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-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

SF: So, when the people started volunteering for the 442, what sort of went through your mind about those people who volunteered?

GA: I thought nothing of it. I mean, it's their opinion what they thought, what they felt. They want to prove themselves loyal that way, that's up to them. I have my way of doing it although it may not be the same as the others but I want to prove to myself or to the people that my way of thinking is okay, too.

LH: So why didn't you think, though, that, or why do you think that more people didn't react the same way that you did or take the same stand that you did?

GA: I think some of it is -- I guess you might say follow the leader -- "they went so I will go. My friends are going that way, I might as well go, or I'll be all by myself." I don't know. It's hard to say. I guess you have to be an individual at that time how they were thinking. Maybe they did think that it was their duty to go out there to prove themselves.

SF: At the time the draft was instituted, as far as the general camp went, what was the mood like? Do you think the average, most of the people were saying, "We shouldn't go," or, "We should go," or what was the general feeling at that time?

GA: That was all talk but there was a lot of that going on and they sent in some, a Nisei serviceman and tried to recruit some people in camp. They spent two, three weeks at each camp, try to recruit some people, but they couldn't get enough recruits. But that should be an indication that the people didn't go for that. Meaning if you want to, would you go? They didn't want to go. But if they said you gotta go or else, then they go. So you can draw your conclusion from that as to what went on. "Well, if they tell me to go, I'll go," attitude, I guess.

LH: Now, you also had mentioned earlier that your family was put under stop order where they, you wanted to leave camp, you wanted to get outside of camp, and, but you couldn't because you were prevented. Did you have other, did you know of any other families who were under the same conditions and if they tried to do different things to get out?

GA: You know, there's those kind of things, pretty well kept under cover. They didn't want to admit that they're being held back or anything. Right away it's, "Hey, this guy here is dangerous. Maybe the FBI is watching over them." So nobody would speak out and you see the same people around and then you kind of come to a conclusion that well, maybe they're under stop order, too. But yeah, like most of the people, we all wanted to get out. Basically, our funds were running out. We were poor family; we came up through the Depression. My dad had a shoe repair shop and he just get a early, make a meager living comfortably. We never did go hungry because many of the farmers who didn't have money would come and ask to have their shoes repaired and my dad would repair the shoes and in turn they would bring vegetables and whatever, maybe chicken or sole or two, and bring that in exchange for getting their shoe repaired so we always had food on the table but then we were not, by far, rich at all. And so in camp, why, mentioning, we were earning like sixteen dollars a month. That doesn't last too long. You buy a little bit of nice, nice thing at the canteen but before you know it, all that is spent and you're digging into the family money, what little we had. So we did want to go out to see if we can earn some money and survive. But somehow or another my parents did it. They just sacrificed everything.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.