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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Fred, I'm here for one reason, and that's to hear your story. This is, this is your stage, Fred, to tell me what you want to say. This is, I'm doing the story of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, the draft resisters. What do you think about my doing that?

FH: I, the way I understand it, this whole thing is going to be bent towards supporting the draft resisters. The whole project. And you want my side of the story. Well, I'll give you my side.

FA: Please, go ahead.

FH: You want to talk about the draft resisters?

FC: What's your opinion of the draft resisters?

FH: Well, I think this; I think there were sixty-eight people involved in that group.

FA: Sixty-three.

FH: Sixty-three. All right. And I'm, I'm going to say this. That I bet, among those sixty-three people, there are some who really didn't want to go into the draft. They didn't want to go into the war, period. There were others who would rather go to prison rather than go to war. 'Cause in war, you face injury, death, and all the rest that comes with military service. What I'm saying is that group at Heart Mountain is not uniform in their desire to protect their constitutional rights, you know. Because I think there's, if they really believe in the constitutional rights, they would not have supported evacuation, which was a violation of our constitutional rights. But they did go into camp. Why did they go into camp? Because they followed the rest of the crowd. And when it comes to the Heart Mountain group itself, I think there's, they selected sixty-three of them, and as I said before, in the sixty-three, I'm willing to bet you anything that sixty-three did not go because they supported their constitutional rights.

FA: Do you, do you know that for a fact?

FH: No, I don't know. What do you know for a fact?

FA: I've, I've talked to them.

FH: Well, what does that mean, you've talked to them?

FA: I've interviewed as many of the sixty-three draft resisters as are willing to go public. Every one of them tells me they resisted the draft because they wanted to defend the Constitution.

FH: They told you that. How do you know they're telling you the truth?

FA: How do you know they weren't?

FH: Just for the same reason that you don't know.

FA: I don't want to get into opinion.

FH: Just a direct question, it doesn't mean -- I can tell you all kinds of lies face-to-face. You don't have to believe me, and I don't have to be right.

FA: Fred, what is the JACL?

FH: Oh, that's the other thing. I understand that you are not pro-JACL, Frank Chin is not pro-JACL, for what reason I don't know. But I think this: the JACL did a great deal to ease our problems in evacuation. They counseled cooperation with the army. What else could we do? Franklin Roosevelt in February 19th, I think, 1942, Executive Order 9066, he gave General DeWitt free reign to do whatever he pleased with the Japanese group on the West Coast. And we know that DeWitt was a racist. He's the one that said, "A Jap is a Jap no matter where he was born." And they left it to that man to decide our fate. JACL went along because there was nothing else we could do. What would have happened if, like Frank Chin said, we had just stood on our heels and, "The hell with you guys. We're not gonna go." And they came in with the army and forced us to go, risking injury to women, children, little kids, you know. But you want a question.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

FA: You asked a question: "What would have happened if everyone, if a mass of Japanese Americans had resisted?" Answer the question. What would have happened?

FH: The army would have come in and forced them into the camps.

FC: How do you know?

FA: That's what they did. That's what happened.

FH: You said, "What would have happened if we had resisted?"

FC: Yes.

FH: That would have happened.

FC: What do you mean by resistance?

FH: Just sitting stance, sitting on your ass and telling 'em, "I'm not gonna move."

FC: Resistance in the legal sense, that we're using the word, means "going to court." It means violating a law, or by other means, going to court to test the law that we object to. Or that we find objectionable.

FH: All right. Now, both of you are much younger than I am. I'm ninety years old, and I was -- 1942 I was thirty-four years old. I had a wife, had three little kids, I had a older mother and father, a sister and a sister-in-law that I had to look out for, and make decisions for. And I told them, "We're gonna go with what the army said to do." Because there was really no other way we can go. You can't, you say, "Go to court." Do you know what the atmosphere is in wartime? When you're facing an enemy like Japan? Going to court? It wouldn't have done anything. It wouldn't have done a thing.

FC: What would happen to you?

FH: What would what happen?

