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-01-0028

<Begin Segment 28>

LH: Well, going again back to the camp experience, how do you, how did you see yourself interacting with the other people in camp as you worked, as you sort of did your other things? What was your interactions with people? Did you sort of...

GA: I got along with everybody well. And I was bigger than the average, I would say, more muscular so I was able to do a lot of things that the other kids wouldn't, wouldn't do. But during the camp years, I was rather quiet, I wouldn't say too much. Here again, this is something that came about when I was a youngster, I guess, when I would say something and my comment would have two... you have a dual comment. You can take it the wrong way or take it the proper way that I'm trying to say and I made some enemies with the comments I made so I thought the best thing to do is to keep quiet. And so most of my teenage years I was quiet. And here again, my brother was there to be my mouthpiece and while I was young and well into my, first, sixth grade or so, he used to be my mouthpiece, he used to be my protector, and so I was behind him all the time so I really didn't have to speak up. And that was a drawback for me because I never was able to get out on my own to be independent, that I was quite reliant on my brother. But as time went on, somehow a person's personality does come out -- you can't keep that subdued. And so eventually I started to talk and here I am.

LH: Well, do you think that that's sort of that moment when you were first drafted and sort of taken and your brother wasn't there to help you along. Do you think that that sort of influenced the way you developed? How did you sort of react to that position?

GA: No, by then, by then I had my own thoughts. Although I didn't speak up much, I had my thoughts and I had my conviction and I decided to, I'll just stick to it come hell or high water. I thought that there would be more people thinking the way I did because of the situation but apparently most other people felt that they were guilty and that they should prove themselves loyal. Whereas my thoughts were, "I have been and I always will be but you never trusted me and you made me an enemy alien. So until you clear me of that, I'm not gonna do anything," and I don't think the people would blame me for saying that. I know that many of the Sansei that start to ask questions and they ask me what I did, I'd tell them that I refused to go and I would proceed to explain to them what I have done, why I have done it and they all say, "Hey, I agree with you, I wouldn't do that either." And so most of the Sanseis, they're, they are the generation that thinks for themselves before they do anything. They don't say, "You told me to go, I'll go." They would say, "I'll go but why? Give me an answer and I will go." That's many of the people's, the comments. I think that's one of the reasons why the Vietnam War, many of the people refused to go because they said, "Tell me why I should go. We're going out there and fight in some other country? This is, a draft is strictly for protecting our own nation, not to go out there and fight in somebody's, somebody else's place." Many of the people start to ask questions about that and they found out, hey, this is not the right thing to do. Lot of 'em defected to Canada, lot of 'em refused to go, and that was because they started to ask the question, "Why? Tell me why and if it's a good answer, I will go."

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.