Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Saburo Sato Interview II
Narrator: Frank Saburo Sato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 8, 2017
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-446

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is September 8, 2017, and yeah, let's all turn off our phones as we get started. And we're at the Densho office talking with Frank Sato. This is part two of your interview. And so, Frank, I thought we'd start off, last time we were talking about your time at Minidoka, we talked about your siblings and what they were doing in World War II. I now want to just sort of move on from Minidoka. And so why don't you start by telling me how did you leave, or under what circumstances did you and your family leave Minidoka?

FS: There's several things. The government gave us twenty-five bucks to leave, right? And my mom and dad went into the farm labor camp outside of Twin Falls, because they had no place to go. And I came back from Minnesota where I was going to high school one year, finished high school in Twin Falls, and then from there, when I finished high school, I moved back to this area and we stayed at the Ota Farms in their cabins for their farm workers until we could find a house to get settled in.

TI: And who came back to this area? You said "we," so that was you and who else?

FS: My mom and dad. I was the only one with my mom and dad, and we drove just in our car with our personal belongings in the car, and that was it.

TI: And then just to get us up to date, at this point, when you came back to this area, where were your other siblings? What were they doing at this point?

FS: Betty, my older sister, was in nurse's training in Colorado Springs. My sister Bess was in Rochester, Minnesota, she, I think, was in nurse's training yet. My youngest sister Rose was in a little town in Idaho, but she was working as a domestic help. John was at the University of Washington continuing his studies, Bob was in Champagne, Illinois, studying engineering, and I was the only one at home, the youngest of six. So I drove my mom and dad back here to this area.

TI: And this is after you had finished high school, so you're about eighteen, nineteen years old?

FS: Eighteen years old.

TI: Okay, so go ahead and continue.

FS: So anyway, when we came back, I helped my folks buy this one acre place in Puyallup, and we eventually moved in to this place with some raspberries and peaches, and my mom and dad settled working there for, on the farm, and then they were doing some work as farm workers. I applied for and got a job at Boeing's, and I worked at Boeing's for two years before I started college. It's kind of a tough time, we were trying to get settled, and I didn't know where it was gonna take me personally. Like I say, I worked at Boeing's, and in addition, I was doing gardening work on the side, in the neighborhood, to try to save money to go to university. My mother always emphasized education for us, and there was no way I was going to get to college unless I saved enough money. And so I was working at Boeing for, I think, a dollar and fifteen or twenty-five cents an hour, something like that, on the assembly line. And I was doing gardening work in the neighborhood for neighbors to try to save up a few bucks.

TI: I have a question about your parents. Probably most of the Niseis I've interviewed were older than you were, and so they didn't come back with their parents. Either they went into the military service or got jobs or went to school. And you had the opportunity to drive back with them to the Seattle area and then were living with them. What was it like for them, coming back to an area that they knew before the war? What was the same or what was different for them coming back this time?

FS: Well, the difference was, you know, when we left and I was twelve or thirteen years old, my dad had his farm, he had the fertile farm really going nicely, and he lost everything, all the farm equipment and everything. I just can't imagine how that was. When we came back, my dad asked me whether I wanted to farm with him, and I just didn't want my dad to have to go through that again. So I told him, no, I'll try to get to college somehow, and they could not worry about having to start a farm again, because it's just too tough to start a farm, all the equipment and so forth that he had that he lost. You just couldn't replace it. But fortunately, there was a family out there in Puyallup, George Richter was his name, and his grandson still runs that farm out there in Puyallup, and we're still good family friends. But George Richter and his wife came over and they wanted my dad and mom to come work as farmhands with them. He knew my dad was a very successful farmer, and he wanted his expertise, so that's where Mom and Dad worked, and I went from there, Boeing, to go on to the University of Washington. And that part worked out fine. But your question about how was it for my mom and dad, they really never talked too much about it, but I'm sure it was very painful.

TI: Tell me a little bit more about the Richter family. Over the weekend, Puyallup had their seventy-fifth commemoration, so I was talking to some of the local families, and there were a few that said that their grandparents or their parents after the war tried to reach out to the Japanese American community, or during the war, they even took care of some of the farms. So tell me a little bit about this family and what they did.

FS: Well, you know, I didn't know too much about the Richter family from before, but George Richter knew my dad or knew of my dad because in Sumner, there was the Puget Sound Vegetable Growers Association, and from that, they had this Rhubarb Growers Association. And the Richter farm became big rhubarb growers. And somewhere in there, George Richter, who was a much younger man than my dad, knew of my dad, and he reached out to him. And they were a wonderful family, and we still are in contact with them. I knew the grandson, Tim, I stop in to see him periodically, see their family. Both George and his wife Viola have since passed away, of course, but the son and the grandsons, I'm still in touch with.

TI: And do you think the Richter family, during this transition for your parents, it was helpful to your parents to be able to...

FS: Oh, very helpful. In fact, not only did George Richter hire my mom and dad, he did one thing further: he paid for their social security. And he said, "You'll need this," and he paid for it. My mom and dad didn't know anything about it. And later on, when they could no longer work, they were collecting social security because of George Richter. Great family.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's go on. So you now go to the University of Washington, and where did you live on campus, or in Seattle?

FS: You know, I moved into SYNKOA House, which was the old Japanese Students Club. And it had just been reactivated, my brother John was living there before World War II, and of course, when we had to leave, that's where he came back home from, the Students Club. And that house was maintained, renamed SYNKOA House after all the vets that were killed in action, the last names. And the K in SYNKOA House -- I'm sorry, the N in SYNKOA House is William Nakamura, who our courthouse is now named after as a Medal of Honor recipient. But anyway, I went to SYNKOA, lived there four years. I served as the president of the association then and got to know a lot of the community here through that process and became lifelong friends with Ed Wong, who, you know, is very much a leader in the Chinese American community.

TI: But go back to the SYNKOA House, tell me a little bit more. You said you lived there, how many other people lived there, and were they all students? Just give me a flavor of the rhythm of the SYNKOA House after the war.

FS: What it was was it was young students, all students like myself, all Japanese Americans except one guy by the name of Kim from Hawaii who was good friends with a lot of our Hawaiian Japanese American friends. And as you know, at that time, fraternity houses would not accept minorities, and there weren't many places that you could stay on campus. They just didn't have the facilities at that time. They had some for the vets primarily, if I remember right, but I know for me it was either staying at SYNKOA or finding a private place to stay.

TI: So how many stayed there?

FS: You know, I don't remember how many, but I think there were probably twenty, twenty-five of us. And we had a Japanese man who was our cook, he cooked our meals and we managed the place ourselves, paid for the, split the expenses, and that was all thanks to people like Yoshito Fuji, who was one of the people who originally raised funds so that that house could be bought years ago. I can't say enough for those people that got that started at a very critical time when housing just was not available for us.

TI: That's good. And not only housing, but I've heard that it was also kind of a social hub, too. So even Japanese Americans who weren't living there would oftentimes go there and do things.

FS: Oh, yeah. A lot of the commuter students would come and meet there, play cards between breaks, and so forth. It was kind of a social hub for both the women and the men.

TI: When you say both women and men, but only men stayed there, or was it coed?

FS: No, just men there. But the Valedas, the Japanese American women's group, was also formed, and we would have parties, dances, stuff like that.

TI: Now, the Valedas, did they have their own club or place to hang out, or did they hang out at SYNKOA?

FS: You know, I don't know. I don't remember that they had any particular place, but they were an organization that was formed, and we just kind of met together. I don't remember too much about that.

TI: And did the students -- so this was after the war -- and I'm guessing that of the people that would use SYNKOA as a meeting place to either live or just socialize, many of them had been in various different camps, maybe most of probably in Minidoka, but did you and the others ever talk about the camps or the wartime experience or your siblings or your families and the impact of the war?

FS: You know, I don't remember talking too much about that. We just kind of blocked that out, I think. Never really discussed the ramifications of it too much, or the constitutionality of it, or why all this happened. It was just kind of in the past.

TI: How about the faculty or administration at the University of Washington? Because here you had this three-, four-year break where before the war there were literally hundreds of Japanese Americans attending the University of Washington, they disappear, and now you have Japanese Americans coming back after the war. Was there any acknowledgement or comments or any discussion about that during that time period?

