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

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

FC: Where were you and what year did you join the JACL?

CU: I joined the JACL, I think it was in, either in the latter part of 1950s or early 1960s when the JACL started the, what is called the Issei History Project. That's when I became interested.

FC: What, what kind of group was the JACL? What was your impression of what the JACL did?

CU: I really didn't know too much about JACL because I, I was living mostly in the Midwest and out East, and I came to California for the first time in 1953, so I did not know anything about JACL. In fact, the people in this area asked me to join JACL and I didn't know what it was all about. For a long time I said no, primarily because I didn't know anything about it, and also because in back of my mind was something very disturbing, and that was I felt that the JACL during wartime did not act as a representative of the Japanese American community to the government, but instead was more an agent of the government in the Japanese American community. That's how I looked at JACL. And for that reason I wasn't that anxious to join JACL.

FC: Are you saying that they were acting as an agent of the government and not representing Japanese American Nikkeis? Are you saying that they -- and I might be putting words in your mouth -- that they did not defend Japanese American civil rights?

HH: Well, JACL has never had civil rights as their initial goal, I don't think so. I think the JACL, the way I understood was that it was formed for the welfare of the Japanese American citizens and that, that only. I don't think they were civil rights-oriented, not until much, much later, into the '60s, I think.

FC: The issues that confronted Japanese American citizens were citizens' rights and civil rights.

CU: Oh, yes it was, right. But what disturbed me was that I felt that the JACL was so anxious to satisfy the majority or the government that they would do anything, say anything just so the government would pat them on the back. And they wanted to be the representative of the government within the Japanese American community, that is, when the government issued any orders or requests, the JACL would immediately tell the, its people to follow the order in that way, but they never questioned the government. Maybe there was, I'm sure there were a lot of people who questioned some of the orders that the government made, but the idea was not to oppose it, to go along with the government because the JACL went along with it. And that attitude somehow did not quite satisfy me as an organization that should represent us, and for that reason I wasn't that anxious to join JACL.

FC: So when you did join, you joined, what at the JACL changed?

CU: Well, I really, I think the JACL has done some positive things for the Japanese Americans, in that the Japanese Americans were pretty well-organized and they had a voice, and also because when I came to San Francisco, I started to get to know many more Chinese Americans. And to my surprise, they were saying, "No, the Japanese Americans are pretty well-organized. They have a JACL, and at least they have a voice to the government, within the government." But he said, "We really don't have anybody speaking for us in the government, but the Japanese Americans do." That sort of made me think that, well, maybe they do some positive things for the Japanese Americans. But again, my real interest, as I said, was because the JACL started the Issei History Project, that's when I became interested. Because it was primarily to interview the Isseis to get their history documented.

FC: What is an Issei?

CU: The immigrant Japanese who came from Japan to the United States.

FC: Give us a couple of lines explaining what Issei, Nisei, and Sansei are.

CU: Well, Issei were the immigrant Japanese, Issei means "first generation." But it's very interesting because the Japanese consider the, when they say "Issei," well, the first generation, they mean the immigrant generation, which were not the first-generation Americans. The second generation, Nisei, which we are, are, are the first, really, generation Americans. So there is some confusion when the outsiders hear about it.

FC: Sansei.

CU: And Sansei are the children of Niseis, so they are the second, really, the second generation Americans of Japanese ancestry, although they're called the third generation because they include the immigrant Japanese as the first generation.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FC: Why did, why did you become president of JACL?

CU: That was purely by accident because I received a call from Ed Yamamoto, who was formerly from Seattle -- not Seattle, but Washington state, and he said, "Would you take, become a chairman of the National JACL Redress Committee?" And I said, "No." I said, "First of all, I was not even in camp. I know very little about the camp so I should not be the chair." And he called me, kept calling me over and over again, and he said, "The reason why I'm calling is because when we had the JACL national board meeting, and you had just completed" -- which was in 1977 -- "The Iva Toguri or the Tokyo Rose campaign." And that was, that took two years. And he said, "JACL considered redress as a priority item at the 1970 convention when Edison Uno brought up the subject." But he said, "Here it was, seven years has gone by and nothing has happened. So since at least you have some experience in running a national campaign, would you take over the redress campaign and see what you could do with it?" I still thought that I was not the one to be chair, because after all, I was not living on the West Coast throughout the war. Since 1936 until 1953, I was not on the West Coast, so I felt that I should not be the person. But then after he kept calling me over and over again, and I said to myself, "Well, at least one thing I think I could do is that I could nationalize the campaign and get it started and then somebody else could take over. So I accepted the position of a redress chair in 1977. And then the first thing I did was to send out questionnaires to find out, do the Niseis really want redress? And however, I did mention in my, a questionnaire that I sent, that, "Give me your real frank opinion: should we go for redress or should we not?" I said, "I will not use your name, so don't be afraid to write whatever you, that comes to your mind. I would only use your age and your sex, that's all."


CU: The answers I got was a complete surprise to me because so many of so-called leaders of the Japanese American community were not for redress, they were against it. And their reasoning was exactly what Hayakawa was to say later: that, "It is a shame to be asking for handouts from the government, that we should let the bygones be bygones, and we're doing pretty well now. We don't want to stir up any more animosity toward the Japanese Americans." So they said, "Forget about it." That was the... and it was, as I said, it came as such a surprise to me, and I felt that before we could really go for redress, first of all, we have to educate the Niseis more than, you can't expect the Americans to understand us if the Nisei really felt that way. So as redress chair... I had a weekly, very short, not a column, not even a column in --


FC: So the questionnaire was anonymous. You promised to honor their anonymity. You said the, some old-time leaders of the community... were these leaders of the JACL that were opposed to redress?

CU: Yes, I would say some were, very much of a leader, and they were completely opposed to it. And I was so surprised with this that I, I just, I wondered why I was even the committee chair. But I thought, well, then I thought what we need to do was to educate the Nisei more than the American public at the beginning, so I started the weekly column, short, very short column in the PC, thirty-five came out. It was every week for thirty-five until the following convention time, and I wrote thirty-four and Ray Okamura wrote one, so we had thirty-five articles in the PC saying why we should go for redress. And then we also decided at that time that before the convention, that we should do two things, a few other things. One was to come out with the booklet on why we think we should go for redress, and that was that little pamphlet that possibly you saw: "Japanese American Incarceration: the Case for Redress." We came up with that. And then we felt that we need to have, at the very beginning of the convention at Salt Lake City, which was the 1978 convention, that we'll have a workshop on redress to really have everything out so that we could talk about it. And at that convention, I also felt that for the first time in its history, thought it would be nice to have all the four Supreme Court cases, Nisei cases, people to be there. I asked Gordon Hirabayashi and he said, sure, he would be there. Min Yasui said he will be there, Fred Korematsu said no, he would not want to be there. Mitsuye Endo, I called her, and she said no, she didn't want to be there. So two of the four showed up at the convention. And we rehashed the reason why we thought redress should be taken. And also it was interesting because when we, we also had to write the redress proposal. But that was also done after the convention, when I became president. And when I, I became a president, mainly they thought I became president mainly to start the redress campaign, that was all, no other reason. I didn't have any experience in -- I remember being called aside by Bill Hosokawa later and he said, "Did you know," he said, "you're the first person ever elected to be a president, national president of the JACL who has not even held a position, official position in the chapter level?"

