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3-Pearl Harbor

Where were you when you first heard of Pearl Harbor?

I was at home, because it was a Sunday, and I went home on Sunday. So I was home, my mother was in the country, she taught the Japanese school on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so Sunday morning she was teaching. When was that when we heard about Pearl Harbor, around noon? So she had just come home perhaps and I was already there. My brother had been drafted and he was stationed at Camp Roberts, and he was home for the weekend, so we knew when you heard on the radio, he returned to his camp. We just wondered "Oh, what does this mean?," my mother being a Japanese language teacher. We just didn't know what the consequences would be right then and there. We just knew something extraordinary would be happening to us too.

Did you have any reaction when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

I just thought it was an awful thing to do.

Were you angry? Did you have any specific emotion?

I'm trying to think?

Or even just your reaction?

When I heard? My brother had said he felt that the war was inevitable. My thought must have been, "This is it." So how would I have reacted? I considered myself non-Japanese so it would be a reaction as an American.

What did you think of President Roosevelt prior to the war and during it?

We're taught not to question authority. We grew up during the Depression time, so FDR was great. He could do no wrong.

But what about when he signed Executive Order 9066?

That's part of war. We'd accept it. Again, we don't question authority.

Did your family or yourself ever feel the need to hide your Japanese culture or history?

My mother, being the Japanese language teacher, had all kinds of things. From the picture of the emperor to Japanese flags. We had statues of admirals. All that she buried.

Was hard for her?

I don't know. That's a good question! It was something, I think, she felt she had to do. Is it to protect us that she would have done that?

Did you consider yourself affiliated with the emperor?

No. I had spent two years in Japan: my seventh and eighth grade. I lived with my grandparents and went to a girls' school, and I knew I was not Japanese. I didn't know enough of the language. I didn't know the history or the geography. And I'm treated differently. "Oh, your eyes are a little lighter than ours, that's because you're American." I just knew I was not Japanese.

How did you find out about Pearl Harbor?

We heard it on the radio. I think we had the radio going all the time.

Were you following what was happening in the war at that time?

Before? Yes, yes. Every evening: dinnertime. Who was it we listened to? Edward R. Murrow of course, but then Counten Born was the other one. Every evening we listened to the radio. This is before TV.

What kind of news was relayed through the news?

We are listening to the radio and so we hear about blackouts. When I was in Saratoga there was a room that would be a safer room because we could black it out. Meaning putting up curtains that are dark. But there was a room we considered a safe room. And, again, it's just preparing for wartime.

What else would the radio talk about?

What's happening. It would have to be what's going on in the Pacific area. Everyday there would be more bombings or troops, and we would hear that kind of thing. I'm trying to think how specific they were and I don't think they were, not like today.

Can you tell us more about the blackouts you had to conduct?

All the lights in the house would be turned off, except this one room where you have curtains all—so that light would not be seen from the outside because they were worried about air raids.

How were you notified when a blackout was taking place?

We lived in Saratoga, which is a small town. I think we were prepared, but I don't remember ever even rehearsing for such a thing.

How do you think that living with a white family for the first days after Peal Harbor would have been different from living with your actual family?

That's interesting. Again, we weren't told what our parents thought. So I don't know that they would have told me. But surely there must have been expressions that we could tell or feel. And I'm sure they were concerned because they had family in Japan. My mother surely did. But again, as I said, she never expressed these feelings to us. It would only be how I felt it rather than heard it.

Preparing for Relocatio to Pomona and Heart Mountain Camps

What was the experience like having to pack up and leave everything behind?

I would say traumatic. We had no idea where we were going and we were told just to take the one suitcase. The notice says "camp life" and they told us exactly what to take, in terms of bringing your own dishes. I remember that. And in those days, girls didn't wear pants like they do today. They were called slacks and my mother was a good seamstress. I remember she then made clothes for my sister and for me. That was when we first learned to wear pants.

Can you tell me exactly what you took and why you took it?

It would be immediate needs. Toiletries. The books I took, I said, I took the Bible and I took a copy of—I still have it there—it's called Van Loon's Lives. I took that. And other things. what could you get into one suitcase? Mostly clothes.

What didn't you bring?

What didn't I bring? All the family pictures. Personal things. What did one have as a personal thing as a young woman, right?

Did you ever think, "Gee, I wish I could bring that but it's too big?"

No. I'm thinking that now with all this I have. When I move now, what am I going to leave? And I've decided I really don't need much.

[Shows book]

Received June 1941 from the Morrisons. The Morrisons is the family I lived with. It's called The Arts. Oh, it's not called Lives, I'm sorry—The Arts, by Hendrik Van Loon.

And who gave it to you?

The Morrisons—that's the family I stayed with.

And why did you choose that book?

Why did I choose this book? Because it had to do with the arts. I spent my summer living in the library, I think. And so they knew that. I would say also, Mrs. Morrison's the one that introduced me to the arts and music.

How did she introduce them?

By taking me to concerts.

Can you tell us about the train ride to Heart Mountain?

My mother decided for me that I should be sort of the go-between between the military police who were on the train, and those of us who were on the train. I think maybe there were two MPs assigned to each car. I spent more time with the MPs. They told us, "Pull the shades down,” or “Now it's time to go eat." I couldn't tell you now how many were in the car—there must have been infants as well as older ones. It must have been filled.

Can you talk a little about how you got to camp?

Train. From the San Jose station.

What was that trip like? What do you remember about it?

Not much because I didn't want to remember. That's how I feel. I am writing about my experience right now, and I said, "I have a hard time writing about Pomona." As I think about why am I having such a difficult time, it is because when we went to Pomona, we were put into one room with my stepfather and his family. There was a daughter who was married and a child, and she was in that same room. My mother and my younger sister and I. There were nine of us in one room. So as I think back, I think why I can't write about it was because the whole experience of being put into a place like that was traumatic. Being with a family like that was traumatic, and losing all my friends. So, I think this is why I find it extremely difficult to write about that time.

Can you remember what the first thing you saw when you arrived at camp? You're fist memory?

The room. It's just one big room, and that was it. There were cots, but no mattresses. We had to go out and fill bags with hay. That was our bedding. Then the next thing we did was we could wrap bedding up in what my mother put together with seed sacks that she had sewn together. She wrapped bedding in that. That seed sack we then hung as a partition between my sister and I and the rest of them.

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