FS: None that I'm aware of, none whatsoever. It was completely devoid of any discussion of that type. In fact, the one thing that... it was in later years, but when McCormick was president of the university, I met him at a reception one day, and I told him, "You know, you folks really didn't do much for Japanese Americans or minorities in the past in the way of scholarships, and you really need to step that up." And he acknowledged that they hadn't focused on that enough, but then about a year later he left the university. But I'm happy to say that I think the university has done a much better job in that area. But when I was a student, I could have used a scholarship in the worst way. I worked three jobs while going to school. Can you believe this, Tom? I was a bellhop right here at Fifth and Spring Hotel, I worked as a bookkeeper for a dairy coop, and I also was a reader for the professor. And this was all so that I could have enough money to continue college. I could have used a scholarship in the worst way, but there was no reaching out by the university for something like that at that time. And I told McCormick about that, and I told him, "You guys just really need to do a better job."

TI: How about the other Japanese American students staying at SYNKOA House? How did they afford to stay there and also pay tuition, books, all that? Were they also working jobs like you?

FS: You know, I don't know that anybody was working jobs like me. But like my brother Bob was at SYNKOA, Sam Mitsui, a lot of the guys were vets, and they were on the GI Bill.

TI: So they had money.

FS: Yeah. But I was just right at the tail end of that group, and I didn't have the GI Bill.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well, that's another question. So when I think about that postwar University of Washington, SYNKOA, you had Japanese Americans who were World War II vets there, and so they were older, more experienced, had just, some of them had fought in Europe, might have been in the MIS, and here you were younger. Talk about that dynamic. What did you see or learn from these older students?

FS: You know, I just respected them. Those guys all were really my heroes, my brother Bob, my brother John, Sam Mitsui, these guys who went through all this, and that's all I can say, Tom, I just really didn't have much reaction other than that.

TI: Today when you talk about veterans, especially those who have combat experience, a term that comes up a lot is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, PTSD, and that was never talked about during World War II or anything like that. But in retrospect, when you think back in terms of the Niseis who came back from the 442 and fighting, do you think there was PTSD? I mean, you would know this from your VA experience, too, about PTSD. I'm just curious, when you think back to those guys coming back... and when I talk to them and read about what they did, I mean, the fighting that they were in was incredibly intense, and I'm just wondering if that affected them.

FS: You know, I think there was a tremendous effect there. And let me give you an example. When Eric Saul was here recently and he talked about Dachau and the trauma that our infantry group suffered from that experience, see, that's on the combat side. But let me tell you a different part of that on the MIS side. My brother John was part of the survey team for the government following Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing. And he went through that rubble, and during that time, he ran across a lady who was our Japanese school teacher right out here in Sumner, Washington, as a kid. He saw that devastation and he never went back to Japan. I've been to Japan many times on business and pleasure. John never would go back, and I think it was part of that trauma that he suffered, even to the day he died.

TI: And why do you think he didn't go back? You said "trauma," I'm trying to get a sense of, was it a sense of guilt in terms of what the United States did with the bomb, or was it, it was just too painful for him to see? What do you think that might have been?

FS: You know, he saw that devastation. He's only mentioned that once or twice to me, but he said you couldn't imagine how bad it was. It was just leveled. And I think it was just the horror of that war period that just was really hard on him. He never talked too much about it. His son was trying to get him to go back to Japan on a trip, they even scheduled one once, and they canceled. He never went. He never said why, but I guessed what it was. He just didn't want to see that again.

TI: How about any other examples of what you would call stress from the war? Can you think of anything else that you saw, maybe not your brothers, but other vets that you came across after the war?

FS: No, I can't tell you about anything specific like that. But, Tom, as you know, I served in the VA for almost seven years, and PTSD was a very prominent issue. And I saw different aspects of that, but the one thing that always has bothered me... June and I went to Europe with Bob and Lucy, and Bob retraced his steps in Europe. And we found places that he was in battle, and we were in Cassino and various places along the way. And the one thing that always has bothered me is why did the government send our 442/100th groups in battle after battle, suffering the casualties? I think there had to be some PTSD involved in there with the kinds of experiences our guys had. I just feel so questioning about why our guys were sent into battle so often, right back after another. Why did we have to suffer all those casualties? I don't know.

TI: Yeah, it's interesting, because you've heard the same things. There's one side that says they were like cannon fodder, right, they were expendable. And then you hear the argument that they were the best fighters, and so they were like the tip of the spear, they always wanted them there because they were the ones who could lead the charge. And there's probably some truth to both sides, I think.

FS: Well, I think so, and I think that, you know, knowing these guys, they were the best at what they were doing. That's no question. But how often should you be sending them back to battle again like that, over and over again?

TI: Yeah, there's a clip, and I know you know him so I'll mention this. There's an interview clip that we have of Sparky Matsunaga. And during the war he was an officer, and so he got to see things more close up in terms of the leadership. And that was an issue early on with the 100th in terms of why were they always pushed forward, they were always fighting. And he happened to be at a meeting where General Clark, Mark C. Clark, was there, and the commanding officer actually brought that issue up, saying, "So why is it that we're always, are we cannon fodder? Are we using these men as cannon fodder?" And according to Sparky, he said the general was shocked that that was brought up, he says, "Oh, no." He said that it's because the 100th was the best fighters, and that he needed them to do the most dangerous ones because he knew that he could trust them. And so Sparky told the story, and so he said within two weeks later, before the 100th went into combat, generally the commanding officer is there to send them off. And he said that Mark, General Mark C. Clark was there also. And he said that was very moving to the men because you would never see the commanding general come down there, but he just wanted to show the troops how much respect... so that was a powerful story. I know you know Sparky and the type of man he is, so that was part of the story.

FS: Well, I got to know Sparky fairly well, and he was very insightful, and he's probably right. A related issue, my brother Bob always had the highest respect for General Mark Clark. There's a bridge there in Italy that General Mark Clark met a bunch of the guys, and I know Bob pointed out, and he always spoke very fondly of General Clark. He had the highest respect of the troops, I think. And so I don't know, it was probably for the reasons you say. They respected the 442/100th as being probably the best fighting unit. And kind of an interesting side, one of the pictures I left with you when I presented the Go For Broke book to Congressman Jim Wright, and I pointed out to him the Dachau, and the other part was regarding the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. Let me tell you, just looking at his face, he was just so visibly moved. But I think they all had the highest respect for the 100th/442. And people like Congressman Jim Wright, Congressman Jack Brooks, who I got to know quite well in my job and so forth, and I also presented that Go For Broke book. Let me tell you, those folks really appreciated the 100th/442. They knew about the Nisei vets.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Okay, so let's keep going because we could talk -- and I want to get to it -- talking about the people you knew in government, because it's not only the congressmen, it's the presidents, and so right now we're still at the University of Washington. And tell me what you graduated in and what you did after you left the University of Washington.

FS: You know, I got my BA in accounting, and I'm a CPA. Basically my profession is in audits. So when I finished the university, the interesting thing is I applied to all the, at that time, the Big 10 accounting firms, national firms. Not a one would hire me. Ed Wong and I were two of the top ten student in the class, and we had the support of our professors who encouraged us to interview with them, but none of them would hire us. And I remember the partner from Arthur Andersen said to me, "Frank, we'd like to hire you, but our clients aren't ready for you." And I said to him, "Look, why don't you give us a try?" But they never would. So anyway, I had an ROTC commission, I went into the Air Force, and guess what? They assigned me to the U.S. Air Force Auditor General, which is the audit arm of the U.S. Air Force. And so I spent two years there, and when I was getting ready to get out, I was going to go to, hopefully back to a CPA firm. But here again, none of the national firms would hire me. So the Air Force wanted me to stay as a civilian. And since I couldn't get a job with a national CPA firm, I took the job as a GS-9, which is the entry level in the U.S. government. And that's where I started in 1955. But the interesting thing is, Tom, when I was getting ready to leave, the commander of the Air Force Auditor General group in Los Angeles made a special trip up to McChord where I was stationed, they wanted me to go into pilot training. They said, "Frank, you're the perfect candidate for pilot training. We want you to go into training for being a fighter pilot." And I said, "Wait a minute." That was the last thing in my life that I was thinking about, and I turned it down. But I have to admit that I've regretted that, because I thought in later years that I could have been maybe an F-4 pilot like Yuzo Tokita, and I would have liked that. But instead I had my sights set on working for a couple years, saving money and going to law school. I really wanted to go to law school but it never happened. And the reason why it never happened was they kept promoting me.

