: Yeah, but it'll take, it'll take some... I just have to get there.

Q: Yeah. Well, like what you said right now is good. I like that, I'd like you to repeat...

RD: Yeah. One way or another. That's where I was going and I'll get there eventually. Then we have to talk about the very, very vexed question and the very, very political question of how -- and some of your, some of the questions you gave me on the sheet, of course, indicate that you know what the issues are very clearly. But we have to get to the difference between reluctant compliance and enthusiastic compliance. Then you get to the point, well, gee whiz, I'm, I'm trapped into this business and here's that... that son of a bitch Yasui making trouble. So suddenly Yasui, so suddenly you go from reluctant compliance to enthusiastic compliance to badmouthing resistance like Yasui. Then later when it gets to some of, later when it gets to some of the draft resisters, or the left opposition, as I call them, who are doing so on principle, then you start calling them names 1ike fascist and traitors and this sort of thing. And it's not that they start out intending to do that, but the whole dynamics of that sort of situation, you go out on a limb, you're pushed out there. You take a stand you don't want to take. And none of these people wanted the relocation to happen, but they got identified with it. Then it's the question of then they start protecting themselves and then they stop being defensive because it's hard to be defensive, I mean, you take punches and you don't throw any. So then they begin punching back and some of it gets very, very ugly. And as you well know, there are people, you know, still complaining about who was or who was not an inu, and this sort of thing, and if you talk to some people, I don't know if you know what's his name in Chicago. The guy who has the NCJAR.

Q: Oh, Bill Hohri.

RD: Yeah, I don't know if you've ever heard Hohri go on, you know. But if you listen to people like Hohri, it's as if you know, the JACL planned and instigated the whole thing. And this is again, people tell me, "Oh, we Japanese are so awful; we always devour ourselves." Exactly the same kind of argument, the same kind of ugly vicious infighting is going on right now in the American Jewish community about the degree to which people did or did not react to the first information about the Holocaust. And if you read some of these polemics, you think somebody like Stephen Weiss who was a middlestream American Jewish leader, you read some pamphlets and 1isten to some speeches and it's almost as if they think that Weiss and not Hitler was the person who set up the death camps.

So that this is, this is what I call the, you know, the social dynamics of this kind of a situation because it's very hard, almost impossible to do what the JACL leaders tried to do. And on the one hand, you see, you get the typical JACL party line, was that, "Everything we did was absolutely perfect." Then you get the other extreme, Hohri and worse, there people who go worse than Hohri, who say that JACL was really responsible for the whole thing, each of which I think is essentially nonsensical.


Q: Let's talk about, maybe you can tell us about the JACL's role and the kinds of attitudes they were trying to espouse for the community after Pearl Harbor.

RD: Well the JACL -- and remember that it was the Japanese American Citizens League. No Issei could be a member of it because Issei were not citizens and were not allowed to become citizens by American law because they were Asians, and Asians couldn't be naturalized. Most of the leaders of the JACL were still very, very young, of course, they were at the best, their mid to late twenties or early thirties. The natural leaders of the community, the men of forty-five, fifty-five, sixty, were almost invariably aliens and most of the leaders had been picked up either on the night of Pearl Harbor or in the days thereafter and interned under a regular legal process, not relocation but interned because they were in law, enemy aliens. And at the same time, some German American aliens and some Italian American aliens were also being picked up, so we can't really argue that this was terribly discriminatory. But what this meant in hundreds of Issei households, later thousands of Issei households, was that the father was gone. The bank accounts were frozen because they were enemy aliens' money. The leaders of the community were gone, and the only working group was the JACL. These were citizens, they were not picked up early, and the JACL had some terrible problems. The basic problem was would they cooperate with the government, would they resist passively or would they resist actively? Now I think that active resistance is just, is just really out of the question. There were just over a hundred thousand people, there was no way they were gonna fight. And in addition, this is the '40s. That would've suicide, community suicide. The real choices were to either passively resist or passively comply, or to say, all right, if it's military necessity, we're good citizens, and we'll go, and we will cooperate, we will in fact, Uncle Sam, help you run this thing. We'll help you run the camps, we'll do this not only because we're good Americans, because this is, this will make it easier for our people who are going to be locked up, and this will maybe, they would say to themselves --

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

<Begin Segment 5>

Q: Could you describe for us what was some of the drastic action taken by the government against Japanese Americans with the home raids? What did the FBI do? Incidents.

