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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

FC: Were you aware when you became president that there was a Japanese American resistance in the camps?

CU: No, I had no idea; absolutely none. I didn't know anything about it. See, one of the reasons why I left the West Coast back in 1936 was because I felt that America could not be the way I saw the West Coast, so anti-Asian. All my friends were telling me, "If you really want to live here and succeed, accept what, accept the fact that you are sort of a second-class citizen. Accept the fact that this is how it's going to be, so unless you accept it, you can't fight it." And I felt that that couldn't be true. Only way for me to find out was to get away from West Coast, I had to get away, so I went to Wisconsin. That's why I left the West Coast. And for that reason, my going to Wisconsin was to really sort of flee from the West Coast, that's what it was, to see if America was really what I saw on the West Coast or if it was completely different.

FC: How did you learn about the Japanese American resistance?

CU: I learned about that... gosh, when was that? I can't remember, but when I started hearing about that there were resisters, first I couldn't, I didn't quite believe it. Then I think it was possibly some of the things that you had written, that you had spoken, and when I heard about it, it just blew my mind. And it so happened that here in northern California, there were quite a few resisters, former resisters here, and mainly because so many had gone to Heart Mountain, because everything below Mountain View down to San Jose, most of them went to Heart Mountain, so they were back to this area. And when I heard that -- so I thought that I would want to get to know some of them, and that's when I got, got in touch, got in touch with persons like Mits Koshiyama and...

FC: Dave Kawamoto?

CU: Yeah, Dave Kawamoto and also George Nozawa and that group. That was first time I ever heard about it, and the more I talked to them, the more I heard about it, I felt that these were unusual persons, because I think it's always -- wherever I went, I heard that some of the most violent type of criticism of the resisters were always from the veterans. But veterans were... I think they were so completely, it did not take that much courage to really become a draftee. In fact, most Americans during the wartime were much more devastated if they were not chosen as a draftee, if they were rejected they felt terrible, they all wanted to be in there. It didn't take that much courage. But to say, "no," at that time took a lot of courage and also you were not popular and that was not an easy thing to do. And also since then I've been thinking about it, and I thought, isn't it sort of strange that every single resister that I've met were not really a highly educated individual? That is, they were not college grads, most of them were just high school graduates. And I kept on asking myself, "Why is this?" And I never found out. To this day, I don't have the answer except I have sort of a suspicion. It may not be correct, but I felt that these people were mostly farmers, very few from the city. And I thought well, maybe, because if you're a farmer, your attachment to the land is much stronger than if you were renting a house. So being taken away from your land possibly had much more impact, emotional impact on you than just being taken away from a rented house. I wondered at that, and secondly I thought that... this I got from, some idea from Noam Chomsky, when he mentioned, he said people who are well-educated are much more subject to being affected by the propaganda, because they read more. They read a lot more so they, you have more chance of being affected by the propaganda and then you become part of the group that is doing the propaganda; that is, you support that, you become part of the institution itself. I thought, "Well, maybe that's true because many of the JACL leaders were all college grads, and they read a great deal, they heard a great deal, and possibly they believed it, too, because of that. But these other people were from the farms, from the land, they had just, their gut feeling was that thing was wrong, it was not right, and they acted on it, which I think was the correct thing to do.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.