TI: This is while you were at McChord, or where were you at this point when they kept promoting you?

FS: Well, you know, I started as GS-9 at McChord. A year later they promoted me, and they also made me the office manager. And then about a year later, they promoted me to Los Angeles at the district headquarters. And interesting things happened, Tom, you say how can a young farm boy like me ever get the jobs that I got? I had some very key breaks. When I went to Los Angeles on this promotion transfer, I walked in the door and my boss said, "Frank, we have this special job for you." And I wondered why they gave that to me, because I was the youngest and least experienced guy on the staff. But who was I to question? I just took the job and ran with it. And so when I finished this job, they were pleased with the assignment, gave me another promotion, and I'm sitting there thinking, wow. But an interesting thing, Tom, as I look back at my career, one doesn't go into Washington, D.C. and have the miraculous career I've had. And as I look back on it, that special assignment in Los Angeles introduced me to this guy by the name of Jake Gardiner who was head of the project in Washington.

TI: How much can you tell us about this project? I can tell you're kind of talking around it, but is there something, can you tell us a little bit more what this special project was?

FS: What it was was... yeah, I can talk about it, but I don't remember too much about it anymore. It's been too long ago. But what it was was a special job regarding Air Force depot operations. And I remember spending the summer in Sacramento flying back and forth to L.A. And the man that was heading this thing up was a guy by the name of Jake Gardiner who was heading the project in Washington, D.C. He came out to see me a couple times, I had never met him before, but he was very pleased. And I was just happy that he was happy and the job was successful.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

FS: So I'm rocking along, I got another promotion in there right after that. About a year later an interesting thing happened. A man by the name of A.B. Thomas, who was the Deputy Auditor General, the number two man and the top civilian with the audit organization in Washington, D.C., came out to Los Angeles. And I thought he was making a staff visit, just a routine thing. Next morning, my boss says, "Mr. Thomas wants to talk to you." So I said, "What?" Well, it turns out he says, "Frank, we have a special job for you in Washington, D.C." I said, "What?" And he says, "Well, we have this special assignment, and we'd like for you to transfer to our Washington, D.C. office. And I'm thinking, "Why me? This is a world-wide organization." But June and I, I talked with her and decided, why not? So we transferred to Washington without knowing anybody there other than a couple of folks that I had met along the way.

TI: And about what year was this? What year was this?

FS: This was '63.

TI: How long has you been married to June?

FS: June and I were married in 1953 when I finished college. And so I'm the only one in the family, being the youngest of six, that was venturing out like that. But my mom and dad were saying, "Go, take every opportunity you can." So June and I transferred to Washington in 1963. That was really quite an experience. But as I look back on my career, I go into Washington like that, not knowing anybody. But interesting thing that happened, about two years later, I had this call one day from this same Jake Gardiner who was running that project. He had since been promoted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and he was now the top audit guy for the DoD. And he said, "Frank, I need to talk to you urgently. Can you come see me in the morning?" So we met, and what it was was he told me that there was some fraud and irregularities that happened in the office of the Secretary of Defense. And what it involved was what we call "funny money," or special money for handling intelligence operations. Up to that time, intelligence activities were off limits for audits, they just were not audited. But when that fraud case happened, the Secretary of Defense said, "No more," and Jake Gardiner got the orders to get all the intelligence functions audited. And Jake Gardiner calls me, and he's asking me to start this. And I thought, "Wow, why is he asking me?" But that, it turns out, was (another) key break in my career. In order to start those audits, I was getting high level briefings at the National Security Agency by admirals and generals, at the CIA, at the Defense Intelligence Agency, in the bowels of the Pentagon by the people handling intelligence. And people were getting to know me as much as I was trying to get to know them.

TI: The amazing thing, too, is they were probably afraid of you. Even though you were young and starting out, because I just think about organizations going through audits, it's kind of the report card, right, that you're going to...

FS: Yeah. And they knew that Secretary McNamara was hundred percent behind me. Now, the interesting thing is, at that time, I didn't know anything about the intelligence activities, but I had to really study hard to get that thing started from scratch. And I put a lot of long hours in that, and I remember the first report that I issued, I scrubbed that thing backwards and forwards, because I remember my mom always saying, "Don't ever give them the opportunity to criticize your work." And this was very crucial at that time. And you know, the interesting thing is, when I was preparing that first report, I gave, Jake Gardiner was my boss, he was head of the DoD audits at the time. I gave him the draft and held my breath. About two hours later, just before lunch, he came into my office and he said, "Frank, that's one of the best reports I've ever seen in my life." And I thought, whew, I was so relieved. But that report not only went from my boss to the Secretary of Defense, but I found out later, to the key committees of the Congress. It was that kind of thing that got me visibility that I could not have gotten anyplace else. Those are some of the key breaks in my career that really helped me along.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Well, just to keep moving, because I want to get to when you became inspector general, but continuing the Department of Defense, so eventually you were the top audit person there also.

FS: Yep.

TI: And so talk about how long and the circumstances that got you to that position.

FS: Well, what happened was from that job in intelligence, my job was Director of Special Activity Audits. And in Washington, if you see that term "Special Activities," that's generally a cover for classified operations. So I was auditing all of those intelligence activities for the first time and I got to know some very high level people. And as an example, one of the guys that I met and got to know very well was Admiral Noel Gayler, who later became the PACOM commander. And an interesting thing is -- I'll come back to this, but he helped me a lot when I needed his help later on because he remembered some of the stuff that I did for him. So it all paid off in a way that was just unimaginable.

You know, I was going to mention to you, Tom, that if you believe in miracles, that's the career that I had. You know, Eric Saul talked about unmei when he was here, that's what I had. It's just incredible the breaks that I had, and things that happened in my life. So anyway, I was heading up these intelligence audits, and about a year and a half later, I was asked to head up the audits of all the Defense Agency audits. So I was auditing Defense Communications Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Supply Agency and all the major agencies. And then about a year later, I was given charge of all audit operations in the Department of Defense.

TI: And so how many people are working for you at this point? The Department of Defense is such a huge operation.

FS: Well, when I was heading up Audit Operations, I had maybe four hundred people. Not a huge organization, we were a small arm. Because most of the audits were in turn being done by an Army audit agency for the Army, Air Force audit that I had worked at, and Navy audit service and so forth, and Defense Contract Audit Agency. So I'm rocking along like that, and I was running audit operations and I was basically the number two person in charge. And meanwhile, Jake Gardiner had moved on, and a guy by the name of Joe Welch was my boss. So the day that President Nixon resigned, I forgot what date that was...

TI: Is it 1974?

FS: August of '74. That particular morning, the news was full of the press conference that was to take place and so forth. And I went into the office and my boss says, he buzzed me on the intercom and he said, "Frank, if you're not doing anything for lunch, I want you to join me for lunch." So I said, "Okay." We went to this little Chinese restaurant in Arlington, and we were having lunch and watching the news conference. And right smack in the middle of all this, he says, "Frank, I want you to know that the boss has asked me to take another job, and he wants you to take over." I said, "What?" There was a shuffle because one of our senior guys was retiring. So it's that day that I was asked to take over as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for audit. And you know, outside of Washington, people won't understand what that job is. But what it is is that's the top audit job in the whole DOD and probably a bigger audit job than any major CPA firm, Defense Contract Audit Agency, we audit all the companies like Boeing, Lockheed, GE and so forth. And really a big job. And I was just tickled to death to get it, and I probably should have been a little scared to take it because I was really a relative youngster.

TI: Now at that point, is that a presidential appointed office?

FS: No. When I took that job, I became a GS-18, which is the highest civil service rank at that time. So when you stop and think about it, starting out as a GS-9 to being a GS-18, it was pretty miraculous, and the kind of a job that people would almost kill to get, you know. But I was just lucky to be there at the right time, at the right place.

TI: And out of curiosity, were there any other Japanese Americans at that level, GS-18?

FS: No. I don't think there's been one since. I don't know of any. I knew of one GS-17, and that's the only one that I know of.

TI: So at this point, in 1974, you're the civil service, federal civil service, the highest ranking Japanese American.