RD: First of all, the FBI had lists of persons, what they called the ABC lists, of persons who were presumed to be dangerous. Now, very, very few people in the United States government knew anything about Japanese Americans or Japanese, for that matter, and so they operated as security agencies often operate: on the whole principle of guilt by association. If you were a member of a certain organization, you are on the list. If you were, had contributed, for instance, to relief funds for the Japanese during what Japan called the China Incident, what the Chinese called the War of Resistance, that was it. If you were a member of the Japanese Associations, an officer in the Japanese Association, which took money from the Japanese government, you were the agent of a foreign power. If you were prominent, a head of the Chamber of Commerce; you were on the list. The Japanese government paid a subvention, helped support the Buddhist churches in the United States, therefore Buddhist priests were technically agents of the Japanese government. The government came and picked up these people, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes very startlingly. Just took the father of the family and this was based on status. They were, of course, enemy aliens, but they were trying to pick those who they thought might be dangerous. In some cases, these were the Buddhist priests, these were very old and not at all dangerous men. It would be like if there'd been an American colony in Japan and they'd arrested all the, all the ministers. These ministers would not have been the people to organize resistance, but that was the way that worked. And it was demoralizing. People didn't know where the father was, and quite often in families, it was the husband -- and this is true in immigrant families generally -- it was the husband who dealt with the outside world. The wife often did not. Well, these families were suddenly decapitated. The, the head of the house was taken away. Quite often, especially if they were business men, their funds were frozen. And here was a wife with children and maybe adult, if the children were old enough, if there was somebody of adult age, that helped, but there were many families in which there were no adults who were citizens. These were terrified people. I think it was maybe worse for those Japanese Americans who didn't live in Nihonmachi, in Japanese communities, but maybe were isolated, and they were really alone. But the community, of course, sort of collapsed in on itself and there was a great deal of, of mutual aid, and organizations were set up to help.

Later, before the roundup, there were these spot checks for contraband, cameras, not fancy cameras, any kind of cameras; shortwave radios, not sending sets, receiving sets; any weapons; dynamite. That might sound sinister, but large numbers of, very large percentage of Japanese Americans were farmers and needed dynamite to blow up stumps. And the papers would print stories, and they printed a story about how many firearms had been seized from the Japanese American community and it sounded very impressive, but in fact, over 95% of the firearms came from two sporting goods stores that were run by Japanese Americans. So they ran, so obviously if you ran a sporting goods store, you did have a lot of arms and ammunition. But always, the papers put the worst face on this. And the fact that the FBI raided a house, well, if the FBI raided them, they must've done something wrong, so it was what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy. The government suspected them, the people suspected them, then some of them were actually arrested and I remember this terrible thing that happened at Pearl Harbor so obviously they must've done it.

So that by the time, starting in March, that people go off to camps, most of the population is not only -- non-Japanese American population -- is not only ready to support this, they're kind of relieved, well, these dangerous people are gone, we'll be safe, we can sleep, we won't be murdered in our beds, etcetera. Despite the fact, of course, that there was not one single solitary instance of espionage or sabotage by a Japanese American in the United States. Some, like General DeWitt and Earl Warren, used this very innocent fact as another argument against them. As Earl Warren said before the Tolan Committee, the fact that there has not been an act of espionage or sabotage proves that we've living under an invisible deadline; proves that they 're waiting for some signal and then we'll have a Pearl Harbor here in the United States. Joe Heller has taught us to call that Catch-22, and it's, because obviously if there had been any espionage and sabotage, that would be an excuse for putting them in concentration camps. But since there wasn't any espionage or sabotage, that was proof, too. There was no way you could win.


Q: Tell us who you think was responsible for the evacuation.

RD: Well, it has to start, of course, all the way up at the top. Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. He must bear major portion of the responsibility. Below him, the political heads of the War Department, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and particularly his deputy, John J. McCloy. There were also the Provost Marshal General of the United States, Allen Gullion, and his assistant, Major Leader Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen. These were among the crucial shapers of American policy. But in addition, we must include the Congress, particularly the West Coast delegation. All the congressmen and senators from the three West Coast states sent a petition to Roosevelt to do so. Hundreds, literally hundreds of organizations of Caucasians in the western states petitioned for this, and of course, this was a popular act. The Hearst Press, the newspapers, not just people like Westbrook Pegler, but supposedly responsible writers like Walter Lippmann, called for all of this. So in the final analysis, this was a popular act, so that the entire American people, the whole tradition of anti-Asianism going back to the 1860s is in part responsible for the incarceration.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

Q: Tell us, though, how did the community view, or what was their opinion of the JACL line in '42 and how it may have continued today, up until the present.

RD: Well again, you know, the notion that there is a community thing... I would suggest that in the weeks immediately after the promulgation of Executive Order 9066, and then the Tolan Committee came out and various Japanese American community leaders, almost all of whom were JACL members, spoke for the community. What they did there was they sort of stepped into a vacuum, because there were no other leaders left. And they kind of assumed the role of leaders of the community, and there was not too much resistance to grabbing that role. It wasn't a good time to become a community leader; there weren't many competitors for it. Right from the start, there were some who resented this. Leaders are always resented. And some of that resentment breaks out at Santa Anita, at Manzanar, and then of course, at Tule Lake is, is an entirely different kind of, different kind of proposition. There were certainly segments of the community which supported the JACL right down the line. There were other segments that said, "Well, I'll go along with what they're doing." And then there's a small but vocal segment who says, "No, they're not doing it right." Now there's, I think there was both a left opposition, people who were America-oriented who said no, that's not right, because they're giving up our constitutional rights too easy. There was what we could call a right opposition or a Japan-oriented opposition. Some Issei, some Nisei, some Kibei, not all of any group, who said well, look. Japan's gonna win this war or for one reason or another, we're identified with Japan, and what we ought to be is prisoners of war, and this notion of cooperating with our oppressors is, it just doesn't make a great deal of sense. So that the opposition comes in two different ways. But there's a big hunk of the community that' s largely passive. They'll go along until things get terribly bad. And they, most of the time, they don't get terribly bad, but you look at the Manzanar, at the Manzanar disturbances, which got people killed in December of '42. There, there's one example of this sort of thing.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

Q: Could you describe what happened at Manzanar?

