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-01-0030

<Begin Segment 30>

SF: Did you ever think about, "Well, if I answered 'yes-yes' then maybe I could go to the Midwest or the East in 1943 and that would be a good thing?"

GA: Well, that was not in my mind. That portion they were stressing your loyalty, not whether you could leave the camp. And if they... I hadn't even given it a second thought about if I answered "yes-yes" I could leave camp. It was just my personal feeling, if they want to know my personal feeling, well they'll get it. So analyzing the questions as they did, I just went ahead and thought what I thought best, whether it's against the camp rules or whatever. So no, no, I never even gave it a thought of using that to get away from camp. To me, I thought that was a regular loyalty question and I should answer loyally. My heart, my feelings.

LH: Now you had mentioned earlier also that you're, you had thought, and you weren't certain about this, but you also thought that because your brother had been sort of very vocal in camp and protesting some of the situations there, that you may have been targeted or other people might have been targeted because they either knew your brother or what have you, to sort of see who might be the disloyals or who might be the troublemakers and then see how they would react. How do you think that sort of played out with other people? Did you think that other people were also being targeted or do you really think that that's what the FBI or the camp authorities were trying to finger certain people?

GA: Are you talking about the resisters?

LH: No, not just resisters, but in general. Did they have people who they thought who might be resisters or...?

GA: Other camps may have had that but then our camp was pretty loyal people and 100 percent whatever that administration said, they go, went along with. So there weren't that many people that made any resistance. Only when the people from Tule Lake came up, they had rebelled against the kind of food they were given, the treatment they were given and so one of them happened to land in our block and he was one of the spokesmen for some of the people down there. He's an Issei but he spoke good English and he took my brother to the administration area with a complaint and he told him how he'd go about it. Like the food that you have us eat. Basically Columbia River smelt and liver and something like that and we didn't have any other thing edible and so on so forth and within a matter of a few weeks, our food changed over. Instead of getting smelt, we started to get other fishes.

So it proved that it pays to speak out but also became a target of the administration, too, that he could be a troublemaker. And basically my brother is a, what you might call, a fighter where you get knocked down and you'll get up and still keep trying to go after what he's trying to, he was a go-getter. And what he tried to do was he was trying to do things for the people in camp but then when the people in camp started to turn against him, he was really disappointed. That, "I've done all these things for them and they just turn against me, all what I did, it's just down the drain." So the other people, there weren't too many, people that where you heard so much about were the ones that stood out in the service. Volunteer and "let's all go together" kind of a thing which is, that was fine, that's their business. But as far as the resisters making comment, you see all of 'em, they're rather quiet, subdued people. But apparently they are deeper thinkers than average people that they thought more than, about the situation, more so than the others, I guess. At least I felt that way.

LH: Well, did you ever think that there was a, that if you, sort of, looking back about the way that your resistance sort of affected your family, did you ever feel that, were there any times or any moments that you thought, "If I would have just not gone along with it," that things would have been different, or did you -- you had mentioned that philosophy that your father had and your parents had of sort of going all the way with certain things -- but were there any real moments of doubt even as you were going to Boise or being held in the incarceration or even being taken to McNeil Island? Were there any moments where you thought, "Maybe there would have been, something different would have happened and things might turn out better if I would have just gone the other way"?

GA: No, I don't think so. I -- it's almost like asking me would you do it over again? That's about the kind of question you're asking me and I would say, yeah, I'll do it again. Under the same situation, I'll do it. That wasn't right what they did and I will fight for whatever I feel that we should, my rights. So if I have to do it again, I'll do it. So the whole thing gets down to, I never had a change of mind or think even give it a thought.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.