Densho Digital Archive
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-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

LH: Well, what was so -- up until the time that you were called into the draft and then taken to, to Boise by the FBI agents, what was your life like in terms of the everyday life, particularly after the registration? Did people know that you were -- that you had responded "no-yes" and if so, how did that affect...?

GA: As far as the, those two questions, everybody kept it to themselves. We really didn't know about it and you talked to a few friends but you don't talk to everybody. So the subject was pretty well dropped. And I wound up, after I graduated in '43, I wound up working in the administration area and I wound up in the architectural department over there where Mr. Anki Arai was the head and he was nice enough to tutor me, to show me the workings of architecture drawings. And so I spent about six months there and when I was called for the draft, I refused to go, I didn't go up to work after that so I don't know whatever happened while I was gone, but I'm sure there must have been big talks about me not complying with the draft.

Getting back to going up on the ride to Boise, I made mention that the agents were encouraged me to -- encouraging me to volunteer and go and we passed by a place called, I think they call it "Thousand Springs." It's a waterfall coming off the side of a cliff where one of the -- I guess they refer to the Lost River, it disappears underneath the water -- the ground and comes out as a spring on the side of a cliff. We'd pass by there and he would say, "Isn't that nice, if you guys don't go to the service, you're going to get all, miss all that wonderful beauty and you're not going to have your freedom, you'll be incarcerated in a jail," and so on and so forth. Yes, I had real visions of what might happen and it was really a scary vision of what,what to expect, thinking that they might throw me into a dungeon or a deep hole without any lights, feed me bread and water and things like that. So I was, I was quite scared. But with determination, it's amazing what determination does; you just say to yourself, "Whatever may come, will come," you gotta take it in stride. And so wound up going to the County Jail, and they put us in their, what they refer to as, I guess, the penthouse, the top floor, so you can't escape.

They, and I wound up in the tank where there was, I think, about three robbers, and one, one air force guy who went AWOL. First they weren't very friendly to us, but eventually the wall broke down when, like parents send something like chocolate or something, well, naturally you share it with the people, and they kind of get friendly for being, sharing things with them. So as the mess went on, the group of resisters start to increase one or two at a time and by the time we were... in (May), I think that was the time when they were having the federal circuit court was going to have their trial over in Moscow, Idaho and the jailer had told me, "Why don't you go ahead and go have your trial there so if you're convicted, all the time would be applied against -- that you spent will be applied against your, the time you spent in jail?" But my thoughts at that time was, if I would go there at that time and if I am convicted, I would probably be sent to a penitentiary by myself and one person against a whole bunch of convicts -- I'd never stand a chance. So I thought to myself, "Well, I will... I would rather risk it, and stay and see how many more people would come." You see, my group, that I, we wound up with as they refer to us as the "no-no boys," we were never a group of people, we were all separate and whoever came in through the door, that's when many of 'em we met for the first time, never seen 'em, never talked to them before. And so anyway, we waited, and month by month we keep getting more people, not a whole bunch, but two or three at the most would dribble in at a time and, to a point where our County Jail was saturated with the resisters and they started to fill up another place in, where the heck was it... well, there was another county jail that they, they vacated to put more of the resisters into -- that was Emmett, Emmett County Jail which was, I would say, about thirty, forty miles to the north again. And then... to a point where we had some thirty-three or thirty-five people.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.