RD: Well, what happened at Manzanar, which is a relocation center like all relocation centers, put up in a place where nobody has lived before and nobody has lived since. There were the kinds of strains and stresses that you always get among people who are cooped up. There were food anxieties. Now, the food in relocation centers wasn't good, but there were more than enough calories. I mean, the notion that this was starvation... but there were certain things that were short, sugar, etcetera. There were, first of all, accusations within the camp that some people were selling sugar that should have gone to the camp. I mean, these were just symptoms. In addition, Manzanar had been staffed early by volunteers organized by the JACL. And there were, there was great resentment of this particular role. There were accusations in some cases, we now know quite well-founded accusations that some Japanese Americans had informed on other Japanese Americans, had told FBI and other security agencies that, you know, so and so is really pro-Japanese and cannot be trusted. So there were accusations over this, and eventually at Manzanar, there were beatings, one JACL leader was beaten badly by other Japanese American inmates. He was put in the hospital, and a group, some would say a mob, invaded the hospital looking for him. They didn't look very hard because he was hidden under a bed; I think this was really a demonstration. Then later troops were called in. The troops panicked and began firing apparently without orders to do so, and managed to shoot some of their own as well as shoot a number, we're not sure how many because, of Japanese American inmates, and that were, there were casualties and fatalities. At the moment, I forget the precise number. It was a small number, but people were shot, people were killed. This is, this was the worst of it. And of course, this kind of incident exacerbated the bad feelings. On the one hand, you have people who would say, the JACL are inu, that's a Japanese word which means "dog," but literally, it's rat fink, informer. The JACL people would complain about the pro-Japan people or for instance, when one gentle man, I mean really gentle man, a professor of art history at University of California, Berkeley, who was interned, a man named Obata, was, who was very, very pro-JACL, pro-U.S. government, he was badly assaulted. He was hit from behind by a lead pipe, by an unknown assailant, but there were people who said well, this was a typical Kibei attack from the rear like Pearl Harbor. So that it's nice to believe and it's nice to think that the victims of oppression are noble but that's not, that's not true. They're human beings like anybody else. They quarrel, they fight, there are good guys, there are bad guys, there are people who behave reasonably, there are people who behave unreasonably, and certainly when you're cooped up in a concentration camp by your own government for no good reason, the stimulus to less than noble behavior is greater than in ordinary life. And these echoes of these resentments continue to resonate in the community. You have to remember that still, although it's now more than forty years away, the relocation is the central event of Japanese American history. You know, you talk to people anywhere, two Japanese of a certain age meet, "What camp were you in?" Or in reminiscent conversation, the phrases "before the war," "after camp," these punctuate the Japanese American, the Japanese American experience, and this is as central to the Japanese American life as losing the Civil War was to some Southern Americans. And it's easier for the winners to forget something than the losers. And the Japanese Americans were, on the homefront, at least, the great losers out of the war.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

Q: I want to talk about, I want you to talk about the term "concentration camps."' Were they concentration camps and what kind of psychological effect did it have on the internees, you know, desperate acts, suicides?

RD: Well, the camps to which Japanese Americans were sent fall into three different categories. There were first of all, the real internment camps, which were for enemy aliens, these were for males only, they were conducted under the rules of the Geneva Convention. They were run by the, not by the army, but by the Department of Justice or the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is part of the Department of Justice. Secondly, there were the assembly centers which were the temporary places to which Japanese Americans were sent, Santa Anita, Tanforan, etcetera. Then there were the ten relocation centers: Manzanar, Tule Lake, Minidoka, Heart Mountain, Granada, the three in Arizona, the two in Arkansas, the others being in California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and of course, Topaz in Utah, which I forgot. These were places in desolate locations surrounded by barbed wire, guarded by gun towers and troops armed, who on occasion did shoot and kill people who were allegedly trying to get near the fence, not very many. To which persons were sent, not because of trial, not because of a trial or imprisonment, not because of an accusation of an individual act, not because of the status being enemy aliens, but they were sent because of their ancestry, because of their ethnicity, they were incarcerated and I think that is very much a concentration camp. If, however, you want "concentration camp" to only be used for places of extermination, like Buchenwald or Auschwitz or the Soviet labor camps of the Gulag Archipelago, then these were not concentration camps. More persons were born in them than died in them, but they were terrible places. And by the normal definition of a concentration camp, they were, they certainly weren't prisons because there was no trial. They certainly weren't internment camps because you cannot intern a citizen. Internment is a legal process for an enemy alien, and two-thirds of the persons placed in relocation centers were native born American citizens. In addition, internment has traditionally been applied only to adult males and men, women and children were placed in these camps. So I think that "concentration camp" is the appropriate term. Franklin Roosevelt is willing, on three different public occasions, or semi-public occasions, in his press conferences to call them concentration camps. They're good enough for Franklin Roosevelt, it ought to be good enough for Americans. 'Course, people like John J, McCloy and others tried at the time and have insisted that they not be called concentration camps. One government bureaucrat even suggested that the whole program should be called a "residence control program." But this Orwellian phrase was even a little bit too much. Dillon Myer, head of the WRA, a bureaucrat who tried to do a decent job and I guess is more of a quote, unquote "good guy" than a bad guy. Dillon Myer very much resented the term "concentration camps." But we must say of Mr. Myer that after he got through running the Japanese American camps and knew nothing about Japanese Americans when he took over, they figured that since he'd run those camps, he would good at running other camps, so his next major job was as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to be in charge of all the Indian reservations. And maybe the previous American institution that are most like the camps were Indian reservations. Now, Indian reservations were too big to be surrounded by barbed wire, but you know if Indians went off the reservations in the old days, the cavalry would hunt them down. We'd seen John Wayne. Same thing was true here.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