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FC: Who was Bill Hosokawa?

CU: Bill Hosokawa is, possibly he is a spokesperson for the JACL, and a journalist. He was in Denver, he was possibly one of the leaders of the JACL during the early period and later. And so my experience in JACL was almost minimal. I became a president only because of their desire to have someone to start the redress campaign. So after the workshop, that was, it was at that convention -- in fact, it was the very first convention that I ever attended, the national convention, that is, as a full-time. One time before, in 1934, two years before, I attended the Sacramento convention, but it was only to protest certain thing. The protest was because JACL national board had refused to take up the issue of honoring Iva Toguri and Wayne Collins, and they would not bring up the issue. Every time I asked them, "What happened to the board's decision?" they said, "Well, we didn't have time so we didn't bring it up." That went on for, for almost a year. And because of that, I finally picked up the phone and called Sugiyama, I think, who was the president at that time. And he said, "What, why don't you come over to the convention and bring it up?" So I went to the convention and brought it up, and within twenty minutes they said okay. So we can have Wayne Collins over there at the convention to accept any award for Iva Toguri, so we had Midwest regional director accept it for Iva, who also knew Iva, and another person to accept for Wayne Collins.

FC: What was Hosokawa's stand on redress?

CU: Well, I... well, I think he supported -- publicly, they all supported the redress because at the convention, we did pass a proposal that we worked on. The proposal we worked on was that $25,000 per individual and a large trust fund. As you know, one of the big things that split the JACL was whether the redress should be individual redress or as a trust fund. We felt, we felt that we should go for both. There should be, since it was individuals who suffered, individuals should get a redress, but at the same time, the community was also devastated, so we felt that there should be a community fund as well. So we went for both.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

FC: Did you have any personal talks with Mike Masaoka on redress and how that should be handled?

CU: Well, I did not talk to Mike Masaoka concerning redress until we started the program. I remember one time, it was in late 1978, that I was thinking about redress, and I said, "You know, actually, the Holocaust victims are getting redress from West Germany." So I called the, all the Jewish organizations in San Francisco but none of them knew what they were getting. So finally I called the Israeli consulate, and he said, "Why don't you call the German consulate? After all, they're ones that's paying, so you might get more information from them." So I called the German consulate, and they gave me some information, but they said, "There is a place in New York City that you could write to to get more information." So when I wrote there, they sent me a whole bunch of materials, telling us how much the Holocaust victims were getting. And I wrote a short article on it, and it so happened that Mike Masaoka was at the, was visiting San Francisco when I went to the national JACL headquarters, he was there, and mentioned that I'm planning to write this, publish this article in the PC as one of the redress informational thing. And he said, "No, don't do it, because," he said, "if you do that, you will alienate all the Jewish congressmen and you will lose. Don't put anything. After all, the Jewish Holocaust and ours was completely different." "Sure, it was different," I said, "it was completely different. However," I said, "there's several things that you have to think of. To begin with, both the Japanese Americans and the German Jews were sent into camp and they were surrounded by barbed wire and if they tried to leave, they would be shot at. And they weren't there because they have committed anything wrong, only reason why they were there was because of their race. And so in that way," I said, "there is some similarity. Yes, the American camp was not anything like the Jewish camp in Europe, but there were a lot of similarities." But he said that he would strongly advise against my writing anything about the Holocaust victims. So I held onto the materials for a couple of weeks. Then I said to myself, "Well, the heck with it, why shouldn't I?" So I sent it in to PC and it came out, and about two months later Mike happened to be again in San Francisco and he said, "You know, that was a pretty good article," he said. So I thought, well, that's interesting; first he would say no, but I'm sure that it was because you don't want at any time to ruffle the feather in any way. I think that was their policy and I also felt that the JACL had a similar policy.

And I remember at the convention, they said, "Since you became president, you have to now find someone to succeed you as the redress chair." And it thought, "Well, I'll be very diplomatic, I'll ask all the big shots in JACL." And they all, there were several strong criteria that they gave me: one, it has to be a Nisei. Second, it has to be somebody that was in camp; third, it has to be a 442 veteran. They thought that would have much more impact. And so I chose, first I wanted to ask this fellow from Seattle, Minoru... is it Matsuda, Masuda?

FC: Min Masuda.

CU: Min Masuda. I thought might be pretty good, but he said no, he wasn't, he didn't want to be. He said, "Choose someone else." So then I couldn't think of anyone so I chose John Tateishi. And John Tateishi, of course, is not a Nisei, he's a Sansei, he was only six years old when he was in camp, and he was not a 442 veteran. But I felt that John possibly had more commitment and eloquence than anyone else that I knew, so John became the redress chair.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

FC: What is your opinion of what the JACL, their policy, how they handled camp, evacuation?

CU: No, my... well, since it's only in hindsight because I was not involved in it. I was away from the West Coast, but my families were, they were in camp. The thing that bothered me was because I said, "Why aren't they protesting more?" You don't have to say, "I'll be glad to go into camp," to be cooperative with the government. You could protest all the way into camp and that would have been different. Sure, it's true that you cannot prevent your going into camp. After all, even the prisoners of war, they're taught to fight, but take the guns away from them, and once you're a POW, you'll do anything that the other side tells you to do, you'll go into any camp. And so that the Japanese Americans went into camp, they had no other choice, but to go into the camp as if to say, "This is our patriotic duty to go into camp," that really did not go well with me. I felt that they should have protested all the way into camp, and that would have been different. But they're willing to be, so willing to go into camp and telling the Americans, or the Japanese Americans that they should all obey the government, never to object to anything that the government says, that's, it's like some of the statement by the JACL against Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi was, in no way would they ever go against the government. That was a statement that I just could not accept. And for that reason -- that's what, I think, made me sort of wonder about JACL and I was not anxious to really join at the beginning.

FC: Did you see any contradiction between what the JACL did, the policy in '42 and your being redress president, the one who started the redress movement?