FC: If the Japanese Americans went into camp and went to court. Cooperate with, physically with the evacuation, but challenge it in the courts, like the draft resisters did?

FH: I say that that is not the time to challenge. In wartime, you have constitutional rights, but sometimes you have to forget constitutional rights. There's a time and place for those things, and that wasn't the time, and that wasn't the place. Because if JACL and the Japanese American group as a whole had told everybody in camp, "We're supporting the Heart Mountain resisters, we want all of you not to, to go into the army, not to accept the draft, not volunteer," and they didn't go, what would have happened?

FA: Answer the, answer your own question. What would have happened, Fred?

FH: The American public, if they saw the Japanese Americans who were not cooperating in what they thought should be the manner that they should cooperate, in the progress of the war against Japan, our enemy, and they did not volunteer, did not go into service, they didn't do any of the things to cooperate with the United States army and the military, at the end of the war, they would have told us to get out. They would have deported us. I don't know that, but that's what I think.

FA: They would have deported us?

FH: Taken the whole group and kicked us out. I'm saying this: if we Japanese Americans had not done all we could to help our country, United States, in the war effort against Japan, that would have been their reaction, I think. You had Issei, you had Kibei, you had bilingual Nisei teaching in the different schools, Japanese, for the war effort. You had people in the government with their radio broadcasts talking Japanese to our enemy, Japan. And they, suppose they didn't do that. Suppose they did nothing. Suppose they discouraged people from going into our army, the U.S. Army, and you had no 442, and they did not make that record in Europe that they did. Where do you think you and I would be today? And our kids, especially our kids. Our long-range view should have been this: we should have been thinking about our kids, and their future in this country. And if they were to go back after the war -- and we knew Japanese was going to be defeated after Midway, we knew that -- they come back to the state of California, my kids, and they go to school. They face their classmates: "What did your family do during the war?" "We did nothing." What would their position be? How would you like to be a kid like that? Facing your classmates and saying, "My group, my Japanese Americans did nothing to help United States in the war against Japan. Did absolutely nothing."

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

<Begin Segment 3>

FC: You think helping the war effort, giving up Japanese American civil rights, all of them, and accepting living in concentration camps forever, for an indefinite period, that helped Japanese American kids?

FH: Listen; we knew that the camps were not going to last forever. We knew that, didn't we? It wouldn't last forever; when the war was over, you had that Endo case. Okay, now, you talk about the Heart Mountain group again, and I know that those who, among the sixty-three that you mentioned, and so many of 'em said, "If our civil rights are restored, we will willingly volunteer for the army." How many of 'em did?

FC: We've talked to one man who has been, who was drafted twice after the war --

FH: I mean, how many of that group did?

FC: -- we've talked to -- how many of that group did?

FH: Yes.

FA: Several.

FC: Several.

FH: What do you mean by several?

FA: What's his name? Tei...

FH: How many?

FC: No, but several. But several.

FA: Two that we know of.

FH: Two out of sixty-three?

FC: No, no, no. There are more than that.

FA: That we know of.

FA: There were more than that.

FH: How many more?

FA: That volunteered, that were drafted, for, that served in the Korean War...

FH: How many? How many? Tell me.

Paul Tsuneishi: In our interviews, there were seven names given of people who are willingly drafted once they were freed from the camps. There's a difference between volunteering and being drafted, and there's a question within the camps of the Fair Play Committing saying, "We're willing to be drafted if you give us our civil rights back." It just happens in the small amount of people we interviewed, Tak Hoshizaki gave me the names of six other, the people in his same category who are willing to be drafted and were drafted.

FC: But the question isn't whether they were sincere or not, but were they right?

FH: Well, I think that --

FC: Were they right? I mean, their constitutional rights were violated. They were violated. They were in concentration camps. There was no right of the government to draft them out of concentration camps.

FA: Let him finish.

FH: Their constitutional rights were evacuated -- were violated at the time of evacuation. If they felt so much about that violation of their constitutional rights, that was the time for them to come up in protest. Not when they were faced with the imminence of draft, of military service.

