Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Roger Daniels Interview
Narrator: Roger Daniels
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Heart Mountain, Wyoming
Date: May 20, 1995
Densho ID: denshovh-droger-01-0002

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FC: Did the organized resistance at Heart Mountain endanger, create such a danger for the Japanese American community?

RD: The organized resistance at Heart Mountain came a good deal later. The Yasui and Hirabayashi cases, although they don't get settled by the Supreme Court until 1943 and late 1944 respectively -- no, I beg your pardon, I'm misspeaking myself. They're both settled in 1943 and Yasui is actually sent back down and is not formally decided by the Supreme Court.


FC: Maybe you could just start with the organized resistance to the draft, 1944. That might save --

RD: Well, some of it started a little earlier than that, really, but the organized resistance at Heart Mountain has to be differentiated from the resistance that took place in 1942. The war was not over, but clearly the United States was over the hump, large numbers of Japanese Americans had already been released from camp to work, to go to college, and to do something, and to do other kinds of things. Some had joined MIS, there were volunteers for the army starting in 1943, but when the draft was instituted -- and this was after the so-called "loyalty tests," -- there were some people initially in Heart Mountain, later at Poston and a few other camps, there was a, there were a minority of people who said they did not think it was appropriate to apply Selective Service procedures to persons who were behind barbed wire and deprived of large amounts of their normal constitutional rights to life, liberty, etcetera. These have been confused by some people with persons who had said "no-no" on the so-called "loyalty questionnaires," questions 27 and 28, but these were people who had said, "yes-yes" because people who said -- at least males of draft age who said "no-no" were not subject to the draft, so these were people who had already attested their loyalty to the United States, had already said that they were not in a state of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan.

But they did protest, and they said, "We shall not go, we will not go," and some of them actually refused to get on the buses to take them for their draft physicals. Even the Selective Service system understood that it wasn't right to give people draft physicals inside of concentration camps, although this meant that the Japanese American draft resisters as opposed to other kinds of draft resisters had to decide to resist the draft before they knew whether they were going to pass their physicals or not, whereas most people could take a physical, then go back home and wait to see the result and then get a call for induction. There were, of course, other American protesters, Jehovah's Witnesses for instance, some of whom even refused to register for the draft.

The JACL and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed this resistance, vilified and later ignored -- which I think even worse -- those who did resist, almost 300 actually went to federal penitentiary, for draft resistance 260-odd inside the camp, and at least one Japanese American outside the camp, Gordon Hirabayashi, who gave up his Quaker conscientious objector status and said -- I won't claim that, I claim it's not right he was out of the concentration camp, in fact he'd been in prison but never was in a concentration camp. But Gordon said to the authorities, "No, if Japanese Americans, some Japanese Americans are in concentration camps, then I shouldn't have to go," and he went back to federal prison. This has to be contrasted with the fact that a much, much larger number did serve in the armed forces of the United States. Conscientious objection in the Second World War, if you look at American society as a whole, was a very, very much a minority phenomenon, a very, very small minority, and the government was willing to accept certain kinds of conscientious objection, if it were on religious grounds, for instance, Gordon who was a Quaker, his parents had been Christians before they came from Japan. Gordon could get that kind of conscientious objection but he could not get ideological constitutional objection because American law did not recognize this. Again, I think it would have, if every Japanese American of military age had taken the position that the resisters had done, I think the results, again, would not have been as "happy," quote/unquote, for the Japanese American people.

The effect of the 442nd and the propaganda about the 442nd was, of course, an important part of the "rehabilitation," again quote/unquote, of the Japanese American people, of improving their public image, and it did a lot of good, but that doesn't mean that the draft resisters were somehow endangering that because there weren't that many of them. Again, I think the very, very least responsible American organizations could have done was say, "Well, we don't agree with this particular stance, we think that most Japanese Americans, like most Americans, should go to war, but we can respect the rights of individuals to say on grounds of conscience that they don't want to go," and they were quite prepared to pay the price, which was a term in federal penitentiary, as other non-Nikkei conscientious objectors did. My friend, Larry Garrow, who was a total conscientious objector, doesn't believe in military service, didn't believe in alternate service of any kind, does not believe that individuals should have anything to do with military activity, Larry went to jail. He's just retired as a historian, he's a fine historian. And I don't agree with Larry, I served in the military, but I certainly agree with his right to do so. And I think not to have done so exhibited the same kinds of authoritarian intolerance that was all too typical of the wartime generation of JACL leadership, and I think that this was in part caused -- I'm being a psychologist and not a historian -- this was in part caused by their basic insecurity, both in lack of experience and in the fact that they really understood well that they were not true spokesmen for the majority of the people. That they represent a minority, that they were the only effective voice.

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