George Akimoto made his name as a film poster and aviation artist but not without first experiencing a period of internment at the hands of his own American government, following the Pearl Harbour attacks of 1941, when he was effectively imprisoned because of his Japanese heritage despite being born and bred in the US.
Akimoto was born in Stockton, California in 1922 to a family of Japanese origin. His early life is not recorded, or at least we can’t find any details of it anywhere in the Internet. At the age of 20 following the surprise Japanese airborne attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii resulting in the deaths of some 2400 Americans and the USA’s entry into WWII, Akimoto alongside 110,000 fellow Japanese Americans was interned. This was primarily due to completely unfounded fears that the Japanese were planning an attack on the West Coast of the US and that many Japanese-Americans were likely to be ‘fifth columnists’ acting in a clandestine manner to undermine American security. Many of these completely innocent Americans of Japanese descent were to remain interred until the end of the war and many lost almost everything as a result of it. In 1980 the Carter administration conducted an investigation into the camps which found little evidence of disloyalty among Japanese-Americans and recommended the government pay reparations to camp survivors. A figure of $20,000 was awarded to each surviving individual.
To keep himself busy and presumably keep himself sane, Akimoto used his artistic abilities and created a cartoon character called ‘Lil Dan’l’ who featured in the Rohwer Outpost (the camp journal) and went on to become the mascot of the Rohwer War Relocation Center (to give its official name) and also featured in a subsequent book Akimoto published called ‘Lil Dan’l; One Year in a Relocation Center. 1943’.
Following his return to normal civilian life Akimoto moved on to forge a successful career in movie and commercial art with his signature bold, dramatic artwork and specialty in aviation art. He went on to reach the ripe old age of 87 but sadly passed away in 2010. Here we take a look at a small selection of his posters and artwork from his purple period with a style all of their own