FC: Why?

FH: Their timing was very, very bad.

FC: Why?

FH: Why? Because if they believed the constitutional rights were being violated, why did they go into camp in the first place?

FC: They expected the JACL to go to court and defend those rights.

FH: Oh, applesauce. You, Frank, you're anti-, I don't know why you're anti-JACL, but you are, and you are, too, Frank Abe. You're both anti-, I knew that from friends that tell me in Seattle. They tell me that. Okay. So what I fear is that this whole project is going to be not only pro-draft resisters, but anti-JACL. This whole project that you're on, with $100,000 grant. That's what I think, and I think you'll admit that I'm right.

FA: I've given you the opportunity to say that.

FH: Yeah, well, you don't admit that you're right. Can't I ask you questions? Can't you be required to give me answers?

FC: To questions of fact, sure.

FH: Is that, is that an interview?

FC: Sure.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

FA: Well, we'll ask the questions for this interview, and you could interview us later if you'd like. Why, why was it necessary for the JACL to go out of its way, during the war, to label the draft resisters as "disloyal"?

FH: Because, in a way, they were. Because if -- as I said -- if JACL told everybody, "We support the Heart Mountain draft resisters, we urge everybody not to get into the military service," what would have happened? What would have happened? I asked the professor in a Midwestern university the same question: what if the Japanese Americans had not cooperated with the American war effort against Japan? He said -- he's the one that said, "They would take the whole Japanese American group and deport them."

FC: And there's no evidence, not one shred of evidence to support him.

FH: That you haven't seen.

FC: Not one shred of evidence.

FH: What evidence do you have for your statements?

FC: The evidence I have is that they were in concentration camps, you begin a petition for the right to redress of constitutional wrong by violating a law. They chose to violate the draft law to take the camps to court.

FH: You, you advise resisting evacuation.

FC: On constitutional grounds.

FH: Oh, on constitutional grounds. But I say that it wasn't practical at that time. And I say again to you, Frank, you talk about Japanese Americans and JACL not defending the constitutional rights of Japanese. What did the Chinese American group do? Why don't you ever mention that? They did not come to the support of the Japanese American constitutional rights. They segregated themselves, "I am not a..." "I am a Chinese American." They weren't worried about our constitutional rights. But you were Chinese American, you are. Why aren't you critical of the Chinese American group?

FC: Have you read everything I've written?

FH: No.

FC: Then you can't say -- then you don't know.

FH: Well, I'll bet you didn't. Well, at UCLA, why didn't you mention that?

FC: Because that's not part of the story. In the same way, in the same way that Roger Daniels, you could put the same question: "Why are you, Roger Daniels, critical of the JACL?" And he is, the same way that we are, because he's coming around to "our side."

FH: I know that only from your statement.

FA: Okay, why don't you just take a breather, Frank. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: Fred, the distinction I'm making about the JACL calling the draft resisters "disloyal," you always keep turning this around to, to the JACL have said, suggested everyone resist, but the question I'm asking, though, is why did the JACL go out of its way to label the resisters as "disloyal" and ostracize them? I'm not saying, I'm not saying that they should have encouraged everyone of, every boy, to resist the draft. I'm just saying, why didn't they just look the other way, why didn't they just let it, let the resisters go make their test case and let them go on their own? Why did they go out of their way to label them delinquents, draft resisters, troublemakers?

FH: Because I think all of us -- not all of us -- many of us were concerned, as I say, with the fate of our group and our kids in the postwar society of America. We were looking at the long range. And we thought that the Heart Mountain resisters, I don't say that they were disloyal, but they were resisting the draft, which they resisted because, as I say, some of 'em truly on constitutional principles, others because they didn't want to go to war. I think if you really searched into that, you'd find that's true. That's true of all the resisters. Because... where's that thing I had?

FA: It's on the floor by your right foot.

FH: I've been reading a book, I was telling... who was it?

FC: Paul.

