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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Tell me about, Frank, tell me about your life before World War II. What were your plans, what were your dreams?

FE: Well, I was going, going to the junior college in L.A. until my father got hurt in a traffic accident. So then I had to -- we had a produce market at the time. So after he got hurt, I had to leave school to take over the business and do the buying and etcetera, whatever had to be done. And this was when we had the store on Beverly and near Vermont.


FA: Tell me again, Frank, what was your occupation at the time, what did you do for a living?

FE: At that, now, this was at the time the war started or just before?

FA: Before.

FE: Just before. As I said, I was going to college, L.A. City College at the time, and my father, who ran a produce market, got hurt in a traffic accident, so I had to drop out of school to take over the business of the produce market and from that, we branched out into a, put in a grocery store and a meat, meat department. So my brother, my younger brother and my older sister and I, and we hired a butcher to run the meat department, and had this sort of a small supermarket, mini supermarket. And on Sunday morning when, on December 7th, I had the radio turned on, we opened up the market at around 8 o'clock. And I heard this newscast, news-bulletin saying that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese planes. And I listened, I didn't take particular attention to it because I didn't know where the heck Pearl Harbor was. And I thought this was just another dramatization of a novel of the war with Japan just like the dramatization of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which terrified U.S. nationwide. So I didn't pay much attention to that. But later on as the day wore on and turned to other radio stations and they all started talking about this Pearl Harbor attack, I came to realize that this was for real, that we had a war with Japan. Which really didn't surprise me too much because of the hostile nature of the news that was in the papers in the last few months, weeks and months. So that's how I first reacted when this war story was mentioned on the radio.

FA: What happened next?

FE: Well, we were a little concerned about the business, but you know, surprisingly, our customers said, "We understand that you're not the enemy so don't worry because we won't boycott you or anything." So they treated us just like before. And we were mainly concerned about our parents because they couldn't become citizens because of the racist laws that existed then in this country. As far as ourselves, we didn't worry too much about ourselves because we were American citizens and we were born here. But as future events proved otherwise, it didn't make any difference whether we were American citizens or not. We were all ordered to evacuate and be put into concentration camps in the inner lands.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FA: First the government issued a military curfew on your movements?

FE: Right.

FA: What did you think about that?

FE: Well, we thought that it was very unfair for American citizens to be treated like that. We couldn't help our parents and other aliens, resident aliens from being --


FA: Yeah, it was not fair for the American citizens, the Nisei. Did you think about resisting the military curfew?

FE: No, actually, that period of my life, I wasn't too aware of constitutional rights or anything of that nature, so we just, whatever the military said, we figured we wouldn't be able to fight the military or to oppose the military so we just went along with whatever they, the government decided to do. So as far as resisting the curfew or the expulsion, it didn't come to my mind at all. We were very unsophisticated as far as the law went, legally.

FA: How about some of the community leaders in Los Angeles, what were they saying? Do you remember?

FE: Well, the Rafu Shimpo, which carried the English section, always quoted the JACL as saying that we must cooperate with the government. And everybody took that as, you know, the way to go. Because nobody talked about opposing it.


FA: How aware were you of the JACL?

FE: We weren't too aware of the JACL all this time because they were considered sort of a elite social club of lawyers and rich businessmen, things like that, so really didn't think too much about 'em.

FA: Were they considered the leaders of the community?

FE: Well, it seemed like they took on the leadership of the community. But they were the only organization that existed for the Japanese Americans, anyway, at that time, so...


FA: Was anyone, were you a member of the JACL?

FE: No, I never was a member.

FA: Anybody in your family?

FE: No.

FA: Anybody in your neighborhood?

FE: Not that I know of.

FA: So, what was your major in college?

FE: I was going for pre-pharmacy, so I was taking science courses.

FA: If you had been able to finish college, what did you want to do?

FE: Become a pharmacist, that was my goal. Which eventually my son became a pharmacist.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FA: Here's something I've never heard before. Describe to me, Frank, when the evacuation orders -- well, when the posters went up on the telephone poles, what, tell me about that for you.

FE: Well, by the time the posters went up it was already in the newspapers so we weren't surprised by that, but we were very surprised that the expulsion orders included the Niseis. It was hard to believe at first but we realized that this was a military order, ordered by the army, there's nothing much you can do so we just went by whatever the government was going to do. We had no, actually, I didn't even think about resisting military orders or anything like that then. We just went along with what the government told us to do.

FA: So tell me about moving out.

FE: Well, they told us we could take only what we could carry, so we assembled at the church over here in the Virgil area. And then from there we went to, we were taken to Union Church downtown and then from there we got on, I believe, either big trucks or big vessels, I forget, but then we were sent to Pomona Assembly Center.

FA: What did you, what did you bring? What did you bring?

FE: Gee, I really don't recall. I can't remember what I brought. [Laughs]

FA: What did you leave behind?

FE: Probably some clothing and maybe some reading material. Something like that.

FA: What did you like to read?

FE: Oh, at that time I used to like to read science fiction stories. I prefer fiction. [Laughs] And maybe some books that I had at college.

FA: Can you remember, can you remember some of the titles in the science fiction books you were reading that you liked?

FA: Yeah, Astounding, Astounding Stories, Amazing Stories, those two I can remember.

FA: Tell me, what, what did you leave behind? What did you have to leave behind?

FE: Well, I had to leave behind -- actually we sold it for pennies on the dollar but I had a 1934 Chevy coupe which was a pride and joy. Then we had a truck that we used for the business. It was about a 1933 truck, Chevy truck. And I had a shotgun and a .22 rifle which we sold. I think I gave those away. And cameras, I had a couple of cameras which we gave away. Oh, most of those things. And then stuff that we didn't give away or sell, we locked it up in one of the rooms that my parents, owned a house then. And left it for safekeeping, but when we got back it was broken into and everything that was of any value was stolen.

FA: Describe for me when you, the scene when you first arrived at Heart Mountain from the Pomona Assembly Center.