CU: No, I think possibly by that time, things have changed a little. I would give Edison Uno a lot of credit. Back in 1970 when he thought that we should go for redress when no one else thought so, and he got the JACL national council to really approve that concept. And since then, I think... however, they tried to follow that, but it was only a matter of policy and the concept to most JACLers, I think, that yes, we should go for redress, but they never made any move to go after it. You could always just say, "Yes," to it and I thought that was all. But there were some people who thought that they should go after it, but they felt that they just didn't know how to do it.

FC: What was the opinion, what was the mass of opinion that came back to you through the questionnaires?

CU: Well, a large number were very much against redress, as I said, mainly because -- just as you, we just mentioned a little while ago, that it was a disgrace to be asking for money from the government, that we should not be putting a price tag on freedom, we have come a long ways and we don't want to alienate any Americans, other Americans against us. So just keep it quiet, forget about it, that it ever happened, and that would be the best for us. That was the opinion of so many of the leaders. So, however, John Tateishi, I would have to say, was very good in telling the public that this is not really a money issue at all. This is purely, it's really a constitutional issue much more than a money issue. And I remember being in Fresno one time, and Fresno was very much, a large number of our members in Fresno were against redress because Fresno had many fairly well-to-do farmers. And to them, twenty thousand dollars meant nothing. The animosity they felt that it would create by asking for redress would be more harmful than the twenty thousand dollars that individuals may get, so they were not very much in favor. John Tateishi, I remember, spoke for almost an hour there. And after he spoke, I was right near John Tateishi when many of the old-timers came and said they changed their mind, that they would now support redress. So in that way, John was very effective.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 7>

FC: How did JACL treat the resisters? The resisters were... how did the JACL regard the resisters' stance, if they were resisting the draft in order to test the constitutionality of the evacuation?

CU: Well, I think, I think the JACL did not want anybody to resist the camp, mainly because they did not want anyone to resist the government. They felt that that was unpatriotic, so they considered the resisters as being unpatriotic, un-American, and they said so openly. And I think this really hurt me when I saw some of the statements, especially against the Heart Mountain resisters. The states, I could hear some of the statements that was being made against them, I thought, my gosh, how could an organization that is supposed to be -- of course, by 1960 they claimed to be a civil rights organization -- talk this way? At least you should appreciate the fact that there were some Japanese Americans -- I really felt strongly that, I was so glad when I heard that there were Japanese American resisters, because Japanese Americans, like any other ethnic group in the United States, no, we're, we're not all the same, we're diverse. There are people who agree with things and people who disagree. And yet, to take these people who did disagree and to call them names as if they were un-American, unpatriotic, that was a pretty cruel thing to do.

FC: Did this actually cost the resisters in the community? Did it cause, was it cause for some suffering?

CU: I think so. No, because, it was very interesting because many resisters still, in my mind, to this day, still do not feel comfortable with the rest of the Japanese Americans because they had resisted, they were the different people. And that is, in that way they are sort of ostracized. I think, just make, rather than to feel that, try to understand them, instead of trying to understand them, they called them names. Now, I heard some of the, a few things which I'm not quite sure because I don't have the documentation, but I heard that some of the resisters had a very difficult time after the war even when they had a job, because some of the veterans would find out where they were working, they would go to their boss and say, "Fire the guy," because that person had refused to serve his country during wartime. That type of thing really is hard to understand. But the veterans all seem to accept that, they felt that if you didn't serve your country, you were un-patriotic and therefore un-American. Anything, so you don't deserve anything here in America.

The other, I think the other thing which really bothers me a great deal is that when the veterans say that, "It was we who got the redress for the Japanese Americans; if it wasn't for the 442 and the MIS, there would be no redress," that really bothers me because redress was not for fighting so well in the army. If that was so, how about the other Americans who fought so well? They're not getting anything out of it. I think the redress was for the, for the incarceration, that's what it was for, and not for being a heroic soldier. And the people who were... that is, the resisters had never asked for apology from the veterans. That's a complete, mistaken notion that many of the veterans have, because many of the veterans say, "Why should we, we be apologizing to the resisters?" Well, the resisters have never asked for an apology from them. They said they really honored them, they looked up to the veterans, because that was their choice, to go into the army, and they fought well and they got the medals. But for the resisters, they had, they made their choice, too, but nobody gave them any credit for the choice that they made.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FC: You led, you led an effort to try to reconcile the resisters with the JACL and the community. Would you describe...?

CU: Well, at one time, what I did was I wrote, I felt that individuals, the resisters as individual cannot go to the JACL and say, ask for anything. It was for the JACL to really come out with a statement. Now, to me, the most ironic thing is that the JACL was asking our government to look back fifty years and they were saying that, "Yes, we thought that you, you thought that you were doing the right thing, but it turned out to be that you did the wrong thing. So why don't you acknowledge the fact that you did the wrong thing and apologize and pay redress?" The government did so. And yet the JACL to this day has refused to look back at its own history and say that, "Yes, we also made a mistake fifty years ago and we apologize for the mistake that we made, to our own people, that is." And so I remember one time, this was about three or four bienniums ago, I went to the Northern California District Council meeting with a resolution to, for the JACL to admit the mistake that they made against the resisters. And I handed it to all the candidates for president and I said, "Would you give me your comments on each one of those?" And that time, I thought it was very interesting; one Nisei who was running for presidency okayed it. It was a woman, she said, "I will support this if I ever become president." Another Nisei said, "I do not want to make that decision now. No decision." A Sansei who was running for president said, "I completely object to it." So here was one Nisei for it, one Nisei not making decision, and the Sansei was completely against it. I thought that was interesting.


FC: What have you done to try to get the JACL and the, to reconcile with the resisters?

CU: Well, I thought easiest way was still... you had to do it officially, I felt that the official statement from the JACL national convention would be the most appropriate thing to do, because they speak for the entire JACL. If you have just the chapters, that's only one-one hundredth and fifteenth or so. So I wanted the national council to do it. But so far, the national council has not done it and they do not intend to do it, as I see it. I still feel very strongly that JACL must eventually, and will eventually, acknowledge the wrong that they have done towards the resisters. [Interruption] I still believe strongly that the JACL must acknowledge the wrong that they have committed against the resisters, and apologize for it. I think it will come eventually, I don't know when.

FC: How will the community benefit?

CU: The community would benefit because, to begin with, they realize that the JACL is not just living in the past. It has to live in the present, also it doesn't turn its back against a group of its own people. You have to try to understand them, and yet, to me, it's most unlikely because, unusual because when our own national government has acknowledged its error and its mistake and apologized, and yet the JACL as a small organization cannot even do the same to its own people, I find this very surprising to me. I just can't understand, quite understand why this is happening.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FC: Earlier on you said you were surprised to learn that Japanese Americans had resisted, and that it was good news to you.

