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-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

LH: Well, I want to go back to sort of that moment where you're worrying about what the vets, 442 guys were going to do to you. What was your... how did your parents react to this and how were they getting along in the community with the knowledge around that you and your brother were draft resisters, were in prison?

GA: Uh-huh. Well, that still carried through, that it reflected on our parents of what we did but there were Isseis still living in and around that area that lived in the hotel, they were, used to work at the railroad and after work they'd come back and stay at the hotel. But then they found out that my dad had a little stove that they could -- what they now refer to as a... what do you call, crack-, what do they call? Cracker barrel? Where people get together and talk about old times and things and that's about what it wound up to be, just a gathering place for the Isseis used to come around and talk about the old times. And they survived by having those people come around. But after we came out, must have been about four months, three months or so, my mother started to feel bad and she said, she feels like she's underneath a waterfall. It feels like she's got a train going through her head, roaring sound all the time. And she said she can't stand it. But anyway, one day I went to church and came back and found that she got sick and they're going to take her to the hospital. I went over to the -- and my brother says, "You stay home. I'll watch, I'll take care of..." I was working out of house, my brother was helping my dad with the repairing of the shoes and whatnot to help him out a little bit, so he says, "I'll take care of it, I'll go see Mom and take care of her." And within a day or so, she had died and that was the sad part. I started to date a girl and I guess she didn't even get a chance to meet my mother or neither did my mother meet the wife-to-be. When I came out I got to know a girl and then she and I saw eye-to-eye, we really hit it off real good and we were inseparable from there on.

SF: Did your mom pass away from a physical, a normal physical illness?

GA: Well, I referred to this as a, the wear and tear of the war years that she had gone through, that her body couldn't handle it and eventually she took her life is what had happened. That she just couldn't stand it anymore. There were rumors that some people had heard about it and they were making fun out of it that, "Ha, ha, ha," that she got what she had coming and things like that which as I thought was very, not very nice. Oh, let me see. No, it's... the time is real nice. What it does... it heals a lot of things and through the years the hard feelings that the people have had towards me and the people who had refused to go, had faded away and they used to talk about, "Well, you went in, you didn't go to the service and my friends are dead over there over in Europe." And I used to come back and say, "They were my friends, too. No, you're not the only one, that they were friends, too. My friends had died over there, too. The only difference is my thinking was different from you, you went over to fight for it to prove yourself guilty, whereas I says, 'isn't my fault, I didn't do anything, you can't make me go to war if you stick me into a prison camp.'" And that was the difference between the fellas that went and the fellas that stayed, rather my feeling, let's put it that way. I don't want to get people involved into this.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.