Q: Could you tell us about how the camps affected people in a psychological sense? Were they driven to any desperate acts, were there any suicides or drastic action taken by some of the people?

RD: Yes, there were suicides. There were... it's very difficult, you know, to generalize. We're talking about the experience of a 120,000 people, from small children, and for a while, at least, some of the children, for instance, seemed to, to enjoy the relocation centers. Particularly since the structure of their lives was greatly reduced. Parents complained that it was hard to instill family discipline. The father, quite often absent in an internment camp, but was clearly no longer a father figure, he couldn't keep his family out of a, out of a concentration camp. Meals were eaten in the mess hall so the traditional, some of the traditional mother roles were taken away. Some children tended to eat away from their families, eat with their, eat with their peers. The strange thing about the relocation, from a social science point of view, is that if the relocation hadn't happened and you ask social scientists what will be the effect on a community of taking them up and throwing them into these god-awful places, describing, without mentioning ethnicity, the relocation, most social science theory would say, well, the result will be when you let these people out after two years, three years or whatever, that they'll be high indices of social pathology, deviants, crime, delinquency, non-achievement, etcetera. And of course, notoriously, that was not the case of the Japanese Americans. We're beginning to get another kind of story, however, from the epidemiologists, the people who take a look at what people get sick from, what people die from, certainly, and these are studies still in progress so one can't talk about them. But some scholars have told me that they're finding a great deal of evidence that, of shortened lives, of hypertension, of increased stroke and this sort of thing. When you compare Japanese Americans who were in relocation centers, either with Americans in general or Japanese in general, and no one can talk about what the psychic cost of this thing was. But certainly it was not what some would have predicted, although there were lives destroyed. There were several thousand Japanese Americans who became so disgusted with the United States that they renounced their citizenship and some actually went back to Japan where apparently we have very few studies, only one, really, of Japanese Americans who went to Japan or went back to Japan, the difference being, of course, most Nisei had never been to Japan before but who had either repatriated or expatriated and they had a very, very rough time in postwar Japan. Not only because it was rough being in postwar Japan, but because most Japanese didn't accept them as Japanese so they were really wound up between two worlds and belonging to neither. We'll never know what it was. The most poignant remark I know of the whole relocation, supposedly, and it's become part of folklore, we hear that it was said here, it was said there, was said another thing. But some small child, maybe seven, maybe eight, after a few weeks in an assembly center or a relocation center, said to his mother, "Mommy, when do we go back to America?"


RD: Peter Irons and his fine book, Justice at War, shows that many of the democratic and New Deal lawyers thought that the evacuation was lousy, but nevertheless they followed orders, they said, jawohl, and went ahead and do so, and if you ever look at the relocation, by the standards that we ourselves established at Nuremburg, that this was a kind of war crime, not a crime that resulted in a lot of death, but certainly deprived people of life, liberty, of liberty and property. In one or two cases, life without anything even approaching due process of law. And that a large number of attorneys participated in this, knowing that it was wrong because the feeling in the '40s was, well, you do what's necessary to win the war, and that's very important. Also, we hadn't had the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s, and that's very important. Also we hadn't had the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s, we hadn't had Watergate, that's one of the excuses, you know, that some of the living New Deal lawyers say, well, Watergate hadn't happened yet. Elliot Richardson hadn't reminded everybody that even a government lawyer is first of all a lawyer, an officer of the court, and bound to obey his own conscience, not just the orders, proper or improper, of whoever is his boss. And I think that this is something that Americans needed to be reminded of. But in the '40s, we try to judge these things by the standards of the '70s or the '80s. It's not that. A wonderful little book, memoir, by a woman who was at Topaz, a Ms. Uchida, called Desert Exile, she talks about the tendency in the community for some young Sansei, third generation Japanese Americans who may be in their '20s or early '30s today to raise hell with their parents and grandparents and say, well, you know, why didn't you sit in, why didn't you raise hell? And Ms. Uchida reminds us that this was a different time and a different place and that's really a little bit unreasonable. It's almost as foolish as my children, who once when they were both very small, they're college-age now, discovered that I hadn't had TV and that there was no TV when I was a child and they said, "Well, Daddy, what did you do?" You know, they couldn't imagine at one age of their life, a life without television. Well, obviously, there was life before television, and there will even be life after television. Similarly, we can't judge people by the standards of the '70s and '80s. This is not to say that we shouldn't say, gee whiz, that's it. But rather than put the question, why were there so few resisters, why were there so many? This is a tremendous, I mean, not only the people who became the court cases, but the young men who resisted the draft. Well, draft resistance today is an in thing. It wasn't in the Second World War, yet hundreds of Japanese American men on principle said no, as long as we're in concentration camps, we shouldn't be subject to the draft, and they went to prison for it. They didn't get suspended sentences, they went to Leavenworth, to Fort Lewis and to other such places.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

Q: Roger, could you comment on Mike Masaoka's stance to, for instance, Min Yasui, and to the others at Minidoka about supporting Min's effort in other acts of dissent like Min?

