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-01-0025

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LH: Did you have a chance to discuss this with your parents, your decision? Did you discuss your decisions or your thinking with your parents in camp?

FY: Did I...?

LH: Did you discuss your thinking about, you know, the dilemma in camp about answering one way or another or reporting for induction?

FY: When I came back with my parents? Yes. I said, "This is ridiculous that we're called upon to prove that we're American." It was, you know, I have to say even though they had volunteers. You know, they agreed with me. It's just that their feeling was, well, what do you do? That's where the Japanese word "shikata ga nai" that means, well, you have to bear with it.

LH: So, do you think that there were quite a few others that believed the same as you, but just did not want to speak up?

FY: I, I personally feel, yes. I think most Niseis were intelligent. They weren't stupid. They know how they felt. I mean, at least to me, it sounds logical. You know when you're uprooted and put into... your whole family lifestyle is disrupted and then called a "Jap" then put into concentration camp. I don't know how else a person would feel, at least it's the way I feel.

LH: So, did you feel as though you were acting individually, or did you also have friends that, that also spoke up?

FY: Well, unfortunately I don't think any of us really spoke up. You mean on a soapbox and talked to the group.

LH: Did you feel able to speak openly to others in the camp?

FY: At first, of course, my feeling was this was an obvious opinion. I just felt that everybody, and I was going to get in there and just support it. Not to be the isolated vanguard of it. You know, I thought this was an overwhelming feeling. At least this was the feeling I had when I was there and when I left and when I came back even. It was wrong. It was wrong. And so, ironically, no, I was on the short end of the stick instead. Later. And it was, there was lots of, what do you call it? Drum beating. This promoting of, by outside source. And they were competent speakers and they spoke. And they kept insisting that we must prove that we are Americans. I felt I'll just have to show my citizenship and say that it is. I am an American.

LH: So did you feel that there were others supporting your point of view?

FY: Everyone I talked to. And these people, some of them were killed. Yes. I get emotional about it. Because there's many good friends, even now. And the few after the war and after we were released from McNeil Island, yes, there were a few reprisals and hate type of -- but very few. The people that were sort of inciting that would, with a group and they were the type of people that would do that with anything. They were that type. They would incite something and then get in the back of the others. One time I was sort of semi-mobbed.

LH: This was...

FY: Semi-mobbed.

LH: When did this...

FY: After the war.

LH: After the war.

FY: After the release, yeah. And the fellow that I knew... one fellow I knew, he egged people on and he is the one that stood in the back and the others I didn't know. I seen their face, but they didn't know me that well and visa versa and they just made threatening remark. I have talked to a few other resisters and they had a similar experience. So as a result, and also you know, there was drum beating of patriotism and all that, so most of the resisters became very reticent about their experience.

LH: At the time in camp, did you feel that there was any threat to you?

FY: No, I didn't feel, none at all.

SF: How do you explain why you were able to follow through on your decision and so many other people who may have felt the same way you did?

FY: I think, I think majority felt more comfortable doing what... because generally, even before the war, people would say, "What are you going to do?" or "Where are you going to go?" And there was a kind of a numerical support you get. And people have a tendency to go in that line. Why I was different, I don't know. Part of my personality, I guess, from way back. But I think I mentioned earlier about my experience with Gordon and my experience with the teacher and those were all part of the feeling of how I felt.

LH: Aside from your own point of view, how did you feel about the people who chose to join the army?

FY: I didn't feel anything. I just... there is another Japanese word, "sho ga nai," it means, well, "So be it." So when the time comes where the FBI are gonna come and pick you up or the police going to come pick you up. That's another word "akirameru" that means, well, "What shall be, shall be."

LH: So...

FY: So from there on we were just, again, very obedient instead of running away or do this or that.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.