FH: Paul. Derelicts of Company K, and in it is says, "On May 31, 1944, the War Department announced that since the reinstation of Selective Service Nisei, 3,312 had been called. Of this number, 669 had been rejected, and only 139 had declined the report." Now think of it this way: who did the most for our group, the Nisei group, Nikkei group? Heart Mountain resisters or the 442? Who did the most for us?

FA: Who do you think?

FH: 442 and the war... there's no question about it.

FA: Why?

FH: Why? Look at the record they established. Every bit of publicity that came out after the 442 made their, they became more and more favorable to the Japanese American group and their problems. And there's been otherwise, if the 442 had failed, we wouldn't have had that publicity. And our return to American society wouldn't have been that good.

FC: I think the 442 did fail.

FH: Oh, they did not.

FC: If the 442 had succeeded --

FH: Don't say that to me.

FC: -- you would have won redress by 1950.

FH: That's applesauce, and you know it.

FC: No, I don't.

FH: Well, I do.

FC: I firmly believe that.

FH: I don't believe it.

FC: Because the 442 did nothing. Affected not one law. Not one law. They touched not one constitutional issue of camp. The 442 argument is a justification for camp. It's a racist argument.

FH: I totally disagree with you.

FA: Why do you disagree?

FH: Because I think if it weren't for the -- if it weren't for the guys that volunteered out of camp in our life, into the army and established those records, publicity would never have been favorable to us. We would never have gained the things that we gained after the war, redress included. We owe a debt to those guys that volunteered in spite of violation of their constitutional rights. We owe them a debt that we've never repaid.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

FC: What is the JACL?

FA: Can you, for those, for those who don't know, and there are a lot of people watching this program who don't even know what the JACL stands for. What does JACL stand for, Fred? The initials "JACL"?

FH: Japanese American Citizens League.

FA: And in your own mind, what does that mean to you? The idea "Japanese American Citizens League"?

FH: Let me give you a little history. Around 1922, '23, in the Bay Area, a group of the real old Issei, like Dr. Yatabe, Sim Togasaki, Saburo Kido, they felt that because of the discrimination of that time, unless Japanese Americans got together and made themselves felt in American society, in business, in politics, everything else, that we would never gain our rights in American society. In 1923, Dr. Yatabe came from San Francisco --

FA: Could you put the paper down on the floor? Thank you very much.

FH: In 1923, Dr. Yatabe, who was a dentist, came from San Francisco to Fresno and established a dental practice there. He established the American Loyalty League in Fresno in 1923. The other American loyalty leagues died along the way. But Dr. Yatabe kept the American Loyalty League alive clear through until in 1929, it became a part of the Japanese American Citizens League. And in 1930, I attended the first National Convention for the JACL in Seattle. And I attended that because I was only a year in JACL, 'cause I was -- in 1929 I was only twenty-one years old.

FA: How did you feel, as a young man, going to Seattle and being there among all these JACLers in Seattle, founding the JACL? How did that, how did you feel?

FH: I felt it was time that we got together. It's time that we asserted our rights. It's time we tried to rectify some of the wrongs that were committed against us. You remember in World War I, Tokie Slocum, you know him? He was a veteran of World War I. But he could not get American citizenship, because he was -- he was born in Japan -- but he was of Japanese descent, and Japanese were not eligible for naturalization. But other, other races who went into the army and got served, they immediately got their naturalization rights. So Tokie Slocum came -- he came to Seattle in 1930. And I met him there for the first time. I was very much impressed with him, but he insisted that he be sent to Washington to lobby for citizenship rights for Asian veterans of World War I. And after many years and the Nye-Lea bill, he succeeded in doing that. So all Asian veterans owe him that. 'Cause they served in World War I and would not have been eligible for citizenship unless he had done that. There was another delegate there, Sue Masugi, a woman. At that time, a Japanese citizen woman who married an alien Japanese was not, had her citizenship taken away from her, and she was sent to Washington, and in time, bill was passed for these Japanese women, married to alien Japanese, were restored their citizenship. Those are the two main items in that particular JACL meeting. But I met a lot of the leaders at that time, Jimmy Sakamoto, the Japanese-American Courier, the prime editor. I met Sim Togasaki, Mutual Trading Company, Saburo Kido, Walter Sukamoto. I met those -- those people you have to, you have to believe that they had the interests of the Nikkei people at heart. They wanted our Nikkei group to become a part of American society on an equal basis with anybody else, which I think was good. And Dr. Yatabe was the leader in Fresno. He was bilingual, good in Japanese, good in English, and a good speaker. He went out and joined these so-called American societies, and talked to them. And he kept us together, and I think under his leadership, we became more a part of -- may I have some water? -- of American society than before. My idea of the Japanese American Citizens League is that we were fighting mainly for our rights to be, you know, to be full American citizens and a part of American society. We didn't always succeed.