RD: Well, the attitude that Mike Masaoka and other JACL leaders took toward these early dissidents and later, I might add, to the draft resisters, was certainly one that is hard for some people today to understand. It seems to me that the resisters were, in a way, the heroes, or some of the heroes of the relocation. Yet you must understand that the JACL leadership, Masaoka included, had taken a very hard position, a very difficult position, I mean, they were between the rock and the hard place. Anything they did was wrong. But they would've said, "Yes, we will go along." And maybe in an ideal world, they also would've said, "But if you want to dissent, peace be with you, brother," or some such thing. But they didn't do that. And I think they saw the line that Yasui took as dangerous. I think they were afraid that large numbers of people might follow his example and there were petitions around to support him and this sort of thing. I think that's not true, by the way, I don't think there was any way there were ever going to be large numbers of this kind of dissident. But they saw that as perhaps threatening their whole program. And that if there were mass resistance, their notion of communal rehabilitation would have been out the window and down the tubes. So in a way... and this is what oppression does. Instead of being united against the real enemy, you know, the people who put them in the concentration camps, Roosevelt, the army, Bendetsen, the politicians, the general public, etcetera, here they are fighting with each other over how they should respond. Well, I think there are a number of ways that free men can respond to oppression. Certainly one of them, and a very politic way, was the JACL way, alright, we'll do what our government says. We'll go, we'll do what it says and I hope they make it up to us after the war. But there is another way for free men to respond, and women, to respond to what they think is oppression and that is to say, no, I'm an American citizen, here I stand, I won't do anything else. And that's what a very few people do, early on, more do later in the draft resistance. But I think it's understandable that the... what had become suddenly the Japanese American establishment, the JACL, which had its party line: all right, we'll cooperate now and it'll mean that we'll have a better life after the war. And that was an accurate scenario. That, in fact, did happen. But there are other scenarios too and they didn't, and they resented those other scenarios very much because, of course, the dissent was an implied criticism of them. It's almost like Thoreau, you know, Thoreau's in prison objecting to the Mexican War and won't pay his taxes, it's symbolic. And his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson comes and asks him, "Henry, why are you in there?" And Thoreau says, "Ralph, why are you out there?" Well, that's what Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi were saying to the to the JACL leadership: "We're here. Why are you there? Why aren't you in here with us? So that's part of it.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

Q: What was the movement of Japanese Americans from the different cities and where did they go to once they got out of their homes and then where did they go, to what camp did they go to after that?

RD: Well, with the exception of a few who went directly to Manzanar, which was unique in that it was both an assembly center and a relocation center, most Japanese Americans first went to an assembly center fairly close to their homes and then were sent on to a permanent relocation center. People from Southern California, for instance, wound up, many of them at Manzanar, many others in the three Arizona camps. People from the Bay Area, after going to assembly centers such as Tanforan, the old racetrack, wound up at Topaz. People from Portland, some of them went to Tule Lake, some of them went on to Minidoka. People from Seattle largely went to Minidoka but a also went, a few went to Tule Lake, and then there were always exceptions. For instance, for some reason or other, well, we know why, but the first people to be evacuated, the Bainbridge Islanders, were taken from Bainbridge Island to Puyallup and then a lot of them wind up way down south in Manzanar. And then some of them are later transferred to Minidoka with the rest of the Seattleites. What we must remember is even more important than cities is that there was a distinct attempt at family unification and that the family unit was, for the WRA, a major unit and I think that's very important. And when families were split up, living in different sorts of places, and if they wanted to, the WRA generally allowed them to come together as a unit. So the family unit was very, very important and most people did also go in community units as well. Not all, but most also went in community units so that there was some, some continuity with their life as had been lived there in the past, if they had lived in families and if they had lived in communities before the war.

Q: Could you tell us about the role of the WRA, War Relocation Authority, how effective was this administration in helping the Japanese Americans after they had gotten into the camp and after that?

RD: Well, most of the, most of the people, at least at the top who ran the WRA, were at least sympathetic to the Japanese. They were civilians, some of them were former New Deal official. But with a best intention in the world, in the world, it's very, very hard to be a kindly keeper. And that's the... which is the description that one historian has given to Dillon Myer, "kindly keeper." Now, it really depends on who you're talking about. Some of the WRA officials, for instance, were violently against the relocation. The anthropologist, Morris Opler, for instance, helped some of the lawyers write the briefs, the amicus curiae and other briefs and in the Hirabayashi and Korematsu cases and in the Endo case and were really very, very useful. At the lower level, WRA employees, many of them were recruited from the local population, went to, went there because it was a good war job, it paid federal rates, and many of them just had no use at all for "Japs." But in general, Japanese Americans were probably much better off being managed by a sympathetic civilian agency than an unsympathetic military one.

