Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Yamasaki Interview I
Narrator: Frank Yamasaki
Interviewers: Lori Hoshino (primary), Stephen Fugita
Location: Lake Forest Park, Washington
Date: August 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-yfrank-01-0024

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LH: So you made your way back to Minidoka and rejoined your family.

FY: Yeah, then I went back to Minidoka and saw the family and saw friends. And then, but prior to that -- now, I didn't know about this, my brother was telling me, he says, "You know, you're angry or something." I heard from what was going on in camp... rumble about show that you're American, prove that you're American, etcetera. And so I was angry, really angry. Why, why should we?

LH: So at the time that you were in the sanitarium, that questionnaire, the "loyalty questionnaire" had already come out in camp?

FY: No, no. That was later.

LH: Later, okay.

FY: That was after, after we had committed ourselves to resist what was going on. Went into camp and again, I'm not a speaker, I just, one-to-one with others, I said, "Gee, this is stupid. They kick us around and now you're going to have go and prove that you're an American?" To me it was just pure gut. I had no intellectual understanding of this or anything. And then at the same time, we had no legal advisor. None of us, we don't know, we just go on the pure gut.

LH: So when you say that you had to prove you were an American, what was it that prompted that?

FY: Well, this is where... again, now these were rumors that you must volunteer to prove that you're a good 100 percent American, that you're a loyal American.

LH: Volunteer.

FY: Volunteer to the U.S. army. Well... no way, from my feeling. It was, it was just totally wrong. Let us, take us back to Seattle, get our parents and get our hotel back, get us back into what we were. We were American. How come Tony, they were Italian, how come they weren't evacuated? How come the German friends I had, they weren't evacuated? And they had far more active political organization in America than the Japanese had. The Japanese, I don't recall ever sounding, being subversive-minded. And I think, later on, it proved there was absolutely no subversive act.

LH: So, when you're talking about the subject, were you talking with close personal friends or...?

FY: Other Nisei. Friends, close friends only.

LH: Did you feel free to talk to...

FY: We were, I was, we were really overwhelmed because they had speakers from other Japanese organization come, and they were good speakers, and they spoke along with the camp leaders to be there and the military would be there. And they would speak at the mess hall, and telling our obligation and this and that. But they didn't mention one word -- I've been to one of those and listened -- and I thought not one single word about the injustice about we being evacuated... not one. Well, there is something... a lot of circumstances made them what they are. But from my view, perspective, it was wrong.


FY: If you can write this down, I said my only purpose of this, is that we were unjustly put into this concentration camp -- I didn't say concentration -- to this camp, and if you will restore our lifestyle like before this evacuation, yes, I would be more than willing to serve in the armed services. If not, I will not. There was no... nothing to do with the alliance. I told them I was born and raised here, this is my country. But that court... this is where all this FBI, I found out what they are. They didn't care. They didn't care at all about the injustice, about the evacuation. At the trial, that's exactly what happened. They just wanted to know, "Did you or did you not report for induction?" So... and the judge will instruct the jury, "The preceding by the defendant is immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent," or something like that. Everything that's said. And our attorney, a court-appointed attorney, came out and said, "Here is the Constitution right here that the government wrong, we're not wrong." They didn't care, "Did you or did you not report for induction?" So we learned a lot. So then years and years later, you know, the law firm that my wife was involved in, this one asshole says, "You know, Frank you didn't have to answer that." And I said, we were kids. We don't know.

SF: Wouldn't the stronger legal principle be that you didn't report for the draft, so that would be a clearer thing than the questionnaire which was only applied to camp people, whereas the draft, quote, "draft law" was supposedly applicable to everybody and...

FY: Yeah, but you know, you don't see that at that time. I was completely ignorant of what a draft law or seal. I don't know what that means. It could have been a kitchen operation. It could have been anything. I was going on pure gut reaction. This is... I had my ass kicked and it hurts. That's all it is. You know, they can come out with anything else they want to say, but it just comes down to that. It was wrong that we were put in camp. And it is an insult to say, let's prove that you're an American by volunteering. That's an insult on top of insult. So when it gets down to the legal aspect of this or that or did you say this, or... so that area, I have to answer the same way. Because it doesn't, it doesn't make sense. And now, since then, sure it didn't make sense and it was legally wrong, too. See, this is what the attorney tells us later when... I didn't know anything about that kind of thing. So I'm just, could say that it was wrong, that was it, how that was answered. It was coerced or something. It didn't matter. The only one thing that mattered is that it was wrong that we were put in a concentration camp.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.