Tsutomu "Ben" Wakaye was born on January 2, 1913 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The family moved to San Francisco where he studied German and Latin and graduated from Galileo High School in 1931. Wakaye then worked as an insurance salesman. Described as quiet and introverted, Wakaye loved to read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. With college not an option for him during the Great Depression, Wakaye worked as an insurance salesman until he was expelled from his home after Pearl Harbor.
At Heart Mountain, Wayake met Frank Emi and other leaders of the Fair Play Committee, and with his background in accounting and insurance, Wakaye was elected treasurer of the group. Wakaye refused induction and was convicted in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with the first group of 63 resisters. He was brought back to federal court to stand trial a second time as one of the seven leaders accused of conspiracy to counsel draft evasion.
Wakaye said serving two years at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, taught him one thing: "Patience." Wakaye rejoined his family in a small basement apartment in San Francisco, where the only work he could find with his prison record was as a janitor. He died in 1952 at the age of 39 of kidney failure.