Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview I
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: San Gabriel, California
Date: February 23, 1993
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-02

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

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Before the war, Frank, you, tell me a little bit about what you were doing before the war. You and your family were running your business, that kind of thing.

FE: Yeah, well, about two years prior to the war, we had started a family grocery store with a meat department, a grocery department, vegetable department. And originally, we had started that with just a produce department, and we added these on as business got better. So, by the time we evacuated, we had a complete little mini-supermarket, and almost all the bills paid for the fixtures, et cetera. Then we got whammed, cleaned out. We had about twenty five thousand dollars worth of investments there in fixtures and merchandise, which in today's dollars is not much, but back then it was a fortune, for us anyway. And we tried to get rid of it. We only had about a month, I guess, to get rid of it. And especially when people got wind of why, that we were going to be evacuated, why, they made some ridiculous offers. The most we could get was fifteen hundred dollars for the whole thing, and so we took a shellacking on that just like everybody else in the Japanese community did.


FA: Did you have photos?

FE: You know, we didn't take any photos of the store. I do have a photo of a, a store we had in, on the previous market we had where we just ran the produce department. There is a photo of that there.

FA: But so, before the war, you and your family... what business were you in?

FE: We were in the retail grocery, produce, meat depart-, meat business. Complete market. And...

FA: Did you have a lot of property invested in that store?

FE: Yes. We had about twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of fixtures and merchandise together. And we... the best we could get for it was fifteen hundred dollars because the buyers knew that they had us over a barrel. In fact, one guy came in and made such a ridiculous offer, I told him I'm gonna throw him out if he didn't get out of there quick, and he really scooted out. [Laughs]

FA: You, your job at the store was produce buyer, wasn't it?

FE: Yeah, I used to go at four o'clock in the morning and go to the wholesale market and buy produce, bring it in. And my brother, my sister and brother were taking care of the produce department. And then I would operate the grocery end of it. Grocery department. Then we had a butcher, we hired a butcher, a meat man to run the meat department. Yeah.

FA: Give me a picture of what your day would start off like, going to the produce market.

FE: Okay. Going to the produce market about four in the morning, which was kind of late, 'cause some people with big markets used to go there by two o'clock in the morning, you know. And we'd get up there and make the rounds of the market, looking for the best produce at the best price, et cetera, you know. And then we'd load up the truck and bring it home, and unload it, and then either I or my brother or my sister -- sometimes my dad would come, but he was semi-retired after auto accident. So we'd go clean the vegetables up and display 'em. Then the grocery department didn't take as much handling because they were all staple goods. So...

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FA: What I'm curious about is, is your contacts. You know, people like the JACL. That they didn't, they were kind of afraid of white people, you know, hakujins. And what was your contact? I mean, did you deal with hakujins?

FE: Yeah, our, our business was all with Caucasians. And even before the war, we had no problem with them, and even after Pearl Harbor, they were more supportive. Some of 'em would come in and say, you know, "You're not... you guys are Japanese but you're American citizens, Japanese, so you don't have to worry about our not patronizing you. We'll just keep on buying our stuff here," and they were very supportive. They didn't... in fact, I don't think I had one instance where a customer said, "We're going to quit buying here because your people bombed Pearl Harbor," or anything like that.

FA: Did you, at the produce market, the food market, did you deal across the counter with hakujin?

FE: Oh, yeah. That's right. You mean the wholesale market?

FA: Yeah, the wholesale market.

FE: Oh, sure. Hakujins, and Chinese, and regular league of nations there. Very few Japanese, but Japanese were farmers so they had stalls there, too, but most of the bigger houses were Caucasians.

FA: And were you afraid of them? I mean, did you feel intimidated?

FE: Oh, no. No. We used to really bargain with 'em. [Laughs] Never felt intimidated.

FA: So were you much of a radical, or troublemaker, or... you know, the way some people describe you in JACL at that time...

FE: No, we were very law-abiding, quiet citizens. [Laughs] We never had any problems. But I imagine I had some resentment in me from past experiences like in high school, when the football, football coach made a remark saying, one of the Japanese boys playing on the football team was practicing, the assistant coach said, "Joe Takahashi's helmet was knocked off so we'd better stop and let him put it on. He might get hurt." And the head coach says, "Oh, if he gets killed, it'll just be another Jap." I mean, stuff like that, it kinda builds up resentment and during that period you don't talk back or make waves, you know. You just hold it in. And experiences like when you're in the Boy Scouts, the team goes swimming in the public pool and because you're not white, you're sitting up in the benches watching your scout mates swim and you can't.