FE: Yeah, when you first came to Heart Mountain it was in the middle of a dusty prairie, dust, dust storm. You couldn't hardly see maybe 10, 15 feet ahead of you. So we were really disgusted. And when we could see, it was a bunch of barracks out in the desert. Very forlorn-looking, desolate. It was a real lousy feeling that we had when we got there. Course, it turned out that the dust storm was the least of our worries because that winter was the coldest winter in Wyoming history; it was 30 below zero. And if you go to the restroom which was located outside and wet your hands or took a shower and your hair was wet, by the time you got back to your barrack, your head was in icicles and your hand was wet it would just stick to the metal door, doorknob. And things like that went on. We didn't even have a topcoat when we first got there, we were from Southern California. So it was very hard on the very young and the very elderly. It was even hard on us healthy guys, for that matter.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

FA: Were you following the headlines when in January '43, the War Department restored the privilege of volunteering for the Nisei? Were you following that at all?

FE: Might have, in the Sentinel.

FA: Uh-huh, okay. So after you arrived in August at Heart Mountain, cold, coldest winter, how did you, how did you pass your time, personally? What did you do?

FA: I think that, that fall after we got there, they asked for people to go for the sugar beets. So that fall we went out for the sugar beets out in Hardin, Montana.

FA: And you went out?

FE: Yeah.

FA: How did you like it?

FE: Well, made a little money. So it wasn't bad. It was hard work, it was backbreaking work but we needed some money, so...

FA: In January of '43, the War Department did restore the privilege of volunteering for the Nisei, and I'm sure you read about it in the Sentinel. Did you at all consider volunteering?

FE: No, I couldn't even think that anybody would volunteer from the camp under the circumstances that we were put into. So it didn't interest me one bit. I didn't have, in fact, I didn't think anybody would volunteer after that, they were put into these concentration camps like we were.

FA: Some did, though, what did you think about that, when they did?

FE: Well, some of 'em did and we thought they were pretty stupid.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: In February, the WRA administered the leave clearance questionnaire. Tell me about that.

FE: Oh yeah, when that questionnaire first came out, it seemed to be very simple. It says, I think statement of Japanese, statement of American citizen of Japanese ancestry. It didn't seem like, there was nothing serious about it, but if you looked carefully, the top logo it said "Selective Service System." And on the left-hand corner of that sheet it said, "Local board, date stamp." And all the questions were innocuous except 27 and 28. Question 27 asked, "Are you willing to attend, join the army and go in combat, combat duty wherever ordered?" And if you answered "yes," it was an implication that you volunteered because of the selective service system emblem and everything.

On question 28, I think, wasn't the exact wording but it said would you pledge allegiance to the United States of America, etcetera. Which was okay, there was no problem there, but then it was like in two parts. The second part said, "And will you forswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan and to any other foreign government or organization?" And if the Nisei answered "yes" to that, it seemed like you had at one time or another pledged allegiance to the emperor of Japan, which was not the case in most, most all the Niseis. Now for an Issei to answer "yes" to question 28 would make them a stateless person because they were unable to become citizens by the laws that existed at that time. So those questions to me was, the more I looked at it, the more stupid it seemed to me so I thought it was not only stupid but sort of demeaning for us to have to answer that so I answered it in this manner: I said, "Under the present conditions and circumstances, I am unable to answer these questions." Which was my feeling at that time.

FA: Tell me about how the camp reacted as a whole, all your friends.

FE: I think, oh, to follow, follow that story, I printed up, hand-printed my answers on sheets of paper with the help of my brother and put down suggested answers to questions 27 and 28 and we went around camp tacking it up in public places around camp, which was my first venture into activism at that time.

FA: Why did you do that?

FE: Well, I felt so strongly that these questions were very unfair and stupid and pretty hard for people to answer these correctly, if they answered it "yes," they would, as I said before, it would go one way, if they answered it "no" it would make, turn them out to be disloyal. And so I figured the best way was to not answer it. Or like in my case, just put, "I am unable to answer these questions under these circumstances."

FA: What were some of your suggested answers?

FE: Well, the answer that I gave was the one that said, "Under the present conditions and circumstances I am unable to answer these questions." Which was the, which was the answer I gave to both question 27 and 28.

FA: Again, were people... you, I don't... you went out of your way to post these answers for people.

FA: Yes, I felt that maybe some of these internees won't be able to answer this, wouldn't know how to answer, they would be confused, so I thought this might give them a little hint on how to answer these questions.


FA: The Heart Mountain Sentinel, one of the editorials said that the people were out there in the latrines posting these flyers, working in the dead of night. You remember that editorial?

FE: Right, uh-huh. Yeah, they, the Sentinel came out and said a lot of things about us that weren't true. We, what we did was do everything openly and in public. So I don't think that the Sentinel, the Heart Mountain Sentinel was dealing very fairly with those of us that felt that this application of... now are we getting into the draft?

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

FA: Well, yeah, no, we are because this is in February of ('43) and so what happens the rest of, I mean, the rest of 1943, what happened?

FA: Well, actually, the rest of 1943 we didn't do too much except look into some of the injustices that we thought were happening in camp like some of the police, police were sort of harassing the internees and the food situation was kind of very poor so we looked into the food situation. Little things in camp. And also, Mr. Okamoto being at that time a member of the ACLU, corresponded with outside organizations to bring our situation to them. So really weren't too active, although we were having meetings now and then.

FA: Really? You say "we," 'cause you weren't the Fair Play Committee yet then.

FE: No, but we, yeah, we were already. Right, a little after the loyalty questionnaire when we met with Okamoto, at that time he was, he was calling himself the Fair Play Committee of One. And after we got together with him because what he said at this -- oh, backing up a little bit, at this public meeting where Nobu Kawai urged people to answer question 27 and 28 in the affirmative. And at that time, Mr. Okamoto got up and spoke about the, all the unconstitutional acts that were perpetrated on us. So some of us felt that, here's a fellow that has the same feelings that we did and knew what he was talking about. So that's when we got together with him and found out that he was very familiar, he was very knowledgeable about the law and about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which most of us weren't. And after a couple, two or three meetings with him we formed the Fair Play Committee as an organization in 1943.

FA: Tell me about Kiyoshi Okamoto.

