Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Minoru Yasui Interview
Narrator: Minoru Yasui
Location: Hood River, Oregon
Date: October 23, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-yminoru-01-0005

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Q: Again, what thoughts went through your mind after Pearl Harbor? Did you have, did you have any idea of anything like this?

MY: Well, when you're talking about Pearl Harbor, we're talking about December 7th. I was then in Chicago and my immediate reaction, of course, as an American citizen, I certainly wanted to get into the war as a member of the armed forces of the United States. I held a commission in the United Stated Army, and therefore felt that it's only logical that the commission should be called up and I would be in the armed forces of the United States. This did not happen. But when you ask what are the specific thoughts, it's a little bit hard to recollect specifically on specific times.

Q: What were you thinking of when you decided to violate the curfew?

MY: Well, this was not a sudden decision. As I've mentioned, all kinds of rumors and all kinds of conditions prevailed up and down the West Coast. As a consequence, I did discuss this with the various attorneys who were prominent in constitutional law. I did discuss it with member of the FBI, particularly those who went to law school with me, and I did it deliberately after having consulted with many of the other Japanese Americans. What we were looking for, really, was an ideal case. A young ex-GI who had been honorably discharged, married with a couple of kids, because we wanted to create sympathy. But at that time, knowing the uncertainties, I could scarcely blame anyone for refusing to go ahead and deliberately violate the law. And it seemed to me that someone had to do it, and the ultimate choice became, since nobody else would do it, I did.

Q: How did you get arrested?

MY: Well, that's a long story. But actually, I was on my office on the 28th day of March, which is a Saturday evening. Waited 'til 8 o'clock, Rei Shimojima was my secretary, had her call -- incidentally, Chiye Tomihiro was there at the Foster Hotel. And we had Rei call the police, the FBI, to notify them that there was a Japanese person in violation of curfew walking up and down Third Avenue. And I've told this story many a time, but I walked and walked from eight o'clock, and the record will show that I was not actually arrested until 11:20 p.m. I walked for over three hours, and during that period, I got tired of walking up and down Third Avenue. So I did approach a police officer, and being a smart aleck and being an attorney, I pulled out the proclamation pointing out that it was in violation of a military proclamation, I had my birth certificate with me, and I proved that I was a person of Japanese ancestry. Asked the officer to arrest me, and the officer says, "Look, you'll get in trouble. Go on, run along home." And that certainly didn't serve my purposes, so I went down to the Second Avenue police station and talked to the sergeant and explain what I wanted done. And the sergeant obliged me and he threw me into the drunk tank. So that's how the case began at 11:20 p.m., 28th day of March, 1942.

Q: What was your family's reaction to your arrest?

MY: The thing, of course, my father had been interned and sent off from Multnomah County Jail. Best we knew, he was in Missoula, Montana. I knew my mother would be worried, so when I was bailed out on Monday, I did call my mother. And I told her, "Shimpai shiteru deshou?" "You're worried, aren't you?" And my mother's response was, "Shimpai dokoro ka. Susumeruzo." "Worry? Nonsense. I will encourage you." Which I thought was quite remarkable, considering the fact that she was in Hood River with a son and a daughter, fourteen and twelve years old at the time. So the response of the family was excellent. I know my older brother and my younger brothers all supported me in this effort.

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