FA: You couldn't swim?

FE: No. They won't let you in.

FA: The pool.

FE: They won't let you in the pool. It was only for the, for the Caucasians.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FA: Before the war, were you involved in political activism, Frank?

FE: Nope. Not a bit.

FA: Uh...

FE: Very, very unsophisticated in the matters of laws and things, as I think, as we all were. Especially the country-reared people.

FA: Did you do judo?

FE: Yeah. I was doing judo.

FA: How did you get started? What was that about?

FE: Well, I started when I was about fourteen. I had been going to the San Fernando judo dojo for about a year. I wanted to start but my dad didn't like the teacher, so he wouldn't let me get started, you know. He finally gave in and I got started when I was about fourteen, and I've been doing it ever since.

FA: What about judo appealed to you?

FE: I guess the body contact. I like contact sports. I like football, you know. Even before I went to high school, we used to have sandlot football, and I loved tackling these guys, you know. [Laughs] In fact, coming back to more recent times when we were in Leavenworth, we used to play touch football there, you know. There's some big black guys there, and we used to play right with them and their touch football was almost like tackle football. And I remember one time I blocked one guy out -- he was a real big guy, but I blocked him out with a flying block and he went on his back and he got up looking stunned, you know, and it was really funny.

FA: Did you regard judo... do you think your judo practice make you less American? More Japanese, less American?

FE: Actually, I don't think it had any effect because you go to judo practice, you work out, and when you leave, you, you forget all about it. I don't think it had any effect on your thinking one way or another.

FA: And, so what did you think when you heard us show you this document, this questionnaire? You know, if you're in judo, two points against. Football, one point four.

FE: Well, I think this is probably some misguided thinking... the people that put these questions together. Because especially being, judo being a Japanese martial art, they assumed that it would maybe cause nationalistic feelings towards Japan, I think, which was not the case at all. Now, maybe some of the Kibei boys that were in it, it might have tended to affect them more that way, you know. But the Niseis, actually, it didn't have any effect.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

FA: Can you give me just a quick -- Heart Mountain. Give me a quick description of what life was like there, dust and all. What was Heart... for those of us who weren't there.

FE: Well, it was a boring existence, to say the least. You had a chance to work at different jobs if you bid for it, and I worked at various jobs like truck driving. I worked in the road, road crew. I worked in the tofu factory. We made tofu at five in the morning, you know. And just myself and another older gentleman that was in the tofu business. We got up there and I used to make it for the camp. And...

FA: Did you make good, make good tofu?

FE: Oh, yeah, we made some good tofu there. Yeah, we ground up the soybeans, you know, and squeezed it out. Looked like milk, and then you add a little bit calcium chloride to solidify it.

FA: Not the ideal conditions for making tofu there in a dusty Wyoming camp?

FE: No, but the barracks was pretty well-sealed. Make sure that nothing got into that particular area there.

FA: And it tasted like...

FE: It tasted like real tofu. Fact, I used to bring home samples, you know, and I used to take some over to Jack Nishimoto, my friend, you know. [Laughs] Not knowing that he was there spying on me. [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: Who, tell me about Jack Nishimoto. What did he look like?

FE: Well, I'll tell you, he looked a little like, his facial features were a little like Yosh Kuromiya. You know, that type of facial features. About the same size, too, I would say. But he was, he was older. He was older than... he was probably, he looked about as old as Yosh does now, maybe because we were younger he looked old.

FA: Did he tell you what he did before the war?

FE: No.

FA: Do you know what he did?

FE: No, I don't. But I understand that he was always in some way connected with the authorities in camp, like at the assembly centers he was, had something to do with the authorities there. And when we went to Heart Mountain, he used to take out groups to different outside jobs and things. So, he's got, he was always on the inside with the authorities. I don't know under what conditions or why, but that's why he probably ended up being an informant for them.

FA: You didn't say this yesterday, but, I mean, how did he, how did he try to befriend you?