FS: That's right.

TI: So let's continue the story, now you're the top audit guy at the Department of Defense, huge operation. You're right, it's bigger than any CPA firm or anything. What happens next? I mean, so you do this for a while, and out of curiosity, in your position as an auditor going through the Department of Defense, did people pressure you to, like, maybe look the other way or rule more favorably? Because I know you have, as an auditor, some discretion in terms of how you look at things. Was there a lot of that kind of pressure?

FS: You know, I never had it once. But I think they knew, and they knew my reputation, and they wouldn't touch that. Interesting thing -- and this is an aside and I'll come back to your point on all this. But interesting aside, when I was inspector general, I had a member of Congress call me up once and ask about a particular case, and I just simply said to him, "I don't think you want to ask that question." They got the message, and they just changed subjects right away. I would not let them or allow them to even...

TI: Cross that line?

FS: Cross that line. And they knew. I have to tell you, my reputation was such, by the time I got to that job, they knew they weren't gonna touch me. I feel very confident about that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So I'm going to move along to how you became an inspector general, I think in the Department of Transportation.

FS: Okay, you know, the interesting thing is, if you look back, and I reflected on my career, how does a kid from the farm out here in Puyallup, Washington, get to this kind of a job? I've had some key breaks, and I've told you about the key breaks that got me into Washington, and from Washington into this job auditing in the intelligence area. And that was a key item because with that, I really got a lot of visibility. Congressman Jack Brooks, who was chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, Senator Chiles, chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the budget committees and the intelligence committees. And the Comptroller General of the U.S., Elmer Staats, (...) I'd have meetings with them. Well, so I was getting a lot of visibility. (...) What had happened was when I was head of audits in DoD, there was still some talk about shoring up the audit operations in other departments and agencies, and I was getting calls from Congressman Jack Brooks. He would call me up, and he asked me about this or that. Frank Horton, who was minority chair of House Government Operations, he would call me and I'd meet with him. And I got to know those folks.

So, as we're rocking along, the Inspector General Act gets passed, and they're looking for people to become IGs. And one day I got a call from the White House personnel asking me to interview for some of these jobs. And I really wasn't interested, I had the best audit job in the world. But they asked me to interview, so I did. Well, after I interviewed with the Department of Commerce, Department of Interior, EPA, HUD, (DOT). They're five agencies, five organizations. I thought about it and I said, "What the heck? I got the best job in the world." So I turned it down. But you know, after I turned that down, the next day I had some second thoughts about the whole thing. And I thought to myself, that was kind of a stupid mistake. It was a self-centered mistake that I made, I was thinking more about myself and not the Japanese American community.

TI: But let me back up. When you say that, because when you were at the Department of Defense, and the audit function there, isn't it much larger than even being inspector general at these other places, I mean, in terms of the audit function? Or is the inspector general, was that a very different position, and that's why you're saying this? I'm trying to understand, because the Department of Defense was, and is, so huge.

FS: That's the reason why I turned it down. The only difference is, the DoD was not put under the Inspector General Act, and so that job was still sitting there separately pending. And whereas the DOT job that I ultimately went to was a presidential appointment. So in U.S. government circles, it's a higher level job. But for me, professionally, the DoD job was a much greater job. And that's the reason why initially I turned it down. But I really had some second thoughts right after I did that. And I gave myself a lecture on that, and I said, "You know..." and again, I thought about your Uncle Bako and all the vets. In our community, we had never had a presidential appointee at the sub-cabinet level. We didn't have a cabinet level (appointee) at that time, we've since had them. So I really had some second thoughts about that, and I really felt badly about it. But you know what I did? I prayed for five days. And I remember this Friday, my secretary, I had three secretaries in my office in DoD, and my regular secretary was out to lunch, the second secretary comes in and she says, "Mr. Sato, there's a man that says he needs to talk to you. He says his name is Fritz." And she gave me this funny look, and of course, when she said "Fritz," I knew who he was.

TI: Right, the Vice President.

FS: Yeah. So I picked up the phone, and I answered the phone and I said, "Sato speaking," because I always knew to identify myself. And this voice came across, he says, "Frank, this is Fritz Mondale calling. I know you turned down that job as IG, and I just talked with Brock Adams, and Brock Adams says to the President and I, that if there's anybody you can get that I want, it's Frank Sato." So he says, "I'm here to call you and ask you, what is it I can do to convince you to take this job?" And that's how it all started. Well, to make a long story short, interesting thing that did happen is one of the things that I told the Vice President was that under the existing law at the time, I, as a civil servant, if I took the job as a presidential appointee, and there was a change in administrations and I lost my job, I could not go back to civil service. And I told Mr. Mondale about that, he says, "Frank, don't worry, I'll take care of that," and he did. He prepared an executive order for President Carter's signature, which changed that provision of law. So that if, in fact, I would be let go as an appointee in a change of administration, I could still go back to DoD.

TI: Now, was this just for you or for any federal employee?

FS: For any federal employee.

TI: So you changed the law.

FS: And that was by an executive order, just like the Executive Order 9066.

TI: So we have to call this the "Frank Sato Rule," this is good.

FS: [Laughs] It was.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FS: So anyway... and there's an interesting thing beyond all that. When I talked to Mr. Mondale, I talked to him three times in that series of conversations. And the last one he said to me, "Frank, the President and I really appreciate your taking this job, and any time there's anything I can do for you, I want you to call me." Now, you know what happened? Meanwhile, I became the IG in DOT, my friends convinced me to run for JACL president, I ran as national secretary treasurer first, because I didn't know the JACL, but they convinced me that I could help them and that's what I wanted to do.

TI: And what year was this when you became the national secretary treasurer of the JACL?

FS: 1983.

TI: Okay, so this is right during the throes of redress, I mean, the CWRIC, the commission hearings taking place, Personal Justice Denied, the report had just come out. Okay, I was just trying to set the scene in terms of where things were with the JACL.

FS: Yeah. In fact, you see, I was being asked at that time to head up the commission (staff). That was the other thing that was sitting on the table.

TI: Explain that again, head up the CWRIC?

FS: Yeah. You know, Paul Bannai took that job, and I was happy he did, because I was interested in the redress, but I didn't want that job.

TI: So, I mean, this was internal to the JACL, you're talking about, Paul took it over? When you say the commission, I'm not quite sure. Because I think of the chair as Joan Bernstein.

FS: Joan Bernstein wanted me to take that job.

TI: So what was Paul's job? I guess I'm not clear.

FS: Paul took over the head of the commission (staff). I forgot what it was called, but he was head of the staff.

TI: I didn't realize Paul did that, actually.

FS: Yeah. And Jody Bernstein was, of course, I got to know Jody quite well. But anyway...

TI: Okay, all right. So that was also on the table for you. Inspector general or this other position?

FS: Yeah. If I took that job on the commission, of course, I'd have to leave, and I didn't think that was appropriate. Anyway, what I wanted to mention to you, the interesting thing is, Vice President Mondale had told me, "Call me anytime." So meanwhile, I'm rocking along, I became national secretary treasurer of the JACL, then national president. And we were getting ready to really push on the redress program, and we were really hurting for money. We were doing okay on the national budget, but we just needed money. And Ron Ikejiri got this guy who was a professional rollout fundraising campaign guy. And Ron calls me up and says, "Hey, we've got to meet with this man," I forgot what his name was. [Narr. note: Gary Serota, SRS Consultants, Inc.] And we're getting ready to go out with this rollout solicitation. So when we're meeting with this guy, one of the things that comes up is he says, "We need somebody to sign this letter of solicitation, and we need somebody" -- and this man was a Caucasian guy, he said, "I don't think you should have a prominent Japanese American, I think you ought to try to get somebody other than a Japanese American. I think it would help better." And my wheels were turning, and then I thought immediately of Vice President Mondale's promise to me of helping. So I told them, Ron and this other guy, I said, "You know, I think I got just the guy. Let me go to my office and call him." As soon as I went back to my office, I called Vice President Mondale's office and I explained to the secretary who I was and what I was calling about. He gets on the phone and he says, "Hi Frank, what can I do for you?" I said, "Mr. Vice President, I've got a favor to ask of you." And I explained to him what we were doing, and he says, "Why, by all means." And the interesting thing is, not only did he agree to sign that letter of solicitation, he gave us his mailing list, his personal mailing list, and what a break that was for us. So, I always remember and am so grateful to Vice President Mondale.