FE: He was a brilliant writer. As a speaker he was good but he was very blunt and tended to use a lot of salty words which wasn't too well-accepted, you know, by the public. But I think he was quite a fellow that knew how to express his feelings about this and we really appreciated that because we felt the same way only we weren't quite as knowledgeable about everything.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 8>

FA: Frank Emi, were you eligible for the draft?

FE: I was not eligible for the draft because at that time they were not drafting men with families, with children. So I wasn't affected by the draft, I had two children at that time. Some of the leaders, of the seven leaders that were later convicted, only three of them were actually eligible for the draft: Min Tamesa, Ben Wakaye and Sam Horino. And myself and Paul Nakadate, we were, we had families, so we weren't eligible, and Kiyoshi Okamoto was overage, he was in his forties, I think. And Mr. Kubota was in his forties and also he was an alien so he wouldn't be eligible for the draft. But I think the thing that brought us all together was the fact that it was such an unjust and unfair thing that was happening.

FA: Let me ask that question again: Frank, you were not eligible for the draft.

FE: No, I wasn't.

FA: Why didn't you, why did you resist?

FE: I felt so strongly about the unfairness of this whole thing, about the injustice that the government is compounding, they not only, was unjust when they kicked us out of California into these camps but now they were compounding their injustice by saying you were eligible for the draft and I felt that there was no end to it. We went quietly when they forced us out of our homes, but now, they want us to risk our lives for something that we weren't privy to, for democracy, which was denied us. I felt that there was a place and time when you have to stand up and fight for your rights.

FA: Tell me about the dues that, you collected dues.

FE: Yeah, we collected two dollars apiece from the Fair Play Committee members to set up a fund in case we had to have legal action instituted. So we had about close to two hundred paying members at that time. Although we had about four hundred at these mass meetings, not everybody signed up.

FA: And what did you use the money for?

FE: We used it in the beginning for buying materials for mimeographing machines, ink, paper and also telephone calls to the attorney, and I think we really didn't have enough money to pay for the attorney, we had to get donations after that, but for the initial payment and everything we used that.

FC: At what point did you get an attorney? '43, or after the draft was reinstated?

FE: After draft was reinstated. After the fellows were being arrested for resisting the draft.

FA: You described the JACL earlier as being an educated elite, whatever. Did you think of going to the JACL and asking for their assistance in your cause?

FE: Actually, we didn't because we didn't have much faith in the JACL.

FA: Tell me about the JACL and their response to the creation and strength of the Fair Play Committee.

FE: Well, they were very adamant in their stand against what the Fair Play Committee was doing. They said that we were creating a second Pearl Harbor, that we should be charged with sedition, and that we were undoing all the good things that the Nisei soldiers were doing. They really tried to tear us, tear us apart.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FA: Tell me about your interrogation by Guy Robertson.

FE: Well, I had three interrogations with Guy Robertson, who was the project director. And I had one interrogation with him when I and Min Tamesa attempted to walk out of the camp. Now, talking about this camp walkout, we just wanted to establish that we were not free citizens, that if we attempted to walk out, the guard said he would shoot us. So that's the reason we did that. And as far as the other interrogations was for leave clearance. And in the interrogations, Guy Robertson tried very hard to get me to either change my stand and agree to, to the draft or, in fact, he tried to pin me down saying that, "If I were to give you notice for the draft, would you go to the draft now?" Which I said, "I'll go as soon as I get my rights back as a citizen."

FA: What was Guy Robertson trying to get you to say?

FE: He was trying to get me to either say "yes" or "no" so that he could deport me to Tule Lake. And I knew that was his strategy so I tried not to fall into it.

FA: What kind of person was Guy Robertson?

FE: Well, he tried to make himself look very fair, but that was just a facade. He was one of those very sort of a, I would consider maybe a bully type of a person that wanted to maneuver you into a position where he can put his agenda into being.

FA: He tried to manipulate you.

FE: Yeah.

FA: What, I read about this Fair Play Committee offered a resolution to have Guy Robertson fired.

FE: You know, I wasn't privy to that. I think that was proposed by Paul Nakadate and Okamoto. Mostly Paul, I think, he did that. Also another thing he did was send James Omura a news release that was not exactly true.

FA: What?

FE: That's why after that I took over the press releases. I can't recall exactly what the topic was, but it could have been about the ousting of Guy Robertson, which the Fair Play Committee as a whole didn't take up. That's why I wasn't aware of it, he just sent that out.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: How did you feel seeing the editorial, your press releases in the Rocky Shimpo by James Omura? How did that make you feel?

FE: Oh, that really helped us morally because we felt that James Omura was in our corner. And we also felt that since this paper was being distributed in other camps, that it might stir up the other camps. In fact, I wrote a letter to a friend of mine in Manzanar telling him what we were doing and asking him if they would start something like that -- not Manzanar, I correct that, it's Poston, my friend was in Poston. I don't know whether my letter ever got to him because I never got an answer from him. They might have censored it and said, "Well, this is just more agitation so we better not let him have it."

FA: Did you read the editorial "Let Us Not be Rash," when it was published?

FE: Which was that? James Omura's editorial?

FA: Rocky Shimpo.

FE: Rocky Shimpo?

FA: Where he says, "Unorganized draft resistance would be foolish. Any resistance must be organized."

FE: Oh yeah, I'm sure I read all of his editorials 'cause we were taking the Rocky Shimpo at that time. But we were already organized at that time. We had already organized in late 1943.

FA: James Omura says he was trying to send you a subtle message to organize. He could not tell you to organize but he was telling you to organize.

FE: Actually, I think he was trying to send this message to the other camps. 'Cause as far as Heart Mountain was concerned, we were already organized at that point.

FC: Okamoto would go off on his own and send stuff out and do things in the name of the Fair Play Committee. Were you aware of that?

FE: Not really. Later we found out when he would tell us what he did.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

FC: And why was the Fair Play Committee formed, for what purpose was it formed? Was it formed to just bitch about camp or to do some action?

FE: Actually, when we formed it as an organization, it was trying to inject some kind of justice into the whole evacuation and internment thing. And also when such a thing as the loyalty questionnaire came up, we figured that we needed an organization to face these issues. At that time we even hadn't any thought about the draft. It wasn't even in our minds.

