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-03-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

FA: Well, let's get to the draft. January 1944, Stimson reinstitutes the draft for the Nisei. Tell me all about that.


FE: When we first heard about the draft being instituted in the camps, it was unbelievable. I couldn't believe that the government would actually put us in camp, strip us of everything, put us in camp and then order us into the military as if nothing happened. This was really, really unbelievable. And that's when Fair Play Committee took on this draft issue.

FA: So what did you do?

FE: We held public meetings in various blocks of the camp, mass meetings, open, nothing surreptitious, and we gave out information, how the Fair Play Committee felt about the draft, that it was totally immoral and unfair, unjust and we felt that it was certainly unconstitutional. So we would give out this information, give talks, we had Mr. Okamoto and Paul Nakadate, who was a very good speaker, speak at these meetings. And we would really have packed meetings, like three or four hundred, I think, attended these meetings. We held them almost every night during that period when, after the draft was instituted in camp.

FA: Describe a rally for me. I think on March 1st, they said you had four hundred, a rally on March 1st. Describe the feel of the crowd.

FE: Well, they were all very interested because this draft affected them. They couldn't, they probably were just as surprised as we were about the government doing this under the circumstances. So there was a lot of questions...


FA: So Frank, once again please, describe the scene for me at a rally with four hundred people in a mess hall.

FE: Well, they were all very interested because they were shocked at the thought that the government would apply the draft into these camps after the way they had treated us. We gave out information on how the Fair Play Committee felt about the draft. It was informational. We hadn't really taken a stand yet, but we told them how we felt. And most of them were very curious about how the draft would affect us. We tried to give out the best information we could, that the we felt that it was unconstitutional, certainly morally wrong, unjust, unfair. And 99 percent agreed with us. Only one or two that disagreed were former members of the ROTC at UCLA. But except for those few handfuls there, the rest were all very interested in obtaining all the information they could about this draft.

FA: Four hundred guys in a mess hall, that's a lot of people.

FE: It was standing room only.

FA: I can't imagine it was a quiet meeting. A lot of shouting and stomping and cheering? [Laughs]

FE: Not really. They were very attentive. Because when Okamoto spoke to 'em about the Constitution and everything, they listened. When Paul Nakadate spoke to them, they listened, they were interested. And they all felt like we felt, only maybe not as strongly or not as committed.

FA: Anyone who reads books or sees movies these days, you would think that Japanese Americans were all eager to serve in the army and that Japanese Americans were very patriotic, and this is the picture you get in books and movies. Was that what you saw at Heart Mountain?

FE: Not at these meetings. They were all interested because they wondered how the draft was going to affect them, if it was really true that they were going to draft us out of camp. Lot of them couldn't believe it. As far as those that wanted to volunteer or were ready to accept the draft, I think they probably didn't feel as strongly about it. And maybe some of them were bored with camp life so anything to get out of it. And some of them later on as the draft was instituted in camp, some of them drank shoyu to try to fail the physical. Shoyu drives up the blood pressure, which some of them did.

FA: Did it work?

FE: In some cases I understand they did, but the military got wise to it and they made them wait a day or two and take it again.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.