Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Bill Hosokawa Interview
Narrator: Bill Hosokawa
Interviewer: Frank Abe
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: August 4, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: At the luncheon today, you talked about people who have revised history. Do you feel that what we're doing here is trying to revise history, or be unfair about the past?

BH: Well, to the extent that, as Cressy pointed out today, to blame everybody in JACL and the organization for something that happened fifty years ago under great duress, and to continue to make that an issue, I think is a form of historical revision. I know that, I admit, I gladly admit that there were mistakes made, but I think that there were mistakes made by the federal government, by the army, by the general American public, by Congress, by everybody, and to point to the JACL and say, "You guys are the bad guys, you guys are the stupid dolts that sold us down the river," and continue that drumbeat for fifty years, I don't see the wisdom of that. I'm fully in accord with the way the round table wound up today: "Let's start the healing." Well, the healing process started six years ago in Seattle when the resolution was passed. Well, it's still an issue six years later. Where is the healing? I think they made a good effort today to start the process again. But I don't blame guys for the position they took, I think it took a lot of courage, a lot of guts, and I think that they endangered the positions of a lot of other guys. I had relatives in the military, and I supported the positions they had taken, and I would have disagreed with what they were doing, not because of the principles involved, but because it endangered a lot of other people. But to make that a raging issue a half a century later is not productive.

FA: When you say "endangering other people," are you talking about the guys in the military?

BH: And the people in the camps.

FA: Can you elaborate on that? I don't understand that.

BH: Sure. Sure. Supposing that -- let's not suppose. But late in 19', sometime in 1943, the army sent out this silly questionnaire that the WRA adopted. And the army said, "We're inviting these people to join the military, to join the army." And if everybody in the camps, 100,000 of us had said, "Hell no, we won't go," as they did during the Vietnamese war, what would be chances of ever getting out of the camps during the conflict? A good many of us were moving out of the camps and getting back into the American lifestream, the mainstream of American life. That program would have been shut off immediately. It would have been very, very difficult to get people back to the West Coast during the continuance of the, during the conflict, and the movement back had started before the end of the Pacific war. The WRA was making efforts to get the people back to the Pacific, back to the Pacific coast a full year and a half before the, before the West Coast was really open. And you can imagine what a difficult time it would have been to pursue that program if the people in the camps were rioting and demonstrating as they did in Tule Lake, as they did in Manzanar. You should, perhaps you've read the newspapers of that time: "Riots in the Camps," "Anti-American Riots in the Camps," "Revolt," and that sort of thing. And the press was extremely hostile at that period, there was very little effort on the part of the press to ascertain the facts. There was no in-depth reporting. The Dies Committee, the Costello Committee, guys like that in Washington were feeding the fires, and just looking for an opportunity to nail us to the wall.

FA: But those are violent protests.

BH: Yes.

FA: Isn't a protest by sixty-three boys at Heart Mountain, a peaceful protest through legal means, challenging legal issues a different --

BH: No, we're talking about two different things. This is the first time you brought up the sixty-three people from Heart Mountain. We're talking about, generally speaking, why didn't we resist the draft, and I talked to about 100,000 people in the camps resisted the draft.

FA: The JACL has always argued that, how could we have protested? If we had protested, there would have been bloodshed. But the sixty-three boys in Heart Mountain lodged a peaceful protest through legal means in the courts. And still, in 1944, the JACL urged the prosecution, urged, argued against their parole. Why?

BH: I don't know. I was not making JACL policy.

FA: Well, as a, as a journalist who's observed that.

BH: Actually, all the information I was getting about all this was coming about three weeks late to me in Des Moines, Iowa, from the Heart Mountain Sentinel, which was being sent to me and the Pacific Citizen. I should protest, register one protest, the Lim Report and the, the paper written by this woman at the Oregon, University of Oregon, she makes it sound like I was the editor of paper at that time. I was not. I had nothing to do with the paper. I left the camp early in October of 1943. Most of activity took part, took place after I had left. I went through the files of the Heart Mountain Sentinel, and I discovered that we had run long letters by Paul Nakadate, who was part of the group, and I think Frank Emi was also given space in the paper under my editorship to make his point. I felt that they had something to say and I felt that it was important that they have a chance to say it. And I resent the implication that somehow I was involved with the Heart Mountain Sentinel's editorial position in this particular case.

FA: You did not.

BH: I did not.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1994, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.