FE: Well, he used to, he used to be a great one for making model planes and things, see? And when he gets one ready, "Come, come on over. I've got some planes, model planes." You know, you're young, you're interested in these things and I'd go over there, and see, he used to make some pretty well-built model planes and cars and things. And we never really were socially, you know, interchange but every now and then we'd get together like that. Then sometimes he'd come over and...

FA: Later on, you found out he was, he was spying on you.

FE: No. Not until the trial.

FA: Right, right.

FE: Yeah.

FA: Looking back, I mean, did you think then that was he was spying? Did you suspect then that he was behaving suspiciously, or...

FE: Not really.

FA: Looking around, or...

FE: No, not really.

FA: Looking back now, you don't think that? You can't recall that?

FE: No. Well, maybe he might have come over and just sort of looked like this, but, you know, something everybody would do. I didn't have any reason to suspect him in any way.

FA: So it was a big surprise when you...

FE: That's why when we saw him at the trial, we were wondering, "Gee, what's Jack doing here? He has nothing to do with this case." Boy, we found out soon enough, you know.

FA: At the trial, did he look at you? Make eye contact?

FE: No. No. He didn't make eye contact.

FA: Did you find that interesting?

FE: Yeah. He kept his eyes averted away from us.

FA: Did you try to talk to him at the trial?

FE: I didn't get a chance to.

FA: If you had a chance to talk to him at the trial, what would you have said to him?

FE: Well, I'd have probably asked him why did he get up there and lie like that? We were all surprised. Knowing what I know now, he would have probably said, "Well, you guys were un-American," or something like that. And try to rationalize what he said, you know. And wanted to impress the government that he was really a loyal American.

FA: How do you feel about that? His actions now?

FE: Very, very... what can I say? Very bad. You know, terrible. I think he was a real... sort of Benedict Arnold type, you know. Betrayer.

FA: After the war, what happened to him? After the war.

FE: I have no idea.

FA: Is he still alive?

FE: I... that I don't know either.

FC: Did you see him once after the war, ever?

FE: I saw him once at a record shop, I think. Out towards Beverly... out on the west, I forget, it was Beverly Boulevard or Melrose, one of those places. I went in, and as I was coming out, I saw a couple. He and his wife coming out, and I looked close, and Jack Nishimoto, you know. So I ran after him and I grabbed him and I said, "What... Jack," I said... okay, what did I say? I said, "Why did you lie so much up there? What was your idea?" And he sorta -- [coughs] -- excuse me. Looked down, and he says, "Well, what you guys were doing was wrong, so the government asked me to get up there and testify so I testified." But I said, "You said things up there that never even existed." And he said, "Well, I thought it did," you know. Something... some... I don't remember the exact conversation we had, but I was angry. I was really ready to punch him, but I thought I don't want to end up in jail again, you know. And the guy's liable to sue me. [Laughs] 'Cause his wife was there. So anyway, I think I called him a few choice names, you know, and cussed him out, and then let him go.

FA: In all these years you've been -- recently you've been mentioning his name, you mentioned it yesterday that no one's come up to you, he hasn't written you, he hasn't complained. No one's threatened you, I mean, with libel or slander or...

FE: No.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

FA: One more quick question: what... I never quite understood what he lied about in his testimony. I mean, what did he lie about?

FE: Okay. He lied about that Mr. Kawamoto's statement that he said that I advised Dave Kawamoto that I will take care of him. That never occurred. And what else did he say on there that I can't quite remember?

FA: That you had asked him to go out and get him some bottles of mimeograph ink.

FE: That's true. I did. See, that part is true. I asked him to buy some mimeograph ink. And he said, "Okay." He was very cooperative. He came back and says, "I couldn't get any, Frank. They didn't have any." That part's true. But the other parts where he says I coached guys, I told them to answer... I didn't even contact with these guys. You know, most of the resisters, I didn't have contact with them. We just presented our message at these meetings. That's why most of those guys in the group, I don't know. I never, I never coached them like he said. And that's why he was so aggravating, so I was astonished that he would come out and say these real bare-faced lies.

FA: The bit about those mimeographed things to do with you were, whether or not you published the bulletins. You, you published the bulletins.