TI: At this point, let me just back up for a little information. So you mentioned Ron Ikejiri, so he's the national director of the JACL at this time?

FS: No. At that time, he was Washington, D.C. representative.

TI: Okay, so he's a Washington, D.C. representative.

FS: Ron Wakabayashi was the...

TI: National director.

FS: National director.

TI: Okay. And then Vice President Mondale, at this point he wasn't in office, though, right? This was after he had left?

FS: Yeah, he had left office, and he was with a law firm in Georgetown just a few blocks over from where my offices were.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And at this time also, you were the inspector general for the Department of Transportation at this point? Where were you?

FS: No, I was the inspector general at the Veterans Administration, Veterans Affairs then.

TI: So let's back to that. So how did you, because you were appointed in the Carter administration, to the inspector general, Department of Transportation. We're now in the Reagan administration, and you're the inspector general for the VA. How did that happen? Was that under Carter or Reagan? Tell me the story.

FS: You know, I went into inspector general job in the Department of Transportation, and this was in 1979.

TI: And just a quick aside, Brock Adams was the secretary at that time?

FS: Secretary.

TI: By any chance, did you know him before? Because he's a Seattle boy, and I was wondering, went to Broadway High School, I think the University of Washington.

FS: Yep. He was student body president at the University of Washington when I was a junior at the university. I never met him then, but I knew who he was. And the interesting thing was, when I interviewed with him, before I took the IG job, of course, discussion came up about our days at the UW. But he and I just hit it off right away. That's the first time I met him. And, of course, shortly thereafter, Carter changed his whole cabinet, and that's when Neil Goldschmidt, the former mayor of Portland, became the Department of Transportation Secretary, and I worked for him until the election in 1980 when Reagan won and all of us as IGs were fired. There was a question as to whether we should resign or not resign. And they told us, "Don't resign," but then the Reagan administration fired us. But the White House told me at that time, they said, "Don't worry, we're doing this as a matter of process, and we want you to be an IG." So I knew I had a job, and they ultimately assigned me to VA.

TI: Now, how many of the former IGs under Carter carried over to the Reagan administration?

FS: I don't remember exactly, but I think about fourteen of us.

TI: So quite a few.

FS: Yeah, quite a few.

TI: They shuffled you around, that's interesting.

FS: Yep, they wanted us to go to different departments.

TI: And that was intentional?

FS: Yeah. I would have preferred to stay at Transportation. I knew the place, and I knew the programs and the people and everything, but that's just the way it was.

TI: But I can see some wisdom in doing that, too.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so now you go to VA, Inspector General VA under the Reagan administration, this is (1981).

FS: Yeah. Let's see...

TI: Well, let me ask this question, I'll bring it back. So you're now a presidential appointee, inspector general, Reagan administration, (1981). You became the national secretary treasurer of the JACL 1983. Prior to that, you weren't that involved with the JACL, you were pretty focused on your career. How did you get into the JACL? Tell me that story. Because most people, when they were especially a national officer, they're there for years if not decades, kind of working up to the region, maybe join the board, and then finally becoming an officer. You bypassed all that, so explain how that happened.

FS: Well, what happens is that in Washington, I used to meet with some key folks, Ray Murakami, David Nikaido, Hideki Hamamoto, Ron Ikejiri, and some other key folks. And so they knew when I became the IG that I was meeting with various people at high levels of government. So Ron Ikejiri, who was the Washington, D.C., rep for JACL at the time, said, "You know, Frank, we need your help." He says, "Why don't you run for JACL president?" I said, "No, I don't know the organization, I've not been involved." So he says, "Well, why don't we get you as a JACL secretary treasurer first? And then you can get to know the people, the people get to know you." And so he convinced me to run for secretary treasurer, and that's when I became JACL secretary treasurer.

TI: How does that work? Did you have to run against other people? Was there a vote or was there a campaign? How does that work?

FS: You know, it's an interesting thing. There was talk that there would be two or three candidates for secretary treasurer, but they never materialized. I don't know what happened, but once my name went in the hopper, nobody else showed up. I don't know whether they were intimidated, nobody knew me, but they knew what my position was. So anyway, I ran unopposed and was elected. But I tried to be very careful about my position professionally as against JACL.

TI: Now I want to ask you, as you said you wanted to maybe get to know the organization, the organization would get to know you, what were your first impressions when you would go to a national board meeting or you start meeting with the JACL and you're learning about redress, where they're at, what's your impression of what's going on and how it's being done?

FS: Well, I don't recall too much about what my impressions were. I was aware of the fact, of course, that it's a different organization than a professional organization that I was dealing with in my professional circles as against my working relationship in the government. But we had really a wonderful group of people. I remember this lady from, gosh, I can't think of her name now, wonderful lady down in Southern California, she was on the board. You couldn't find better people than people that were serving on the board. Well-meaning, I just really enjoyed their company and working with them. It was altogether different from the professional and business environment that I was dealing with.

TI: Because in that environment, you're dealing with literally billions of dollars, quick decisions, needing to get things done, and now you're with a community based organization, volunteers, and so yeah, it's probably very, a large adjustment for you.

FS: Well, it was really a different environment, but I have to tell you honestly, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. And I would probably not have agreed to run for national president if I didn't enjoy the people and the environment. But I had this underlying feeling in my own mind when this whole redress thing that was driving me at the same time, I have to admit. So it was a good experience all the way around.

TI: Now, what do you think you brought to national JACL when you joined? Because, again, you come with lots of experience, connections, knowledge. So if you were to look back and some were to say, "Frank brought this to national JACL in 1983," what would that be?

FS: I'd say that I contributed to the understanding of JACL of the political process and the mechanism for getting a bill through the Congress. It's not something that you just throw in the hopper and get done, you have to work at it and know who the players are that can move the programs for you. I think we had several discussions like that.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So at this point, let's talk about redress a little bit more. So we're in the mid-1980s, you talked about helping with fundraising, getting Vice President Mondale to sign the letter, what were some other activities that you were involved with as national JACL president? Because now it's getting to a point where the Commission hearings had happened earlier in the '80s, and Congress is, the JACL is trying to get Congress to actually pass something. What kind of activities were you doing during that time period? And then furthermore, not only just... yeah, let's pick it up there in terms of Congress.

FS: You know, my whole concern during that time, we had several groups that were pushing at redress from different directions. And my whole key thought was that, look, we got to do this together. We can't be going our own individual ways.

TI: Are you talking internally JACL, or are you talking the other organizations like NCRR and maybe the coram nobis team and things like that?

FS: Yeah, the various teams. You know, even at one stage we even had some of our veterans groups that didn't agree with what we were doing. So my whole focus there was, at that time, was look, we've got to all go at this thing together. And so I did promote one big meeting where we brought all of 'em together, and we conveyed that idea, and we got agreement by all the folks that we would work together for the common purpose.

TI: So tell me about that meeting. When did it happen, where and when? Who was there?

FS: You know, we had this meeting in San Francisco (on July 13, 1985). Ron Wakabayashi set it up, we had all the redress groups, NCRR, NCJAR and so forth, the veterans groups, and we just had a good meeting, and we came out of that meeting with the agreement that we would all work together.

TI: About how many people were there?

FS: You know, I don't remember that. There was probably twenty people, something like that.

TI: And do you know what year this would be?

FS: This had to be... you know, I'd have to recall exactly the timeframe.

TI: Well, if you can't remember, that's okay, I can look it up in documents, but I was just curious in terms of the timeline. But this was when you were JACL national president.

FS: Yes.

TI: And you were president 1985 to 1986?

FS: '84-'86.

TI: Okay.

FS: And you know, it was in that time that I was the inspector general at the VA, so I had to really walk a tightrope. I didn't want anybody to criticize my work or focus wrongful attention on the JACL. So it was kind of a period that was awkward in a way, and yet I think my whole focus was I didn't want to be in the limelight with somebody saying, "Hey, JACL is doing this," and I'm a presidential appointee in the middle of all that. I'd probably get heck from both the White House and the JACL. But my friends in the administration were very good. I kept them informed on what I was doing on the JACL side, and fortunately there was no negative publicity about that. But I was extremely careful about that, and that's one of the reasons why there was not too much publicity about what I was personally doing. I wanted it that way, I wanted to stay out of there. I think it was in the best interest of the organization.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: One other question I realized in terms of the JACL. We talked about your election to national secretary treasurer, you ran unopposed. How about when the biennium was up, and then you ran for national president. Now, was that unopposed, or did you have to run against someone? Talk about that election.

