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-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

GA: The treatment given to us, I think, severely by I think most means, is that they wanted to discourage any more resisters to come out of camp. That they wanted to make sure that we have a lot of people volunteering or entering the service to the JACL liking, or the administration's liking. And I think that's when they heard about us, they wound up with a name the "no-no boys," also calling us the draft dodgers and chicken and anything, a disloyal and so on so forth. And this is one of the reasons why I thought I'd better speak up now to let the people know my reasons, my thoughts about why I had taken the stand that I did. Because all through these years, for some fifty years, nobody had asked me about why I've done it but they've all drawn their conclusion from what they read in the paper.

My dad, years ago when we were still young, said, "When you control the radio," in those days of radio and newspaper, "you control the people's mind." At that time I was too young to realize what he was saying, but as I grew older I realized Dad was right. What they read in the paper they'll believe. If they write anything they want in the paper that they want people to believe, they'll do it and the people will be against you. And when he found out that I guess the majority were against me because my stand... I was quite surprised, I would say. That you'd think that there would be more people that would think about this draft and say, "Is that right?" Now to myself, I thought, to start with, they have, they called me an alien, they had convicted me almost, in fact they did being a Japanese and an alien and unwanted enemy alien without any due process of law, and I thought that was very, very bad. And that I alone can't do anything but I'm gonna do what I planned on doing and hopefully that people would understand but then when the people took the other stance and said that I'm a draft evader I felt real sad that the people thought that way.

SF: So how did you hear about sort of this negative reaction?

GA: In... while we were in the prison, my mother, one way or the other, would make her way out to McNeil Island. She had finally, she and Dad had finally moved back to Seattle when the camp closed and one way or the other she'd find means of getting out to Steilacoom to catch the prison ferry to go take them to the McNeil Island administration where they had visitation to one inmate per month. And so through the grapevine, not only me but there's others that had brothers, sisters and parents and they would exchange various things about the incidents and the news and so when we got back we would, to ourselves, we'd be talking about it and we hear what the majority thought of us. And it wasn't, it wasn't good.

LH: So that there was actually this network built up between all the inmates in terms of them talking to their family members or whatever...

GA: Yeah, well, that's the only means of communication because here again, we went through censorship and as I said, when you censor something you can't write too much other than the weather and how you're feeling and what you did for fun or something to that extent. And you can't go into details so the only thing is verbally to get your information.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.