In addition, the various camps were run with different degrees of competence. And where there was trouble, such as trouble at Manzanar in December, 1942, that's evidence of incompetent local management. Other camps didn't have these kinds of troubles and one has to assume that that's at least partially due to the fact that they were better run. The old navy rule, you know, an unhappy ship is the captain's fault. Well, an unhappy concentration camp is a concentration camp commander's fault, although a "happy concentration camp" is a contradiction in terms, but there was, there was a mixed blessing. There were people who worked for the WRA as volunteers, for instance, a number of Quakers, some religious people, some secular, said gee, this is a terrible thing. Some teachers gave up better jobs to go in and teach school, so it's really a mixed bag. The WRA was hundreds of people. It could have been a lot worse.

Q: Roger, could you talk in terms of the PR on the WRA. What sort of impression, with their newsreels and their government films, were they trying to present of the camps?

RD: Well, with the WRA, you'll have to realize that it had several kinds of problems. One of its problems was that there was a big segment of the American population that felt that the WRA was quote, unquote, "coddling the Japs." That they were getting sugar, butter, food, that the general population wouldn't. In part, to combat this, the WRA not only -- and the OWI, the Office of War Information -- not only stressed very, very much the heroism of the 442nd, but tried to present life in the camps as sort of idyllic. They didn't show the dust storms, they showed smiling, happy faces. I remember one prophetic picture I saw in the National Archives, Dillon Myer is arriving at Topaz and somebody has a sign up, "Welcome to the Great White Father." And of course, the Great White Father would then later become in charge of all the Indians in the United States. So that was really a case of life imitating propaganda. But it's quite clear that there was propaganda involved, and that even more important, the kinds of propaganda that the WRA did in preparing the ways and interior cities, such as Chicago or in Cleveland or in Cincinnati, which I'm studying now, it's really important. And they did... the Japanese weren't just sent into these places. Hostels were set up, community leaders were talked to, jobs were set up, so the WRA was not a cipher. On the other hand, once you start managing people's lives for their own good, once you take on the functions of being a "kindly keeper," you're really negating democracy, because the notion of democracy is that people can make their own decisions and take care of themselves. So that you have the paradox of a democratic government setting up, essentially, undemocratic institutions, and the WRA was, of course, an undemocratic institution.

It was... for instance, to digress for a moment, many Japanese Americans worked in administration alongside of civilian employees. The Japanese Americans got nineteen dollars a month. The civilian employees, Caucasians, got whatever the going, the going rate for that particular job was, which was a hell of a lot more than nineteen dollars a month. The notion was always that Caucasian administrators knew what was good for Japanese much more than Japanese, than Japanese people could possibly do so. That's very important. So there's no way that that can be good. There was a kind of benevolence but it's the benevolence of certain kinds of charity, and there had to be tensions between the prisoners. The WRA liked to call them "impounded people," somehow that's better, and keepers and jailers. But there were varieties. There were those who did it better and those who did it worse.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RD: Of course, the question has been asked why German Americans and Italian Americans were treated differently. And of course, the major answer is that they were white people, and the authorities thought that they could judge white people, tell the loyal from the disloyal. And of course, some German and Italian nationals were interned. But in San Francisco, for example, if you had locked up naturalized, unnaturalized Italian nationals, you'd have put Joe DiMaggio's mother and father in a concentration camp, and Joe DiMaggio, of course perhaps the most famous baseball player of his time, was a national hero. You don't put the parents of a national hero in a concentration camp. In addition, of course, there were large German and Italian American voting blocs. There were Congressmen to speak up for them. Fiorello La Guardia, for example. Finally, of course, I think that we had improved from World War I, we understood that what was going on in Nazi Germany was not the deeds of Germans, but the deeds of bad Germans. And we recognized that there were a difference between good Germans and bad Germans. We did not do so for Japan. The deeds of Nazis were viewed as the deeds of evil men. What happened in the Pacific was viewed as the product of an evil race. And if you look at the wartime movies that still pollute our television screens, you can get an idea of the same thing. There's no such thing as a sympathetic Japanese individual in most of those films. And most of the films that deal with Germany even deal with the German army or the German submarine, you know, there's the Nazi and the good people. You don't get that distinction with Japanese. So it's clearly racial and the basis, and anybody who fails to understand that the basic root cause of the relocation was racism, doesn't understand anything about it at all.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

Q: Can we move over to the 442? Were they in a way martyrs or sacrificial lambs for the Japanese people?