FC: What is the role of the JACL in the Japanese American community?

FH: What's the role of the AOC?

FC: I don't know. You tell me.

FH: Well, you're Chinese American. Association of -- wait. Chinese --



FA: No, the idea is for you to tell us, so that we can get it on camera. I don't need Frank telling us what it is, I'd like to hear what you say.

FH: Well, I don't know. He asked me about what JACL does, well, I'm asking what a Chinese American organization --

FA: Okay.

FH: He doesn't seem to know anything about Chinese Americans.

FA: Frank, sit down, please. Just sit down, thank you very much. Seriously, Frank. Fred, as a Sansei, what is the role of JACL in our community?

FH: Sansei?

FA: What is the role of the JACL in the Japanese American community then?

FH: Right now, you mean?

FA: Then and now. Then or now. Then, back then.

FH: Role is to continue to fight for Japanese American rights. There's still prejudice, discrimination. It's a lot better than it used to be, but there still is.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FA: How, how do you reconcile the idea that the JACL is meant to fight for civil rights when in, during the war, Mike Masaoka led the JACL into a program of "surrendering our rights, our civil rights for the duration in order that we may win popular acceptance for our children after the war"? How --

FH: How do I reconcile that?

FA: Yeah.

FH: I think it was the real practical thing to do. You talk about Mike Masaoka. There were many times that I disagreed with Mike Masaoka and what he did, but I think that he was one person who did more for our Japanese American group than any other one person. I really believe that. And at times, I've been in open conflict with him, but at the end I have to say that he was a good man, a great man, and we were very lucky to have him.

FA: That's... I want to ask you about Mike later, but the question still is, Fred, how do you reconcile the idea that if the JACL is to stand for Nikkei/Nisei civil rights, how do you also say, acknowledge that the JACL in 1942, the program was to "surrender our civil rights for the duration in order that we may win popular acceptance for ourselves, our Issei parents, and for our children after the war"?

FH: I reconcile that in saying that it was the only thing we could do. You know, in time of war there's lots of things that are not subject to civil rights. The civil rights of many, many groups of people are absolutely ignored during wartime. War, war brings a special set of conditions.

FC: In the United States?

FH: Yeah.


FH: How old were you in 1942?

FA: I was, I was not born yet.


FH: Then you know nothing about the conditions at that time. You know nothing about the discrimination at that time. You don't know the fears that we as adults -- thirty-four years old, three kids, mother, father -- faced at that time. You don't know the pressures that were on us. You speak from an angle of way... with the advantage of hindsight and opinions that are yours -- it's okay. But you don't know what the conditions were at that time. You don't know. And I don't think you can judge without knowing.

FA: What were the conditions? Tell me.

FH: The conditions were the pressures against us as a group. Because of the war.

FA: Enlighten me.

FH: What do you mean, enlighten you? I have a friend in Selma, he said the editor of their newspaper, Selma Enterprise, was very much pro-Japanese American. But when the war came, he told George, "You better get out because you can't tell what the public's going to do." You know what I mean? You have friends who are no longer your friends. I was going to... when I went to Fresno State University, I had a professor who -- history, I think it was. Very close to me. I read for some of his classes, I made good grades. And, but when 1942 came, he didn't say a word in our support. Not one word. And from then on, he was not my friend. We had another one that -- Dr. Hubert Philips, married Carolyn Baker, Dean of Women, who I knew very little. Yet they came out full blast for our support. But there were very few, very few like that. Most of the so-called friends, they just turned their faces, they didn't know us. That's what war brings. You have to realize the war conditions are different. In times of war, things happen, maybe you don't want them to happen but you let it happen because you think it's best in the long run.