CU: Well, it was good news to me because, well, when I came to the West Coast, I thought I had made a mistake in coming back because I left the West Coast because of the feelings, at least the thinking about, of the Japanese American was that, "Yes, accept your fate, accept this position that you're thrown into. This is the way America is." And so I left the West Coast, and when I came back I thought, "By now, after all, we had all gone through the Second World War, Japanese American soldiers had fought well, that possibly we'll be accepted and that Nisei would no longer have that same feeling, that they don't feel that way anymore." But when I came back, I felt -- I may be wrong -- but I felt among the Nisei that I met, that they still had a similar feeling, that they still felt that, you know, we're different, we're different in that we have to accept the fact that you are being treated differently, as if to say that, "Yes, we accept our second-class citizenship status." And I thought that, "Well, if this is what it is still after twenty years that I was away, more than twenty years, that maybe I did make a mistake coming back to the West Coast." But when I heard about the resisters, then I thought that no, I didn't make a mistake, it was good that I came back and learned about them, because I don't think I would have learned about them if I had lived elsewhere.

FC: So you, would you agree then that the general feeling in America was that the Japanese Americans had accepted the camps without protest or resistance?

CU: Well, at least... well, I would say that its leaders had accepted the camp, and possibly individuals did not. I think the individuals and the leaders were not in sync, they were not feeling the same way. I think this is why there was so much protest within the camp itself, and within the -- JACL's name was not very popular during the wartime, and at first I didn't know why, but I think I certainly understand now why that happened. And when I read some of the statements, especially when I -- what surprised me most was the statements being written by people who were at Manzanar, since they were strong JACL supporters, when the Manzanar problem came up, they were taken away from the camp apparently and put into a separate area for what the government called their protection. And there was, and the letters that I read were so ingratiating and so thankful to the government for taking them outside the camp, and they brought them to the local restaurants to eat, and for bringing them to see some movies, and they were such wonderful people they said, and this, it was almost sickening to read it.

FC: Why did they have to be taken out of Manzanar?

CU: For, because the people in Manzanar, they thought that they would be, they were threatened, apparently, with physical harm, because they were part of, they were the JACL leaders at Manzanar. But when I read some of this, I thought, well, this is typical. If the Nisei is going to start feeling this way and behaving this way, that is, after being incarcerated, just so they, for your protection, so they take you out for dinner and bring you to a movie, and all of a sudden you're so grateful and happy that they're doing this, that the government is doing to you, that, it's so, it's almost sickening type of a feeling. When I saw this, I said, my gosh, this is so much like what some of the Niseis were saying before the war, that is, if you want to be a good American, do exactly as we tell you to do, that is, accept everything.

FC: It sounds like the JACL leaders in Manzanar were moved outside of Manzanar to be protected from...

CU: Apparently their own people, yeah. Apparently this happened.

FC: So this means their own people don't accept JACL as their leaders, or despised them?

CU: Well, I think within the camp -- again, I can't tell you because I was not in camp -- but I'm sure that within the camp there was a strong anti-JACL feelings, because they felt that the JACL did not fight for them. And their feelings since, as an individual they could not say anything, JACL was accepted as a organization that was supposed to represent them. And yet they were not representing them. So I'm sure that there were many people who were angry. And I think possibly even the, as you know, the volunteers, for the very first call for volunteers from the camp, only 800 and something went in. Now take that with Hawaii where over 10,000 volunteered, and one can see that there was this resentment within the camp. And yet, that was never, looking at the JACL statements, that was not the case. Everybody was so happy to be there, and they were happy that the government was treating them so well, and that they would do anything that the government told them to do. I, just from that volunteer number, you could tell that that was not the case, that there was a strong resentment within the camp.

And also, when I see picture of Joe Kurihara being led into camp, and person like Ernest Wakayama, who I met and spoke to him for a long time here in San Francisco, when some of the veterans talk to me about people who are, did not cooperate, I said to them, "You people have gone out and fought for the United States. Now suppose today they came to you and said, 'You know, we're going to put you into jail because we don't trust you,' how would you react?" Because these, Joe Kurihara and Ernest Wakayama had already served in the U.S. Army. And yet they were being put into camp saying that, "We don't trust you because of your, because of your ancestry." I don't think that the veterans today would react very well, and yet they recall these other people who during the wartime were not all 100 percent with the JACL as being unpatriotic. That seems such a strange way to react. I don't think they, if -- to me, the people like the resisters, were really ahead of their time. Because if the same thing happened today, I'm sure that most Japanese American would not go quietly, they would protest. Then you could say, "Why didn't they protest back in 1940s?" The JACL would say it was impossible, you could not have protested. Possibly you could not have been successful, but at least JACL should have led the protest and say that... but instead of leading the protest they really encouraged people to cooperate, and this is what is difficult for me to understand. Maybe it was the only thing possible, but still, I think there's a way to go to prison, to go in happily marching and skipping along, or to be led in forcefully. That's two different thing. I think it gives a completely different public image.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FC: Do you have any opinion or information about rumors involved with the JACL were the big, that there were finking activities, informing activities created the leadership vacuum?

CU: Say, what do you mean by a leadership vacuum when?

FA: JACL claimed that after the bombing of '41, Pearl Harbor, that there were no leaders at all, and that they had to step in to, were forced to step into the void, the leadership void.

CU: Well, you know, JACL was the only Japanese American national organization present. So therefore, whoever was the JACL national leaders had that leadership position already.

FC: Was the, it was the Nikkeijinkai, the community had leaders.

CU: Oh, yeah.

FC: And the JACL fingered, all rounded up...

CU: You know, one of the thing that surprised me was I did read some statement by, especially in southern California, JACL leaders who had said, "We have now become informers." That statement is written down in handwriting, saying that, "Now we have become informers," and saying that, "We have been informing the government of all people that we thought should be investigated." And many, and also I think I read somewhere about the memorandum that was issued by the national to the chapters asking them to turn in names of any Issei or Kibei Nisei to the government. To me, why didn't the JACL protest such a request? Without requests, without any protest they passed on information to the, their chapters, which to me seems like they were really a government agent, that's all they were. They were not really protecting or looking after the welfare of the Japanese Americans.


CU: Information to the chapters to turn in the names of the Kibei Niseis and some Isseis to the government for arrest or pick-up or questioning. That is really becoming part of the government, not the, doing anything for the community itself. Your own people are really in a very terrible bind, and yet they were very ruthless in their advice to their own people, meaning that they did act more like an agent to the government, saying to do this and do that. If there was a leader, say, among the kenjinkai especially, but the kenjinkais in those days were not, Nisei were not leaders, they were, it was still run by the Issei. Nisei were still too young to be leaders of the kenjinkai.