FS: That was an interesting thing. Min Yasui and I ran for national president, and I won by one vote. One vote.

TI: So you're talking about Min Yasui, who is an icon in terms of, his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, civil rights lawyer in the Denver area, well-known in the community. And so you ran against Min Yasui.

FS: Yes.

TI: And was Min active in the JACL at this point?

FS: Well, he, at that time, was active in a sense that he was working with John Tateishi, who was chairman of the redress committee, and he was doing a lot of great work drumming up support and activity for the JACL. I had the utmost respect for Min and he and I got along fine. Some people didn't like the idea that I ran for national president against Min. But I have to tell you honestly, really not my idea to begin with, I was asked by some of the key people in JACL who felt that maybe with my position in government and my understanding about how government works, that maybe I might be able to give it a little push on the redress program. So it's on that basis that I agreed to run. And Min and I got along fine, but as soon I won the national presidency by one vote --

TI: Which knowing the history of the JACL, one, they're usually not that close, these elections. And probably when you say one vote, this may have been probably the closest election in the history of the JACL.

FS: Probably, I don't know. I think so. But Min and I got along fine, he agreed to run the LEC for, that's the first thing I asked him to do.

TI: So that's the Legislative Education Committee?

FS: Yep. And we had to do that as a lobbying arm for the JACL. So that all worked out fine.

TI: And you mentioned that Min was aligned with John Tateishi, what was John doing at this point? Was he involved with the JACL? I can't remember what his role was during this time period.

FS: Well, I don't remember the exact dates, Tom, but John was redress director for JACL, and then there's a period of time there where there was some turmoil, and John was out of the program for a while and then he came back. I thought John did a good job, some people didn't. But I've always found that in a volunteer organization like that, there's always some people that'll agree, some that won't agree, and that was the kind of situation that we were in.

TI: Well, so going back to your election, so you just won a very, very close election against Min Yasui. You mentioned how the two of you were fine, how about the rest of the organization. Did that election cause tension? It was such a close election, what did it do to the organization?

FS: You know, the first thing I did was I got together with Min, and I said, "Min, I won by one vote. That doesn't seem like a very strong mandate, but I want you to know one thing. I want you to be a hundred percent in this with me, and I want you to run the LEC, and you will have my hundred percent support." And we worked together, and it worked fine. Min and I became good friends even before then, and we continued. And I can't say enough about him. He was a great guy.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So moving along, one of the reasons people wanted you involved with the JACL was, in some ways, people you knew, your knowledge of how government worked, what would be an example where because of your knowledge of maybe key players or the process, where you aided the process? You talked about this earlier in terms of when you're trying to do something like redress, it's both an inside and outside game. I mean, you need the community organizers who are out there getting the community excited, raising money, but you also need this inside game. And so tell me more about that, because we don't know so much about what happened inside.

FS: Well, that's really an interesting comment, Tom. The inside game, to me, is as important as the outside game. And I kind of felt that our chapters and all of our people around the country were doing a great job in trying to convince the public about our cause. And I tried to pay more attention to what was going on in Washington to try to steer that process as best I could. And you know, I had friends there that were very friendly to us. Janet Potts, who was one of the key staffers on this whole process, I remember one day she said to me, you know, so-and-so has come by the office. Who is this guy? Type of thing. They were very friendly and open to me, and I could get a sense of where we were progressing. And I would try to use the information that I had and the friendships and the contacts that I had to try to steer us in the right direction as best I could, but that's not an exact science.

TI: Well, and it works both ways. It sounded like people at the White House, you were a trusted source of information, too, I mean, if someone from the community or elsewhere said something or wanted to meet with them, they could go to you and say, "Frank, tell me, is this something that we should pay attention to?" That's something else, so it worked both ways. And you, on the other hand, could sometimes run something by them like, "We're thinking about this, what do you guys think?" So it probably worked both ways.

FS: You're absolutely right, there. The interesting thing is, you take Frank Horton, who was one of the key sponsors of the Commission bill and a sponsor of the redress bill, Frank Horton is from the upper New York state, no Asians, why would he even be involved in anything related to redress? Well, lot of people don't know this, but Ron Ikejiri, our Washington, D.C. rep, had noticed that here is this Chinese person on the staff, Ruby Moy, who was an OCA member. He befriended Roy Moy, and Ruby Moy convinced Frank Horton to get on our bandwagon. It's things like that that happened behind the scenes. Frank Horton I got to know very well, not only on the redress program, but in my normal life, because he was minority chair of House Government Operations. And when I was heading up DoD IG, and later became inspector general, all along, he was a friend of mine and a strong supporter. He's another one of the guys, as was Jack Brooks, those two people have told me privately, "Frank, any time you need help from us, let me know. We're here to help you." Those kinds of help and support in the redress program was good to have, but I never violated that trust or help or support. But let me tell you, those people were great to us and to our cause.

TI: And you didn't really have to do that, right? When you think about, it was through your professional credibility and work that they wanted to work with you. It wasn't like you were arm twisting, they just knew that you were associated with something, and they knew you and who you were professionally, so that gave the movement or the bill credibility going forward.

FS: Yeah, and here's the interesting thing. Congressman Jack Brooks was the senior Democrat on the judiciary committee after Chairman Rodino. Jack Brooks is a man that I got to know very well. And so as we're working on all these redress programs and I go up on the hill, the kind of relationship that I had with Jack Brooks, he's the only guy on the hill that would call me "General." Sometimes he'd call me IG, other times he'd call me, "Hey General." And I'd say, "What?" [Laughs] But he would call me up, or I'd see him at a reception, and he'd say, "Hey, General, call me anytime you need help, you hear?" You know, the old Texas way? That's the type of relationship I had with him and he was very helpful to me. And as we were going through redress, if I ever met with him, quietly, I knew I had his support. Same with Congressman Frank Horton. Frank Horton was with us all the way, I knew it. Those people were good ambassadors of ours. But they were contacts of mine also through work, which is really important, and was really good for us, and I'm just happy I was able to do that.

TI: So what's coming out of this is your personal/professional connections with these key members in Congress were helpful. Not that you had to, again, arm twist or even convince them, they believed in you, and you had access and they knew you, so that was all really helpful. So that's one side. Is there an example, though, because of your connections, you could steer the redress movement maybe away from problems or towards opportunities that, again, through your knowledge, maybe a comment or a question from someone at the White House, you could go back to the JACL and say, "Hey guys, let's not do this," or, "Let's be careful about that." Is there an example of that that you can share?

FS: No. Well, the only thing that I could think about in relation to that... you know, the big question that we had was 1.5 billion dollars, where are we gonna get this money? My immediate reaction was, in the appropriation process at that time, there was about $155 billion in the defense bill. And there was one subpart of that called Claims Defense, which was, I don't remember, but I think it was over 5 billion dollars. So I called up Senator Inouye one day, and just he and I talked. I said, "Senator, we're struggling with this amount and where this money would come out of. What do you think about us maybe attaching that to the Defense Appropriation, and specifically the Claims Defense Appropriation?" Because it lines up with what that Claims Defense is generally used about. Defense Appropriations is a huge, 155 billion dollar appropriation at that time. You know, Senator Inouye looked at me and he thought about it a while, and he shook his head. He said, "No, I don't think it'll work." But he never explained to me why he didn't think it would work, and I wasn't about to ask. So to this day, I don't know why he felt that wouldn't work, but later on, I found out that that's where they actually came out of.

TI: The entitlement program later on? Wasn't, in terms of the redress payments, something in terms of an entitlement program that the senator proposed?

FS: You know, I don't know. It's never been clear to me where that money came out of.

TI: But you think it came out of that pool?

FS: Somebody... I had a discussion one day with somebody -- and I'm trying to think of who it was -- in later years, even after I moved out here. And I understood that it was in fact out of that Defense Appropriation, I don't know.

