Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Fred Hirasuna Interview
Narrator: Fred Hirasuna
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Date: 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-hfred-02-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

FA: Were the resisters the heroes of the whole camp experience?

FH: What was that?

FA: Heroes.

FH: The Heart Mountain people?

FA: Were... some people regard -- Michi Weglyn. Michi Weglyn, a Nisei --

FA: What about Michi Weglyn?

FA: Says, "I think that Jimmie Omura, Frank Emi, Mits Koshiyama, these will be remembered as true heroes."

FH: I don't think so. In spite of Ms. Weglyn.

FA: Then in your opinion, how would they be remembered?

FH: They would be represented as people who thought that they were standing up for civil rights, but overall, they were harming the cause of the entire group. Overall.

FA: And again, how were they harming the group as a whole?

FH: As I say, you're supposing that... you do a lot of supposing, but supposing JACL had said, "Sure, you guys are right. We're going to tell everybody not to join the army." Huh? Supposing that happened. What would have happened?

FA: Yeah, you keep going back there, Mr. Hirasuna. I don't --

FH: Yeah, I know, and you keep going back.

FA: No, I don't even, I don't even think it'd be useful for JACL to support the resisters as whole. My question is: why did they go out of their way to attack them so viciously and personally, when they were only doing, when they were only fighting for the same rights that you wanted as a Nisei?

FH: You say JACL attacked them, viciously. But I know that Min Yasui went to Heart Mountain. And I don't know this for sure, but I think he told them, "Look, you're right, but this is not the time to come out with stuff like that. You're harming the overall cause of all Japanese Americans." That's my viewpoint, too. I don't say that they're traitors. I never said that.

FC: In 1944 --

FH: Yes.

FC: -- you were in Illinois.

FH: No.

FC: No.

FH: In Minnesota.

FC: You were in Minnesota. Did the action of the resisters, or any resistance in the camp, in any way endanger you, to your knowledge?

FH: At that time, I don't think I even knew about it.

FA: Then how were they harming you? How were they harming the group?

FH: I don't know how many times I can say this. But they're harming the group in that the overall... well, it's, no use talking to you on that. I've said my piece.

FA: Okay.

FC: You didn't know in the draft, that the resistance was going on. Your, did you find the atmosphere in Minnesota, around you and your work, congenial or hostile? Or tenuous?

FH: People in Minnesota, where I was, they, most of them didn't even know about evacuation. When we went there, I can't think... we were the only Japanese family in the whole town. And it so happened that Mankato, Minnesota, was full of German Americans. And in World War I, German Americans took a beating. You know that. And they remembered that, too. So when they heard our stories, they sympathized.

FA: I'd like to set record, set the record straight while the camera's rolling, Fred. I am not anti-JACL. My role here is simply to get everyone's side of the story and present it.

FH: Well, I gave you my side, and you keep going back, wanting me to repeat it. I gave you my side.

FC: I think we have it. What do you say to the Sansei and the Yonsei who go, who look to the Nisei and say, "You failed us. You failed to defend our civil rights. We don't feel like being Japanese American anymore. We're ashamed that you didn't defend our rights."

FA: Well, I felt that way a little bit when I was a kid. I said, "Gee, why didn't the Nisei resist?" What do you say to me?

FC: Because you weren't there. And you didn't know the conditions. You didn't have any family responsibilities. You just can't realize the atmosphere at that time. Like the Chinese American group, they just ran away from us. "I am Chinese American." They didn't want to be concerned with the civil rights of Japanese Americans. You, Frank, you never say anything about that.

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