FC: So my impression is that they removed and created and encouraged this prejudice against the Issei leadership and the Kibei instead of... for whatever reason leadership was going. Instead of saying, "Don't worry, there's a continuity of leadership, we are stepping into the breach," they began to threaten the community rather than organize it more or reassure them.

CU: Well, to me, the most tragic thing about the whole leadership is that leaders of the JACL at that time strongly felt and believed that they were doing the right thing, and yet they were doing the wrong thing. I think this is the most tragic thing. And no one wants to say that, "You did it out of malice," no, they did not. I think they were thinking about the Japanese Americans' welfare, but their thinking was completely wrong. They felt that, "Any type of protest was not good for the United States. We want to just be just nice guys." I think that's why from today's perspective it's very difficult to accept that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

FC: Your opinion of the work of Michi Weglyn? What is your opinion of the work of Michi Weglyn?

CU: You know, her book came out in 1976, and there were a lot of books that came out before then. But her work was the very first one that really made me feel that here is someone that's telling the story as it was and as it should be. I think you could, you could feel the anger in her work, and I thought, "Why shouldn't there be anger expressed? Because if it is, if you try to take the anger out of it, then it's a false statement. So therefore, the statement made by some of the other writers was too, well, I don't know whether it's what you call objective or not, but too much like a documentary, it did not have the real punch that Michi's work had. So I still, and to me it's amazing that a person who was not a trained scholar, in the sense that university scholars are, could go out and do the type of research that she had done, and to come up with the information. Even for many, many years, even for decades after her work came out, if you really wanted to learn about the camps, the place to go was still Michi's work, not in some of the other work that came out. So I think her work still stands as possibly the best on the camps.

FC: Talk a little about her research. What kind of research did she do?

CU: Well, I think she did a very thorough research in every angle. For even about the Peruvians who were brought here, you have to go to her book to get a pretty good picture of what happened. Since then, of course, book has come out, several books have come out, but she was still the first to talk about it. And to me it's most amazing that the two most complete and the best researchers in Japanese American history happens to be both women who were not trained as a researcher: Aiko Herzig and Michi Weglyn, yet they have done more research on the Japanese American than any other person.

FC: Were these Japanese American women, were they interned?

CU: I know Michi was... I don't know about Aiko. Was she? She's from L.A., so most likely she was.

FC: James Omura and the resisters... any opinion?

CU: No, I really did not know James, know about James Omura except for what I had read. And I did meet James Omura, and as an individual, when you meet with him, he's very low-key, he's not a dynamic type of individual. But you sense something, however, is that you sense something very deep in him, something that he has a very firm conviction, to which you're not going to change him, and that which is strong, which is a strong point. It's amazing that a person like he was able to articulate his feelings. The other Japanese Americans -- he articulated what the large number of the Japanese Americans could not articulate. And I think so therefore he became their spokesperson, really. But of course he was so maligned by the JACL that he became a, sort of ostracized, almost really a recluse in a sense. Because he was not known in the Japanese American community at all, because I didn't know about him, but I think he is one of the... I just, I read some of statements that he had, statements at the hearing... what is that hearing that they started in 19... Tolan Committee. Tolan Committee thing, and then some of these editorials that he had written in the Denver Rocky Shimpo. Those I, when I saw those, then I realized that there was a man that was really, really articulated what the Nisei should be feeling and did feel. But, but he was so maligned by the JACL that people started to look upon him as being an oddball, that you should not believe anything that he says. And I think this was a sad thing.

One other thing which comes to my mind right now is Anne Fisher. I corresponded with Anne Fisher for quite some time. Because when it's, her book came out, I got it, in fact, I got boxes full, and I was very impressed with some of the statements that she made. And she told me that she was so anti-JACL, so I said, "How come?" But she said, "You know, because the JACL prevented me from having this book published in United States." So I said, "How did that happen?" and she said what she, when she wrote the book, Exile of a Race, she said that she thought, she wrote it in 1940s, soon after the camps closed. And she felt that JACL would be very much interested in having this book published, because she felt that she told the story very accurately and correctly, and she sent a copy of the manuscript to JACL. But the JACL, she said, according to her, instead of helping her, had notified many of the publisher that this is not the book to be published. And so she could not get any publishers to handle her book. Because she said the JACL was very powerful then, because they had been so cooperative with the government, the government was now going to cooperate with them. And she was very bitter about the fact that the JACL did not help her. And she said, JACL told her, she said to me, that the reason why they object to the book is because it steps on too many toes, and she felt that it should, story should be told. But the JACL said, "No, it's not the time to publish this book," and for that reason she said she had to go to Canada and have the book published up there. And so she, she was very anti-JACL for a long time. When I met and when I talked to her over the phone and also by letter, she was one person that was extremely anti-JACL. And I was inquisitive why, because she said, from what she told me. I was surprised when I heard that. Why would the JACL try to... here was somebody, a Caucasian woman, who wants to talk about, the, what happened during the camp, camp experience, and to give her side of the story, her opinion, which was different from the official story. And yet, why does the JACL intercede and say, "Don't publish this book"? I thought that was no, that was not the place for JACL. I thought they would welcome it, but instead she said they did not, they discouraged her from publishing, publishing the book.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

FC: How do you stand with the JACL, or how does the JACL stand with you?

CU: I don't know, because they all know that I don't, well, I became a president only for one reason, for redress only, and after that... well, there was many, many things that I do not agree with JACL. Recently, within the last year or so, as you know, there has been many things happening, like the Trisha Murakawa resigning, Ruth Mizobe also resigning from the JACL. And there was a strong movement up here in Northern California, and they were talking about forming a rival organization. So they asked me, "What do you think?" I said, "You know, JACL has a long history, and the history itself is, has some credibility, has some value, and also JACL has a national networking. Only reason why we went with the JACL for the Iva Toguri or the Tokyo Rose case was because -- in fact, we had a, all the meetings were held right here in this room. And the big question was, "Shall we go under JACL? Should this be a JACL committee, or should there be an independent committee?" And my opinion at that time was -- this was before I became a president -- I said, "Well, JACL has networking. By issuing one memo, I could have 114 chapters get the memo. That's one advantage that you have, to be in contact, to contact all the other Japanese Americans in the United States. So why don't we use JACL as a vehicle to run the campaign?" But we said we could completely run our own campaign, a decision would come from this body and not from the national board. And I also, so when I went to the national board and said that we would like to form this committee, I also mentioned at that time that this would, all the decision will be made by the committee. And I said if, however, the JACL interfered with our board's, our committee's function, they want to run it a different way, then immediately I said I would announce to the public that we are no longer JACL committee. That will be made. They did try a couple times to interfere, so immediately I reminded them that, "If you go through with this, we would no longer be a JACL committee so you would not have any power over it," so they did back down. But that was only way in which I think I could have operated. But JACL did have networking, it's true.

