Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewers: Emiko Omori (primary), Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 20, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-01

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

EO: Tell me where and when you were born.

FE: I was born in Los Angeles right near the business section now, that's Sixth and, Sixth and Olive, in 1916. September 23, 1916.

EO: What did your family do?

FE: At that time they had a little grocery store and they had living quarters over the store and that's where I was born. And after that they moved over to what is now Vermont -- Figaro and Manchester and they were farming there. And I think I was, I must have been about two, maybe two-and-a-half at that time so I don't remember any of that, but all I know is that they said I was a kind of a rascal. I used to go to the neighbor's house and open up the refrigerator, help myself. [Laughs] From there we moved to Burbank, California, and my father and mother was farming there. And I have a slight recollection at that time. I was trying to ride my older sister's bicycle, which I couldn't, because I was still about three or four and it was an adult bicycle. Then from there we moved to San Fernando on a horse and wagon. Yeah.


EO: Where were you, then, when the war started? By this time you were grown up and married. Why don't you just tell us what was happening to you right before the war?

FE: Before the war, just about two years prior to the war, we had -- well, actually, about three or four years prior to the war, we had started a, just a produce market in an empty building at Eleventh and Albright in Los Angeles. And after a couple of years business was pretty good, so we decided to make it into a full service market. We put in a nice butcher case and a walk-in box, and put in the grocery shelving, and milk box and all the other fixtures and we had a sort of a mini-supermarket going there at the time the, about two years before the war. And actually, we had, the payments about finished about the time that the war started and we were about ready to make a little money, because up to then we had put all the profits back into the business. So, morning of December 7th, we had just opened up the market at 8 o'clock Sunday. You see, in those days we worked seven days a week, about fourteen or sixteen hours a day. I turned on the radio, and I forget exactly what time it was, 8 or 9 o'clock, we heard, "Flash -- bulletin -- Pearl Harbor's attacked, we're at war with Japan." And I didn't pay much attention to it. I thought, "Oh, here's another radio drama," reminiscent of the Orson Wells radio drama back in the early '30s. So I didn't pay much attention, it didn't surprise me. Then as the day wore on, other stations, I turned to the other stations and they all had these flash bulletins that the war had started, that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. And as far as I was concerned, I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was, it could have been way out in the outskirts somewhere, you know. But as it gradually sunk in that we were at war with Japan, I started getting a little bit worried, not so much for ourselves, but for our parents. And we were wondering what was going to happen to them. As far as the children were concerned, we were born here, so we didn't have too much, we didn't worry about it too much.

And I guess we were a little concerned about our business, how the customers were going to be... how we were going to be affected by the customers. By and large, the customers were very sympathetic. They said they knew we were, had nothing to do with it, that we were Americans just like them and they reassured us that their patronage would still be there, so we didn't, we weren't too concerned about that. At the neighborhood that we were in, it was mostly Caucasians that were our customers. So we really didn't feel too much any racist bias or any racist incidents at our store, until the order to evacuate came out, and I know E.O. 9066 came out and people knew that we had to evacuate so we started getting people that were interested in the business making us some ridiculous offers. In fact, one fellow came and offered us $500 for the whole thing and we almost threw him out of the store. Well, as it happened, the best offer we could get up to then was $1,500. We had about close to $25,000 invested at that time, which was big money then. And we had to unload it for $1,500, so all our three or four years' toil there and efforts were, went down the drain.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EO: So, tell me about your, your situation, your family, your personal, at that time. What assembly center did you go to?

FE: At that time I had just gotten married. Let's see... that was, that was 1941, wasn't it? So I got married in 1940, so I was married a little over, a little, about a year. And on December 29th of 1941, my first child was born, that was Kathleen. And after the war had started, and -- shall we jump to where we were, got the notice of evacuation? We were living a few miles away from my parents at that time, so we heard that certain areas were going to different camps, so we decided to move in with our parents for the few weeks that was left before the evacuation. So we moved in with them and we were evacuated from there to the Pomona Assembly Center. In the usual way as all the other evacuees, we gathered at a certain reception center, like in this case it was a church, and from there we took what we could carry and we were put on trucks and we were taken to the center, assembly center, Pomona. Fortunately, we were one of the -- I guess -- one of those families that didn't have to bear the horse stalls. We were housed in one of the military-style barracks there, although there were horse stalls in Pomona in which some of the families lived.

EO: And so you had to take things along for your baby and all that. Did you have... and what did you do with your belongings, did you store them, did you bury them, or what?

FE: Well, most of the large stuff, like cars and the truck, we sold it for pennies on the dollar, and our furniture, luckily my father had a, owned the house that they lived in, so we rented the house, but we reserved one room for our more valuable furnishings and household things and kept it in there and locked it up. Unfortunately, when we came back, that was broken into and whoever had rented the place had ransacked the place and there wasn't too much left that was any good. So we moved in with them and from -- yeah. We moved in with them and stayed there for, I forget exactly how many weeks, but until the, we were evacuated to the assembly centers. And at the assembly center we were all housed in one room from May until August. And after August, around the 9th of August, I believe, we were loaded onto trains and took the slow ride to Wyoming.

EO: Describe your state of mind, your state of mind and how you perceived, like, the way other evacuees were feeling at the time.

FE: Well, I, speaking for myself, I just, it was sort of unbelievable, because I never thought that we would be evacuated. We figured maybe something might happen to our parents, but I was, I really felt that we wouldn't be mistreated in that particular way. As far as the due process and all that, we weren't sophisticated and didn't know anything about that, but we didn't think that we would be shipped along with the so-called "enemy aliens" at all. So we, it was kind of a very frustrating and disappointing time.

EO: So you didn't have any thoughts, then, of resisting?

FE: Actually not. We knew it was a military order and we figured that there was nothing that we could do as far as evacuation was concerned. As I said, we weren't very sophisticated in matters of the law and we figured that our leaders, such as the American, that Japanese American Citizens League that had been promoting that we cooperate and evacuate and not make any trouble, so we figured they knew best, they were the attorneys and the doctors and the well-educated people. So that and plus the fact that it was a military order, we figured there was nothing you could do, just go along with what had to be done.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EO: So describe Wyoming when you first arrived.

