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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gene Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Gene Akutsu
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-agene-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

GA: Let me see, that was 1943... I think that was in 1943 when they were talking about, "Let's work on the... find about loyal and the disloyal people," the question, the famous question number 27 and 28 that whether you will, you will go wherever told, join the armed forces and fight for this country. And another one was, "Forever..." I've got it written down here, should I read it of? Well, I think most of the people know what it is but surprising to a lot of the people who thought that I was referred to as a "no-no boy," I really answered the questions as "no-yes," meaning that question number (27) was, "I'm through going wherever you tell me. You sent me to Puyallup, you sent me to Idaho and I'm through going wherever you're going to tell me to go." So I answered "no" to that. And for number 28, the question about foreswear allegiance to Japan, I've never did and never will swear allegiance to Japan and that my allegiance has always been to the United States. And I said, "I will go wherever if we should really be attacked, the United States proper" -- and that in time, at that time was the forty-eight states -- Hawaii and Alaska was not included. So I said, "Yes, if my country, the forty-eight states was attacked anywhere, I'd be willing to volunteer." So anyway, I answered "yes" to that question.

SF: How did you come to that decision? Did you talk with other folks, your mom?

GA: There was... no, these questions were asked as individual and that was all left up to us. My brother and I didn't even talk about it, hardly. 'Course, we, the questions were brought up and like he would say, "It's up to you whichever way you go." That was the same with my parents, too. My mother and father had said -- my mother and father, I say that because he was finally released in the, December of 1943 and so he was home -- and they would say that, "It's your life, it's all the whole future ahead of you, it's up to you whether you want to go or not. And whatever you do, we won't blame you but then you go with your heads held up high and follow through with what your thoughts are." So, armed with that, I decided not to go, and went all the way, all out.

LH: Let me see... well, how did you personally come to that decision? How did you decide to answer "no-yes" on your own? What was your mindset at that moment?

GA: Well, to me, that was a reasonable answer. After looking at it, the questions were not a single question but two or three questions put together as one. And I looked at it as if I answered two of the three questions as "yes," I might as well go "yes" and that's why I thought I'll go along with the kind of answer. And basically why, my gut feeling, is what it was at that time -- here I go back to the time when we answered these question number 27 and 28 -- along about that time, they had said that anybody who want to get together, the family to get together, they should apply to go to Santa Fe -- no, Crystal City, Texas and that's where you all could get together. And so we made an application to go, "we" meaning my mother, my brother and I made an application to go, and in so doing we had to apply for, for... expatriation, at which time we said, "No, we're not going to be expatriated, we're going to go because you're considering us as a Japanese, that's why you've got us in this place anyway, because you consider us as an enemy alien." So I signed up for repatriation and they approved of our request to transfer.

But in the meantime, various other things came up such as in mid-'43, they talked about volunteering for the service. They want volunteers from all ten camps and by, I think it was about mid-August, they didn't have enough volunteers so now the word started to get around that they're gonna initiate draft, whether they approve of it or not. And apparently the JACL was one of, instrumental in pursuing that side and they encouraged the draft whether it be as JACL or some other people with notoriety had suggested that we should get the draft and show that we're, our loyalty. And so that was initiated, and in January they decided that yes, they would go ahead with the draft, January of '44. And they quickly ran through a physical in the camp. And within a matter of a few days, the entire Nisei group who were in the draft age were put through the physical and put through as 1-A, from class 4-C to 1-A, an undesirable enemy alien to a classification that he would be accepted into the service.

And I thought that was not fair, without due process of law they had taken our, all our rights away. And without due process of law, converting us back to an American citizen, I thought that was very unfair. And so when they started to draft, that was in latter part of March, early April, the first of the draft came into effect when they started to draft the people out of camp, and that was when I got called in for the service. I was the first one to be called in from Minidoka, I think. And I, of course, refused to go. My parents didn't know what I was going to do, they -- that was all left up to me. I had talked to some of the people while going to school about this because it was kind of a main subject and a lot of them says, "Yeah, we ought to go to the service," and I says, "No, no, I don't think it's, it's very good. We're just following what they tell us." We had our misunderstandings, and some of 'em never talked to me after that.

When my parents found out that I had refused to go, naturally when the draft call came and I didn't go, my parents called, sat down with me and told me about, "It's up to you whatever you do, and it's obvious what you have done, but don't feel that you're doing anything wrong. You're doing what you're, you feel is right, and that if... whatever you do, you go with your head held up high and don't look back." And in turn also my mother asked me to give, cut some fingernails and cut some of my hair and she put it into an envelope saying, "If you should never come back, at least we could have a funeral with your, parts of you anyway, the fingernail and the hair." And she sealed that and put it away. And unfortunately, a couple of years ago I threw that away thinking, oh, I didn't need that. But I kept that for a long time. That's what, how much a mother thinks of their children. A father, too, of course, but mothers a little bit more, they have feelings toward their children.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.