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-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

SF: When you guys were all kept together, what did you guys talk about, or what...

FY: Over at McNeil?

SF: Or right before the jail, like during the trial and some things of that sort.

FY: I don't recall talking much about the situation because we were all pretty much under the same situation. Our feeling was this is it. Piss on it. We're not going to... if they're going to kill us, they're going to kill us all the way, so there was a... well, I can't generalize -- sort of a martyrtism there, too. We were gonna be martyrs and we were gonna go all the way through with it. And the injustice, there was no point in talk about it. We know it was wrong that we were put in camp, concentration camp. It was only later than when our trial date was to be set. Then we said, what do we do? See and again, nobody knew anything.

LH: So was there any access to legal advice in the camp?

FY: None, zero, nothing. It's just that by rumors, somebody says, "We should do this," or somebody said that or, you know. This is totally new to me. I never been a courtroom. I mean, aside, as spectator, as a kid, I used to see what a trial was about at the Seattle City building, but never been involved in any kind of arrest or things of this sort. When they say, announced that we were to be given court-appointed lawyers, I didn't know what that meant.

LH: Do you feel that your lawyer did the best he could?

FY: I felt he did. I mean, again, his voice was strong. Again, I don't know what constitutes a good lawyer. He sounded like somebody we see in movies. He takes the book and slammed it down and made noise and says the so-and-so amendment says under the Constitution that we under duress or restraint or, you know. "Gee, he sounds pretty good." That's how naive I was at least. And I'm sure most of us are the same. When the jury... and we didn't, I don't recall ever saying one word and then when we finished, then the judge would instruct the jury and said, "The preceding testimony is immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent. The question is, did he or did he not report for induction?" That's all. Then the jury goes out. They go in the hallway, you could see them, they are smoking a cigarette. And when they finish their cigarette and they come and, "Guilty." The judge, I think this judge later became governor of, or formerly was the governor of Idaho. Governor Clark, Judge Clark at that time.

LH: When you were in McNeil and you had a chance to talk about the outcome -- here you were in prison -- was there time for regret?

FY: No. I don't think so. If there'd be any regret, it'd be considered way, way before, I should think. One fellow pleaded guilty only because according to his advisor, the lawyer said they're not -- you know, he knows what the score was -- he said, "It's not a question of whether you were evacuated. That has no relevance in this case. It is a case of either you have reported for induction or not." So he instructed him to plead guilty because you're going to get a couple years off. So he did follow the instruction and, you know, logically, he was correct. At least I found out that what we, the injustice that was applied to us was, had no relevance in the case. So he pleaded guilty and that poor guy, he suffered a lot.

LH: In what way?

FY: Because we were, all others were die-hard and say, oh, no. To us, pleading guilty was admitting they were wrong or something. Well, in his case, no, it wasn't an admission of wrong. It's just admitting that yes, he did not report for induction. So, I really felt sorry for the guy and in fact, in my biography, he's the only one I wrote about. Because it was very unusual.

LH: How was he treated differently from the rest of you?

FY: People all kept quiet. The silent treatment. No one intimidated him. This one guy kind of made some comment. But most people just kept quiet. And that silence is even more painful than being called some names. And I talked to him, too, since then. In fact, I just talked to him about a year ago. And more than once we talked and yeah, I felt sorry for him. The guy is a very intelligent fellow. If not one of the more intelligent in the group. That was the only major type of conflict, if you wanna call it conflict.

LH: So he suffered alone during the prison time.

FY: I think all the way, rough. Although, no, he was very popular, though. He was a good athlete. But... and I think most people forgotten about it. At that time, we were in a very stressful mood and it's almost like you've gotta kick somebody. Because the whole trial was a farce as far as I was concerned. It was a joke.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.