FE: Well, we, we were trucked from the train to the camp itself and at that time, the day we got there was one of those prairie dust storms and it was a very miserable sight there, just rows and rows of tarpaper shacks there and all this dust whirling and the weather was kind of, it was September so... no, it was May -- August so it was still pretty warm, but it was a very, gave you a very forlorn and desolate feeling, it was just out in the prairie there, desert-like prairie.

EO: What were some of these like? Can you describe the camp itself?

FE: Well, when we got there it was very, seemed like it was unfinished at first, but we found out that's the way it was going to be. The barrack that we were in was oh, maybe twenty feet by sixteen feet, twenty feet -- something like that. Anyway, my family and my parents' family, which included my father and mother, younger sister and older sister, myself, my wife and baby, were in one room, so like most other evacuees, we strung a blanket between our sections and made the best of it until another barrack opened up, and then we were able to move into a smaller barrack which was about twenty feet by about twelve feet, I think, the one we stayed in. But at least it was separate. And when we got in there, it was just an empty room, without any inner wall, just the outside wall, and one solitary light hanging from the top, and one big iron stove -- pot bellied stove there, in the center, and that was it. Until we got cots, and then they brought in some cots, and luckily we didn't have to sleep on straw mattresses, they had regular cotton mattresses for our beds, cot beds, yes.

EO: Well, actually, the Japanese American community before the war were pretty middle-class, wouldn't you say? I mean, their lifestyle was modest perhaps, but they had nice, decent living quarters and such.

FE: Yes, it was... I wouldn't exactly call it upper-middle class but it was livable, and I think it was comfortable, but nothing ornate or luxurious, so it was quite a letdown from what we were used to.

EO: How was the food in camp?

FE: Well, I can remember one thing, we had some funny-looking fish that people called "three-boned fish" that nobody could eat. It was terrible. And I didn't like fish anyway so I don't think I ate maybe one or two bites of that, and that was it. But we had a lot of pastry. We had spaghetti and macaroni, and they had rice, and I believe they made tsukemono, cabbage tsukemono, etcetera. And as far as the rest of it, I really can't remember too well, but I remember we were having some tofu cooked with vegetables and maybe little pieces of meat, but actually, I can't remember what we had for breakfast -- probably had some oatmeal or something.

EO: What was that weather like? You being from California, too. Compare it.

FE: Oh yeah, the first winter we were there, I think it snowed in the middle of September. And we didn't even have an overcoat. We were from Southern California, in hot, hot weather that we left there. So they did issue, later on they did issue navy peacoats and khaki-type of jackets, but that first winter was so cold, it was, I think it was the record coldest winter in Wyoming history -- it was like thirty below zero. And to give you an idea of what happens, the, we had to take showers in barracks on the outside, and walk home from that shower, shower and toilet barrack to our own barracks. So when you took a shower, and your hair was slightly wet, by the time you got to your barrack, it was like icicles. And if your hand happened to be wet yet, why, if you touched that metal door, it would stick to that metal door. So it was a pretty miserable winter, and I think a lot of people suffered, especially the very elderly and the young. But I guess it was around the middle of December that they finally got an inner, inner wall of Celotex, which helped a little.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EO: Did you participate in, like, the political life at the camp at that time? I mean, did you try to organize?

FE: No, actually, being an activist was the furthest thing from my mind at that time. I didn't participate in anything resembling politics, out of camp or in camp. I was apolitical, I think. And, in fact, the first, first summer we were there, a little after we got there, they had people -- before I was put on the stop list -- I went out on the sugar beet farm with several other people, and we went to Montana and did sugar beets.

EO: Did you have another job in camp?

FE: Yes, I've had two or three jobs in, while I was there. One of the jobs was driving a truck, I was a truck driver. Another one was, I worked for a while on the road crew, where we fixed potholes in the road. And I think my last job was working in the tofu factory. Well, actually it was a two-man operation -- myself and the man that knew how to make tofu. Where we would boil the soybean, and they had a big rock crusher, you know, a wheel that goes around this way and smash the beans, and then we strained it through a cloth bag, big bag, and made it into a gel-like and added some, I think it was calcium chloride, to make it firm. And we used to get up there about four in the morning, and the high point of that was we used to eat all the eggs we wanted, we didn't even think about cholesterol then, you know. We must have ate a half-dozen eggs every morning. [Laughs]


EO: From your memory, you know, like what was the general feelings in the camp, as far as you could tell?

FE: Well, I guess about the only thing I can remember is that the food was pretty bad, so they, I think, investigated the food supply and found that some of the employees were -- the civilian employees -- were carting away the food that belonged to the internees. And I think that brought on a kind of a short-lived strike there at the warehouse. I'm really not too familiar with all these things that transpired in camp, because either I was out in the sugar beets in the beginning, or later I was active in the Fair Play Committee, and didn't get into much of the camp activities.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

EO: So, tell us how registration came to Heart Mountain and what you...

FE: Well, when the registration was first introduced into Heart Mountain, actually, after I read the thing, I really couldn't believe that they were asking like question 27 and 28. It was up to that point I didn't really see any problem with it. But it was, I think the heading was, statement of "Evacuee for Leave Clearance," or something like that. I don't remember the exact wording, but the logo on top of that questionnaire was that of the selective service system, see? And when 27 asked about, "Will you go into combat duty wherever ordered?" I thought it was very stupid, and a very... arrogant question to ask of us, after we were thrown out of our homes and put into these concentration camps, without even a word about our citizenship rights or civil rights, or constitutional rights being restored. And then question 28 was very, another very ambiguous and a very senseless question, because it said, "Will you" -- one of the phrases was, "Will you forswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan?" And something that we had never sworn allegiance to the Emperor of Japan, and how can we forswear something we had never sworn to before? So that didn't make sense. And then for the, our parents to forswear allegiance to Japan, that would have left them without a country, they'd have become stateless persons. So it really made me very angry just reading that thing, and that's when I got sort of involved into it.

That night, after studying it carefully, I formed my answers to both questions. I put down, "Under the present conditions and circumstances, I am unable to answer these questions." And I put that on both 27 and 28. And then I had thought that maybe many of the camp people might have a hard time answering these questions, so I got my younger brother and we put out, wrote out our answers, "Suggested answers to questions 27 and 28," and we made a bunch of copies and pasted up in the different mess hall doors and latrine doors, wherever people gathered.

EO: What was the suggested answers? What were they?

