Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview II
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewer: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: January 30, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-03-0020

<Begin Segment 20>

FA: Tell me about the day that you learned the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had reversed your conviction.

FE: I think this was early January that I got a telegram from Wirin saying that the 10th Circuit Court had reversed our appeal, our convictions, of all seven, and that we should be released within a few days. Well, the few days turned into a few weeks because I think it was sometime in February, late February that we were actually released.

FA: But when you got the telegram, tell me about that.

FE: Oh, yeah, when we got the telegram and everybody got together and showed it to them and there was a chorus of hallelujah, you know. Everybody was cheering, says, "We won, we won." We won our fight. And it was a very happy occasion.

FC: Did they ever serve you Japanese food in Leavenworth?

FE: Nope. We had Italian food like spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, I worked in the kitchen one time and we were making huge bins of the meatballs, you know.

FA: The 10th Circuit ruled that the trial judge had instructed the jury to ignore your stated purpose.

FE: Right.

FA: Bill Hosokawa, I think, said you guys got off on a technicality. Do you feel you got off on a technicality?

FE: No, not at all, because our case was reversed on a prior case in which a German American bund was involved in. German American bund members were denied work in the factories, in the defense plants because of their affiliation with the bund. And the bund had instructed these, their members, "Do not respond to the draft until you get the rights to work in these factories." And they took that, they were convicted, and they took that clear up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court said that they had a right to counsel them not to do it if they had, if they thought the order was unconstitutional. And then, so our case was based on theirs and when you think of it, how much stronger was our case than theirs? Theirs was just for refusing employment that they were told not to go to the military. Our case, we were kicked out of our homes, we were put in concentration camps, all our constitutional rights were erased, and then I'm just wondering, to this day, if our case came first, would we have won it or would the prejudice still be there and say that we'd had no right to refuse? But in any case, it was not a technicality, it was on that reason that, regardless of what the instructions said, they would have reversed our convictions because of the precedent of the former case.

FA: Do you remember, do you remember the day you left Leavenworth? What did it feel --

FE: Oh, I don't remember the exact day.

FA: No, how did you feel as you actually walked out, left the prison gates?

FE: Well, you felt like a free man again. [Laughs] Felt good.

FC: Sunny day? Raining?

FE: It was kind of a gloomy day. And I remember when I got on the train, there were a couple of young Nisei soldiers on there, couple of them. And I think when the train stopped at Salt Lake City we went to the city there and had something to eat, came back and got on the train. And I forget whether they came all the way to L.A. or not. I think they might have stopped in between somewhere because when I got to L.A. I was by myself.

FA: Did you talk to them, they talk to you?

FE: We talked, but very cursory...

FA: You didn't tell them where you'd just come from.

FE: No, we didn't talk about that.

FC: Did they give you the classic, new suit, pair of shoes and ten dollars?

FE: Twenty-five dollars. [Laughs] New suit and twenty-five dollars.

FA: Tell me that, Frank, what, tell me what were you given when you left prison?

FE: Pardon?

FA: Tell me again, what were you given when you left Leavenworth?

FE: Oh, we were given a new suit and twenty-five dollars and a train ticket to Los Angeles. New shoes, yes.

FA: Oh, new shoes? [Laughs]

FE: The whole outfit.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.