FC: Did you have any thought of creating test cases?

FE: Yeah, we thought of having, forming a test case with maybe ACLU as the vehicle.

FC: When you walked out of camp, was that an attempt to violate a rule and create a test case?

FE: That was probably in the back of our minds, but mainly we wanted to, we figured that we may have a legal situation arise from this draft issue because the draft was already in progress at that time. So we wanted to make sure that we established the fact that we were not free. And that's the reason we walked out and tried to walk out and then the MP stopped us and said if we kept walking he would shoot us. And a few people did get shot being too close to the fence or something, so we knew he wasn't kidding.

FC: Did anybody walk out of camp in an attempt to create a test case?

FA: Yeah, Sam Horino had walked out of camp a few weeks prior to that but he walked out of camp and walked back in and nobody stopped him. And when he got to talking about it to everybody in camp, that's when they nabbed him and sent him to Tule Lake because of the fact that he was sending out all this information that he walked out of camp and it got to the office because there were a lot of stool pigeons in camp that was informing the administration.


FC: Do you feel that you had to earn your civil rights? That the Nisei had to earn their civil rights before they could get them back?

FE: No. I don't, I thought, I always felt that we were entitled to civil rights; we don't have to earn it. We're American citizens and as such, the Constitution guarantees us that. Why, why should we have to go, why should the Nisei have to go out and earn their civil rights when everybody else don't have to?

FC: Where were the Nisei born?

FE: Nisei born right here in America, the U.S.


FC: JACL in '42 had an all-camp meeting. Two delegates from every camp went to Salt Lake City and told the WRA and the government what they wanted. And they said, "We want to be drafted so we can earn our civil rights." They didn't ask for civil rights, they asked for the privilege of being drafted so they could sacrifice for their country and earn their civil rights.

FE: Well, that's probably one of the reasons they had a "Manzanar riot." A lot of people took exception to what they proposed. I for one thought that was the most ridiculous idea that they could have proposed. Why should we have to earn our civil rights by joining the army or whatever as the JACL proposed? That's ridiculous.

FC: Were they American?

FE: I always thought I was a good American.


FA: Early March of '44, the first twelve Nisei refused to board the bus at Heart Mountain. Were you aware of that? Were you watching that? Were you there?

FE: Board the bus for Heart Mountain?

FA: For the draft physicals, I'm sorry. The first twelve Nisei refused to board the bus for their draft physical.

FE: I think we heard about it later. You know, camp is a big area there and when they refused to go I think the FBI came by and picked them up. So we wouldn't know, we weren't aware at that time who was going, who was being picked up or where. So we probably heard about it later through the newspapers.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

FA: Tell me, Frank, about the bulletins. You had Fair Play Committee Bulletin No. 1.

FE: Yes.

FA: Tell me about that.

FE: The Fair Play Committee issued three bulletins during that period. They probably issued few more but the only ones that I've had in hand, that was kept, was the three bulletins. The first one was informational and told our stand, our theme of the Fair Play Committee. And the second bulletin was a question and answers as regarding the Fair Play Committee, and the third bulletin was the one in which we took the stand, a definite stand on the draft issue. Which was not only informational but now we came to the point where we said that we'll refuse to go to the draft or to the induction when we are called in order to contest the issue. And the reason for that was because we felt that the draft as applied to camp was, as I said before, illegal, immoral, unjust, unfair and against all concept of civilized use of it.


FC: I think in one of the bulletins, it was clearly stated that Fair Play Committee's intent was to create test cases. And in the third bulletin, the second bulletin, you may have to go to court.

FE: Right, uh-huh.

FC: Now that seemed to say that you wanted to create test cases.

FE: Right.

FA: With the third bulletin, was it really, was it very clear in your mind what you were proposing to create, a test case?

FE: Yes, the third bulletin we came out and very clearly set forth our views and what we were going to do. We said that, as I said before, refuse to, hereby refuse to go to the draft in order to contest the issue.

FC: That's the one line, that's the one line that pissed the FBI off.

FE: That's the one line that got us indicted.

FC: Who wrote that line?

FE: I think I was guilty of that. 'Cause we had a very serious discussion in the steering committee before we printed that, and there was two or three that didn't want to go as strong. They said this might get us in trouble. And I remember arguing that if we don't take a definite stand, it's not going to do any good. We've been information long enough and as the Fair Play Committee we should take a stand on this. In fact, my brother told me that one of the fellows, Min Tamesa, told my brother that if I had talked to this other fellow -- should I mention his name? Paul Nakadate like I did, he would either have swung at me or run away. I was pretty adamant at that meeting and said that we had to take a stand. And that was finally passed and we did go that route. Which landed us in prison, but at least we felt that we took the right track. And we put this in resolution form to the mass meeting at our next meeting and proposed it to the members and see if they would pass a resolution and it was unanimous. 'Cause as I said, one or two opposition that these were former ROTC members, but rest of them were unanimously accepting the resolution that they will resist the draft. But when their, most of them, when their actual notices did come, they were more afraid of going to jail, so they obeyed the, their physical orders.

FA: What was the immediate reaction in camp outside of that, after the meeting that the resolution was passed? What was the immediate reaction in the general camp?

FE: Well, as I said before, the camp's a huge place. Like, it's like a small city so we really didn't see any immediate reaction from the people. I think the reaction was mostly from those people at the meeting, and which was very positive.

FC: How did the camp newspaper respond?

FE: The Heart Mountain Sentinel really crucified us after that. They likened us to a second Pearl Harbor etcetera, and called us dimwitted and stupid and idiots and that we were, we should be put in, put in prison for sedition. They really raked us over the coals. And in one of the editorials, Nobu Kawai wrote a very, very stinging editorial about, on the Fair Play Committee, so I wrote a very long letter rebutting him which had, came out in two editions of the Sentinel instead of one. They couldn't put it all in one. And rebutted him on that which was also all in the FBI files.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

FA: One quick question. The government brought in Ben Kuroki, a war hero, to try and turn public opinion back towards the JACL and the draft. Tell me about Ben's visit to Heart Mountain.

