Remembering Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi

EDUCATING ABOUT WARTIME RESISTANCE — Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi (L) and Yosh Kuromiya, a Nisei draft resister, at the University of Wyoming in April of 2003. In recent years, the two were instrumental in giving the public firsthand accounts of the only organized resistance to the draft in the American concentration camps. photo by Irene Kuromiya

Frank Seishi Emi was a fighter. The word “retreat” was not in Frank’s vocabulary. He, and he alone, would decide when it was time to move on. Sadly, that time has arrived.

Frank’s battle began in 1943 in the Heart Mountain concentration camp when the so-called “loyalty questionnaire” was circulated, ostensibly to help the government determine who among us could be trusted, and who could not. But in reality, it was an overt, personalized assault on our citizenship status and the government’s second step in their mind control program which was instigated by E.O. (Executive Order) 9066.

Earlier, we had been disenfranchised by E.O. 9066, which unconstitutionally rendered us physically, materially and politically powerless. We had naively cooperated in the violation of our “inalienable rights” under the falsified claim it was of “military necessity” and that such cooperation would constitute proof of our faith in our government. Little did we suspect the government would further exploit our willingness to be cooperative by allowing us to incriminate ourselves with a questionnaire, which would render the protections inherent in the U.S. Constitution meaningless.

Kiyoshi Okamoto and Frank Emi in Heart Mountain, and James Omura of the Denver Rocky Shimpo warned the inhabitants in the camps of the government’s ploy to shift the onus of our demise away from the government and on to the victims ourselves, under the pretext it would prove our loyalty. Many heeded the warning and were punished by being segregated as “trouble-makers.” Others objected by refusing military service and were punished with prison terms. But, the vast majority ignored the warnings and adopted “proving one’s loyalty” as their by-word, as if such claims would be unassailable. Who in their right mind would feel a need to prove their loyalty to a government which illegally held them and their families captive in a concentration camp?

Mind control over Japanese America had certainly taken its toll. Today, over 66 years later, some, pathetically, still find legitimacy in the need to prove their loyalty.

With the passing of Kiyoshi Okamoto, James Omura, William Hohri and now Frank Emi, we are witnessing the end of an era of firsthand accounts of Japanese American history spoken directly from the mouths of extraordinary defenders of the U.S. Constitution. Their prophetic words will be forever etched into the annals of Japanese American history, for those who care to search them out.

But beware! Evidence of the mind control that overwhelmed Japanese America still exists in such public places as the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, D.C.

Yosh Kuromiya, a Nisei draft resister and wartime member of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee (FPC), gave the preceding eulogy at the Dec. 10 funeral service of Frank Emi, the last surviving leader of the FPC. Emi passed away on Dec. 1 at the age of 84. Kuromiya writes from Alhambra, Calif.

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