FE: With the help of a few others, like some people helped type. But usually Paul, Paul Nakadate, I, Min Tamesa and Horino were the most active ones. We would get together and we would, you know, write out the message on the bulletins. Yeah.

FA: Oh yeah. I wanted to ask you about that, like you talked about at dinner the other night. What part do you remember that you contributed to the writing of the bulletins?

FE: That part where it says, "We hereby refuse to go to the physical, into the induction if and when we are called." Now, this was the fund-, we had quite a controversy in the steering committee. Like, I think Paul and Ben Wakaye were hesitant on that. They didn't want to go that strong. And my brother tells me that Min Tamesa told him, "If Frank talked to me like he talked to Paul Nakadate and looked at me like that," he said, "I'd either run away or haul off and hit him." [Laughs] Anyway, after much discussion we got to the point where we put that phrase in. And then Paul -- I give him credit for this -- he said, "Well, we'd better put in the thing about in order to contest the issue." So we went along with that. We thought that was good, that was good thinking.

FA: So it wasn't just to refuse the draft, but you refused the draft because of this condition.

FE: Right. Right.

FA: Makes it clear. And, "One for all, all for one." It's a very striking motto that you guys put out there. Whose idea was that?

FE: I think it was mine. I'm not sure, but I believe I got it from some novel or something and I figured that, and then I remember distinctly getting that two Bill of Rights thing in there, you know. Bill of Rights phrases in there.

FA: Well, you, you said that you never pressured any other guys --

FE: That's right.

FA: -- to buck the draft.

FE: Right.

FA: But "One for all, all for one," that suggests group action, that we all gotta stick together. And there's a certain pressure that we get, for us to stick together.

FE: Well, it could be. It could be.

FA: Nothing... can't I read something sinister into that?

FE: No, I don't think so, because as the Fair Play Committee, as a group, we ought to stick together, but we don't pressure anybody to come with us and join us. Even within the group, if they, at the last minute, wanted to go answer the draft, why, we didn't object to that. We didn't say, "No, you gotta stick with us," or, "You're being disloyal to our group," or anything like that. It was, we really left it up to the individual. We gave them guidelines, you know, on what's happened, how your rights were trampled on, and we had no due process, and under these conditions we feel that the draft shouldn't apply to us until our rights are restored. Yeah.

FA: And one more question about the writing of the bulletins. Generally where did you meet to write them?

FE: I think we usually ended up at Mr. Kubota's place because he had a large barrack there, barrack. And I think he had a pretty big table there that we could lay out everything and work on, and some of us would type, some would -- oh, we used to have a time cutting stencils. You know, none of us were experienced with that so I don't know how many stencils we spoiled, but it was a chore, it was a real chore putting these things out. And we had borrowed a mimeograph machine from Reverend... in camp, Buddhist reverend. Of course, we didn't tell him what we were going to use it for, you know. We tried to obtain a machine from two other sources, but they wouldn't lend it to us, but this person was very generous. He says, "Okay, go ahead and use it." So we borrowed that, but... I remember that very distinctly. That was a chore, cutting stencils. [Laughs] I don't know how many we spoiled, but even, even the finished product, you see some errors on there, you know. 'Course, we were all very unsophisticated. We were all novices all this stuff. Even like on constitutional issues, we were real amateurs. We didn't know too much about it. We were just very fortunate that Mr. Okamoto was in our group. And he was real well-versed in the Constitution. And being a member of ACLU, he knew all the "ins" and this stuff. So that really helped us.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FA: Kiyoshi Okamoto was still to us kind of a mystery man. We're not even sure if we have a proper picture of him. You know, the dispute over the Kubota picture, you know. With a clean-shaven.

FE: Yeah, I can't recall that.

FA: Give me, we really gotta hear from you, what was Kiyoshi -- what did he look like? What kind of guy was he?

FE: Well, he was, I would say, he was a very learned guy, but very temperamental, very taciturn. And especially when I knew him with his beard and everything, and the structure of his face, and the way he carried himself, like a rugged old prospector, is the --


FA: Okay, let me go back. I need to get a portrait of Kiyoshi Okamoto, and just start out by saying, "Kiyoshi Okamoto was..."

