Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Susumu Yenokida Interview
Narrator: Susumu Yenokida
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ysusumu-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

KP: Richard, can I ask a question from Sus?

RP: Sure.

KP: I'm really interested in your thought processes. Because first you said, you said that you think you said "yes-yes" on the questionnaire, right?

SY: Yeah.

KP: But then next you hear that they're asking for volunteers out of the camp for the army. And is that when you made your decision or did you... was it when they started asking to draft people? And how did you feel about that? When they said, all right, we're asking you to volunteer for the army and then when they came through and said, no, now we want to draft you. How did you, how did you respond to both of those... what do you think was the thing that really got you thinking about this?

SY: Well, you see, I was already gone. Because of the fact that they... we were probably the first five to ever be called for the draft. So, I cannot say who or what made the other people's decision to, to go into the draft or whatever. But to my, to my feeling, I really admire the people that went to the army. Many of 'em lost their lives and never came home. The two of 'em that was with us, the... I can't remember their names. I wish I could bring 'em out, but then I can't remember their name. Two of 'em decided to go. They said, "Well, we're gonna, we're gonna go with the army and, and then go at it that way." They changed their mind for the resistance. And not, not a year later, or maybe a year and a half later, we get a, we get a message that the two perished in the, in the invasion in Normandy. So, I can't say. I don't know why they changed their mind. You know, at that time, too, I think the, the process was the fact that if you do not serve or if you do not go into the army, if you object, the sentence was maximum of five years or I think $10,000 in fine. But they didn't impose that, I think. I'm not too awful sure. But that, that comes to my mind. But, you know, being a youngster then, how would we raise the $10,000 fine?

RP: Right. And you're... when all this was going on, you were what, nineteen?

SY: Well, I had just turned eighteen when they, they asked me to go to the army. So... yeah.

RP: So you eventually did receive a trial, or not?

SY: Yes, after six months in...

RP: Jail?

SY: In jail. We were sent to trial. Menin? I think that the lawyer's name was Menin.

RP: Menin?

SY: And he was hired by the families or wherever that was working in, in the camps, to get some kind of a justice done. And actually I don't think he did anything to, to represent us in a manner... that it was, it was unconstitutional for us to be in camp. But, it was just that.

RP: That was, that wasn't brought up or submitted as evidence. That was...

SY: Well, I have something at home, but I've been looking for it for many, many years. And I have a copy of the original draft that it was... we were, we were fighting it under a constitutional objection that it was, it was not right that we were conscripted out of the camps after losing everything we had ever had. I've yet to find that piece of paper. And it was written at, in the county jail. But it was thrown out. They says this is not a civil, this is not a civil justice that they were trying to clear, but, "You people violated the law of the selective service." That was what... that was the thing.

RP: Right.

SY: Yeah.

RP: So the constitutional injustice wasn't on trial.

SY: No.

RP: According to...

SY: They brought it up but the judge says, "No."

RP: Threw it out.

SY: That, yeah, this is not the case for that.

RP: Right, right.

SY: But I've got a copy somewhere, I don't know where, you know. I've seen it, I've read it, and I put it away and where did I put it away? I don't know.

RP: So you were sentenced to, what, a year?

SY: I was sentenced for a year. Many of 'em was sentenced shorter than that. The shortest one was six months.

RP: Six months.

SY: And up to five years. The five year man... first of all, the federal prison that we were in was in Tucson, Arizona. And there were four rocks, painted white, and we had an imaginary boundary within that four rock. And it was your honor that you would not go beyond those four rocks. Could you imagine? Yeah. And there were a lot of Hopi Indians that was, was there for religious purposes. There was one Navajo chief that was... they claimed that he had killed a person. But he was such a gentleman, I don't think so. And there were a lot of conscientious objectors. And there was one Korean man that was there for price fixing. He was charging too much money for the amount of the services that he was rendering or the goods that he was selling. Yeah. But this man was well-educated.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.