Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: James Omura Interview I
Narrator: James Omura
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 9, 1990
Densho ID: denshovh-ojimmie-02-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

FA: Well, the JACL basically accused you of misleading these boys, all the draft resisters down the wrong path.

JO: Okay. I don't believe for one minute I misled anyone. I placed the issue before them and they made the decision based upon that and other factors that they picked up. If anyone, I think the JACL mis-, misled the resisters. In their editorials, why, they went along with the administration-backed Heart Mountain Sentinel and accused me of various and sundry things that were mostly rhetoric. There were no basis for them. It made good reading, good copy, influenced a hell of a lot of people, but there was no truth to it.

FA: It wasn't not a matter of truth but of just perspective. They said James Omura would be inducted as the number one menace to postwar assimilation of the Nisei.

JO: Am I? I'm not. That places a lie on that statement. I've never been accused of being the number one menace. And if I were, why am I not accused of it anywhere?

FA: Why were the Nisei and the JACL so threatened by your stance?

JO: Well, for instance, the JACL felt that image was more important than good laws anyway, and I was standing up for good laws, and they were standing up for image, well we're on different track. They were just to, to please the government and to build their own image, why, they are willing to go along with injustice and I was not willing. And as a result, why, I was an adversary of theirs. And they wanted, they, it wasn't just matter of myself, they were against anyone who were opposed, any dissident, they were opposed -- the people who were dissidents in camp, they called them "troublemakers," and they wanted them segregated to Tule Lake. They advocated that.

FA: What did they call you and the resisters?

JO: What they call me? I would say they called me disloyal, but I never paid much attention to it because the government thought I was loyal. In fact, during the trial, the trial was interrupted when my attorney brought up the loyalty, I mean, my loyalty record. The assistant U.S. attorney objected saying that the government is stipulating that I was loyal and should not be brought up in this trial. And at that moment, why, the judge recessed the trial to give the opposing counsel opportunity to get together on stipulation and also to shorten the trial. So I thought myself that that was a very effective action that would have great bearing on the jury.


FA: The JACL says the resisters were disloyal because, because they should have fought for the army. Resisting the draft in wartime is by, on its face, a disloyal act.

JO: I don't think so.

FA: Why not?

JO: Well, there are many cases of resisting draft. You have the conscientious objectors, for instance. You won't call them disloyal because conscience tells them not to. In my opinion, the resisters also acted upon conscience, the fact that their rights were taken away from them. And if you asked me why did I do these things -- and I've been asked that many times, and I always come back to the word conscience. Because we couldn't live with our conscience otherwise. So simply because a person acted out of conscience doesn't make 'em disloyal.

FA: But weren't they delinquents in a way, Jimmie? I mean, they just brooded too much about these things and they should have just gone along.

JO: I don't think so. I mean, if wrongs were done to you and if everyone whose rights were taken away from them throughout the entire history of mankind and nobody spoke up, we would still be in the dregs of mankind, that's all. It's because people stood up for principle that progress has been made. Civilization, progress to the point where we know what is right, what is wrong, and people have stood up for, many people have gone to jail. Even Thoreau went to prison, and if you look back, there are many outstanding people who went to prison merely because of their conscience and their principles.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1990, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.