Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Yamasaki Interview II
Narrator: Frank Yamasaki
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 5, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-yfrank-02-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: We're continuing, November 5, 2001, with Frank Yamasaki. And Frank, where we left off was that you were just reviewing again that you had been found guilty of draft evasion from Minidoka camp, and you were sentenced to the federal penitentiary and taken to McNeil Island, where you were serving your time. And I'm going to fast-forward now and ask you about 1945, when you were in McNeil, and you heard about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

FY: Oh, yes.

AI: How did that come about?

FY: I was working in the education department at that time in McNeil. And one of the inmate who was teaching radio, repairing radio, came running into the office and says, "Hey, Frank, did you hear about that atomic bomb?" Atomic bomb. What is atomic bomb? And he says, "Yeah, they just blew up the whole city. It disappeared." And I said, and I thought, well, he's pulling my leg. And he comes back in, "Come on and listen to the radio." And I went -- and it's the kind of... again, it's like the twin towers, only much worse. You just can't believe, this is the type of fantasy that you read in a magazine or comic book. And it's so horrendous. I think it's, it's... the situation is, what kind of a life is, are we living in, where, where you can annihilate an entire city? I don't think I had pain, or at least I don't, I didn't feel the pain as much just the shock of it. Intellectually, of course, it's, it's horrendous, just like the, the twin towers. It's terrible. But I can't reflect on it any more than that.

AI: It was so shocking --

FY: Yes, yes.

AI: -- and difficult to take in.

FY: Yes.

AI: Seemed like an impossible --

FY: From our generation, where I grew up, to hear about a bomb annihilating a city, it's, it's unbelievable. To hear about a airplane crashing right into a, a building like the twin towers, there, it's unbelievable. It's, it's a fantasy. I don't know. It's, it's... very frightening, very frightening world we're living in.

AI: And a little later, as that reality of the atomic bombing set in, do you recall whether you had some reaction or a feeling about the fact that it was your government, the United States, that had done this?

FY: It, again, I think there's this point of blacking out beyond this point of shock that it's, it's not true. How could such a thing happen? What -- it's, you know, I was of a generation that didn't believe that we can go to the Mars or go to the moon. I could remember my younger brother saying, "Is it possible?" And I said, "No, it isn't. The gravitation in the Earth is so strong, it's impossible." I used to read about Buck Roger in the comic book. So you know, from my generation, this is something that is difficult to believe. To think even now we could write a letter and push a button and it goes all the way across the country, to some other country, in a second. So the world is changing very rapidly.

AI: That's right. Well, then continuing on, that, of course, signaled the end of World War II because soon after that, Japan surrendered. Do you have any recollection or memory about, about hearing that news of Japan's surrender or the ending of the war?

FY: Yes, the ending of the war... you know, it sounds callous, but we, my parent came from Hiroshima, so naturally I was trying to think who we have, relatives, and I knew this one friend, Takashi Iseki, that I grew up with, and they were, they visited Japan, and they weren't able to come back because of the war. But it's years since I saw him, and I wondered what happened to him. Aside from that, it's hard to imagine what a devastation, a real devastation is unless we have some taste of it ourselves. Even the disaster in New York. It's tragic, but I don't think we can really absorb the, the pain and suffering that exists there.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.