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-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

LH: So, going back to when you returned from McNeil Island, how was it for you to personally to come back into the community of Seattle? And how much... even sort of building on this fear...

GA: Yeah, well, my thoughts were I'd better keep a low profile, don't do anything that the people would see me out in the open but rather keep a low profile. And so after I got married, I was just with the family, my brother's, my relatives and we were pretty well, people didn't know we were around, I guess you might say. But as things grew, as my kids grew, it got to a point where my oldest started to go to high school. The next one was in a junior high, and the last one was in the grade school. And I just called them together and says, "Well, it's about time I tell you about what had happened, what I have done. You may not have heard about it." And he says, "Oh yeah, we read about it in the paper," I mean, "in the textbook." I says, "How much did you have in there?" And they says, "Oh, just a little paragraph about the evacuation." So I says, "Well, I'll tell you what happened and what had happened to me, what I have done." And so I explained to the kids what I did and so that the kids won't get secondhand news from somebody else and find out that his, his or her dad was a draft resister, I thought I'd better get it straight with him and tell him why I did it and so they realized that. And to this day, I'm glad that I told 'em. I think many of the parents, I think, they held back and lot of the parents didn't know -- I mean, the children, didn't know about what had happened to the Niseis and the Issei during the war years. And I think a lot of them, they just couldn't believe that it had actually happened.

LH: But were you also worried about other people sort of talking about you in the community as well?

GA: What they're going to say -- they're going to say. I had my own life to lead and so I didn't let it bother me. But I really didn't go out there to get out in the public either. My brother, on the other hand, he would go out there and make speeches about his why... and I imagine you see it in your videos that you taped that what he has done and how he fought against the evacuation and why. And that they had no rights to do. They used to come down on him pretty hard and he used to get some telephone threats and letter threats and things like that. But here again, as years went by it kind of wore out and people had stopped doing that.

SF: When folks first came out of McNeil, did the resisters all kind of get together and their families used to get together, or how did that go since it was kind of tough for them to go into the larger Japanese communities? Did the resisters' families hang out together?

GA: Uh-huh. No, they were all alone. Everybody on their own. Many of 'em, in fact some of their, the sisters got married to vets, and things like that, so they all went their merry way, I guess you might put it. But, no, we had no association with each other, we just had a few people that we, formed the investment group, but that soon fell apart when people didn't see eye-to-eye as to what to do on the investments. So that went down the drain, and after that we were just all... went our separate ways, yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.