Frank Emi Defies the Draft of Japanese Americans During WWII – Drunk History


Hello, my name is Randall Park,
and you are about to hear a story about Frank Emi.
Uh…yeah. [bright music] So Frank Emi was born
in Los Angeles, and he worked for his parents’
produce market. And when Frank became of age,
the parents were like, “Okay, it’s time for you to
take over this fruit market.” And Frank was like,
“Sweet, because I got plans. I’m gonna live
the American Dream.” Then on December 7, 1941,
Frank Emi was listening to the radio, and he hears…
[mimics static] “Hey, everybody,
this is the radio, “and I have news for you. “It’s breaking news–the Japs
have bombed Pearl Harbor. “Don’t be offended
this is what–how– “this is how what we
call them right now. “We call them ‘Japs.’
It’s all good. And they just bombed
Pearl Harbor.” [mimics static] [chuckling] So–so he was like, “Oh, shit.
This is crazy, “but probably won’t affect me.
I’m an American citizen, “and I’ve been here
all my life. It’ll be fine.” And then a couple months
later from the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt basically said,
“The Japanese are officially “a national threat
to the national security. And, yes, I used ‘national’
twice in the same sentence…” [belches]
Excuse me. “Therefore, we must put them–
round them up and put them in internment camps because
they’re too dangerous.” And then–and then, uh…
and then– Sorry.
I lost my train of thought. I was onto something. Oh, man, I’m, like, gone. So, like, basically Frank
was like, “Is this for real? This is mind-blowing.” And the next thing you know, it’s, like, a knock
at the door. [knocking] “It’s the–it’s
the United States of America.” “Uh, yeah, what do you want?” “Well, it’s time for you
to go to your– to your internment camp.” – They were a bunch
of Jeff Foxworthys? – Yeah, yeah, and they were
like, “You know you’re “a redneck if you’re walking
people into trains to get sent off into internment camps
and you don’t give a [bleep].” [laughter] And then they got rounded up
into these trains, and they head off to Wyoming,
and then they get to this internment camp
called Heart Mountain. What a name, right,
for an internment camp. – How much heart was there? – No heart, no heart, no love.
– Just a mountain. – Just a mountain.
They should’ve just called it Mountain. So here’s this Japanese phrase,
“Shikata ga nai.” It basically means
“It can’t be helped.” – Shikata…
– Ga nai. – Ga nai.
– Ga nai, yeah. – Shikata ga nai.
– Yeah, that was right. So Frank is like, “No, this is–
we got to do something “about this.
We’re Americans. This is completely
in–unconstitutional.” And that’s when a soldier
comes up to him and is like, “Fill out this loyalty oath.” And on it, it has a bunch
of just questions. “Do you like hamburgers?” – Do you like hamburgers?
– Dumb questions, right? – Well, do–I know, I’m asking
you, do you like hamburgers? – Are you questioning
my loyalty right now? – No, I’m just asking
if you like hamburgers. – Cheeseburgers.
– Of course. – Yes, okay.
– You’re a [bleep] asshole if you want a hamburger.
– Yes, if you had the choice. – Yeah.
– Right. And then he comes to this
question “Are you loyal to the United States?” And he’s like, “Whoa,
wait a minute. “You just, like, stripped us
of our rights and privileges “as citizens of this–
of the United States, and now you’re asking us
if we’re loyal?” So Frank stood up,
and he’s like, “Under the present
circumstances, I cannot and will not answer
these questions.” – That’s so cool.
– Boss move. So he starts posting flyers
all around the camps. “Hey, everybody, like,
don’t check these boxes. Come with me and
defy this order.” And as he was hammering
this thing on a post, this dude comes up to him
and is like, “Hey, man, I’m coming with you.”
Frank Emi was like, “What’s your name?”
He was like, “I’m Frank Inouye.” and they were like,
“Oh, shit, Frank. “We’re both–
that’s kind of cool. But this sucks.” So why don’t we meet and figure
out what to do about this? And then the government was
like, “We need more troops. We’re gonna start drafting
Japanese Americans to fight in the war. Take it from a drunk guy
on, you know, on a comedy show on Comedy Central,
this is [bleep] ridiculous. So at that point,
Frank Emi was like, “Oh, hell no.
No, no.” This is when The Heart Mountain
Fair Play Committee was born. And their mantra was
“No shikata ga nai.” And they would say this.
No shikata ga nai. both: No shikata ga nai.
No shikata ga nai. No shikata ga nai. – They were now
this unified group that– and their main tactic
was to resist the draft. During these mandatory
recruitment sessions, the first thing they’d do is
send this pre-draft physical– don’t even touch it. Just return it empty.
– Yeah. – And then they, well, they
won’t be able to do anything. And then these U.S. Marshals
with guns, and they’re like, “You guys are under arrest.
Come with me.” So they came. “Comed”?
– They “comed” to the court. – They “comed” to the court. They were 63 of them
in this trial, and at this point,
these guys were, like, masters of the Constitution. So they were like,
“We’re gonna be okay.” And then this judge comes up. The first thing he refers
to them as is “You Jap boys.” Then they all realize,
like, “We’re done.” And they ended up
going to prison. So when all was said and done,
almost 500 men throughout all the internment camps
resisted the draft in some way. So eventually the war,
like, ends. So Frank Emi ended up
spending 18 months of his four-year sentence
in prison, and then in 1947,
President Truman officially apologized
to Frank Emi. Sorry we kind of screwed up. And he basically said,
“Thank you.” Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– Let’s help each other. – [mumbles]
We’re all the same. – Come. – I mean, not–
– We come the same color. – Let’s come together. – [laughs] – I came twice. [laughter]

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