Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deceased--Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi
April 23rd, 1918 to January 2nd, 2012

Sometimes a sense of "right" and courage prevail.

"Gordon Hirabayashi dies at 93; opposed internment of Japanese Americans"

Hirabayashi cleared his name four decades after his 1942 arrest and helped prove that the U.S. falsified the reasons for the mass incarceration.


Elaine Woo

January 5th, 2012

Los Angeles Times

Gordon Hirabayashi, who was convicted for defying the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II and, four decades later, not only cleared his name but helped prove that the government had falsified the reasons for the mass incarceration, has died. He was 93.

Hirabayashi, who had Alzheimer's disease and other ailments, died Monday in Edmonton, Alberta, where he had lived for many years, said his son, Jay.

The elder Hirabayashi was one of only three Japanese Americans who refused to comply with Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February 1942. The order gave military authorities the power to restrict the freedom of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast in the wake of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor two months earlier.

Opposing his family's wishes and incurring criticism from other Japanese Americans for "rocking the boat," Hirabayashi resisted the order and was arrested and convicted in 1942 for violating a curfew and refusing to enter a relocation camp. He spent more than two years in several prisons and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1943 ruled against him and upheld the government's argument that the restrictions were a military necessity.

He never portrayed himself as a hero, his son said. Nor did he view himself as a radical. "I was not one of those angry young rebels, looking for a cause. I was one of those trying to make some sense of this, trying to come up with an explanation," he told the Associated Press in 2000.

It took more than 40 years to reopen his case, but Hirabayashi eventually savored victory.

"What Gordon should be most remembered for is taking a stand on a matter of principle at a time when hardly anyone — not only within the Japanese American community but the nation at large — sided with him or sympathized with him," said Peter H. Irons, a retired UC San Diego political scientist whose research in the 1980s helped lay the legal foundation for the overturning of the convictions. "It wasn't at all like the civil rights movement where thousands of people engaged in demonstrations and civil disobedience. It was a very lonely stand."

Hirabayashi was the last surviving member of the trio of men who were convicted of violating the federal order. The other two were Minoru Yasui, who died in 1986, and Fred Korematsu, who died in 2005. Hirabayashi was also the only one of the three to receive a full trial when the cases were reopened in the 1980s.

Born in Seattle on April 23, 1918, Hirabayashi was the son of an immigrant truck farmer who arrived from Japan in 1907. His father, a pacifist who converted to Christianity in Japan in a sect influenced by the Quakers, instilled in him the importance of standing up for his beliefs.

He was a senior at the University of Washington in 1942 when the curfew and evacuation orders were imposed. At first he obeyed the 8 p.m. curfew. But one night, as he left his Caucasian classmates at the library to hurry back to his dorm, the injustice of the restrictions suddenly hit him. That realization deepened when the evacuation was announced. He opposed it on the grounds that it violated the 5th Amendment, which prohibits the seizure of property and rights without due process of law.

After his conviction, he hitchhiked to one of the prisons, in Arizona, when the government said it could not afford to transport him there, his son said. In 1999, the area once occupied by the prison in Arizona's Catalina Mountains was named the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site.

After the war, Hirabayashi returned to the University of Washington, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees in sociology. He taught at American University in Cairo for a few years before moving to Canada in 1960 to join the University of Alberta faculty. He chaired its sociology department for seven years and retired in 1983.

By then Irons, who was a lawyer as well as a professor, had launched a campaign to press for rehearings of the cases against Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui. The latter two men were cleared in separate court actions in 1983 and 1984.

In 1986 Judge Donald G. Voorhees of the U.S. district court in Seattle ruled that the government had withheld from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 critical information that might have led the high court to strike down the legal foundations of the internment. Specifically, he found that the government suppressed a report by Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, who was in charge of the internment, stating that racial reasons made it impossible for military authorities to determine who was loyal and disloyal. In finding federal misconduct, Voorhees invalidated Hirabayashi's 1942 conviction.

In the wake of Voorhees' ruling, Congress approved legislation providing $1.2 billion in reparations to Japanese American internees.

"As fine a document as the Constitution is," Hirabayashi told The Times on the eve of his legal victory, "it is nothing but a scrap of paper if citizens are not willing to defend it."

In addition to his son, Jay, he is survived by his wife, Susan Carnahan; two daughters, Marion Oldenburg and Sharon Yuen; a sister, Esther Furugori; a brother, James; nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He was divorced from his first wife, Esther, who died several hours after Hirabayashi's death.