FE: Well we heard, we heard that Ben Kuroki was coming and most of us leaders of the Fair Play Committee didn't pay much attention to it. We just thought that he was an asshole for coming into camp for trying to persuade the young men to enlist in the army when he himself was a Nebraska boy, never knew anything about the camp, never was forced out of his home, and for him to come into these camps and try to influence the people there to respond to the draft was totally stupid of him, I thought. So none of us went. I understand that he gave a talk and some of the resisters might have gone to listen to him but none of the leaders were there.

FA: Ben Kuroki talks about discrimination, bigotry, and how he was doing this for Japanese Americans and he considers himself, he is a Japanese American. And he says he came to, he fought in the army to try to overcome bigotry. Don't you think that he was doing something good for the cause of our community?

FE: Well, he might have been a good propaganda tool for the government as far as the public was concerned, but I don't think he had, really had any business coming into these camps to persuade people to go into the, into the military. If anything, I think he should have been a little more understanding of the situation that the Niseis were in, American citizens being kicked out of their homes, put into concentration camps. If anything, if he had any sense at all, he would have been a little more sympathetic towards that instead of following the government line of trying to get as many of these people into the army as possible under these circumstances. If these were ordinary times, sure, he would've been considered a war hero and everything by us, but under those circumstances, I don't think he was looked by us as a war hero. He might have been a war hero but he was certainly not a friend or sympathetic to the Japanese population that were imprisoned.

FA: That was great. Tell me again why you think Ben Kuroki was not qualified or not, did not represent you.

FE: He wouldn't represent us because he was just like any other Caucasian that was never in camp. He was a Nebraska boy as I said before, and he didn't know the things that we went through. And for him to come in and blandly say that we should be in the army and that we should obey everything the army told us to do was totally uncalled for.

FC: Are you saying there's a difference between the West Coast Japanese Americans and the few Japanese Americans in Nebraska?

FE: It was like black and white. The West Coast Japanese were all treated like enemy aliens, put in camps. And here he was a free American, he didn't have to endure what we had to go through. And for him to use his notoriety as a war hero bombardier, use that influence to come in the camps and try to influence the young men to go into the military under those pretenses was totally uncalled for and very idiotic, I think.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

FC: Finks. Every organization has them.

FE: Right.

FC: Did the Fair Play Committee have finks?

FE: I don't think we had any finks in our committee. They were all very honorable men.

FC: How did the FBI come to know or believe that it was you that authored that line that got everybody indicted, that got you indicted?

FE: That's a mystery to me. I don't know, unless somebody might of just... because the FBI interrogated all the leaders prior to our indictment, and they all talked. I think Horino was in Tule Lake at that time and at first, at his first hearing with him he said, "I did this, I did that," he did it all by himself. Next time -- no, the first time he denied everything. Then the next time they questioned him he says, "I did it all." He says, "I got tired of them asking me these questions so I told him I did everything." [Laughs] So I don't know, it might have come from him or it might have come from Ben Wakaye or Paul Nakadate. Ben Wakaye was very flustered when the FBI interrogated him. I don't know about the others, but from what I gathered from their, from the declassified FBI files, their interrogation, some of them were pretty flustered, I think, by the FBI. When they questioned me, I didn't give them any information. So that's probably the reason at our trial they had Jack Nishimoto come up and perjure himself to say, "I said this, I did that, I do that," and tell a lot of lies up there.

FC: Was Nishimoto a member of the Fair Play Committee?

FE: No, Nishimoto was sort of a government stooge. He used to take people out on work details and things and he was very close to the administration. And while I was driving a truck and also when I worked at the tofu factory, I did favors for him; I gave him rides, I brought tofu for him. And he used to come over to my place and I'd go over to his place. And I found out later through the declassified FBI files that he was really spying on me. He was looking, when he was at my barrack he was looking around, looking to see if he could see any documents, you know, that was incriminating and things and he would report it to the... what's that camp...

FA: Community analyst?

FE: Community analyst. It was really like an informant for the FBI.

FC: Was he the only witness testifying against you at the trial?

FE: Yes, I think so. But in his case, when he mentioned that I had told Dave Wakamoto -- Dave...

FA: Kawamoto.

FE: ...Kawamoto, that I had said this and that to him, which was a lie, we had Mrs. Kawamoto, who was Dave Kawamoto's mother, come up and testify that I had not talked to her, and said that whatever Jack Nishimoto said was false.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

FA: Jumping back a little bit, you were arrested, FBI finally came and arrested you. Tell me about your arrest. It was July 21st. What happened, tell me about that.


FE: Two FBIs came early in the morning to our barrack and they came right in and said, "We're going to arrest you, you're indicted for conspiracy," said the whole thing. Then they started looking around the place and started picking up my papers, so I told them, "Wait, you've got to have a search warrant to search my place." And they said, "No, this is incidental to the arrest. We can do it." So I said, "Well, I'm still protesting that you can't search my barrack." "Well, as long as you're in here," they said, "we can search you, search it here." So I walked out, and they said, "Well, we're already in here so we're going to go ahead and search it anyway." So I walked back in and they went ahead and picked up almost everything I had in the way of notebooks and papers and documents, they had everything.

FA: Were you surprised at your arrest?

FE: I was expecting them, but I didn't, I was surprised at the seizure, you know.

FC: How did your family, your wife and kids react to the FBI? Did they knock on the door first?

FE: Yeah, they knocked on door and came in. They were courteous about it.

FA: Your wife, your kids?

FE: Well, my wife was surprised but she just stayed to one side, didn't say anything. And the kids were very small yet so they were just with my wife. And I had told her that, you know, I expected to be arrested because we felt that the government wouldn't stand still after we came out and said we're gonna refuse to go.

FA: So tell me what happened then. Did they take you away in handcuffs, shackles?

FE: No, they didn't handcuff us. They got me on the car and then I think we picked up Paul Nakadate and Guntaro Kubota and three of us were taken by car to Cheyenne, but we, on the way we stopped at Casper one night, because it was a long drive. Then we, at Casper, I think the lunch, we had lunch at Casper, and when we went to the jail, boy, I had the worst case of food poisoning I ever did. I was up all night from the bottom, top, I thought I was going to die. I was really sick. So, well, we passed the night there.


