Ben Wakaye

Name Ben Wakaye
Born January 2 1913
Died November 8 1952
Birth Location Honolulu
Generational Identifier


Draft resistance leader and treasurer of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee (FPC). Tsutomu "Ben" Wakaye (1913–52) was born in Honolulu, but moved with family to San Francisco before starting the second grade. He went on to graduate from Galileo High in 1931. He subsequently worked for his father's carpentry shop and for a Japanese trading company before landing a job as an insurance salesman.

Incarcerated at Heart Mountain during World War II, he became part of the draft resistance movement through the Fair Play Committee, his insurance background qualifying him to be its treasurer. He subsequently refused to report for his pre-induction physical, resulting in his arrest and eventual trial and conviction. Along with six other leaders of the FPC, and journalist James Omura , he was later charged with conspiracy to counsel, aide, and abet draft resistance, with all but Omura found guilty. He was given a sentence of two years, but was already serving a three year sentence for his draft evasion conviction. He served out his sentence and was released in 1947.

He returned to San Francisco, rejoining his family. He experienced difficulty finding a job and eventually worked as a janitor. He died of kidney failure in 1952 at age 39.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Biography on Conscience and the Constitution site,

Chin, Frank. Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889–1947 . Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Fujimoto, Amy. " Ben Wakaye: A True American ." Conscience and the Constitution website.

Muller, Eric L. Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Last updated Dec. 19, 2023, 2:46 a.m..