Kawakami, Frank Masao


Frank Masao Kawakami was born on May 30, 1926, in El Centro, California, to parents Kinji and Tomi. Kawakami had an older sister, Mary, and a younger sister, Ruth. His father, Kinji, was a florist in his early years, but became the manager of an apartment building in the years leading up to the war. Kawakami, who completed two years at Hollenbeck Jr. High School before the evacuation, enjoyed drawing and was a Boy Scout. The Kawakami family arrived at Santa Anita Assembly Center on May 9, 1942 and at Heart Mountain on September 8, 1942. They lived in apartment 30-1-E. While incarcerated, Kawakami spent some time as a student before leaving camp in the spring of 1943 for seasonal work on the railroad and a farm, both in Montana. The day after his eighteenth birthday, in Spokane, Washington, Kawakami registered for the draft. That summer, he traveled to Heart Mountain to visit on his way to further employment in Chicago. While at Heart Mountain, he received his notice about a pre-induction physical. According to Kawakami, there was some confusion about whether or not he needed to stay at Heart Mountain for the physical, especially since he had applied for a transfer of his registration from Spokane to Chicago, so he left a few days before he was scheduled in order to get to Chicago. Upon arrival, he sent his new address to the draft board in Spokane. Despite his efforts, Kawakami was arrested by the FBI on December 23, 1944, for delinquency in appearing for his pre-induction physical. Unable to pay for his return to Cheyenne to stand trial, he appealed to a lawyer and the WRA for assistance. Regardless of the mix-up, which left even Kawakami’s family confused, he was found guilty in July 1945 of violating the Selective Service Act and was sentenced to two years in the federal prison at McNeil Island, Washington. He was pardoned by President Harry Truman on December 24, 1947. Kawakami eventually returned to Los Angeles to join his family. Frank Masao Kawakami died in Los Angeles on June 8, 1955.

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