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-06-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

Q: Gordon, how did you feel, or what went through your mind, I guess, when you heard about the Executive Order 9066.

GH: The Executive Order 9066 was issued on February 19, 1942. But I was in the midst of school, and so I read about it later. And looked at it as one more restriction that was coming along. Nothing of the kind of reaction that I had later, as I realized what was implied with that. And subsequently to Executive Order 9066, Congress passed legislation with federal penalties.

Q: Well, can we go out a little further? When you did realize the implication of the order, then how did you feel?

GH: Well, I think, I think if I describe my response to curfew, and subsequently through the exclusion order, it probably gives the personal aspects to it. I don't recall entering in any debate or discussion, extended discussion about this with either Japanese students or the other American students. And when shortly after that the curfew orders were imposed, which included all "enemy aliens," German, Italian and Japanese aliens, plus other persons of Japanese ancestry, that's me. And it's interesting, I never was included as a citizen. That is, they didn't say "citizens of Japanese ancestry are also included," they always referred to me as a "non-alien." If you look at the definition of "alien" as being a "non-citizen," a "non-alien" is a kind of a double negative. And they used that euphemism throughout the war. I, like any other normal American, trained to obey laws that were issued by the government or in the name of the government, I complied with the curfew. And I lived in a small dormitory right next to the campus, University of Washington, YMCA dormitory. This was partly international students from the Philippines, from Canada and so on, along with the out-of-town American students, and I was one of about twelve, thirteen people who lived there. So it was a small, very closely-knit group. And when we went out to the library or to the coffee shop on the Avenue, everybody acted as my volunteer timekeeper and they'd say, "Hey, it's five minutes to eight, Gordon." And I'd gather up my stuff and dash home. Usually the others stayed on, if it's the library or coffee shop, whatever they were doing.


Q: You were mentioning you had been out with some of your friends and you realized you had to come home, and tell me how you felt when you had to come home early.

GH: Well, I guess it wasn't only happening that night, but the differences were really mounting. Because I happened to be the only Japanese at the time living in that dormitory, and so whatever I had to do as a result of the order, which identified me to be subject to the order simply on the grounds of my ancestry. Otherwise, I was the same as the others in the dormitory, and I'd have to dash home. Until that time, the, obeying the order and not getting late and so on was the primary concern. But finally, towards the end of the week, it dawned on me, why I should be dashing back and my friends not? And that if I'm an American, what am I doing this for? And so I said, "Well, if I'm an American, I'm gonna act like one," and I turned around and went back. The... that was the first deliberate open stance I took. Until then, I'd been going with it. You know, not liking it, but going along with it. And I think if I were living in the Japanese Students Club half a block away, they had during the day maybe 150 people congregating around there. But at night, there were about forty living there. I'm sure they, ten minutes or so to eight o'clock would all be coming home, bitching and so on, but coming home. And all of 'em were coming home, so nobody would be standing out like a sore thumb like I was. So I don't know if this feeling would have hit me in the way in which it hit me if I were living at the student club.

Q: Can you explain further how the executive order affected the Japanese American community at large, how they were all reacting to it?

GH: Well, I can only give you just kind of a fringe view because I wasn't down there. I was in the University District, which is away from there. But I know it was restricting, because stores had to close, they had to be in their homes by 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. And then movements from home, technically you had to have a permit if you travelled more than five miles.

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