FE: Questions 27 and 28, put both: "Under the present conditions and circumstances, I cannot answer these questions." Because you are there under duress, without due process, and how can you answer questions like that under those conditions? Which was logical, I thought, at least in my way of thinking. And that was my, actually my first activity into the grassroots activism, I guess you might say. But this was, more or less was fostered on us through necessity, you know. It just got to a point where the government was compounding one injustice onto another one.

EO: So what happened?

FE: Well, I don't know how many people read the, these posters we put up, but I imagine some of them might have got ideas from it, and answered it that way. And after that, I think it was at a community meeting, either, I don't remember for sure whether it was the Christian pastor there, or the associate editor of the Heart Mountain Sentinel, the camp newspaper, who was Nobu Kawai, who was the past president of the Pasadena chapter of JACL before the war. He was, it was either one of those two, gave a talk on why we should register and not cause any problems, you know. It was our duty to register, and not only that, but the WRA had, I think, said that penalties would be assessed or something if we didn't register. Which was a lie, because we found out later -- this was after the war -- that you didn't have to answer these, you didn't have to sign 'em. Anyway, at that meeting, after this fellow gave that talk on why we should cooperate, another older fellow -- found out later his name was Kiyoshi Okamoto -- got up and said that, "You know, the government evacuated us, put us in these concentration camps without any due process of law," and he says, "They trampled on all your constitutional rights." And this was the first time we -- at least I -- heard about due process or constitutional law or anything like that. But he gave some very good reasons for people to think about this registration before they signed it, you know. And we thought well, I guess I went there with maybe two or three, maybe four other fellows. And after the meeting we went and talked to him. And we found out he was very knowledgeable about all this constitutional law, and the injustice that was perpetuated on the Japanese Americans. So we got together and talked with him, and I think we probably got together with him a few more times. And at that time he was -- I understand that... I didn't ever hear him -- but I understood he was going around the camp, talking to whoever, whenever he could gather an audience, about the due process bit. And he called himself "The Fair Play Committee of One" at that time.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EO: I want to ask you also, the "no-no" situation that came up. Would you have been classified -- you're not actually "no-no"?

FE: No.

EO: You refused to answer?

FE: "No-no" were the ones that unqualifiedly put down "no" to both 27 and 28, and with that they were shipped to Tule Lake. I would come under the category of "qualified" answer because I didn't say "yes" or "no," I just said I couldn't answer these questions under these conditions. So there's a difference there. In fact, I think most of those that were in the Fair Play Committee, they actually, the younger boys that resisted all answered "yes-yes."

EO: Was there any discussion in your family about these answers?

FE: I really can't remember if we had any discussion with our parents or not, because, but I'm sure that we must have talked about it with our parents. But I think in the case of our parents, like my father, probably answered "yes-yes," for all I know, otherwise if he'd have put "no-no," he'd have probably been shipped to Tule Lake.

EO: I guess we didn't get this, but did you tell us that your parents were aliens?

FE: Yes. My parents were both aliens. In fact, my older sister was also born in Japan. She came over here at the age of twelve. So she was virtually a Nisei, but she was born in Japan. Now, my brother, who is two-and-a-half years younger than me, also answered it the same way I did. And although he didn't attend a lot of these meetings that we had with Mr. Okamoto, he was, became active later after we were taken away. Of course, that's getting ahead of the story.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EO: So tell us about your association with Kiyoshi Okamoto.

FE: Well, actually, I can't remember the details, but we did get together with him a few times now and then. And not very much until this issue of the draft came up. I think he was more active in trying to get the conditions in the camp changed for the better, such as better food and things like that. And early in 1944... should we get into the draft thing?

EO: Just to finish up with the questionnaire, then, so Okamoto was advocating people saying "no," or take your stand?

FE: Actually, he wasn't advocating any particular answers to the questions. He was telling the people to, "Consider your predicament, consider what happened to you before you answer these questions." And some of us, we didn't have to consider. We already knew what happened to us and we were very angry about it. That's why we didn't like the questions that were in that questionnaire, 27 and 28. So we had no problem about how to answer these questions, you know, but some of the other people might have.

EO: So, so you didn't really encounter any problems with the administration because you had qualified answers?

FE: Yes, I had, actually, I had about one, two... two hearings, three hearings with the project director on that. And on the...

EO: Well, what did they consist of?

FE: On the second hearing I had, they asked me if I wanted to keep the question 28 at, under the same thing. In that case they were figuring on sending me to Tule Lake. So at that second hearing, I think I told them that question 28 I will answer "yes" without qualifications except that I want them to understand that I was never, had never pledged allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. That's why, I probably told them that it was kind of an asinine question to ask. So at that time I answered question 28 "yes" and they asked me about question 27 and I said, "No, that's, I won't change that because I can't answer that under these conditions." I says, "Before I volunteer or go into combat duty I would like to know what my citizenship status was, whereby my constitutional rights for me and my family." So that I didn't change and fortunately, I guess, that was enough to keep from being sent to Tule Lake. Although it seemed like it really didn't matter too much how you answered that, because Mr. Okamoto and Sam Horino were shipped to Tule Lake. The had answered "yes-yes," but they were still shipped to Tule Lake, as being "troublemakers."

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EO: Tell us about the draft.


FE: Early in January 1944, the army had decided to apply the draft into the concentration camps at more or less the suggestion of the Japanese American Citizens League. The reason for that was because at first they had asked for volunteers from the different camps and they had expected a big enlistment because of the record in Hawaii, where thousands volunteered because, after all, they were never evacuated or put in concentration camps like we were. So the Japanese American Citizens League at that time had made an offer to the United States Army to have volunteers from the camps be put into a suicide battalion and to hold the families of the hostages, the families of the volunteers and friends held as hostages to insure their loyalty. Which the army refused to do since we're not in the practice of holding hostages or forming suicide battalions. And this was suggested by Mike Masaoka, who was the head of the Japanese American Citizens League at that time. So that didn't go nowhere. And the volunteers, was a very dismal showing in the volunteers, I think, I don't know -- 800 or so volunteers. They had expected thousands from each camp. Yes.

EO: So let's just back up. Can you just say a statement -- that was around the loyalty questionnaire, wasn't it? That was the recruitment for the volunteers?

FE: No, actually, the loyalty questionnaire didn't have much to do with the volunteering. Even if you answered "yes-yes," it didn't really mean that you were volunteering.

