Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Harry Akune - Kenjiro Akune Interview
Narrators: Harry Akune and Kenjiro Akune
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: December 13, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-aharry_g-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: Harry, when were you born?

HA: 1920.

gky: And, Ken, when were you born?

KA: 1923.

gky: Ken, when you went to war, you had a community leader in the camp, and you talked to him about cherry blossoms in Japan. Will you just recount that story to me?

HA: Well, Mr. Aibara was --

KA: By the way, you said Ken.

gky: I'm sorry. I'm sorry -- Harry.

HA: Mr. Aibara.

gky: Who Mr. Aibara is, just a community leader, Mr. Aibara?

HA: Mr. Aibara was...

gky: I'm sorry. Will you start again so that...

HA: Okay.

gky: And maybe Ken, you can just look at, glance at him when he starts talking.

HA: Mr. Aibara was the elder statesman, like he was the person that helped the community in general. He was a little older than the Isseis. He was one of the older Isseis, and he was a very respected individual in the community. He was our Japanese school teacher, and we used to go on weekends to go to school there. And, of course, he was our sensei, the teacher, you know, so we had a lot of respect for him too, as far as youngsters were concerned, too. But the Issei parents had high regards for him. When we decided, and we were accepted, to go into the service, we went to say, in other words, say our farewell to people we respected and he was one of them that we went to see. And he congratulated us, of course, that really kind of surprised us, congratulated us and said, "You are like the cherry tree in Washington D.C., which came from Japan, and it was nurtured, and cared for, and loved by America, and so therefore, every spring cherry blossoms beautify Washington D.C. You should also be like the cherry blossom and go forward and beautify America." That was his statement. And I think that probably set the tone and attitude of what we probably did later too.

gky: How?

HA: When I made this mission in Corregidor, I was supposed to go with this Captain Donovan who was the S2 officer, intelligence officer. And he had a jeep set to go, so I had all my equipment in there and was supposed to go with him, but he left without me. Now, I don't know a reason, but anyway, he left without me. I found a way to get to the airport, and when I got to the airport I asked the captain, "Where is my combat equipment?" All I had was a fatigue hat. And he says, "Over there," and pointed to a parachute. And I asked him, "Where is the rest of my stuff?" I don't even have a weapon, no helmet, nothing. He says, "It's in the jeep." I said, "Where's the jeep?" He says, "I don't know." He had released it. The fact that he would take my parachute out and not take the rest of it out really puzzled me, even to this day, why he would do that. He knew it was my equipment. So, at that moment, I had to make a decision what to do. To do -- go or not to go. I think maybe Mr. Aibara's words, to beautify America, was probably the thing that made me want to go. So without hesitation, I put my parachute on and got on the airplane.

gky: That's interesting, how words that someone says to you a long time ago can come back to you.

HA: Yeah. In other words, I think what it did was settle me, told me what I was supposed to do regardless of the consequence, and that was the reason that we even joined anyway. So, I did not want to bring any, well, bring shame to Niseis by not going. I would be unfair to them because I feel that any other of the guys might have gone too, so I would be no exception.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.