FE: Kiyoshi Okamoto was a very taciturn gentleman. He was... I hardly, we ever, hardly ever saw him smile. Very serious. Right, he was very serious. He didn't joke much. Every now and then he would come out with a pretty salty type of joke, and he would laugh at it himself, you know, but I can picture him and, the best I can describe him would be as a real crusty old miner, you know, prospector type. He was lean and almost skinny, you might say. And he didn't like people doubting him or refuting what he had to say. That would make him shut up. He would get sullen. And like James Omura was telling me when they were in a cell together, he mentioned that he was... Okamoto mentioned that he was the first one to resist something. Resist this, and James Okamoto, "No," he says, "You're not the first one because there are a couple ahead of you." He says, "I resisted the evacuation, and then somebody else" -- he mentioned, "Somebody else resisted something." After that Okamoto would not talk to him. He says that all through the rest of the time, the stay in jail, he would not talk to him. He just... so he was temperamental. But, as I said before, he was very brilliant in his writing. His speeches weren't that great, but especially he can tend to get pretty, pretty salty sometimes.

FA: When... can you recall your first encounter with him in camp? Your first...

FE: Very first encounter was at this meeting where I mentioned that it was a Nisei pastor that spoke, but I'm not clear whether it was at that time or whether it was when Nobu Kawai made a speech. A very pro-American speech about registration, but that's when Okamoto got up and, well, he'd been used to speaking at, anytime somebody would listen to him, he would go on his spiel about the Constitution, you know. So he got up and talked about the Constitution, that we were denied due process. We didn't know -- I had never even heard of "due process" at that point. Due process... that our Constitution, all our Bill of Rights things were violated, and that the Nisei should think about that before they answer these "yes" and "no" questions, et cetera, et cetera. And the only reason that I went there was... I dunno, maybe it's Paul and Sam or, I don't... it's hazy. I don't remember who else was with me, but some of us went there and talked to him because we felt, gee, we were very angry about the whole thing, and especially making us answer these questions after they put us in a concentration camp. So after talking to him and discussing everything, we figured, gee, this fellow really knows his Constitution and it's something that we would really like to get together with him, and maybe we can start something with this. And that's how we got to know him, and we organized it into the Fair Play Committee. Up to that point he was the Fair Play Committee of One.

FA: He strikes us as kind of a loner.

FE: That he was. He was a loner, and people that didn't like him, you know, like the administration and the JACL people, would call him a rabble-rouser, you know, or words to that effect, because, well, you know, when people stand on street corners and make speeches, why, that's how they tend to look at him. And he would tend to be a little like that, you know. Whoever, people would listen, he would start talking to them about the rights that were violated. Which was true, you know. There was nothing screwed up about him talking like that. It's just I guess the way he presented it that... well, he was very uncompromising on that.


FA: Kiyoshi Okamoto curiously had a turn after he was pulled out and segregated at Tule Lake? I understand -- could you tell me what happened to Kiyoshi Okamoto after, after he was segregated?

FE: Well, after he was segregated to Tule Lake, he started to do a little activating there. And I understand this from... I forget if it was Sam Horino, or maybe he might have wrote to me. People were put in stockade in Tule Lake, and their families hadn't seen 'em for months. So he had contacted -- Kiyoshi Okamoto had contacted the ACLU, and it was through his efforts that I understand that... was it Besig? Or... was it Besig that came out to Tule Lake?

FA: Besig and Collins.

FE: Oh, Collins, I think it was Collins came out to the Tule Lake and they wouldn't let him in, so he told the project director, "Well, you can either let me in now, or you can wait 'til I get a court order." See, and then they let him in.

FA: My question is -- yeah, but didn't Okamoto turn sour?

FE: Well, he did -- in one of his letters, which I think Frank Chin has a copy of -- I, I seem to have lost mine somewhere in there -- he did mention that "I, I'm not a part of the Fair Play Committee anymore." I think this was after the FBI questioned him over there. And he sort of turned, and gave the impression that he didn't want to be connected with the Fair Play Committee anymore. That's the letter I was trying to look for, James Omura, and I couldn't find it in my files.

FA: How did you feel about that?

FE: Well, I kinda felt that he being an older man, and in danger of being maybe convicted or indicted for something to do with the draft, that I didn't blame him if he wanted to step out, you know, get away from it all, to save from being taken in.