EO: Wasn't it that they were coming around to recruit for the volunteers at that time?

FE: As far as I know, I'm not sure about that, maybe James might be able to clear that up later. All I know is that the volunteer program was a disappointment, so they, that's why they instituted the draft into the camps. And when we heard about this, it was really unbelievable. We didn't think that the government would really apply the draft into the camps on the same basis as the free people on the outside especially after having reclassified us from whatever we were -- 1-A or 3-A to 4-C which was an "enemy alien" classification. So naturally when this came up, the Fair Play Committee, which at that time wasn't too active, but when this came up we got very interested because it affected all of us younger people. So we took it up and we started to hold mass meetings in the camp. In the beginning we had to get permits from the administration project director to hold these meetings but when they got wind of what we were doing they refused to give us any permits. But we went ahead with the meetings anyway and actually they didn't try to stop us. And we were holding meetings maybe almost every night in various blocks for the first few weeks there. And in conjunction with the meetings we would issue bulletins explaining what the committee was doing and explaining our position, and in short, the first couple of bulletins, we were more informative. And at these meetings we would get the sense of the feelings of the crowd and it was like ninety-nine percent were really opposed to the draft because they thought that, "How come they put us in these camps, treat us like prisoners and now they want to draft us into the army like as if nothing happened? Without even talking about our rights, without even explaining that, what happens to our constitutional rights and our families." So the consensus was very negative on the draft.

And the third meeting, the third bulletin we issued was the one that became controversial because up to this point we had been informational and some of us decided we should take a stand and come right out and say that we're against this until our rights were clarified and our constitutional rights were restored. Naturally, we had some in the steering committee of the Fair Play Committee that questioned the advisability of going so strong, but finally after much discussion, those that felt that we had to take a strong stand prevailed and we came out with the resolution that, "We hereby refuse to go to the draft if and when we are called," in order to contest the issue.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EO: Could you go back to the Fair Play Committee itself?

FE: Yes.

EO: Describe it. Like, who were... who constituted the committee?

FE: Okay, the steering committee, which more or less set the policies of the Fair Play Committee, was, included myself, Mr. Okamoto, Paul Nakadate, Minoru Tamesa, Ben Wakaye, Sam Horino... and let's see, there was seven of us. Well, Guntaro Kubota, but Kubota wasn't a citizen so he actually wasn't a member of the committee although he got indicted with us because he helped us by translating these bulletins into Japanese for the parents of the boys that didn't know too much English. So he was the seventh member, he wasn't actually a member but he was indicted with us. We were the ones that set the policies of the committee and we held meetings and some of us gave talks at these mass meetings and answered questions -- there's a lot of questions came up. And usually, maybe we had one or two that spoke in opposition and these were people that were in the ROTC at UCLA, and maybe a very strong JACL member, but I actually, I can't recall any JACL member there speaking up against it. It was mostly the people that were in ROTC at college that said that we shouldn't oppose this drafting.

EO: Did a lot of people come to meetings?

FE: We used to have a full house at these meetings that we held in the mess halls. The mess halls held three or four hundred people and I guess many times we had standing room only because this interest was so great, you know, this affected everybody in a very certain way that everybody was very aware of the seriousness of the situation, so they came out. Well, at the third, after the third bulletin was issued, we presented this resolution to the body at large and the response was unanimous to go along with this resolution of refusing to go. I think 99 percent. And even at this meeting there was one or two that were in ROTC that spoke up against it. Well, actually, we thought that we would probably get a great majority to refuse to answer their draft notices, but as it turned out, why, not everybody resisted. When their notices started to come, then many of them kind of got afraid of going to jail, so they answered the draft hoping maybe they won't pass the physical. In our case, there was in the Fair Play Committee, boys that refused to go, there was many in there that would have failed the draft because they had stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, bad eyes and things like that, but because they felt so strongly about it, they, instead of going to the physical to fail it, they just stood up for a principle and went to jail instead.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EO: Talk about how you were sending out these bulletins and news releases to various outside...

FE: Oh, yes. While this, all this was going on, we were sending out news releases to the different newspapers, such as the Pacific Citizen, Denver Post, Billings Gazette, Cheyenne Eagle, I mean, Wyoming Eagle, and United Press and AP. The reason that we were doing that because we wanted the public to know what was going on in camp, that, how we were treated and how we as prisoners were being told to go into the army as if we were free citizens on the outside and we figured that maybe the public might be fair-minded enough to understand our position. So I sent news releases to these papers and the only paper that published our releases was the Rocky Shimpo, in which James Omura was the English editor at the time. And he not only printed the releases that I sent him, but he would editorially support us saying that we were fighting for a constitutional principle and he thought we had a right to do that. And for that we really respected him and held him in very high esteem. The Pacific Citizen would never print any of our releases. They editorialized all right, but they editorialized, but they editorialized calling us saboteurs, and disloyal seditionists, etcetera, etcetera. They really vilified us.


EO: You sound very organized.

FE: Well, I guess we felt that we had such a righteous case, that the public would, once they understood the situation, would sympathize with us and maybe the Congress might do something, but actually it just spontaneous, we felt that it was desperate times take desperate measures. [Laughs] In fact, I did get an answer from Harold Ickes and Attorney General Biddle when I sent them copies of George Ishikawa's letter. He says, these, this is how the boys feel about this, they're incarcerated in county jail now, etcetera, and they gave me very, very nice answers. I might have brought copies of it today.

EO: They gave you a nice answer? What did they say?

FE: They said, "We appreciate what you sent us," etcetera, etcetera, and I don't remember the exact wording but I brought a copy of it today so you can see it.

EO: So, you were beginning to tell us about this newspaper called the Pacific Citizen? Can you tell us what the Pacific Citizen is?


FE: The Pacific Citizen is the newspaper put out by the Japanese American Citizens League. It's like their house organ. And that paper really called, not only called us seditionists, disloyals and all kinds of other bad names, but they also came down very hard on James Omura, saying he was the one to blame for all this stuff that was going on in camp, etcetera. And the Heart Mountain Sentinel was the camp newspaper which was really coming out bad, very hard against us. They called us provocateurs, dim-witted, sneak attack, another Pearl Harbor, etcetera, about what the Fair Play Committee was doing. And not only in one or two but several, several editorials, they came out. And one was so bad that I wrote a very long letter to the editor rebutting that and it had to come out in two issues because it was so long. And Paul Nakadate also wrote them a rebuttal letter and I think, if I'm not mistaken, Minoru Tamesa might have written a letter.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EO: So, how was the ACLU involved in all this? Or, did you have any legal help?