And recently when people said that we would like to form a rival organization, I said, "No, it's time anyway for the Sanseis to take over the organization. Wouldn't it much easier," I said to them, "is for the Sanseis to take over the organization by becoming delegates and going to the convention and voting for yourselves, rather than to continue to be dictated on by the old-timers of JACL." I felt that it was easy -- because most of the old-time JACLers, people of my age, are almost gone, or else they're very inactive. So the organization should be taking over, and it was easier to take over the organization and become a Sansei organization than to try to form a rival organization, which is very difficult. And also you should then get the people who are within the JACL, who want to change, could all go with you. I still think that, because after all, the Nisei are in their upper seventies now, they're not going to be around very much longer. And the only thing that, however, that I have in the back of my mind is that, "Who is, who are the Sanseis that are becoming well-known in the JACL circle?" And I say, I almost have to admit to myself that they are the Sanseis who think and act like a Nisei, much more so. Maybe they don't quite think that way, but at least they, on the surface they do. They say the same thing that the Niseis were saying fifty years ago. They seem to think that the organization could do no wrong, we have to support everything that it did in the past, in order to be a good JACLer. That type of thinking is really way out of line, but still, yet those people are becoming JACL leaders.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 14>

FC: Question about the resisters and redress...

CU: Yeah.

FC: Did you see the support for the resisters and the resistance as a threat to redress?

CU: No, absolutely not.

FC: Or did they actualy help the cases?

CU: To me, I think it helped the case. Because if the Americans knew what really happened, if the Japanese Americans even knew what really happened, then possibly their willingness and their desire to seek redress would be even stronger.

FC: The JACL would say, "Oh, the resisters broke the law, that's what makes them un-American, they broke the law. And it's not good for Americans to break the law."

CU: You know, but laws are always being broken, laws are always being changed. If it was wrong, morally wrong, then it should be broken. And I think you, the history of America shows many times that the laws were broken, and they have changed, because the laws have, it's not the resisters that changed, it's the law that has to be changed, and the laws are, has been changed.

FC: One of the processes of, one of the ways of petitioning for redress.

CU: Yeah, right.

FC: Testing of the law by breaking it.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

FA: -- resolution presented to the JACL regarding the, JACL's cooperation, cheerful cooperation versus cooperation. Could you just tell me what the resolution was?

CU: No, which resolution are you talking about?

FA: This is about 1990, when you tried to, so-called Golden Gate resolution.

CU: If I recall correctly, the original Golden Gate resolution was that it was time for JACL to also acknowledge the wrong that it committed against the resisters, that is, to their own people. Acknowledge that this was wrong, and to... at that time, I think possibly, that was all that was on there, wasn't it? And also to do everything possible to... maybe it was in that last, there could be a resolve? I don't know. I didn't quote... oh, here it is.

FA: Why don't you go ahead and, from the top, go ahead and read that resolution.

CU: Now, this was written back in 1990, six years ago. And this was a draft of the Golden Gate JACL chapter resolution to the JACL national council. "Whereas there still exists today a serious internal division in the Japanese American community over JACL's response to the government's incarceration order of Japanese Americans during World War II, and whereas the federal government, through legislation, has acknowledged the wrong committed against Japanese Americans and has ordered restitution, and whereas the wartime JACL did brand those who did not fully agree with its policy and advice as disloyal Americans, and whereas the redress campaign held as one of its fundamental objectives the aim of making the Japanese American community whole, and whereas although the JACL response to the internment order was sincere and thoughtfully performed with the best interests of the community in mind, those Japanese Americans who disagree with the JACL position had an unwavering belief in the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution and in the validity of due process, now therefore be it resolved that as the federal government has acknowledged its past errors in judgment, the JACL also acknowledges that it erred in its council to the Japanese American community in the early days of the war, and its reaction toward the Japanese American wartime dissidents, and be it further resolved, that the JACL actively promote community unity and healing by recognizing the contributions made by individuals and organizations which positions differ from that of the JACL." Yes, that was, now, that was way back six years ago, that resolution was presented, but it was, of course, not accepted. It was not acceptable to them. This is a pretty mild resolution, I would say, because all it does is to say, "Let's acknowledge that we also made a mistake after the government made, had acknowledged their mistake." And to me, it's almost unbelievable that today, JACL still cannot do that.

FA: And why not?

CU: Well, I think it's because to many JACLers, Mike Masaoka is almost godlike in their perception. JACL could do no wrong. JACL has never made a mistake. I think that... and it's a concept that completely foreign to only, any organization. We all know that every organization, every country, makes mistakes. And the country and the organization that admits to the mistake and tries to correct it is the one that you really appreciate, and have respect for. Not one that stubbornly refused to acknowledge the well-known mistakes. And I think, for that reason, JACL is really hurting itself by not acknowledging and apologizing to the dissidents. To the veterans, I would say that the dissidents had nothing against the veterans, they had said nothing bad about the veterans; they appreciated what the veterans have done, but they also want to be appreciated for what they have done. And I think what they have done was just as hard as anyone, other person could do, and they put their life on the line just as much as any other person. And what is most interesting about the dissidents to me was... I thought of this especially when -- this is rather recent. A former retired, he is a retired army colonel, said, when you really come down to the bottom line, the real reason why the dissidents were that way was because they were cowards. Now, that was, that was such a surprise to me to hear the former military man say this. And I think this is why so many of the veterans feel that, "My buddies put their life on the line and some of 'em never came back." Well, you know, these dissidents also put their, not only their life, but their reputation and their whole life on the line in the sense that, how they would be accepted in the Japanese American community. And they put this on the line, and they did this because they really felt that what they were doing was correct.


CU: No, when I, when I interviewed this family down in Mountain View, to me it was so interesting because when I first mentioned to one of the dissidents that I'm going to be interviewing them, he said, "Don't, because that person is against the people who resisted," because his brother was so much against it, brother was in the 442. Guy said, "Don't interview him." But I thought, well, it was okay, so I went down and had a long, it was supposed to be a one-hour interview, it turned out to be four hours. And when we, at the end, it was very interesting because this person said, "I changed my mind." Because he said that, "I think my brother" -- it was his brother that was a dissident -- "did really have the right feeling and correct, what he did was correct." But what his brother did was unusual was this: if he was really a coward, if he did not want to get into the army, all he had to do was take the physical examination, he would never have passed it. He was in a TB sanitorium before the war. And when he was called up for a preinduction physical, he ignored it. And his reason was that he wanted to stand together with other dissidents so that he wanted to be one of them. And so he was convicted, and he was sentenced to three years in federal penitentiary, he went to McNeil Island. But at McNeil Island, they didn't have any facility for taking care of people with tuberculosis, so he was sent to Leavenworth where they did have a hospital. And so he spent his time, he served his time. He didn't have to serve his time if he was a coward.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

FA: What would happen if the JACL were to acknowlege its mistake and apologize to the resisters?