RD: Many of the men of the 442, certainly not all, but many of the men of the 442 enlisted with a notion that perhaps their service would make it possible for their parents, their wives, their children, their siblings to maintain a normal life after the war. There's one letter I have in a collection from a young man who was killed in Anzio or somewhere around there, written from Camp Shelby in Mississippi which says very simply, "I don't like what I have to do here, but this is the only way that I can see that my folks will be able to return to Berkeley after the war." There certainly is a sacrificial element in it because big hunks of American troops in the Second World War were not in combat arms. But any Japanese person who went into the army, if they weren't in the Military Intelligence unit, went into the l00th Battalion or the 442nd later and that was all combat. So that the chances of an individual Japanese American soldier being killed or wounded were much, much higher than for the average individual. Because all of them who went into the service went into combat units. That was certainly not true for the rest of the American population, there was Quartermaster, there was a large establishment here in the United States, etcetera.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RD: It's not too clear, you know, just how the community viewed the draft resisters, or for that matter, earlier, the people like Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui who posed challenges to the government operations. I suspect that most of those who knew about it, and I think that the Yasui case was much better publicized at first than the Hirabayashi case, tended to feel that they were bringing discredit and calling attention to themselves and were behaving in a, in an unseemly manner. I'm sure also that there were a minority of Nisei college students, etcetera, who felt that Gordon and Min were doing exactly the right thing and were doing things that many of them had at least considered doing, but the pressures not to call attention to oneself were very strong. Family, friends, parents would all counsel against it. There certainly must have been the fear in the back of the mind that, "If I do this, maybe there will be retaliations to my family," because after all, if a whole people were being put in relocation centers just for doing nothing, what might happen to the family and friends of those who did otherwise? Gordon, I think, has told me that a couple of this friends might have protested with him, except that they were the only, the only child or the only son in the family and the whole family was going off. How could they abandon their family? Gordon had had brothers who could fill that role for him. I don't know what Yasui's situation was, so it's very problematic. Later toward the end of the war, a different kind of view ensues. And just as the JACL at one time denigrated not only protests, but the protestants toward the end of the war, they're filing amicus curiae briefs and giving favorable publicity to the very, very same people. But in those crucial days of 1942, dissent of any kind was a very, very lonely proposition, and I would have to guess that the overwhelming majority of the population, Japanese American population, who knew about the dissenters, disapproved of them.


Q: How did people get to camp?

RD: Well, they were just told to go and they went. The army divided a whole area to be evacuated into a hundred and eight districts. District of an unequal size, but with roughly a thousand, little more or less, Japanese Americans within each district. The first was at Bainbridge Island, Washington, and then up and down the coast it went. And they didn't want everybody coming at once. They didn't have facilities for them and they didn't want them all arriving. But you got notice three, four, a week, three or four days, a week ahead of time. Notices were placed on telephone poles, you were asked the community newspapers to report at such and such a time to such and such an assembly center. You could bring with you what you could carry, you were responsible for bringing your own bedding and your own eating utensils. I mean, the government even furnishes those to prisoners, but not in this case. Japanese Americans had to bring their own. And then you were allowed, not allowed, you were loaded on buses, or trucks, in one or two cases, trains, and taken to the assembly center. The movement from assembly centers, once they had everybody incarcerated, on to the particular relocation camp, those were almost all train movements, and in larger increments.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

Q: Can you tell us about the two viewpoints in the military regarding the evacuation?

RD: At the very top, General Marshall and his subordinates and the tasks assigned to General Mark Clark, decided that it was not rational to lock up the West Coast Japanese Americans. After all, more than sixty days had passed since Pearl Harbor, there'd been no sabotage. They assumed that if there were sabotage, they would then deal with that, but it was simply a question of scarce resources and that it just did not seem to them to be worthwhile. Before this report could be transmitted to the civilian heads of the army, Stimson, on the urging of his deputy, John J. McCloy, under Karl Bendetsen, and of General Gullion, went directly to the President of the United States, apparently without consulting General Marshall, and got Roosevelt to issue, to approve the issuance of Executive Order 9066. And once that was issued on the 19th of February, the work of the general staff was moot. And Marshall, a good soldier, did what a soldier's supposed to do. He obeyed his civilian superiors and did not raise another issue. The irony of all of this is that on the West Coast, which was not a combat zone, one submarine showed up and fired a few shells, some bombs were dropped, Japanese Americans were considered a danger and were put into concentration camps based on a fictitious military necessity, it was really political necessity. In the Hawaiian islands, where Japanese were a third of the population, which actually had been a theatre of war, almost the entire Japanese American population was left at liberty, simply because among other things, you can't lock up one-third of the population without doing terrible things to the civilian labor force, to available resources, etcetera. It was just not a rational thing to do.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

Q: Why has it taken forty years for the Japanese Americans to bring this up about redress?