FE: Well, actually, we were trying to get the ACLU to give us some legal aid, but they actually tried to discourage us from pursuing our battle there. They said that people that resist the draft were within their rights, but they must expect serious consequences and people that counsel others, referring to the Fair Play Committee leaders, are doing something illegal so they must expect serious consequences, and they refused to help us. And we found out later that it was sort of a holy tripartite axis between the JACL, the ACLU and the WRA in which they were all together trying to discourage this draft resistance.

EO: Which branch of the ACLU?

FE: This was the New York branch, the main headquarters, at that time was, Roger Baldwin was the head. And also found out later that he was a very close friend of President Roosevelt and this was President Roosevelt's, one of his programs so he didn't want to do anything to embarrass the President. Therefore, the New York branch refused to help us. We did retain an attorney from the ACLU, A.L. Wirin, who was a constitutional attorney for the Los Angeles branch of the ACLU. But we had to retain him as private counsel, because the ACLU would not help us. I think -- this may be a little off the story, but up in Northern California, Wayne Collins, who represented the northern branch, went against the wishes of the main New York branch and went ahead and helped the internees at the stockade in Tule Lake.

EO: I think it's called the national office.

FE: National office. Yes.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EO: So let's get on with the resisters' story. So, what happened first? I mean, who got...

FE: Okay. As we, as the draft notices first started to come in, I think the first group was a group of twelve that resisted. But the majority went. And then the next, there was a group of fifty-three that resisted. And that's when I started sending out these news releases to the papers explaining the situation. And one, one interesting sideline of this thing is when a group of the boys were being transferred from the camp to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for their trial, they had to spend a few days at the Casper County Jail on the way to Cheyenne. And they got there late at night and they weren't fed, so they were waiting for their dinner to arrive and it never, never came. In the meantime, a group of drunken sailors from the U.S. Navy was lodged in the cell next to 'em and they were whooping it up and making all kinds of noise and later on as they settled down, they started talking to the internees about why they were in there. And the Japanese American boys explained the situation to 'em and they told them that they were, why there were there and then that they were really hungry and waiting for some food but they hadn't got fed yet. This was late at night. So the sailors said, "Don't worry, we'll take, help you." And they got their shore patrol and brought the boys some coffee and doughnuts, bunch of doughnuts.

And another story was when they were in this county jail waiting, George Ishikawa wrote me a very moving letter, long letter, to express the sentiments of the boys in there. And before they mailed this out, the sheriff there, whoever's in charge of the jail, censors it. And after they read this letter, George explained that their attitude just changed completely. Up to then they were treated very badly, but after that letter, they read that letter, they were treated with more understanding. In fact, later they said, "Any food that you boys want, we'll take you out on a shopping trip and we'll let you off at a corner, certain corner and let you shop for an hour and we'll pick you up and take you back to jail." [Laughs] So that's, after they understood the situation, it made that much difference.

During the trial of the sixty-three -- their trial was the head of the conspiracy case -- during the trial of the sixty-three, a group of newspapermen that were there were so impressed by the story of the internees that the WRA had to actually send a PR man out there to convince the newspapermen that this was not the sentiment of the camp as a whole, that these boys were just the troublemakers, etcetera. And even so, one newspaperman was heard to comment that if he were treated like the evacuees, he'd be damned if he would join the army. That's one of the reasons when we had our trial, we opted for a jury trial.


FE: In the trial of the sixty-three, their attorney had requested a directed trial because they thought the jury would be influenced by the war, and that's the reason they didn't opt for a jury trial. But when we heard about this case with the newspapermen feeling so interested in the internees' plight, you know, and the fact that we heard this comment by one of the newsmen that he'd be damned if he would serve in the army if he were treated like the evacuees, we felt that in the case of the conspiracy trial, they would be, we might get a better shake with the jury trial. So that's how we ended up having a jury trial instead of a directed trial. Even during, even if it was wartime.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

EO: Okay, and going back... let's just clarify this. Did you, were you drafted?

FE: I was never in danger of being drafted. In fact, of the leaders, I think, four of us wouldn't, probably never been drafted because two were way overage, one was in their forties and one was probably closer to fifty, I don't know, somewhere around there. And myself and Paul Nakadate, we were married, we had children, so... I had two children, Paul had one. And they were not drafting fathers with dependents at that time. So we would have, wouldn't have been involved in the draft at all.

EO: So why were you doing this?

FE: Well, we felt, at least I felt so strongly about the injustice of it that I just had to do something and it was no problem, it was just something that had to be done and it was just spontaneous. Felt that the principle of the Constitution was kicked around long enough that we thought we have to dig in and fight back at some point.

EO: Okay, so is that how your fellow members felt, too, the ones that were not eligible?

FE: Yes, they all felt pretty much the way I did. That's why we were more or less the steering committee, because we felt very strongly about it. Although when it came right down to the outright refusing to respond to the draft notices, we did have some discussion. Some of them felt that that was going too strong and they didn't like it, but I think the majority of us felt that we had to take a strong stand and we sort of won out at the discussion.

EO: Were there any restrictions in your steering committee? Were Issei restricted?

FE: Yes, the Fair Play Committee itself was more or less just for the citizens, the U.S. citizens, therefore no Isseis were members of the Fair Play Committee. As I explained before, as Mr. Kubota volunteered to help us translate these things into Japanese and then he made, translated these things into... Japanese-speaking people so they could listen to him, he spoke in Japanese to 'em. So, but he understood the chance that he was taking but he also said that he was... really felt that we were doing the right thing so he wanted to, even if it jeopardized his position, he was more than willing to help us out.

EO: What do you mean by "jeopardizing his position"?

FE: Well, being a "enemy alien," he could have been charged with something much more serious than what the American citizens would be charged with. Maybe sabotage, or might even, something worse. He could have been put in a much... maybe more dangerous situation, but he was very adamant that he wanted to help us out because he knew that what we were doing was right.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EO: What happened to Kiyoshi Okamoto?