CU: Well, I think it would be just like so many Americans would feel. We made the horrible mistake, we acknowledge that, and we admitted to our mistake, and that really, sort of a self-cleansing feeling. And unless the JACL comes out and says, "We did, we also made a mistake, the way we treated and thought, talked about the dissidents," until that happens, I think the Japanese American community could never forgive the JACL for what they did.

FC: So to admit, to apologize, would be to admit that everything from 1942 to the present has been wrong.

CU: Not everything. They did some right things; you know, they did a lot of right things. But when it comes to dissidents, they did the wrong, they did it really wrong. And to me, it does not hurt the JACL image at all. I think it enhances it. When you, when you admit the mistake and try to correct it, then it really shows you that you're, you are human. You can make a mistake but at least you admit it. But to stubbornly refuse to admit that you made a mistake, I think this is, it's almost unacceptable.

FA: The other half of the resolution had to do with, with the JACL's response to the evacuation orders. Can you also --

CU: Wait a minute. JACL's response...

FA: It said that instead of cheerful cooperation --

CU: Oh, I see, yeah.

FA: Tell, can you put that in your own words?

CU: Yeah. My thing is that when the government finally issued an order that Japanese Americans would be incarcerated, I think that would be the time when the JACL should have made a tremendous protest. Not just verbally, but by action as well, that this is not American. This is not, this is not Japan, this is not Germany, this is the United States. You can't do this in the United States. And to stick by that statement, I think would have been a tremendous help, and I think possibly they would have gotten the respect of the American public at the same time. Sure, the war was going on, so possibly there were others who would be extremely anti-JACL, but in the long run, they would come out ahead. But the fact that they did not protest but to tell everybody that we are, that we are glad to go into the camp to show our patriotism, I think that was a very weak statement to make.

FA: Read what Mike Masaoka said, he says, "Yes, we cooperated, mainly because we were afraid of what would happen." And he says that, "If we cooperate, the government [inaudible], and if we don't cooperate and if we protest, the army had a contingency plan to move us out within twelve hours, twenty four hours, and what are you going to say in a situation like that? And more people murdered in the streets, you want tanks to come in? I think we had no choice."

CU: I just wonder whether, how true that is, because if they did not... as I said, POWs do cooperate, physically, but mentally, of course, they are, they are completely opposed to it. But for the American citizens to be incarcerated by their own government, to say that we want to fully cooperate, somehow, there's something missing there in being American. Yes, I, if you happen to be living in Germany or in Japan, I suppose maybe that would, could be correct. But America is supposed to be different from Germany and Japan, that's why we were fighting them.

FA: Can you just say this, you said this in writing many times, we just haven't heard it yet. Can you say something like, instead of cheerful cooperation, I think the JACL urged cooperation under protest.

CU: Oh, yes, we said... yes. I think when the government asked for, stated that we're going to be incarcerated, JACL, instead of saying that we would be glad to go into camp or to cheerfully cooperate, if we had protested all the way into the camp, I think that would have created a completely different image. It would have given us some sense of self-respect. This way, we took the self-respect completely away by saying that we would do anything that the government told us to do. This might have been okay in Germany and Japan, but, you know, to think that this is being done in the United States means, also meant that the Japanese American leaders never really truly understood the American government.


FA: And so now, Mike Masaoka, if he were here today, he would say, "You Sansei, you were not there. You were not there, you can't know what it was like back then, therefore you can't pass judgment on us."

CU: You know, that... you know, history is always being corrected, and I think the person who really is appreciated are the persons who, if history proves that you were wrong, to say that yes, to admit that you were wrong. The Constitution of the United States has not changed for the last two hundred years. The Japanese Americans, while we were thinking may have changed, but, you know, what we were, what the protesters were doing, they were going by the Constitution which has not changed, not before the Second World War, but not after the war; it's still there, it's exactly the same thing. And they were going by that, and I think the, and when the government and the organizations such as the JACL refuses to recognize the Constitution itself and saying that that's, that doesn't apply during wartime, then there's something wrong with the Constitution itself. If that is, much, I think, I shouldn't say there's something wrong with the government itself and the organization itself. The Constitution is unchangeable. It still stands, after two hundred years it has not changed. Just because, say, the Sansei were not there, that is a poor excuse for, I think it's a sort of a, if there was anything like a copout, that's it. It's to say that that prevents you from answering. Since, of course, you were not living then, so how can you protest? How can you pass judgment? Well, there is many things that you are not there, but if it's wrong, it's wrong. I mean, you don't have to be there to be wrong.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

FC: You said several things that the JACL would strongly disagree with about their behavior and about their stances. You talked a little about Michi's research. Have you seen proof that you would regard as objective proof to support the characterization of the JACL's behavior toward the resisters and their cooperation with the government? Have you seen documents with people's signatures on them? Have you seen that kind of...

CU: You mean proof of...

FC: Proof of informing.

CU: Oh, only thing that I, I saw was, part of what I saw from Deborah Lim's report, too. And, of course, Deborah Lim had the access to all JACL files, and also to any other books that's been written on, about, and there, there were some statements such as, especially the JACL, JACLers coming out and saying that, "We have now become informers," that statement. And also the statement that the JACL chapters were encouraged to turn in the names of the Kibei Niseis, because they thought that they were not as loyal to the United States. And also, the statements that they want the Issei and the Nisei to be treated differently in camp, because after all, Isseis are not citizens, that type of statements. I think I read that. Now, that is, to me that was, again, a big surprise. And the biggest surprise of all, I think I read in Deborah Lim's report was a statement that JACL suggested to branding all the internees with numbers.

FC: Branding of the Issei and the Kibei?

CU: Well, mostly Issei and Kibei.

FC: They would be policed or essentially, could keep track of them...

CU: Even the, yeah, and even the government thought that this was an extreme, they could not accept it. And here, yet, the JACL was willing to suggest such a procedure. I wonder if they ever got the idea from the, the Holocaust victims that were branded. If they, if that was so, it's just amazing that JACL would take the position, take the reason some of the things that were done in, to the Holocaust victims and try to translate that, transpose that into the camp over here. And yet, not, even when the government would oppose it, the JACL would even suggest such a thing is almost unthinkable. I think that proves the mentality of the JACL at the time, that they, they wanted to be so cooperative to the government, that cooperation meant completely devastating your own people. That didn't matter, because, "if it was to support the government, we would do anything." I think that mentality did exist.

