Janet Matsumoto
A Different View


The United States Congress passes the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It mandates a presidential apology and reparation payment of $20,000 to internees, evacuees, and persons of Japanese ancestry who lost liberty or property because of discriminatory action by the federal government during World War II.

Janet's family is awarded reparations and an apology.

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[W]e had the hardest time [getting reparations] because we were the only family [evacuated]. There’s no other families [living in the area].

The only other family — by the time the war came — they weren’t with us, so this Hawaiian Portuguese lady and her husband, the husband was my father’s deckhand. He used to help him. They used to live close by but they weren’t evacuated. We were the only ones that was evacuated.

President Reagan signs the Reparations Bill for Japanese-Americans

I thought we were really lucky, but — like the other people, the whole bunch were [interned], so they can more or less da kine. But like us, only our family, so we have to have some kind of proof that we were there.

So we asked my cousin — they were living in Seattle by then, already — we wrote to them and asked them to help us. So they wrote and then also, another family in Molokai, they wrote, too. They wrote something that we had to get out from there.

My father, after the war, [19]45 — the war ended — and he was sent back to Molokai. And then he got sick, so he had to come home. Nineteen forty-eight. In 1948, when he passed away, I was pregnant with Keith.

[The internment camps] didn’t affect us too much because my father was never interned. He just was questioned, that’s all. He said he went — they called him a couple of times to the FBI building to interrogate him.

Even my cousin, my father’s nephew, he was in Japan for schooling. And he came home just in time before the war. I think he came home on the last ship. So when he started working, he said, ho, how many times they called him in for question. And then, he said there was one guy, Jack [John A.] Burns, that questioned him and ask him all kinds of questions and tell him, you know, he went to Molokai and all that. And come to find out that, he said, “Oh, I know your uncle very well.”

So he told my father, he said, “Oh, Uncle, good thing.” Because of him, maybe he wasn’t pulled in.

I think it’s good for [my grandchildren] to know how I grew up. And during the war, that we had to evacuate and all that. Because I don’t think they know about it. I don’t think I ever talked to them, though. They never did ask.

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, Honolulu, Hawaii

[Hichiro: You know, the thing is, they’re doing all the talking now.]

Janet Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Janet Matsumoto and National Archives.

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