FE: Now, Kiyoshi Okamoto and Sam -- Kiyoshi Okamoto and Sam Horino were whisked away to Tule Lake one day, without even a chance to say goodbye to his parents. He was just arbitrarily just taken away. The reason that Sam -- the reason that Kiyoshi was taken away was because he was the chairman of the Fair Play Committee and they figured he was a troublemaker, ringleader. And in Sam's case, he walked out of the camp one day and nobody stopped him and he walked back in, and nobody stopped him, so... and then he went talking about it, so he was considered also a troublemaker and he was taken away to Tule Lake with Kiyoshi Okamoto.

EO: Tell us about this walking in and out of camp. Didn't you do that?

FE: Yes, Minoru Tamesa and I decided to walk out of the camp, we had a reason for this. First I'll tell you what happened. We went by the sentry and we started to walk through and he stopped us, and said, "You can't go out." And we answered that we had a perfect right to go in and out, we're American citizens, we didn't do anything wrong. And he still refused to let us go, so we said, "Well, what's going to happen if we insist on going out and keep walking?" He says, "I'll have to shoot you." So there was no point in getting shot, so we let him take us into the guardhouse and we stayed there for a couple of days, and one thing, we did get much better food in there than we got in camp. So, I had a hearing with... both I and Tamesa had a hearing with Robertson on this particular thing. I think at that time we had about four or five officials there facing us, the project director, the project attorney, the security captain, the military police there -- the head of the military police. And somebody else, I forget who it was, maybe it was the camp police there that was there, too. And also, at that time, Nobu Kawai, who was the assistant editor of the Heart Mountain Sentinel who was instrumental in really chastising us... he was there, he said, "as just a observer." And we had quite a long interview at that time.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

EO: Let's move on to your trial.

FE: Okay. We were picked up by the FBI... actually, before the FBI picked us up there had come and interview, interviewed the leaders of the Fair Play Committee a couple of times. And in my case, I didn't give 'em any information at all. And that's why as I'll relate later on at the trial what they did, tried to do. After the first couple of visits, then we understood they had a grand jury, indicted us in secret and the FBI came and arrested us and we were taken by auto from Heart Mountain to Cheyenne. We stopped one night at Casper, Wyoming, stayed one night there and then we kept on going. And riding with us from Casper was another prisoner, he was a Caucasian, young Caucasian man, he was an escape artist. He had escaped two or three times before, so this time he was, they had him, shackles on his foot and his hand was in irons. And when they would take us to a restaurant to have lunch or something, there were three of us. I, Paul Nakadate, Guntaro Kubota, I guess, three, three of us were taken to these restaurants with this fellow clanking along with this shackle on his feet. It was kind of a funny sight, I imagine. Anyway, we spent one night in Casper and then we were sent, taken to Cheyenne by car. And while we were waiting for a trial, they put us in a county jail, we were in Cheyenne jail for a few days, and then we were transferred to the Laramie County Jail because I think Cheyenne jail was kind of crowded and it was pretty dirty. So, Paul and I and Sam Horino and Guntaro Kubota and Kiyoshi Okamoto were all at the county jail in Laramie and if I'm not mistaken, I think James Omura was there with us, too. And while there, there was a resident of, Japanese resident of Laramie that used to come and visit us and brought us onigiri, musubi, Japanese food, and used to cheer us up there, and later we took a photograph with him, Sam and Kubota and I and Mr. Adachi, was his name. We took a photograph with him and I think I brought a copy of it here.

At the trial, each one of us were put on the stand and the prosecution had expected us to probably deny everything, so they had brought a so-called witness primarily against myself, only against me, because at the time the FBI had questioned me in camp, I did not give them any information at all. But they knew I was active in the Fair Play Committee because...


Yes, this witness was named Jack Nishimoto and we were wondering what he was doing there at the trial, no reason for him to be there, because none of us had ever had any dealings with him except at camp I used to, in fact, do favors for him. I would bring him some tofu when I was working at the tofu factory because he lived in the barrack behind me. And he used to work with... make models, you know, model airplanes and things like that and we'd go over there and see him work on that. And when I was driving the truck I used give him rides sometimes. Then he would come over to my barrack sometime and we'd talk. Well, that's why we were wondering, then when he got up on the stand started telling all kinds of lies, things that never happened. He was saying that I, for one thing, he said I told Mrs. Kawamoto, when Dave Kawamoto was picked up by the FBI for refusing to answer the draft, he said that I told his mother, "Don't worry, the Fair Play Committee will take care of him." Which was a bald-faced lie. And he said that I told him that if this doesn't come out the way I wanted it to come out that I was going back to Japan, which was also a bare-faced lie. So anyway, Mrs. -- later, Mrs. Kawamoto got on the stand and completely refuted what he said. And the reason I think the FBI had him on the stand to implicate me is because they didn't have concrete evidence in my interview with the FBI, of anything.

So, well, when the defense took the stand, we completely did the unexpected. Instead of trying to hide anything, we came out and said, "Yes, we did it. We put out the bulletins. We had mass meetings. We explained about the situation, the draft situation to people, and we encouraged people not to..." etcetera, etcetera. Well, the prosecution was a little taken, taken aback because they didn't expect us to come out and admit all this. And we said that we did this because we felt that the draft was, as applied to the camps, was unconstitutional, that it wasn't right. It was unfair, and unjust and immoral. And that's why, actually, the testimony by Jack Nishimoto was irrelevant. He just opened himself up as an informer and a dog. And later, in the FBI, the declassified FBI files, I found that the community analyst had talked to Jack Nishimoto, and he had been being used as an informer trying to find out about my things. He explained that he had come to my barrack to see what he could find, and he saw some documents around but he didn't know what it was because he didn't read 'em, but in other words, he was acting, acting like a spy for the FBI at that time in camp.

Well, the upshot of the trial was that after I guess maybe a week of it, we figured we had a pretty good case because our attorney was a very sharp constitutional lawyer, presented a very good case. But we heard that one weekend, this Judge Eugene Rice had gone duck hunting with the district attorney who was prosecuting us. So when we heard of that, why, our attorney said, "Well, you know, there goes your case. We'll probably have to take this up to the appellate court." And sure enough, that's what happened. We were convicted and sentenced to, we were convicted of conspiracy to violate selective service, aiding and abetting and counseling others to resist the selective service law. And we were given the sentence of four years in a federal penitentiary. And we appealed that and the attorney had asked the judge to let us out on appeal into the camps, pending the appellate court's decision. But the judge called us... what did he say? "You're agitators, troublemakers," and refused to grant us any bail while the appeal was in process. So we...