FC: Why this hostility toward the Issei and the Kibei?

CU: Well, Kibei is, Kibei means returnees to America, that means people who, Nisei who were born in the United States but were sent to Japan for part of their education in Japan, so therefore they got some Japanese education. And yet, when you think about the MIS people, the stars of the MIS were all Kibeis, because after all, the Nisei were very poor in Japanese, as many army persons said, the Japanese that the Nisei spoke were what they called "kitchen Japanese." It's not, it's not the well-rounded Japanese that they could speak. And most of the Nisei could not read or write. As you know, in the summer of 1941, they did have a survey among the Japanese who were already, Nisei who were already in the army. Possibly less than three percent who had, were considered proficent in Japanese. Rest of them were not acceptable. Pardon?

FC: Why the JACL hostility to the Kibei?

CU: Well, they looked upon Kibei, just like the Americans looked, American government looked upon the Kibei, just because they had education in Japan, they thought that they would be more Japanese than American, therefore we can't trust them, that was the attitude. And I think we, the JACL picked up on that and just went along with it.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

FC: How does what Japanese American, what JACL did, how Japanese Americans responded to the evacuation and the camps, how does this affect Japanese American self-respect today?

CU: Well, you know, part of the way Japanese Americans, or possibly the Nisei reacted to the evacuation -- I hate to use the term "evacuation," but, say, to the incarceration -- was, part of it was almost cultural in a sense, that is, the Japanese American culture. We were taught by our parents to respect and obey the orders so much that even if the order turns out to be a bad one, they said, "It's the right thing to do, is just to obey the orders." I think that had part of it, partly to do with it, and also it was told to us by the Issei parents, also not to be visible, too visible, to protest, and all that, it's not the right thing to be doing. "That's not the way we brought you up. We didn't bring you up to become a protester." So I think that had something to do with it. But at the same time, the more you look at it, there were people who did protest, even people who protested the idea of going into camp. But they were not encouraged to stick to your stance, but they had no support when the, there was absolutely no support from the Japanese American leaders. And they were, told you that you were really unpatriotic for resisting, then the resistance, the resisting, resisters movement does not have any support at all. They felt that they had no support, so they just went along, just like the POWs would go along if you were told to get into camp.

FC: Do you think the... when you heard about the resisters, did this increase your self-respect?

CU: Oh, yes, definitely.

FC: If more young people, young Japanese Americans, heard about the resisters, would this add some value --

CU: You know, the funny thing is, talking to... [pauses] Yeah, talking to many Nisei now, these are the Nisei leaders, many of them are saying now, "If this was back, if this thing happened today" -- [interruption] -- they say, "If the same thing happened today, I would resist." This is what most of the Nisei would say. Now, if they would resist today, why couldn't they have resisted back in 1940? My explanation would be that because there was no leadership, or no support for the resisters at that time, the resisters were all made into almost like criminals. And that's why I think it was no, no resistance. The resisters had absolutely no support from the group, but I think many of them wanted to resist. So therefore, if the, even if you were ineffective in resistance, the official strong statements by the JACL, to say that, "No, this is, I'm going in because we have to. You're going to push us into the camp anyway with your guns, we can't resist the guns, we'll have to walk in. But at the same time, we strongly protest." If it was done under protest, I think that would have, would have not taken any, no one would have been hurt. And I think that would have really cleared a lot of conscience for the Japanese Americans. I think people who were in camp also felt bad because they did not protest, and they were afraid to protest. They were afraid to protest because JACL told them not to protest, and if you protested you were un-American. This type of a statement by your leaders continually being drummed into you, I think, prevented any protesting.

FC: Do you think the JACL at that time understood, or that Japanese America understood that the evacuation and the incarceration was challenging their civil rights and their citizenship?

CU: I think... well, it must have, because, for instance, when you take persons like Mits Koshiyama, who had just graduated from high school, to say that, "This is unconstitutional, and therefore I cannot accept it." And if you have those -- I'm sure many, many persons felt the same way, yet they were possibly afraid to state -- Mits at least has the courage enough to say so, but they were afraid to say so or because they did not want to make waves and have their parents feel that, "I have dissidents in the family," that's what they did not want. They wanted to go along with it just to sort of placate their parents, in a sense, because parents couldn't do anything anyway, 'cause they were not even citizens.

FC: Was it rewarding, being president of the JACL?

CU: Well...

FC: Was it worth it?

CU: Oh, I can say worth it for this reason: that you do have, you get to meet a lot of people that you never have a chance of meeting before. You have a chance to go to Washington to meet some people, and because you happen to be a president, at least you're given the opportunity that otherwise you would not have. In that way, it's rewarding. But possibly more rewarding was the chance to meet some other Niseis that I have never met before. That was good, but I suppose I could, I could have done that on your own, but there's a difference. When you have a position, they treat you differently, and they look upon you differently, and they often talk to you differently from just a casual person. So in that way, you have a chance to find out more of what the Japanese Americans are thinking than otherwise. I think in that way, it's rewarding. But I would say that it's also difficult because your whole heart and soul is not in the organization's, what they have done and what they stood for, you're against it. But can't at that time articulate that, mainly because then you'd be worthless. No one would talk to you and no one would do anything, so... because at least when I was in there, the whole thing was to get the redress movement started and going, that was the only thing. Everything else was secondary. So for that, it was worth it.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

FC: Could you name a few, for those who know nothing about camp, nothing about Japanese, that period of Japanese American history, World War II, what books would you recommend, what authors?


CU: Well, there are two books that I would feel are very important to read, and I have those, I have these books right here, so let me just reach for these. For a true history and feelings about the camp, I would highly recommend Years of Infamy by Michi Weglyn. It was published in 1976. I feel that this book is so important because it was written by a Japanese American, a person that had experienced the camp, and also has the insight into what the Japanese Americans were feeling at the time. And she also did such a thorough research in areas which most people have not researched into, that is, like the Peruvians who were brought here as a hostage exchange, people who were dissidents, these are the subjects that most of the other books do not cover.

And for the documentation, objective documentation, I would recommend the report written by the Commission, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which came out in 1983. I think these two books are the most valuable of all the books that I've read. I think I've read almost every book that came out on the camps.

FC: What's your opinion of the work of Roger Daniels?

CU: I know Roger Daniels in person as well. I think Roger Daniels is very good in that he has, although he takes it from the American point of view, he has some empathy toward the Japanese Americans, maybe because he also happens to be of Jewish ancestry, and he is able to therefore see things of what happened to the Japanese Americans deeper than the average Americans. And I think he's a good researcher, he has done, possibly he has written more on the, about the Japanese American camp experience than any other American writers. I've always felt that he was a very good researcher.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.