FA: You say that civil rights, you can't entertain, cling to the idea of fighting for your civil rights during times of war. Does that strike you as a shame?

FH: Is what?

FA: Does that strike you as a shame?

FH: No. It was practical. I bet you if you go back in history, you'll find many, many cases where civil rights were ignored because of war. What about the Holocaust in Germany? Did they worry about the civil rights of the Jewish people?

FA: No. But today, people say that the Jewish resistance were the real heroes of the Holocaust, and that the Jewish leaders who collaborated with the Nazis were traitors. There are some today who say the resisters are the heroes of Japanese America, and that the JACL were collaborators.

FH: Well, you and I differ there, Frank. Because I don't think -- you just can't realize the conditions at that time. You just can't realize unless you were there personally. You can't realize.

FA: And again, I don't have an opinion -- well, I do have an opinion. But it's not me saying that, Mr. Hirasuna. It's others, Nisei, that we interviewed, who say, "The JACL sold us out in World War II. They didn't stand up and fight for our rights."

FH: All right, you... speak to some of the others, see what they say.

FA: That's why I, that's why --

FH: That few that you spoke to don't necessarily represent the group.

FA: That's why I'm coming to you.

FH: All right.

FA: And asking you to react to that statement.

FH: That's what I'm saying. What you hear is from a few.

FA: Did the JACL sell out Japanese America in World War II?

FH: No.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 9>

FA: Is there anything else that you want to say, Fred, that we haven't given you a chance to say? Again, I wanted to come here to give you a change to get it all off your chest and give it to me, yeah, give me both barrels.

FH: You know, I'm ninety years old. I'm way over the hill. And there was a time, maybe I would have been more explosive, more aggressive in what I say and do. I'm past that now. I'm just too old. I wish I were twenty years younger, I'd give you a good fight. But all in all, the whole darn thing boils down to this: we had to look out for our group, and our kids in American society after the war. That should have been our main cause, our main, for everything we did. To try to make it easy for them to try to get back into American society. And if we had made all these protests, lawsuits, not participated in American, I think we were, would never have come back to where we are today. I think today, you and I and our kids owe something to JACL for that. You were going to talk about Mike Masaoka? I think he was the, if there's one man who did more for the Japanese American group as a whole, that was Mike Masaoka. As I say, there were many times I disagreed with him. Many times I fought with him openly. But on the whole, he was good for us. You know, when the JACL opened the draft, sought to have the draft from 4-C to 1-A, all right, now, the guys that went to that Salt Lake meeting, Yatabe, Kido, Inagaki and others, when they went back to camp, they were beaten. Beaten up. And yet, if the draft had not been open, if we had remained 4-C all during the war, and not participated in the military, where would we have been? I, myself, thirty-four years old, three little kids, a wife, mother and father, sister, sister-in-law, I had a 4-C classification. I wrote to my draft board, number 124 in Fresno and told them, "I want my 4-C classification changed. I am an American citizen." Well, they changed it, and they gave me a draft deferment, because of age, family, and the work that I was in. So that's why I was never in the military service.

FC: You said something I just want to clarify. Are you crediting the JACL with getting the draft restored, or are you just saying the JACL made a great effort to get the draft restored?

FH: I think it was the influence of JACL has a great deal.

FC: Could you give that to us in a whole sentence? The influence of the JACL had a great deal...

FH: To do the opening up of the draft.

FC: One more time, please. So we have a complete sentence.

FH: The JACL had something, a great deal to do with opening up the draft to Japanese Americans.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: Okay, is there anything else you want to say besides that? That I haven't given you a chance to say?

FH: Well, if you have any more questions, I tried to answer them.

FC: Yes, and you did well.