EO: Just a minute.

FE: Yes.

EO: Did you have a jury trial?

FE: Yes, we opted for a jury trial and nevertheless, when the jury rendered the decision, they found us guilty. Our, the judge had ignored some of the instructions that our attorney had made which was the basis on which our appeal was overturned, too. We were in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth from November of 1944 until December of 1945, at which time the appellate court reversed our conviction, it was around the 29th of December that they reversed our conviction, and in their reversal, they said that one who violates law that they think is unconstitutional, sincerely, in good faith, has a right to do so. And that's one of the instructions that the judge refused to give to the jury, and on that basis they reversed our conviction and we were released later in 1946, around April or May, I think.

EO: Did Okamoto go to jail, or he was taken to Tule Lake?

FE: Oh, he and Sam were taken from Tule Lake back to the court for our trial and all seven of us went to Leavenworth. Now, Minoru Tamesa and Ben Wakaye were the two that had actually, two members of the steering committee that were actually received their notices for the draft and they refused to go and they were sentenced, in the first group of sixty-three, to three years in prison. And they got a sentence of, under conspiracy charge they got a sentence of two years to run concurrent with their three-year draft resistance sentence. And Guntaro Kubota, of the seven of us, he was the only one that received two years. The rest of us received four years. However, it was, didn't make any difference because we won our case at the appellate level. And in the case of Tamesa and Wakaye, they, their sentences ran concurrent with the original sentence. And another thing that bothered us was the fact that anybody that goes to prison is eligible for parole, even murderers, and rapists. Well, in the case of the sixty-three and subsequent boys that resisted the draft, they were refused parole. They didn't, they wouldn't give them parole.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

EO: How do you feel the camp experience has affected your life?

FE: Well, I think as far as my life, it probably changed a great deal because instead of being a civil service worker, I probably would have been in business right along because when I returned from camp, or returned from the penitentiary after our reversal, I did go back to the store that we had and talked to the present owners. It had changed hands once. And just for the heck of it, I asked him, "How much did you pay for this store?" And he says, "What do you want to know for?" And I told him, "Well, we owned it before and we sold it for $1500." His eyes got that big. He says, "I paid close to a hundred thousand dollars for it." So, you know, during the war, everybody made money, especially in business, so we'd have been probably financially a lot better off than we are now. So it did affect us financially, at least, but as far as psychologically, I really didn't feel too affected by it. Some of the boys... in fact, a lot of the internees say that they were, they felt very ashamed and they felt that camp affected their life in all kinds of psychological ways, but in my case, I didn't feel a bit ashamed that... I didn't do anything wrong, why should I be ashamed, you know. I didn't, and I didn't experience any ostracism from anybody.

EO: You haven't felt any effects from the community for being a resister?

FE: No. Not a bit.

EO: You had no hostility?

FE: No. Well, one thing, I didn't have much intercourse with the JACL types or 442 types. In fact, my younger sister Kaoru was married to a 442 vet. But we got along fine, no problems. I think once people understand the situation, they can't help but feel that there's nothing wrong, unless they're very, very bull-headed like some newspaper columnists.

EO: There was something called the "mothers' division" of the Fair Play Committee. Who were they?

FE: I think that was a figment of somebody's imagination. There wasn't a mothers' committee of the Fair Play Committee as far as I know. And also I think another thing that I didn't know anything about and found out later was that somebody was trying to get the Spanish consul to act on behalf of the internees or the resisters, which I didn't think was at all called for, because we had nothing to do with the Spanish consul. Ours was a strictly, a U.S. issue, a constitutional issue.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

EO: Now, what was happening to your wife and family since, now, you're either involved in this committee or you're now in jail.

FE: Well, they didn't see much of me during the time we were active in camp. Because we were up late almost every evening, we were busy pounding out stencils for the bulletins and I don't know how many stencils we spoiled for each one that we completed. But none of us... we had a rickety old typewriter, and none of us were real good typists, but we managed to put it out. So we spent a lot of time out of our homes or out of our barracks and the time that, I know they had a hardship when they moved from camp because they had to pack up a lot of things, my father and my brother helped them, helped my family quite a bit in getting things packed. I was a guest at Leavenworth, so I couldn't do much to help 'em.

EO: Were you working? How were they getting... was your wife working?

FE: Well, we got back in 1946, a little after. Oh, in the camp? Let's see... I don't think my wife was working because she had two little children, you know. One was born in camp. My son was born in 1943, December of 1943. And my other one was about a year and a half old at the time that we went into camp, so, I guess, they'd just get along on whatever the camp offered. As far as money, you really didn't need much in the way of money, because you were in camp, you know, everything was furnished. But we did do some shopping while I was there, through Sears Roebuck catalogs and Montgomery Ward catalogs. So...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

EO: Well, Frank, I know you've been pretty active in recent times in all of this. What kind of reception have you been receiving when you tell your story?

FE: Well, I've been active with the NCRR in LA, and that's how I got to get contacts to speak at different places and then from there on sort of kept going from mouth to mouth, I guess. But I've been getting very good reception from these meetings, talks that I've given, and actually, I haven't felt any antagonism or animosity or ostracism from any group. In fact, in L.A. in 1988 or '9, I think the L.A. chapter of the JACL did sponsor a resisters' forum there. And Peter Irons was there and Mits Koshiyama came down from San Jose and we gave a talk there and the only person there that I had a little difficulty there was with Chris Nakagawa, who was president of the JACL at that time, and he sort of challenged my mentioning about Mike Masaoka's suicide battalion which I later showed him the article, you know.

EO: How do you answer the charge that you guys were just being cowards and didn't want to go fight?