FA: And didn't that thrust you into the leadership of the steering committee?

FE: More or less, because by that time I think Paul had sort of cooled down, and he wanted to sort of stay away... not get too active, so it fell upon my shoulders to, you know, sort of carry on.

FA: How did you feel about that?

FE: I didn't feel anything. I just... matter of fact, I'd do what I had to do. Yeah.

FA: I knew you'd say that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FA: The, getting back to the Fair Play Committee bulletins...

FE: Uh-huh.

FA: You mimeographed them, ruled out of stencils.

FE: Right.

FA: How, how did you distribute them? Did you go out and pass them out in the cafeteria or mess hall and, you know...

FE: Yeah. I think we had various members come and we pushed them out and asked them to spread it around their block. And also we put 'em up in latrines, doors, and mess hall doors, and we used to cover the camp pretty good.

FA: Your, your recollection is biased, of course. What was the reaction of the people you gave it to in general? What was their reaction?

FE: Actually, they didn't show too much emotion. They just accepted it and said, "Okay, we'll pass it out, pass it out." And, you know, with people that weren't involved in the draft themselves, they weren't too vocal one way or another. We asked 'em to do this, and they said okay, they would do it.

FA: Bill Hosokawa and others have said the FPC organized in the dark. Heart Mountain Sentinel.

FE: That's what the Sentinel said, yeah.

FA: That you organized in the dark, you hang around in the latrines, do your dirty business in the shadows.

FE: That's what they accused us of, but...

FA: Did you?

FE: Nope. We were out in the open. Our meetings were public, in the mess halls. And we had no -- the only time we had meetings in the dark was when we got together at Kubota's house to plan strategy. [Laughs] We didn't do any of these stealthy stuff, you know. It was all in the open. So that's why I think the Appellate Court reversed our convictions, because everything was out in the open.

FA. George Yoshinaga says you folks were all pro-Japan and all attended Japanese school.

FE: You know, that's true. Everybody that I know of attended Japanese schools in, during that period. Even the... all these guys that went into the 442. And in fact, I had one of my friends call up the Hawaii, his brother in Hawaii and asked over there, and he said, "Yeah," he says, "almost hundred percent went to Japanese school." And yet, look at the 100th Battalion. They all volunteered, so George Yoshinaga is trying to use that as one of the reasons that the San Jose boys resisted the draft, but this was all hogwash, you know. It had nothing to do with how you felt.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FA: I want to break down and walk around a little bit, but one more question I need to ask you is the test cases that you and Min Tamesa tried to create. I'm told that you and Min tried to get arrested to create test cases before the draft came around, right?

FE: Uh...

FA: By walking out of camp?

FE: Well, I think, I think it was during the, during the period of when we were active on this draft resistance movement.

FA: Okay. So it was during that time.

FE: I think so.

FA: What did you and Min try to do?

FE: We wanted to, we had a feeling that we may be caught on some kind of a charge, some violation of the law. We may be, go to trial, so we wanted to establish the fact that we were not free citizens. That we were like prisoners in here and that we didn't have free ingress or egress out of the camp, and that was our main point. And when the guards stopped us, and we said -- asked us for our passes, and I remember I think I said, "Well, we don't need passes. We're American citizens," you know. "We should be able to leave this place." And he says, "No, you got to have a pass," this and that. So I said, "Well, what'll happen if we don't get a pass, we walk out?" And the guard says, "Well, I'll just have to shoot you." And that stopped it there, because there was no point in getting shot. After that, we were sent to the military guard house for two days. Received some good food, better than camp food. [Laughs] Roast beef, in fact. I still remember. That was a rarity. And then we were put, sent back to the camp.

FA: Were you questioned by six people, including the JACL spokesman on the staff of the Heart Mountain Sentinel?

FE: Oh, yeah. That was a hearing that we had to go to after this incident. It was a hearing on the camp, walking out thing. And we were questioned by about six or seven people, Min and I.

FA: Okay. This is my last question. Is the, the interrogation by Guy Robertson... you had two interrogations, I guess. Can you give me a picture of what it was like? Where was it? What was the room like? How, what was the air like? Give me a feel, a sense of what it was like.