TI: I'll look into that, it's interesting. Because the issue here was even though the redress bill passed, the question was, yeah, 1.5 billion dollars, to get Congress to pass that amount, probably in annual, kind of, installments, the likelihood of that was pretty unlikely that this would be a bill that was for more, maybe, face saving in terms of, I mean, "face saving" is not the right term, but it would be in almost in name only. That it would pass, but the $20,000 payments wouldn't really happen because Congress wouldn't pass that. So the question was, where could that 1.5 billion dollars come from? And I know the senator was really key because of his influence, and appropriations of finding that money and making it, to my understanding, an entitlement rather than a regular appropriations.

FS: Yeah. Well, and the thing is, as you touch on, Senator Dan Inouye was number two or three on appropriations committee depending upon what time you're talking about. So my discussions with him, I wasn't about to question why he didn't think that would work. But I knew his wheels were turning. He was thinking about how we could best do it, and that was good enough for me.

TI: So you gave another piece of information that he could use.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Tell me about your relationship with not only Senator Inouye, but the other Japanese American senators and congressmen.

FS: Well, I met with Senator Dan Inouye, and I knew his staff well. Senator Sparky Matsunaga, he was on the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, and I met with him often. In fact, when I became the IG at VA, he sent me a nice gift, which is an ashtray from the U.S. Senate. And there was something else... he'd always send me gifts, typical Japanese, and he was always gracious to me. When I'd appear before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, he always was very kind and said some very nice remarks about me and introducing me. And so I can't say enough about the man. Of course, Bob Matsui I knew, but I didn't know that well. And I didn't really get to know Doris that well. Gosh, I'm drawing a blank now.

TI: Well, and Norm, Norm Mineta.

FS: Norm, of course, we had a really close relationship over the years. I knew Norm and his first wife, May, well. We'd always spend New Year's together, and he was very helpful to me always. We would (attend) a reception at Mike Masaoka's house on Kentucky Derby day, and it was always a fundraiser for Norm. And June and I participated, we've had that kind of relationship for many years, and I've known Deni, his current wife, from day one. When June and I left Washington, Hideki had a nice party for us and Norm and Deni were there. It's that kind of a relationship we've had.

TI: How about that... there was another, I want to say Japanese American, maybe Japanese Canadian senator, S.I. Hayakawa. Did you have a relationship with him?

FS: I met with him early on, but I have to tell you that I didn't have any personal relationship with him at all. I met with him once, and of course, it was after that, the next election, he was out. So I never met with him again.

TI: Well, another man you mentioned, Mike Masaoka, what role did he play in redress?

FS: What role did he play?

TI: He was around, he was there, but he wasn't visible from what I can tell. I don't hear much about him, but yet, he was there, and I was wondering if, again, behind the scenes, was he playing an inside game? Was he using his influence to talk to people, was he advising, was there any of that happening?

FS: You know, as near as I could tell, I met with Mike fairly often when I was national president, and of course, we met with Mike and Etsu socially at parties at their house. Insofar as redress is concerned, he, I think, was more behind the scenes and advising, but he didn't take, as far as I know, any direct action. But I think his work was being done through Norm. As you know, Norm is a brother-in-law, and it's through that process that whatever advice he had was going that direction, I think.

TI: There was something else that Roger Daniels told me about Mike Masaoka. During the redress period, as there were various hearings, that Roger Daniels mentioned how, during one, that I can't remember who it was, but there was someone prominent from the African American community that testified on behalf of redress, and he thought it was through Mike Masaoka's efforts because the JACL historically had been supportive of the Civil Rights Movement and things like that, that that helped in terms of, again, his relationships that he had developed getting some of these other caucuses involved. Did you hear or see anything of that?

FS: You know, I'm not aware of that. All I can say is... I'm drawing a blank, the Coalition on Civil Rights, that group was always supportive of JACL from Mike's time, and I know that Ron Ikejiri, when he was Washington, D.C., rep, was always in contact with that group. And through that group, the black groups and all the other groups who were supporting us, there's a lot of good things that were done by our people that people, I don't think, fully appreciated. I got to know Ron Ikejiri very well, because he used to always call on me and he'd say, "Hey, what are you up to and what can we help you with?" And it was that kind of a relationship. But I know that he was always working with that coalition, and being very helpful soliciting their help to us and vice versa.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Something you mentioned earlier, about how when you were national president, there was a meeting where you really tried to get everyone to work together, and how important that was. As I look at the history of redress, it was incredibly successful, and you did have cooperation. But at times it must have felt like you're herding cats. That you have strong personalities, different organizations, believing that there were different ways of accomplishing the end result, and being pretty adamant about do it this way versus that way. I'm trying to think, how did people, how did you navigate that? I mean, again, there's only so much the JACL could do, you were not the only organization, there were other organizations, there were individuals doing things, at some point, how do you keep people in line? What do you do, especially, in particular, the inside game? Because you know, to get this, there's certain key players that you have to convince, and there may be things that other individuals or other organizations doing that aren't helping. What do you do in that case?

FS: You know, you can't control people and what they do or say in meetings. The one thing that I tried to do, for example in my office, in the inspector general office in the VA, when those other groups that come into town, they would generally call me, and I'd invite them to come in to my office and meet with me before they went. And my message to them constantly was, "You know, if we don't all work together, we're gonna fail together," and don't you forget that. And I'd tell them, "Look you can meet with all these people you want, but let's work together. We got to stick to this thing together." And I think they basically did. Bill Hohri from NCRR in Chicago, he and I became fairly close, and he agreed. He told me once, he said, "Frank, I agree with what you're doing, we've got to work together." It was that kind of thing. And I had several meetings like that as national president. We met with them once in San Francisco to bring them all together, and every time we met, my message to them was, "Look, we've got to do this together. We can't go charging off on our own." And I think it worked.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: There was a series of key moments in redress, I know one was getting it through Congress. And when it went through Congress or passed Congress, there weren't enough votes to make it veto-proof, I mean, it still had to be signed by President Reagan, who was a Republican President (at the) time, and you think back, there were pressures on our federal budget, not like we had a lot of money. And here was a bill coming forward for 1.5 billion dollars. The early word was that he wasn't going to sign it, and yet there was a process that happened mostly behind the scenes, and he ended up signing it. To the surprise of lots of people... I remember when the JACL convention was in Seattle, when they got word that he was going to sign this, and it surprised many people. How did that happen? So from the point when Congress passed, which was a huge success, people said, "Great, we did this," but yet the many people who were knowledgeable said, "But this is where it's going to stop. It won't go any further." How did it happen that the President signed it? Because you look at it, it wasn't veto-proof, and so if he chose not to sign it, it may have just stopped there. So tell me what you know with what happened.

FS: Well, you know, the interesting thing is, Tom, my job as the inspector general, during the Reagan administration, some of the key people that I was meeting with. I mentioned to you that as the IG, one thing the President did do, he was declaring a war on fraud and waste in government. And that's why he (supported) the Inspector General Act and I ultimately became one of the IGs in the Department of Veteran Affairs. He set up this President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, and I became the chair of the audit committee under that group. That President's Council, the first guy that led that for the President was Ed Meese, counselor to the President. And then after that, I think it was Ed Harper, then Jack Svahn, and later on Joe Wright. These are all names (of people) that were working in the White House. Now, these are people that I was meeting with as the IG. So anyway, what happens (is earlier in 1984) I was meeting with my friends in Washington, and Ron Ikejiri one day says to me, "You know, you're meeting with these folks in the White House, can you set up a meeting for Floyd Shimomura as national president in the White House?" I was serving as secretary treasurer then. So I said, "Sure, why not?" So I called the White House, talked with actually Jack Svahn, who I was dealing with the most at the time. And set up this meeting and we got Floyd Shimomura to travel into Washington. And John Tateishi came in and the four of us met with Jack Svahn and his deputy... gosh, I'm losing his name right now, I'll get it in just a minute. But anyway, so we met with him. (Narr. note: His name was Lou Hayes.)

So you ask about redress? Insofar as I'm concerned, Tom, I was very confident that the President would sign the bill. I had no question that he would sign that. In fact, earlier, on one of our board meetings of the JACL, there was some discussion that we ought to put off the redress bill until the next administration because they thought that the Reagan administration and President Reagan would not sign that bill. And I remember telling them right in that board meeting, "You guys are nuts. We got more support for this bill in the White House than you think." And the reason why I said that was people like Jack Svahn and his deputy had told me, "Frank, don't worry about it." (...) And I really felt confident all along. There was no question in my mind, if it got through the Congress, that it would go. So I had a little different view.