FA: Did you have any parting words for your wife and your children?

FE: I can't recall but I'm sure we said goodbye but don't worry.

FA: Kids cry?

FE: I don't recall them crying. They, they really weren't that, big enough yet.

FA: So Casper, spent the night, then tell me what happened after that.

FE: Well, we spent the night there, and then we went on to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we were put into the Cheyenne County jail there. Put into these, it was an old, old dirty jail. Small place. It was a regular cell, you know. Dark cell.

FA: Still, at that point, did you still think it was worth it?

FE: Oh, yeah. We were on the high spirits.

FA: Tell me about that.

FE: Well, we spent our time over there exercising, getting on the bars and chinning ourselves and doing push-ups and things like that. There wasn't enough room to do any running but we tried to keep ourselves physically active doing these things. Like food, like breakfast, they would pass through a pie plate with oatmeal mush, and couple of slices of toast and coffee, was our breakfast. And lunch we would have either spaghetti or macaroni with cheese, or some kind of casserole dish. Never got any steaks.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

FA: Okay, the trial, set the scene for me. Were you taken to the courthouse in handcuffs, shackles, chains?

FE: No, none of us, none of us were ever handcuffed or shackled. But going from, going towards Cheyenne, we put on another passenger, a Caucasian young fellow who had escaped twice, I think, so he was in shackles and handcuffs. And when we'd stop at a restaurant to go eat, he would be clank, clank, clank, clank and there we were going with him, but we weren't handcuffed. It was quite a sight.

FC: Were the leaders ever separated from each other? Any one of them put in solitary confinement for any length of time?

FA: Not that I remember. We were all in one cell, but Okamoto tended to put himself to one side away from us. He was, he was pretty depressed and disappointed that he was incarcerated with us. He really, weren't enjoying, he wasn't enjoying it at all. [Laughs]

FC: But he expected to be arrested? He must have been.

FE: But he was very, very depressed about it. Rest of us weren't as depressed. We knew it was coming. In his case, maybe he was surprised because he was much older than us.

FA: How did you find an attorney? Tell me about...

FE: It was through, I think, Okamoto got in touch with ACLU and we got Wirin, but as a private attorney. The ACLU wouldn't help us at all.

FA: So what did he, how did he advise you? What did he tell you?

FE: Well, he came to the, I don't remember whether he came to the camp or he came to the jail. It's all very kind of cloudy now. I don't remember now. He advised us that we would probably have to go to the appellate courts because during wartime, he says, "You're going to have a hard time winning at the lower district courts." Especially being a constitutional issue.

FC: You expected to lose the first time through.

FE: Right. Although we, see, the sixty-three resisters that had a trial a few weeks prior to us opted for a non-jury trial. And during their trial, the newsmen were so taken by their rights that the WRA had to send a PR man there to convince the newsmen that the camps weren't that way.

FC: You mean the newspapers were sympathetic with the resisters' argument?

FE: The newsmen were sympathetic. In fact, in Douglas Nelson's book, Heart Mountain, History of (an American) Concentration Camp, he quotes one of the newsmen as saying that if he were treated like the evacuees, he'd be damned if he would join the army. We heard about this so we felt with a jury trial we'd get a better, fairer trial so we opted for a jury trial. But really at the end, it didn't make any difference; we were found guilty by the jury.

FA: Your trial was held on October 23rd, what was your strategy when going into court?

FE: We were going to come out and just not deny anything. Just say exactly what we did, and we did it openly and in public. And that kind of took the prosecution by surprise, because they thought we were going to deny everything. That's why they had Jack Nishimoto there to get me to speak up, incriminating me. But when we took our, when our defense came up, we admitted everything, we said it just like we did in the bulletin, that we felt that what the government was doing was unconstitutional.

FA: Did you take the stand in your trial?

FE: Yes.

FA: What did you say?

FE: Gee, I really don't remember. We just responded to what they asked, see. And I told them essentially what we've been talking about here. Not denying anything except when they asked about Jack Nishimoto's thing, I just, I think I told them that what he said was all false.

FA: Did you catch the eye of the jurors? I assume it was an all-white jury.

FE: Right.

FA: Did you look at them, did they look at you? Tell me about that. How did it feel to --

FE: Well, probably you looked at 'em from time to time but mostly at Mr. Wirin, who was our attorney and sort of leading us, questioning us.

FA: How did it feel to sit in the witness box?

FE: We weren't, not impressed too much.

FC: What did you wear?

FE: We all wore a suit.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

FA: What, when the jury came back, tell me about the jury coming back with a verdict.

FE: That's kind of hazy at this point, but we didn't expect too much because one weekend during our trial, the prosecutor and the sitting judge, Judge Rice, went duck hunting, and when we heard that we thought, "Uh-oh, there goes our case. We won't win this one." [Interruption] This judge was not the regular judge, he was sort of a sitting judge, you know, for that particular trial, so when we heard that, when he declared -- no, the jury declared us guilty, we weren't surprised. Although we had pretty high hopes because our attorney was very sharp, Wirin. He really made Sackett look like a real hick attorney. So some of us thought, well, we might be able to pull this through, but when the jury found us guilty we weren't really surprised.

FA: Then what happened?

FE: Well, then I think we filed an appeal.

FA: Well, first the judge sentenced you.

FE: Oh, the judge sentenced us, sentenced us to four years in the federal penitentiary.

FA: Frank, here you are, you're a young man, you were not eligible for the draft, you didn't have to resist, and you were just told that you were going to spend four years in a penitentiary. What did you think?

FE: Well, we weren't happy about it, but it's something that we figured could happen and we were not surprised that we were found guilty and sentenced. But we still had hopes of winning at the appellate level, so that, that kept our hopes alive.

FA: And you filed an appeal, Mr. Wirin requested bail for you.

FE: Yes, but the judge denied us bail saying we were agitators and, "The camp would be better off without you." We figured that'd be no problem because being sent back to camp was just like being sent to, back to prison. But he didn't, the judge didn't see it that way.

