Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Clifford Uyeda Interview
Narrator: Clifford Uyeda
Interviewers: Frank Chin (primary); Frank Abe (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: May 5, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-uclifford-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

FC: Mike Masaoka. What is he to the JACL and Japanese America and what is he in your opinion?

CU: You know, Mike was a person with a very strong personality. And I think because he was brought up not in, not on the West Coast but in Utah, possibly that made him a little easier to behave or act the way he did. Because the typical Nisei on the West Coast were too reserved, too concerned about openly expressing anything, Mike was very good at it. And because he could speak well, because he was a good debater, and I think all these came in together so that he was able to take over the leadership. I'm sure that many Nisei felt that, well, here's someone that could really articulate, so therefore let him do it. And I think he wanted, he liked the idea, so he just took over.

FC: What did he do?

CU: Well, I think Mike in many, many ways, I think... well, what do you mean by what did he do?

FC: Let's look at, he says... did it surprise you when you found out, when you found out in Bulletin 142, re: test cases, the national board of the JACL stands unalterably opposed to all test cases challenging the Constitution...

CU: You know, I didn't come up, I didn't see that statement until quite late, after I came back to the West Coast, but I was surprised. Obviously I was very surprised that he would come up with that statement. But that type of statement immediately categorizes him as being someone who is completely pro-government, no matter what the circumstances. He would do anything to satisfy the government, because to say that he is, that the JACL would be opposed to any test cases, that would, seems so completely unbelievable from the average person's standpoint, instead of saying that you should support them and at least look at it. They had a real good case, but instead of trying to help them to say right away that we were not even interested in helping you, I think that type of a feeling was very difficult to accept. When I saw that, I was really surprised. But then I started to begin to understand why the JACL behaved the way it did during the wartime.

FC: Why?

CU: What do you mean, why?

FC: You said you'd begun to understand really why they behaved...

CU: Oh. Oh, because I think the Japanese Americans sort of entrusted their leadership to Mike Masaoka, and that meant, just like being the President of the United States, if somebody is the president, many people say, "Well, the president is for it so I'm going to go along with it." I think most Japanese Americans did that, because if the JACL as a leader of the Japanese American community felt one way, they just went along with it, whether they liked it or not.

FC: Did you ever meet Mike in person?

CU: Yes.

FC: What was your impression of him?

CU: Well, he is... my personal impression is that he, he is articulate. If he has a point of view, you're not going to change it. You know that he's not going to change it, it's almost no use arguing about it. You get that sense right away when he says anything. He says anything in a very definite way, as if he is the final authority. So like when he said, "Don't publish this," I thought, at first it surprised me. Here is the former Mr. JACL saying, "Don't publish this article on the Holocaust people because that would antagonize all the Jewish congressmen." I thought he would, he would know, because after all, he's in Washington. But thinking it over for a couple weeks, no, I thought, "That's his opinion. I could do whatever I want with it." And when I did, then he comes over couple months later and said, "That was good." So then I realized that actually, it depends on how you listen to him. If you accept everything he says as authority and as a final word, then you go along with it. If you start questioning him, then there is a lot to question. In fact, at one point, I remember... this was on the resisters. I think it was on one of the resolution, and he wrote to me saying that, "If you go along with this, if you went along, if you follow through with this, we will lose our redress." But no, that, turns out that, that's what he said, but that wasn't true. So, I mean, he says a lot of things, but I suppose if one is intimidated by him, then you will do as he says. But if you are willing to think on your own, then you don't have to follow him. I'm sure there are a lot of people who felt that way.

FC: Was his style, was his manner intimidating in itself?

CU: His style was very authoritative, yeah, very much so.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.