RD: Forty years, of course, is a long time for individuals, but historically speaking, forty years isn't a very long time at all. And although one doesn't want to just hand out bouquets, I think that we do have to remember that there are very few governments that would, after forty years, or even after four hundred years, would willingly reexamine and at least consider making formal apology for actions. Forty years is just about the length of time that it takes to get perspective on certain kinds of events. In addition, I think this was a very traumatic event for the Japanese American population, particularly for the Nisei. And that for large numbers of them, they just didn't want to hear any more about it. They wanted to close it up, to not talk about it and certainly as late as the early '60s, it was very difficult to get people to talk. Not everybody, but most people didn't want to talk. Community activists in the early '60s, people like Edison Uno, who tried to make some of these things fly, just got absolutely nowhere for a while. Then things began to change Within the community people were willing, for instance, as they had not been willing after the war, to try for a pardon for Iva Toguri, the so-called Tokyo Rose. I think that was an important kind of milestone. This was something that the community scapegoated her a lot when her trial came up after the war, but by the early '70s, large numbers of people in the community are willing to do this. Then of course, the whole movement for redress came and I also think that although you can' t make an equation out of this, but the Sansei generation, or some of them, by their probing, by their questioning, by their sometimes less than sympathetic asking, "Well, why didn't you resist? Why didn't you do more?" forced their parents, or some of them, to come to grips with these questions and to begin to do something about them. In addition, of course, the community felt a lot safer. It was established, it had political clout to a degree. There were, after all, in 1980, for example, when redress went through, 3 percent of the United States Senate was Japanese American. There were, there were three votes there; there were others in the House. This was, this was important. They'd achieved certain economic and social status. They could feel that they were, they had arrived. They were hailed as a "model minority," whatever that meant. This was the kind of self-confidence necessary, but to have tried to start this in the '50s or the early '60s as some people did, was bound to frustration, it wasn't ready. I'm not at all sure that the government or the Caucasian population would have been ready to consider it either. From some of the letters we've seen and the Letters to the Editor column, we know that there are still some people who identify Japanese Americans and Pearl Harbor as if they were one and the same. But I think that's very definitely a minority view today. I certainly hope so. But I know it seems like a long time, especially to someone like you who hasn't even seen forty years, but historically speaking, forty years is not that long to have some kind of perspective.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

Q: Can you talk about the reopening of the coram nobis cases?

RD: Well, I think that the attempts to get a reversal of the Supreme Court decisions in Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu is an interesting and ingenious attempt and one certainly that ought to be made. I'm not particularly sure that it's going to be successful; I'm not at all sure that this is the Supreme Court that would take a step like that. In addition, I think that it is primarily a political process that I would much rather see Congress do it. On the other hand, I think it's perfectly respectable and proper procedure and I certainly wish the litigants and their attorneys well.


Q: Roger, what do these cases mean to Japanese Americans?

RD: Well, I think for many Japanese Americans, these cases will mean that there is another attempt underfoot to have their incarceration declared wrong and it's, I think, another way to stress what President Ford said in his 1976 proclamation that, you know, "We all know now," Ford said, "what we should have known then." Japanese Americans were and are loyal Americans, and I think that many will see this, particularly if the cases are successful. Many will see this as another reaffirmation of loyalty, and it will be another form, I guess, you could call the psychic redress, if this were to happen and the compensation aspects of redress not go through, then at least you could say this would be a form of psychic redress. I'm sure for the individuals concerned, it has a much more deeper meaning.

Q: What's been the reaction of McCloy and Bendetsen to these new efforts, to the redress movement, to new interest in the time?

RD: Well, certainly, McCloy and Bendetsen, the surviving architects of the relocation, view all of these things as an attempt to besmirch their own patriotism, their own devotion. McCloy called the commission redress hearing an outrage, and I'm sure that he finds the coram nobis suits an outrage. I'm sure he will find what I say an outrage. The fact is that an outrageous thing was done to a people for no good reason. And we like to say in this country --I'm not sure as a historian it's always true -- but we like to say in this country that democracy corrects its own mistakes. In this case, it's taken more than forty years, but at least it now seems that a corrective process is underfoot. That certainly is all to the good. It would have been better had it been sooner; it would have been better had there been nothing to correct; but at least it is something.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

Q: Can it happen again?

RD: Can it happen again? That's a... that's certainly a good question, and there's no way that anyone can answer a question like that for sure. But think if we remember back just a few years to the Iranian crisis situation, the Iranian hostage situation, when the government seemed on the verge of doing god knows what to Iranian students or other persons of Iranian nationality in the United States, although they didn't really talk about interfering with citizens, I think certainly, it could happen again. In an emotional situation, in a situation in which the United States were to suffer some kind of large-scale trauma, reversal, the instinct to take it out on someone, the tendency toward xenophobia, the fear of the foreign, which seems to have been at least one small part of our heritage from the time of the Puritans on, that theme might again restate itself. One certainly hopes not. One certainly observes that we got through our difficulties with China, during the Korean War, without a large scale internment of the Chinese American population. Certainly we now seem to recognize that there are "good Asians" and "bad Asians," obviously in quotation marks. That we have allies and enemies in all parts of the world, and that more and more, I think, we are concerned in this country with ideology more than race and ethnicity so that I would certainly say that the chances of it happening again, at least on racial or ethnic grounds, are much less than in the 1940s, but I certainly would not suggest for a moment that it was impossible.


RD: The postwar recovery of the Japanese American people is certainly an amazing phenomenon which if it hadn't happened, no one would have predicted. I think we ought to tick off some of the things that made it different. First of all, by the time the Japanese come back to the West Coast, there are other groups who have come to the coast, blacks and Chicanos, who the public feels very, very ambivalent, to say the least, about. In addition, in 1959, the admission of Hawaii to the Union, which brought Asian American congressmen and senators to Washington, our postwar romance for a while, at least, with Japan, the greater cosmopolitanism in the United States, the remarkable social cohesion of the Nisei in their recovery, the fact that Japanese Americans, as a group, have attained higher social and economic status than the general population, are all hallmarks of what we could call Japanese American, Japanese American success. We do have to remember, however, that it was a success for which a great price was paid and... it was a success marked by limitations. Limitations that were both self-imposed and imposed from the outside.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.