FE: Well, it was like a fairly good-sized office, and maybe a couple of windows. There was a big desk, you know, office desk, and Robertson was sitting there. And I think Harold was sitting to one side, and I was sitting in front. And they started asking questions, just like the transcript says. But see, I think, I believe this was after Okamoto and Horino were sent to Tule, and I wanted to be careful that I didn't get sent to Tule. That's why I had to form my answers so that they wouldn't have any grounds to ship me to Tule, see? And that was one of the reasons I was playing it a little cagey there on the answers. Because if I were sent to Tule, there would be... you know, the resistance thing might just flop and we wouldn't be able to obtain our objective.

FA: You felt a responsibility to the group?

FE: Right.

FA: And your family.

FE: Yeah.

FA: So, did they turn -- you know, with the Nazi, stereotype of Nazi interrogations, they turn the big spotlight on you, and a little riding crop, and you know, "You will answer our questions."

FE: No, actually, Robertson was fairly civilized. He just actually tried to more or less soft soap me, you know, sweet talk me. He wasn't real, getting after me like the third degree, or anything like that. [Laughs]

FA: And like Grant said, your were applying your judo and your chess in terms of trying to anticipate what his next question would be.

FE: Well, I was thinking. I was thinking, you know, whatever they asked, I'd better make sure that I answered it in a way that wouldn't incriminate me so that they can ship me off.

FA: You have a memory of... was the room hot or cold? Was the chair hard? Were you getting, feet sweating?

FE: No, I wasn't nervous. I think during that period I was more full of anger, you know, at the injustice, that I didn't feel any nervousness or anything like that. I was just, you know, face-to-face, and then go at it, you know. That type of feeling.

FA: Did you ever leave your seat to rise up?

FE: I don't remember doing that.

FA: Raise your voice?

FE: I might have. I might have in the, some places like when... some places where he tried, he tried to say that we should, this being wartime, that we should be doing anything the government asked, and everything. They didn't take into consideration that -- he didn't take into consideration the position we were in, you know. How we were treated, and why we feel this way. And I tried to make him understand, and then I might have raised my voice a little, but I tried to keep my cool, mostly.

FA: Sure did.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: One more question. The photograph you took where you posed your wife and two children, that's taken at Heart Mountain?

FE: At Heart Mountain, and a little, little before I was taken away.

FA: Where in Heart Mountain was the picture taken?

FE: This was taken in an open area just beyond where all the barracks were built.

FA: Who took the picture?

FE: I don't remember who took the picture now.

FA: A friend took the picture? A friend in the camp?

FE: Probably. Probably.

FA: Why did you have the picture taken?

FE: I thought there may be a long separation.

FA: Can you tell me... can you start the sentence, "I had the picture taken because..."

FE: Yeah. I had the taken picture... I had the picture taken because I had a feeling that maybe if this trial came to pass and the outcome wasn't what we were hoping for, there may be a long period that we won't be together. So that's the reason I wanted to have a family picture taken then.

FA: One more question. How did your wife, who was Caucasian...

FE: No. She was Japanese, but she's, was, about one-quarter Caucasian, I think.

FA: How did she -- Nakadate's wife didn't stand behind, beside him?

FE: No.

FA: Your wife. How did she take it?

FE: She was supportive. Not in a very forceful way or anything, but whatever I... whatever I did was okay with her, and she was supportive in a quiet way. But she never showed any distaste, or feeling of annoyance or anger or anything because I took this position. She knew how angry I felt about the whole thing, so she sympathized. The same with my parents. Of course, the Issei parents really didn't say too much, then. They didn't say one way or another, you know. They just left it up to us to do what we had to do.

FA: One more question. I asked -- in one quick sentence, why does a grocery store owner, operator, become a constitutional resister?

FE: I think the circumstances of the whole unfair, unjust evacuation and the internment, and plus maybe all the discriminations that had been built up in the past, all got together, and said, "This is it. That's enough. We can't take it anymore." And, it wasn't with any sense of trying to fight for, to make a name as being a fighter for justice or fighter for rights or anything like that. It's just that we had enough of this injustice, and we figured... at least I figured that this is it, you know. I gotta do something or say something, or get active in order to raise our voices in protest. I think that was the way I felt. Yeah.

FA: Thanks, Frank.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.