FA: So then what happened?

FE: So we were sentenced to four years at Leavenworth penitentiary. And at the same time we filed an appeal at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and we were driven to the penitentiary by the marshal.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

FA: Tell me what, you must remember the first sight you had of Leavenworth coming into view, prison, penitentiary.

FE: Well, it was a big building, I don't remember what color it was now. Big, big iron gate in the front.

FA: How did it make you feel going into the gate?

FE: Well, we were ready for it. So we just thought, "Well, this is part of the game," you know.

FC: Here you were gonna go in and spend the next four years of your life with murderers, rapists...

FA: Racketeers.

FC: Thieves, pirates, binglers and banglers, what did you think of that?

FE: Well, we had one advantage. There was thirty-three -- no, there was about thirty draft resisters already there, waiting for us, our welcoming party. So in that respect we figured, well, we'll be there with people we know, so we didn't feel too badly about it. We knew this was part of the price we had to pay for our resistance.


FC: Were there any prisoners there, any Japanese American prisoners there not connected with the Fair Play Committee or the draft or camp issues?

FE: Yeah, there was one, his name was, I forget his first name but his last name was Fukumoto. And he was there for going to the banks and going to the stores and doing fast change artist. He would give them a five dollar bill or ten dollar bill, whatever, and get 'em into conversation or something, and then he'd say, "Oh, I gave you a twenty dollar bill," or whatever. He did that once or twice too often and he got caught and got put in the federal prison. And I think he was in there for five years or something because he had pulled something like that before.

FA: Tell me about the judo demonstration inside prison.

FE: Yeah, a few months after we got there, they had a sports day at Leavenworth. And during that sports day the officials asked us if we would like to participate in that and if we had any sports that we'd like to exhibit. So there were several of us that were into judo at that time so we said, "Yeah, we'll put on a judo demonstration." So it was like a big football field with bleachers and we had, they provided mats. And after we got warmed up we would have, throwing each other and have the little guys throwing the big guys. And this is the first time these inmates ever saw anything like that. And they were really wide-eyed and really surprised and they gave us, gave a round of applause. We always felt that that was one reason maybe we were left alone. They didn't, everybody treated us pretty well. Especially when the other inmates found out why we were there after we were in concentration camps and they tried to draft us so we said we would not go until our rights were restored, they sympathized with us. They really supported us, so we didn't have any problems.

FC: So all the warnings of Yasui, they're going to be kangaroo courts, kangaroo courts, they're going to beat you with two by fours, there are super patriots in prison waiting for you...

FE: That was all a bunch of bullshit.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

FA: Tell me about the conversation -- oh, tell me about the drawing you made of Guntaro Kubota.

FE: Well, we had lots of time, so every evening we would get together and talk. There was, I think, eight of us in one cell. And Guntaro Kubota, we shared bunks. I was on the top and he was on the bottom. And he wanted to write a letter to his daughter. So I would try to help him with as much English as I could, which wasn't very much 'cause when he wrote the letter to Gloria it was pretty, pretty bad. But then at the same time I said, "Let me write a, try to pen a portrait of you and send it to your daughter. Maybe it'll be a good thing." So best I could, I made out a little pencil sketch of him and it turned out pretty good. It looked, looked like him. So he sent that to Gloria and his daughter and they were very pleased.

FA: Tell me about the conversation you had with Guntaro that you remember so well.

FE: Oh, yeah. I think we were also sitting in the cell at one time and we were talking of various things. And he said, "You know, Emi," he says, "I'll never forget this experience. I'll never forget this fight that I had with you guys in your fight for principle. This will be the proudest thing that I'll ever remember." So I never remember, forget his words. Because he as an Issei and over forty years of age, he didn't have to participate in this, he didn't have to be put in prison. But he was there with us and his spirit was just as high as anybody else's. In fact, his spirits were much higher than Okamoto's. Okamoto by that time was pretty moody and recluse.

FA: Tell me again, what did Mr. Kubota say to you?

FE: He said, "This is, I'll never forget this. This will be the proudest thing I ever did, because of my being in this fight for principle with you fellows." Words to that effect. I don't remember the exact words, but that was the main thrust of it.

FC: As an "enemy alien," was he risking, at risk, being involved with you guys?

FE: Oh, yeah, as an "enemy alien," he could have had a much harsher treatment than us. But the judge saw differently. We were sentenced to four years, he was sentenced to two years. He figured that he didn't have, he wasn't... well, I don't know, I can't tell what, what the judge had in mind. But he also gave Ben Wakaye and Min Tamesa, who were serving three year sentences on the draft resistance charge, he gave them two years. The rest of us were given four years.

FC: What was he risking, as an Issei, getting involved with the...

FE: Issei. Yeah. He as an Issei probably could have got a much harder, harsher sentence, could have been maybe deported, could have been executed maybe.

FA: He didn't use those words, did he?

FE: No.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 21>

FA: After the war, you said, how did people treat you when they learned you were a resister and you had spent time in prison?

FE: Well, actually, you know, they, I don't think I ever had an occasion to talk to anybody about that. We were probably too involved in getting our life back together, making a living, that once we got back on our track at home, I think the past was almost all forgotten. I didn't even think about it.

FC: So you lost touch with the other resisters and leaders?

FE: Right, uh-huh. I think in our case especially, we won our case, see, so we felt very good, we felt that we didn't have to worry about anything, that we were the victors and the past is past.

FA: So tell me Frank, what did you do after World War II?

FE: After World War II, I first went to work in the business that I knew, produce market, the Hollywood Ranch Market. I worked there for a couple of years, then I started gardening 'cause I heard there was much more money in that. I worked about a year in gardening and when I was out in San Fernando Valley in 120 degrees, I said, "That's enough for me." [Laughs] So I went, took the post office exam and I passed it with a pretty good mark. I forgot exactly what it was but I got called within a few weeks, and went to work for the post office until I retired.

FA: You went to work for the U.S. government?