"Gordon Hirabayashi, World War II Internment Opponent, Dies at 93"


Richard Goldstein

January 3rd, 2012

The New York Times

Gordon Hirabayashi, who was imprisoned for defying the federal government’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II but was vindicated four decades later when his conviction was overturned, died on Monday in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 93.

He had Alzheimer’s disease, his son, Jay, said.

When Mr. Hirabayashi challenged the wartime removal of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants from the West Coast to inland detention centers, he became a central figure in a controversy that resonated long after the war’s end.

Mr. Hirabayashi and his fellow Japanese-Americans Fred Korematsu and Minoru Yasui, who all brought lawsuits before the Supreme Court, emerged as symbols of protest against unchecked governmental powers in a time of war.

“I want vindication not only for myself,” Mr. Hirabayashi told The New York Times in 1985 as he was fighting to have his conviction vacated. “I also want the cloud removed from over the heads of 120,000 others. My citizenship didn’t protect me one bit. Our Constitution was reduced to a scrap of paper.”

In February 1942, two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the name of protecting the nation against espionage and sabotage, authorized the designation of areas from which anyone could be excluded. One month later, a curfew was imposed along the West Coast on people of Japanese ancestry, and in May 1942, the West Coast military command ordered their removal to inland camps in harsh and isolated terrain.

Mr. Hirabayashi, a son of Japanese immigrants, was a senior at the University of Washington when the United States entered World War II. He adhered to the pacifist principles of his parents, who had once belonged to a Japanese religious sect similar to the Quakers.

When the West Coast curfew was imposed, ordering people of Japanese background to be home by 8 p.m., Mr. Hirabayashi ignored it. When the internment directive was put in place, he refused to register at a processing center and was jailed.

Contending that the government’s actions were racially discriminatory, Mr. Hirabayashi proved unyielding. He refused to post $500 bail because he would have been transferred to an internment camp while awaiting trial. He remained in jail from May 1942 until October of that year, when his case was heard before a federal jury in Seattle.

Found guilty of violating both the curfew and internment orders, he was sentenced to concurrent three-month prison terms. While his appeal was pending, he remained at the local jail for an additional four months, then was released and sent to Spokane, Wash., to work on plans to relocate internees when they were finally released.

His appeal, along with one by Mr. Yasui, a lawyer from Hood River, Ore., who had been jailed for nine months for curfew defiance, made its way to the Supreme Court. In 1943, ruling unanimously, the court upheld the curfew as a constitutional exercise of the government’s war powers. Mr. Hirabayashi served out his three-month prison term at a work camp near Tucson.

The Supreme Court declined to rule at the time on Mr. Hirabayashi’s challenge to internment as well. (Mr. Yasui had contested only the curfew.) But in December 1944, in a case brought by Mr. Korematsu, a welder from Oakland, Calif., the court upheld the constitutionality of internment in a 6-to-3 vote.

Mr. Hirabayashi later spent a year in federal prison for refusing induction into the armed forces, contending that a questionnaire sent to Japanese-Americans by draft officials demanding a renunciation of any allegiance to the emperor of Japan was racially discriminatory because other ethnic groups were not asked about adherence to foreign leaders.

The Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu cases were revisited in the 1980s after Peter Irons, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, found documents indicating that the federal government, in coming before the Supreme Court, had suppressed its own finding that Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were not, in fact, threats to national security.

In September 1987, a three-member panel of a federal appeals court in San Francisco unanimously overturned Mr. Hirabayashi’s conviction for failing to register for evacuation to an internment camp and for ignoring a curfew. The convictions of Mr. Korematsu and Mr. Yasui had been overturned earlier.

Federal legislation in 1988 provided for payments and apologies to Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II.

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi was born on April 23, 1918, in Seattle. His father operated a fruit and vegetable stand.

After the war, Mr. Hirabayashi graduated from the University of Washington and received a master’s degree and a doctorate there in sociology. He taught at the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo and in Canada at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he lived.

Survivors include his wife, Susan Carnahan; his daughters, Marion Oldenburg and Sharon Yuen, and his son, Jay, all from a previous marriage that ended in divorce; a sister, Esther Furugori; a brother, James; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Yasui died in 1986 and Mr. Korematsu in 2005.

“When my case was before the Supreme Court in 1943, I fully expected that as a citizen the Constitution would protect me,” Mr. Hirabayashi told Professor Irons in “The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court” (1988).

“Surprisingly, even though I lost, I did not abandon my beliefs and my values,” he said. “And I never look at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese-American case. It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”

Some lovely government propaganda...

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