Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Andy Noguchi Interview
Narrator: Andy Noguchi
Interviewer: Frank Abe
Location: Merced, California
Date: August 29, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-nandy-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Could you just tell me your name, for the benefit of our editors, and why you're here today.

AN: Sure. My name is Andy Noguchi, I'm with the Florin chapter of the JACL, and I'm here to explain some of the background about this resolution and support of the resisters.

FA: What is the resolution and the background in support of the resisters?

AN: Well, basically, the resolution is to recognize the constitutional stand of the resisters back during the war years, making a very difficult decision like many other people had to make, too. And the resolution also talks about -- in addition to recognition, making an apology from the national JACL to them, and having a recognition ceremony for the resisters.

FA: Now you, you wrote this resolution?

AN: There were a number of us that sponsored this resolution: the Florin chapter which I belong to, Sequoia Golden Gate, the Northern California District Council was a co-sponsor of it, and we got together and decided it was, it was time. It would be important for the JACL to do something like this.

FA: Why?

AN: I think it's important because when you learn about the resisters' story, you find out that they're really a sterling example of standing up for constitutional rights during very difficult times, and everyone had to make really tough decisions there. They decided to protest in one of the few ways they could at that time, in order to stand up for Japanese American rights. I think that that's very important for us to have as an American lesson, as a lesson for the Japanese American community, too, and for that sort of legacy to exist for us. I also think it's important for the Japanese American community to have that sort of a lesson out there for people to be reconciled to divergent points of view. I don't think there are any really bad or good choices that were made back that time. It was, there was no winning choices, you know, as far as internment, just because of what the government put people through. So I think that's important, I think it's important for the JACL, and the JACL to recognize whatever involvement they had in the issue at that time, what some of the national leaders said about the resisters. And to reconcile the community and be in a better position to move forward, deal with the things we have to. Summing it up, I would just say that this resolution's intent is reconciling our past in an attempt to strengthen our future. Because we need to be together, united as a community in order to, to move forward. And we have very many challenges right now with discrimination, hate crimes, and other issues, and we need to be strong to do that.

FA: I understand about the resisters being a sterling example, but why should JACL apologize?

AN: Well, I think the resolution talks about failure to recognize their stand. And I think everyone agrees that -- especially during the war years -- it was not looked on positively by the national leadership of JACL. I'm not talking about all of the, the membership, the thousands of members then or any group of veterans or anyone else like that, but as far as contributing to some of the, the negative feelings and the negative statements and treatment, I think the national JACL leadership at that time had a role. And I think it's fitting to move forward now, just like Japanese Americans fought for redress over many years, telling people, "Stand up for constitutional rights as Americans." And so now I think it's very fitting that JACL and Japanese Americans stand up and recognize the constitutional stand of the resisters, also.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1999, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FA: What kind of reaction has your resolution prompted?

AN: Great discussion and debate. This is one of the most difficult times, if not the most difficult times, for Japanese Americans. People had to make impossible decisions. People's lives, futures, family harmony were all riding on this, people's futures as to whether they got out of camps, whether they were going to answer a certain way to answers, to questions 27 and 28. So it was a very difficult time, and I think that people's feelings need to be respected, the views on this whole episode need to be respected, the resisters, their views and positions need to be respected also.

FA: But can you characterize the reaction this has had? I mean, it's been quite a furor in the papers.

AN: Well, there's, there's many types of reactions. It's a huge interest, for one, from Japanese Americans from the wider community, from the American public. Seeing an article in the Wall Street Journal on this issue, that's amazing, type of thing. So there's been both a wide range of reactions. Very strong reactions, some very supportive, some very opposed. Lot of misunderstandings about what the resolution says in black and white. So that's the unfortunate part, but that's the part we're trying to deal with through educating people about what we're trying to accomplish here.

FA: Are you at all surprised by the furor?

AN: Yeah, I was. I was. [Laughs] I didn't really -- as a Sansei who wasn't born during camp times and came afterwards, just realizing or finding out that it touched a huge nerve out there. So I was very surprised, but I understand why now, and I think it's a good process.

FA: What do you think's going to happen?

AN: I think what's already happened is there's been a lot of understanding generated by this resolution. That a lot of people are learning some of the facts and are starting to peel away some of the misconceptions out there. So I think that's great. I think that the majority of districts in JACL, representing the majority of chapters, the majority of members, have already supported this. So I think that's very positive. As far as whether it's going to be unanimous or not, it's probably not going to be unanimous.

FA: One last question: should the JACL apologize for its overall policy of cooperation with the government at the time?

AN: That's really not covered by the resolution. We're focusing on --

FA: It's not, but I'm asking you, should JACL apologize for that?

AN: I don't know. I'm not really an expert, you know, on all of the wartime positions and things that the JACL did like that. So we're not advocating that. What we are advocating is to make an apology for these men who stood up for very clear constitutional reasons, and moving forward with that.

FA: And one more time, just tell me your name again, and why you're here today.

AN: My name is Andy Noguchi with the Florin chapter of the JACL. I'm here to share some of the background of this resolution which seeks to recognize the resisters of conscience.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1999, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.