The Passing of a Hero — Gordon Hirabayashi


Gordon Hirabayashi in 1983. Vancouver Sun photo.

Earlier this week Gordon Hirabayashi died at the age of 93.  Along with millions of other Americans, I learned about this on Wednesday afternoon while listening to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”  Here’s the link to the feature on Gordon Hirabayashi.  He was a native of Seattle, Washington, a second generation Japanese-American born in 1918.  In 1942, when his family was ordered to turn themselves in to authorities for transportation to and incarceration in a World War II internment camp, Gordon refused to go.  He considered the round-up and internment unconstitutional.  He was jailed as a criminal for his stand.  He fought this travesty in court, all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.  He lost his Supreme Court case, a demonstration of how the Supreme Court can itself distort and pervert and disgrace the U.S. Constitution (this time, in the name of “national security”).

It was not until that Gordon Hirabayashi was vindicated:

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.”

Excerpted from The Los Angeles Times.

.               .               .

More on the Internment of Japanese-Americans During World War II

Please see this incredible — and shocking — photo essay  (from The Atlantic)  on the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

See also this piece on the “Manzanar Relocation Center,” (California) which itself provides links to additional reading and information.  Here’s the link to the Manzanar National Historical Site, maintained by the U.S. National Park Service

In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II.

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