FE: Well, we told them that in that particular case, personally, I told them that I didn't have to worry about going into the army, because I was never in danger of being drafted. And I says, "It just got so where you got pissed off so badly that you couldn't stay still, if you wanted to keep your self-respect." That what the government did was just like throwin' you down and spittin' on you. And the evacuation and the internment was bad enough after losing your business and everything, homes and business. But to compound that by drafting you as if nothing ever happened was sort of a bare-faced blatant injustice. So if you people felt, if those that went into the army from the camps that felt that that was their... will, that was their choice, then we respect them for it. Same way, they should respect our position. There shouldn't be any arguments. In fact, this is what I told them at the Oakland forum on February the 5th. That we had no argument with what they did, and they shouldn't have any argument with what we did. --


EO: ...that you maybe wanted, just to talk about principles. That you, well, you can just say anything about it --

FE: I think, I guess those of us that were involved in this really felt that maybe we didn't have such high ideals as such, but we were just fed up with the crap that the government had forced on us, one after another, that we figured at some point you just have to get on your hind legs and speak up. And fortunately, there was a few there that felt the same way, you know. It would have been hard for just one man like Kiyoshi Okamoto to go around and speak, but there was a half a dozen or so of us that felt strongly enough that we were willing to make a statement. And we really had no illusions that maybe we'll... steppin' on the government's toes, so we might get charged with something, but well, we figured what the hell, we're in camp, you know, what's the difference? If we get sent up for what we were going to do, but figured at, at least morally, what we're doing is right, and we had a very big question about the legality of the draft law as it applied to the concentration camps. So we thought we had pretty fair grounds there to fight a battle.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

EO: Tell us about some of the guys that you met in prison who were court-martialed and sentenced to death.

FE: Well, while we were at Leavenworth, we met some very interesting people. There was one group of Japanese American soldiers that were court-martialed and sent there and there was seven of 'em. In their case, they had their guns taken away and they were made to do latrine duty and all the menial tasks, so they petitioned the commanding officer to either treat them like American soldiers or let 'em out, honorably discharge 'em. And they didn't get any response so after many repeated requests they finally... what they did was they wrote out a petition and they all cut their finger a little bit and with blood, they signed it with blood and they went on a hunger strike. And for that they were court-martialed and they were... the first sentence, they were sentenced to be executed. And then it was commuted to thirty years and then it was later commuted to fifteen years. And then later I understand it was commuted to five years and then after the war ended they were let out. But that's one group.

And then we met another group of American soldiers who were members of a German American bund. And because they were members of the bund, they would... they refused to let them into the regular soldier thing. They took their guns away and they just made them patrol the outskirts of the prisoner-of-war camp where they held the German prisoners of war, you know, the soldiers. And the reason they were put in prison is because they helped the German prisoners of war escape and they said, "Well, we're German ancestry, and they made us guard the German prisoners of war, what do they expect us to do? Sure, we helped them escape." [Laughs] For that they also were sentenced to be executed, which was later commuted to thirty years. I don't know if it was commuted anymore than that, because their charge was pretty serious, you know, because they were actually helping them escape.

And then there was another group we met in the penitentiary there, that were the German soldiers who were spies, they were landed on the East Coast and they were caught and they ended up there. And there was always one following, and there were seven or eight of them, and then there's one always walking about five or six feet behind all the others. And we asked the leader of the group, "How come that's so, how come he's not with your other group?" He says, "Oh, we, he's a, we call him a dog because he ratted on us, that's how we all got caught." He got caught first and he ratted on 'em so they all got caught, so he was being ostracized by his fellow...

EO: These are the saboteurs?

FE: These are the German saboteurs. So there was quite a few interesting characters we met there besides all the murderers and the bank robbers and the crooked attorneys and the drug-dealing doctors. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

EO: What were the effects on your parents in the camps, and all this?

FE: Truly, I don't know visibly what effect it had. They probably were very sorry to see me go there, but you know, the Japanese are very resilient, they say, "shikata ga nai," you know, that we did our thing, what we believed in, and we were taking the consequences. But they felt good that we won our case, see. And in the case of the sixty-three and the other resisters, they were all pardoned by President Truman in 1947 and given all their civil and political rights restored. So I guess we all came out of it in pretty good shape. The only drawback in their case was that some of the old-timers, strong JACL members and even their relatives ostracized them, especially in the San Jose area. Very strong JACL town and that's why some of the boys still don't want to come out of the closet and in many cases their wives are very strong in not wanting them to come out in public, all this stuff.


EO: Anything anyone wants to ask, say? Do you want to say anything more?

FE: Well, let's see. Well, something, like whenever... I took a lot of civil service tests after I came back, they always have, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" So I'd always write a paragraph on very, as briefly as I can what happened, and it never did hinder me from being accepted. And all the... of all the people that I've talked to, you know, about our case, about the resisters, almost a hundred percent of Caucasians or any other non-Japanese group would be very supportive. They would say that if they were in our position, they would have done the same thing, they'd never be put into the army under those conditions. That's why I still can't understand why more people didn't resist out of these camps. That's a mystery to me. After all the injustice, that they figured to cap it with more injustice and they don't say anything about it... I know they felt like it was wrong, because at these meetings, almost a hundred percent would say, "It's wrong to draft us out of these camps." Yet when the time came, they wouldn't go... just like I heard at Rohwer a bunch of them was going to resist and it ended up only one person resisted. Joe... what was his last name? I forget his last name. Anyway, he was the only one that resisted and he got beat up pretty bad at the Texarkana jail, prison there.

EO: Can you just say what happened to some of the other resisters? Like in Poston and how others, what kind of sentences they got?

FE: Oh, yes.

EO: Just in terms of, like, different places?

FE: Oh yeah, another very interesting thing about the resisters' case is that in the different camps, before different judges, for the identical offense, they all got very different sentences. In Poston, the resisters were just fined one penny. They didn't see any jail time. And in the case of the Heart Mountain, they got three years. And in Minidoka, I think some of them got two years, some of them got one year and Amache, some of them got one year, some of them got two years. And in Tule Lake, identical offense, even if it was a different type of camp, they were charged with the same violation, and they were, the judge threw it out of court. He said, I forget the exact words, but he said it was a real... I can't remember his words. But he said it was a very wrong and unjust thing to prosecute these people for refusing to obey a draft law after they were put in these camps without due process. And he just threw it out of court.

EO: What does this say to you about the legal system?

FE: That the legal system is really screwed up. As much back then as it is now. [Laughs]

EO: So it's sort of who you got, right?

FE: That's right. Depends on the judge. Some judges were very just, humane, the others were just go by the letter of the law and make their own laws, in fact. Interpret their own, interpret to their way of thinking.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.