Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Jim Akutsu
Interviewer: Art Hansen
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 9 and 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ajim-01-0038

<Begin Segment 38>

AH: All right, so where did it go from there? I mean, here you're getting this threat by, really, by not only Arai, but by the WRA, right, with Stafford and...

JA: Yeah, because that they were afraid that there will be nobody that's going to, well, number one, volunteer, let alone be inducted. And most of 'em, if I had gone out and told them that, "Hey, you guys don't have to answer their call because it says 4-C enemy alien." But they didn't want me to do that, and therefore they had Kenji Ito and they had some social worker, and they had this night watchman, on surveillance of me, so they could watch what I'd be doing. If I had gathered people to talk, then they would have nabbed me right away, for sedition or whatever.

AH: What do you think upset the JACL or the WRA more, the position by the people at Heart Mountain who were saying we want a restoration or clarification of our rights as citizens before we're willing to serve, or your position, saying, what I am is really a non-citizen of the United States and I'm repatriating to prove a point. Which do suppose -- 'cause they're dealing with both of them at the same time here?

JA: But, just like I told you, Stafford and his group, no riot, no demonstration, he was really riding high, the best superintendent. And I was about to destroy that image by getting up to talk. So they had to do something and they had to do it in a hurry. So they wrote a letter to my board, draft board, saying, as a suggestion and a favor, and this guy won't go in. And they wouldn't tell the draft why I don't have to go, I mean, that I won't go in. It was that I didn't have to -- no military obligation. But they don't say anything but as a favor, suggestion and a favor, tamper with this man's draft notice.

AH: And so what kind of tampering do you think they had in mind?

JA: Well, make it so that I won't be able to answer the call. And therefore, June 10th they wrote out the draft notice, and I was supposed to have been drafted May 25th or 21st and they gave me, I got the notice late so I was already violated.

AH: Okay, that brought on the FBI and that confrontation, but then the FBI walked away, and so what happened after the FBI's out of the picture?

JA: So the thing was, it was either I had to take another examination [Interruption] declare yourself an alien and you have no military obligation. But on the other side, they wanted a cannon fodder, they want somebody to, you know, the 100th and 442nd, they wanted to come across Africa to the island of Sicily and then on up all the way to the end of the war. Well, to me, I thought I could save a lot of people's lives, so anyway, before I could say anything, they had me violated and went through all of this, FBI thing and they sent me another notice. But by that time, if they go that far, I'm going to fight it harder yet. So I wrote a letter to General Hersey saying that I'm being shanghaied and I gave the reason.

AH: This is the head of the selective service, Louis Hersey.

JA: Yes, right. And I didn't get any return or anything. Next thing I knew, they sent a couple of FBIs.

AH: Again?

JA: No, no, that's how they...

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.