TI: Yeah, so interesting, because there are people who were involved in redress who felt, they make it seem like it was a heroic effort to get the President to sign the bill, that it was kind of a, it was from almost like an impossibility to turning him around. You've seen the similar stories about this.

FS: Yeah. And you know, the one thing, Tom, is you learn in Washington, people speculate about what the President may or may not do, (but they don't know). [Interruption] I don't know, I don't know what Jack Svahn said to the President, but I will tell you this, he told me, "Don't worry about it, Frank, I'll take care of it," (whatever that means). And I knew these people well enough that when they told me that, I knew that it was taken care of. And I'm talking about people that I just met with. You know, Tom, I generally don't talk about things like this. But you know, the White House has a bunch of box seats in the Kennedy Center, it was not too much after that meeting that we had, Floyd Shimomura and so forth, that I got a call from Lou Hayes is his name, his deputy. Lou calls me one day and he says, "Frank," he says, "We're gonna host an evening at the Kennedy Center. Would you and June be able to join us?" I only mention this in that these things don't just happen. They don't happen if they don't like you, or they're not supportive of you.

TI: Like if they're going to say "no" to you, they're not going to invite you to the Kennedy Center, is what you're saying.

FS: Yeah. All the circumstances to me were such that I was very confident. There was no... if you could have asked me to place a wager, I'd have placed the wager on the biggest (amount), because I was pretty confident, very confident.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So at a JACL national board meeting, how did you articulate this? Did you just tell people, "Don't worry," or, "Believe me," how do you convince people that worked on this?

FS: See, this is a very key question. Number one, I was a Reagan appointee working as Inspector General. I was also serving as national president of JACL, and I cleared that with the White House before I agreed to run for national president. But I was forewarned to be careful, because people are going to be taking potshots at you, and I was well aware of that. So even with the JACL board, they didn't know that we had met with Jack Svahn on the redress thing, but Ron Wakabayashi knew, he put the black book together. John Tateishi knew, he was there at the meeting with us. Ron Ikejiri was there, he was at the meeting with me. (Floyd Shimomura was there also). And the book that was put together by Ron Wakabayashi had, for example, the news clippings that you've seen about when President Reagan was at the funeral of Masuda?

TI: Right.

FS: Right, all of those things were in a nice black book that we discussed and presented to Jack Svahn and Lou Hayes. [Interruption] I can tell you that I don't know what Lou of Jack Svahn discussed with the President, or if they even presented it at all. But I'll tell you, it's interesting, when I had a phone discussion with Floyd Shimomura a couple months ago, he had forgotten about that meeting, but he looked up the Reagan Library info, and he found info regarding our meeting in August of that year. And my guess is, if one were to pursue this, you would find that black book that we took into the White House that day, there.

TI: Maybe at the Reagan Archives?

FS: Yeah, it's probably there.

TI: Interesting.

FS: Would be my guess.

TI: And you say August, so that was August 1988, right before he signed it?

FS: No. When we were... I think it was '84.

TI: Much, much earlier then, okay.

FS: (Much) earlier.

TI: Okay, I'll check. You actually sent me that email, so I'll take a look at it.

FS: I think it was 1984.

TI: So much, much earlier.

FS: August 10, 1984.

TI: Was when you had that meeting with Floyd?

FS: Yeah, Floyd was national president. I didn't become national president...

TI: Until '84.

FS: Yeah, '84-'86.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So what else? Anything else that I haven't asked you about, about that time period that you think is significant? We've talked about a lot of things, there were a couple more, I can't remember. But anything else that you can think of?

FS: Well, you know when we talk about redress, let me mention something that isn't too well-known. We had a lot of friends in the Congress. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was one of our strongest supporters. Why was that? Because he was a good friend of Dr. Ray Murakami.

TI: Oh, yeah, I remember this story. Yeah, tell the story.

FS: Ray Murakami was his dentist, and he, of course, Peter Rodino, would sit in his chair getting his teeth fixed, and they'd always have discussions and this and that. So shortly after I became...

TI: [Takes papers] It's kind of crinkling.

FS: Shortly after I became national president, Ray calls me up and he said, "Hey, I talked to Peter, and he wants to meet with you." So I says, "Oh, okay. Congressman Rodino, that first meeting -- and I had about five dinner meetings with him -- he said to me, "Frank, I want you to know that I was the first Italian," the way he'd say, "first Italian American Congressman, and it was pretty lonely. And I know what you guys are going through." He says, "I want you to know that you have my support. And on this redress bill, when you guys are ready, you tell me," and he says, "I'll get it on the House floor." How powerful a remark is that? So what happens is I'd keep Congressman Rodino kind of read up on where we stood on redress bill. And so I remember the final dinner meeting, our JACL staff told me, Ron Wakabayashi says, "Hey, I think we got enough votes." So I called up Ray and I said, "Ray, get a meeting set up with Peter." We met again at the Hyatt Hotel, we'd always meet in (Hyatt), Crystal City. And it was a real nice meeting, and I told Congressman Rodino, "I think we've got the votes, we'd appreciate your help in getting this." And he said, "Frank, don't worry about it, we'll get it there." Sure enough, the next week, it went on the House floor, passed and went on to the Senate. You know, I can't say enough about guys like Ray Murakami. Ray, from right at the get-go, he had told me, "You got to get to know Congressman Rodino." He's Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee over the Barney Frank committee and all those guys. You know, those guys in the subcommittee can do whatever they want, but if the chairman doesn't do it, it ain't gonna happen. These are some of the kinds of connections that helped us along the way, and let me tell you, it's really a blessing that we had people like Ray Murakami. And I can't tell you enough about guys like Ron Ikejiri and his help. I'll give you some more about that in just a minute, but Ron Wakabayashi, you know, I see JACL give honors to people all deserving, Ron Wakabayashi was one of the best. That guy had an acute understanding of the JACL and the people to help bring us all together. I can't really say enough about him.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So to wrap up the redress, when it was finally passed and President Ronald Reagan signed it, what did it mean to you personally? What thoughts went through your mind when, after years and years of work, and you think of all the people and all these little stories that made it happen, what came to mind for you?

FS: I was just relieved and thankful. I thought about all the people that helped us in the redress bill, but I also thought about guys like (your uncle) Bako, and all the guys that helped us overcome this period. [Interruption] And I say thank you to all of them. You know, Tom, I had the most miraculous career that one could have. Who'd have ever thought a young farm boy from out here in Puyallup would have the career I had? But it's all because of people that went before, guys like my brothers, that made it possible. I'm just so grateful.

TI: And, Frank, I'm so glad that we took the time to do this interview. It's remarkable, I learned so much these last couple hours about not only your career, but, again that behind the scenes of what you did.


FS: All I can say is, whether it's redress, JACL, or my job as the Inspector General VA and Transportation, I did the best job I could, and that's all I can say. [Laughs] And that's all... I'm at peace with myself, and I'm glad I did and was able to do what I did, particularly on the redress thing. I think of our Issei parents, your grandma and grandpa, my parents, and you know my granddad came here and went back to Japan. So I'm really...

TI: A Sansei.

FS: Sansei in a sense. But all of those folks paved the way for us, and I'm grateful for all of that. I can't... I was talking to Reverend Derek Nakano (Senior Pastor, Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church, Seattle, Washington), not too long back, and he was asking me about one thing or another, and I said, you know, I've had the most miraculous career (...) through the church and all. You know, I told Reverend Derek, when I look back on it, God had his hand on me all the way. When I was born and baptized, did I tell you?

TI: Yes. Your name, your name came from the...

FS: Yeah. And following that, where did I meet my wife? Right through MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), in the same church. In camp, when I was going to Sunday school, I'm learning John 3:16, which is my birthday. All of these things just kind of seemed like a blessing that just filled my life. How can I not feel so blessed? I'm just so grateful. And as Eric Saul would say, "Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in unmei?" It's all there. It's amazing.

TI: So, Frank, thank you so much for doing this interview, it was fabulous. Yeah, thank you so much.

FS: Thank you.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.