Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Sumida Interview
Narrator: Frank Sumida
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 23, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-sfrank-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, before we go there, let's go to Heart Mountain. You said, so from here, you went to Heart Mountain. How was Heart Mountain...

FS: Compare?

TI: Yeah, compare.

FS: Heart Mountain was a good camp. Why? A lot of people don't know this. It was run by Germans. German population was in that area, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota. A lot of German was in that area. So when the government wanted people to work in camp, white people, they asked for you. And who applied? German people. That's all there was. So they came to work in our camp. They were the head of the, they ran the camp.

TI: And so why were Germans good?

FS: Better?

TI: Yeah, better.

FS: I think they sympathized with Japan because Japan and Germany were buddy-buddies. So we had, there were no food shortage, I mean, they didn't short change the food. We had good food in Heart Mountain. And then there was a "no-no," you remember the "no-no" started and protests? Why was it that Heart Mountain, all those very bad elements were controlled? Why couldn't Tule Lake do the same thing they did in Heart Mountain? I started thinking about this, and I started thinking about that when I was in Japan.

TI: And so when you say "no-nos," were you talking about the draft resisters, the Heart Mountain draft resisters?

FS: Yeah, draft resisters, "no-nos," Frank Emi.

TI: Okay, the Fair Mountain, or the Fair Play Committee.

FS: Fifty, a hundred people. And they were doing a lot of drastic things. But you know what? The government told -- I heard this from somebody. He says, "We'll allow your protests, you can protest all you want. Just inform us what you're going to do. We're going to go along with you. We allow protests, we allow hunger, whatever you want to do, but just let us know. We want to protect you. If you get sick, we want to put you in a hospital. We don't want to leave you out there. If you fight with another Japanese, you get hit on the head? Who's going to take care of you?" So that's the reason. I think that's the reason why in Heart Mountain, there was no incident like Tule Lake.

TI: But you're saying that they allowed protests.

FS: Yes, they allowed it.

TI: But by allowing it, you felt it was more controlled.

FS: Provided you tell the people, the white people what you're doing. You're going to have a protest, certain date, and the topic is going to be this. So the government, "Go ahead and do it." So they let 'em do it. That's why those people in Heart Mountain had a pretty fair run of the thing, don't you think? Compared to, I mean, have you made a study on that?

TI: I have. I have interviewed people from there.

FS: Okay, didn't they tell you that they didn't have all that complication with the white people?

TI: It may have come more from, yeah, the community than...

FS: The white administrator.

TI: Yeah, no one's ever told it to me this way, so this is different.

FS: Yeah. But that's the truth. And did you know something about the football players?

TI: No, tell me about the football.

FS: They went to play the Worland High School, and there were a couple of Japanese on there. They were railroad workers' son, like my dad, their son. And they were on the football team, they couldn't speak Japanese. They couldn't understand Japanese. So the camp guys, all the Nisei that, on the football team in camp, a lot of them could speak Japanese in some way or another, saying, "You bakatare," you know what I mean. So, migi, hidari, manaka, simple things they knew. So verbally, they were making the play as they ran it, no huddle. And then on the other side, the white people and the Japanese didn't know what the hell this guy's saying. So they just ran crazy over there.

TI: So they're doing all these verbal audibles on the field in Japanese.

FS: Yeah. You had to be there, you had to hear about it firsthand to really enjoy this. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.