FE: Yeah, I figured they owed me. I figured the government owed me something, so I went to work for the U.S. government. [Laughs]

FC: Gardening business. Was that, was Art involved in that? Were you and Art together in the gardening business?

FE: No, I went on my own. But Art sort of, he was already in it so he gave me a couple of tools that he wasn't using and I bought some of my own and went into it. But it wasn't for me.

FA: The judo, so when did you open the judo school?

FE: Well, actually, I had joined Hollywood Judo Dojo here in 1937, and been with them until evacuation. Then when I came back from camp I worked out now and then at the Hollywood Dojo. But then when I started working for the post office at night I couldn't attend for the next few years. Then when I got back on the day shift, then I started back in the Dojo. So I've been with them off and on since 1937, which is like sixty-one years.

FA: I never asked you this, Frank, but your marriage broke up after the war.

FE: Yeah, it broke up around the time, 1960s, I think it was. But it had nothing to do with the evacuation or the camp or prison or anything. It was just the matter of our... you know... ideas.

FA: Yeah, nothing to do with that, okay, fine. Never mind.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

FA: Looking back on it now, did you make the right decision?

FE: Oh, yes. No question. The injustice of the whole thing was so great, unfair, I was really angry that the government could keep doing one injustice after another. I felt, I really felt very strongly about this. And what amazed me was that more Niseis didn't feel that way and resist. That's what always surprises me, that more of them didn't resist. I think if it was any other group of people, the Irish, Italians, anybody else, they'd have probably resisted much more. Because the Niseis were so, maybe intimidated by the JACL's policies or the fact that maybe it was in their culture to just take whatever was dished up and not say anything. It's just that in my case, I, after we were wronged, wronged once, the second time around was enough to get up on our hind legs and resist.

FA: If you had to do, if you had it to do over again, would you do it again?

FE: In a minute. [Laughs]

Male voice: What did you really hope to get out of it? When you started the thing, did you expect camp to say, "Yay, let's do it"?

FE: No. It was for my own personal satisfaction. I figured that this is the way I felt.

Male voice: Why form a committee?

FE: Well, it was there. Mr. Okamoto was the person that had all the knowledge about how to go about these things. We were unsophisticated. But he was knowledgeable about these things and we figured he was the man that could put us in the right course. And to do that, we figured he was a one-man committee at that time but we formed it as an organization to seek justice, whatever form we can. Either in camp or through outside connections.

Male voice: But you ended up disappointed.

FE: No.

Male voice: You didn't want more resisters with you?

FE: No, we had enough. Even a dozen would have been enough.

FC: How many volunteers came from Heart Mountain?

FE: From Heart Mountain, very few. I don't recall the number. Do you recall the number, Frank?

FC: Yeah, it was really, it was very small, that's why Robertson was...

FE: Only three hundred came from all the camps, wasn't it?

FA: Eight hundred. From all the camps.

FE: Eight hundred and five from all the camps. From the ten camps, an average of eighty per camp, and Heart Mountain had the fewest.

FA: Jumping back to the interrogation by Guy Robertson, what did you think, how did you, when you saw Grant, your son, doing it in Los Angeles in front of the audience, what was it like to see your son read your own words from the interrogation?

FE: It was very interesting and amusing. Said, "Did I say that?" You know I'd forgotten these, the conversation so, "Gee, I must have been smarter than I thought." [Laughs] I really, I got a kick out of it. It was interesting.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

FA: You recently got into a pissing match with a fellow named George Yoshinaga. What... what's the question I want here?

FC: What does George Yoshinaga mean? Does he speak for the community?

FE: No, I think George Yoshinaga speaks for himself. Whatever stuff that he dishes out, which is a lot of times, un-... is not true.

FC: Does he represent a significant body of the Nisei...

FE: Well, I think he represents a lot of the very conservative veterans, and maybe some of the conservative JACLers. Although at times he speaks, he criticizes the JACL. But he's almost... very critical of the resisters.

FC: What brought you out to respond to George Yoshinaga? What was the thing that he said, that really, that, "I'm gonna answer this"?

FE: Well, I can't hardly remember it unless I read his first article that prompted me to resist -- to rebut. But my first article to rebut him was quite long. It came out in two, two or three issues of the Rafu Shimpo. But in a way, he was a blessing in disguise to us because I was able to publicize our platform. The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee in detail came out for I don't know how many weeks. Back and forth, back and forth. And a lot of the letters that came in to the editor on this discussion, I would say ten to one was in support of the resisters.

FA: I know what I wanted to ask you. Do veterans, Nisei veterans still come up to you today and say, "You guys really sabotaged the whole cause"?

FE: Nobody's ever come up and said that to us, but I remember when the JACL, the Southwest Pacific JACL gave us, who gave us an apology, the Pacific Southwest District, the seventeen Nisei veterans wrote a letter to the editor in both the Rafu and the L.A. Times and I think the Pacific Citizen, saying that, "We don't have to apologize to the draft resisters." And this was stupid because we had never asked anybody to apologize to us. But some of the Nisei veterans are very paranoid that way.

FC: Way back when your father had the auto accident, made you leave school to take over the business, what was the nature of that accident? What got injured? What was the nature of his injuries?

FE: I think he broke some ribs. He got broadsided by a car and broke some ribs. After that he more or less retired from the business.

FC: How old was he at the time?

FE: He was in his fifties.

FC: And what kind of car was he driving?

FE: He was driving a Chevy truck.

FC: Family truck?

FE: Yeah, the one for the business. And this is amazing, when we were farming, when I was a little kid, he was going to the market with a truckload of cucumbers on a one-ton Ford Model T truck. And he got a head-on crash by a drunken driver that was driving a Studebaker and the whole load was thrown all over the street and the car was smashed, the other guy died, and he came out with a scratch on his ankle.

Male voice: In Salt Lake, were you, did you expect anything more than what you got when you went to Salt Lake when you spoke at the JACL convention? How disappointed were you?

FE: Well the one thing, they limited us on time. So there was too much we couldn't say.

Male voice: You had to be disappointed. Were you?

FE: Yeah, because I thought maybe, maybe they might apologize or something like that. And seeing Deborah Lim there, I figured... but they didn't even have her speak.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.