Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Date: October 25, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-06-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

Q: Why did you decide after all these years to reopen your case?

GH: Well, it was an opportunity that we'd been waiting for. I'd never given up that someday we may have a reversal, 'cause it felt so diabolically wrong. And the off-discussions I've had with constitutional law professors, they would all say that, "That's a black mark in our record." But I didn't know exactly how, or under what circumstances, a review could come. So when Peter Irons came over and told us that there is evidence of suppression of information from the courts, and that's grounds for a special kind of petition for rehearing, coram nobis, that's all I needed to hear. I was ready to go.

Q: When you learned about the suppression of evidence, how did this new information strike you? How did you feel about it?

GH: Well, I was glad that we had evidence for that, because I always felt that it was suppressed, the evidence of information by the government from the Supreme Court justices.

Q: What do you think this case, the cases now mean to Japanese Americans generally?

GH: I think it, I think the Japanese Americans, the implication of this case to Japanese Americans in general are supportive, would be the supportive aspect of having been victimized and finding legal grounds now to petition for redress or whatever. I think this is another dimension of the kinds of findings that the Commission found in declaring that military necessity was not a factor.

Q: The government was talking about possibly offering -- would you accept a pardon?

GH: The government has thrown out a feeler as to whether we would accept a pardon or not. I'm glad to say that the other two petitioners, along with myself, absolutely threw that out. "Pardon" means "you're guilty but we'll forgive you," and I see absolutely no reason for accepting that position.

Q: Could you say more about that?

GH: Well, if it's a pardon, we didn't need to even open a petition for a rehearing. We've gone through this thing in court cases, and I've served my sentence. It's not worth our having volunteer legal support from the young lawyers, raising money for all kinds of legal expenses and so on just to get that. I don't see any reason for accepting pardon on that ground. And secondly, the vital aspect of the wrongdoing by the government, your own government, in the process of justice in our courts would engage in a kind of a Watergate. I think that's, that's inexcusable, and I hope the government will recognize that, and not just to try to win this case by any device, but have some interest in the foundational establishment of justice in this country.


Q: Gordon, can you summarize why, why you decided to do what you did?

GH: In the coram nobis case, when the opportunity for filing a petition --

Q: I mean originally, I'm sorry.

GH: Oh, way back in World War II? Like everyone else, in 1942, we were, we were expecting something to happen to our parents because of the technicality of being "enemy aliens." But we, we expected that we would be on hand as citizens to look after their affairs and so on, and continue like the rest of America. But when the chips were down, it was, in terms of exclusion order, the alien, "enemy alien" German and Italian people were not included, but all persons of Japanese ancestry, including citizens were included, albeit called "non-aliens."

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