FH: Fairly and honestly, and my, I give you my opinion. And I heard your opinion, I agree with some of what you say, but some of it I don't agree with at all. So there's always going to be that difference. And if your whole project is bent towards justifying the Heart Mountain resisters, I don't think that project is good. You're not trying to present... you're presenting more pro than con. You have to admit that.

FA: Oh, no. Not at all. I'm presenting both sides. I'm presenting both sides.

FH: Yeah, but I think I see what the end result's going to be.

FA: Sure.

FC: Let's say you're right. Let's say you're right. The end product, in your opinion -- and you may disagree in the end -- but in your opinion, the end product that we produce after you've seen it, is pro-resisters, anti-JACL. What effect do you think this will have on the Japanese American community? Or the perception of Japanese Americans by the people who see this?

FH: You know, when you talk about Japanese Americans, you have a group of Nisei, older Nisei, and not-so-old Nisei. The Sansei and Yonsei are not in it. They're not in Japanese American society so much. And when you get down to Yonsei, I think... here's what I truly believe: that JACL has a limited life. Because the real young people are not getting into it. They're not interested in Japanese American things. Which may be good, which may be bad, but what are you going to do? Like I said, I have a great-grandchild that's one-sixteenth Japanese. His name's going to be Japanese, but that'd be all. His physical features and everything are all non-Japanese. So I think that's the way we're going to go. Especially with the great percentage of intermarriages that are coming up. And I think these "halves," hapas, are going to marry out, the quarters are going to marry out. Presently, the Japanese part will be very, very small.

FA: And how do you feel about that?

FH: I think it's inevitable. In my own family I have three grandkids that are pure, so-called "pure" Japanese. And I have three that are half, and our great-grandchild is one-sixteenth. And that's the way it's going to go. I'll bet you the Chinese American group are having the same kind of troubles. That is, they're not -- what's the name of that outfit? Organization of Chinese Americans?


FH: I'll bet they're not getting support from the younger Chinese Americans. I don't think they are.

FA: Actually, they are because they are more active, politically, in Washington, D.C., but that's, that's irrelevant.

FH: Well, anyway, that's the way I think all of these so-called ethnic groups are going.

FA: And do you feel sorrow about that, or do you feel...

FH: No, I don't feel sorry. I told my kids, "I don't care who you marry, but marry good people. I don't care what their race is. Marry good people."

FC: So these "good people" have Japanese names or Chinese names, but no physical characteristics, they see this thing.

FH: They see what thing?

FA: This TV program.

FC: They see the, they see the program that we produce, and it's not the program...

FA: You would like to see.

FC: You would like to see.

FH: Yeah.

FC: So what effect do you think this will have on them? That they'll just turn it off?

FH: Very, very frankly, I think your program is going to seen by a very select group. And I don't think you're going to make a big impression on anybody. I really think that. One way or the other.

FC: What if it were the other way around? What if it turned out anti?

FH: Anti what?

FA: Resisters.

FC: Anti-resisters. And...


FC: And we show it to this same audience of Americans with Japanese names and other kinds of names?

FH: You know that conference in UCLA when you were on panel?

FA: Yes.

FH: I knew the group itself was pro, because every time Frank or one of the other panel members spoke, there was applause. But when I spoke, there was no applause. And you had me at a great disadvantage. You have a big voice, a microphone, you sounded all over the hall. I didn't have a microphone, and I couldn't, I couldn't get through there. I wish that George Hori had given me a chance to get to the table with a microphone, but he didn't. But that time, I had a very poor opinion of you. [Laughs] I'll say that very frankly. What you said I didn't think was at all suitable for that thing.

FC: Why? I mean, it's...

FA: Why?

FC: It was an, not suitable for an academic setting? Not suitable for a meeting at the store?

FH: It wasn't a fair statement. You didn't make fair statements. You didn't make fair statements, I don't think. Matter of fact, I have a recording of you, what you said.

FA: Yeah, well, that's Frank. [Laughs] I appreciate the chance to come talk to you, Mr. Hirasuna.

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