George Akimoto Biography

View Art by George Akimoto

George Akimoto (1922-2010) Interned at the Stockton fairgrounds during World War II, and then sent to the relocation camp at Rohwer, Ark. - along with more than 8,000 Japanese Americans from San Joaquin County and the Los Angeles area - Akimoto made a name for himself drawing the cartoon "Lil Dan'l" for the Rohwer Outpost before moving on to a successful career in movie and commercial art.

One of Stockton's native sons, through adversity of having to go through Rohwer, rose above such adversity and went on to have such a distinguished and productive life in the motion picture and aviation industries.

Akimoto's series of internment camp comics were on display for the Stockton Buddhist Temple's centennial celebration in 2006. His character, "Lil Dan'l," became the mascot of the Rohwer camp and later anchored Akimoto's book, "Lil Dan'l: One Year in a Relocation Center. 1943."

Just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Akimoto's family - along with tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans across the country - were forced from their homes and into the camps. A neighbor took care of his family's 20-acre farm, watching over it until they could return.

He attended art school and then launched his career.

 "The old folks, they didn't know whether they were going to end up dying in camp or what,'' Akimoto told the New York Times in 1987. He remembers "hearing the old folks worrying, 'What's going to happen to us if we end up here the rest of our lives. Are we going to end up like the Indians, you know, selling carved birds and weavings for a living?' "

"I didn't start that war. ... I didn't start the war. But what can I do?," he recalled several years ago for a Japanese American Citizens League oral history project. "They put us in the camp. You can't do anything in the camp - no painting, no nothing. The thing is you have to make the best of it in the camp. It's the same sort of situation like when you're drafted into the army. You just have to go."