Monday, Sept. 13, 1999

Wartime voices of
Hawaii Japanese-Americans


The Center for Oral History at the University of Hawaii-Manoa interviewed local residents about their wartime experiences in two studies, "An Era of Change: Oral Histories of Civilians in World War II Hawaii" and "Families Without Patriarchs: Oral Histories of Japanese American Families in World War II Hawaii."

The following quotes were provided by Michiko Kodama-Nishimoto and Warren S. Nishimoto, researchers at the center.


"News goes out fast out among the Japanese community. When people found out about my dad's internment, there were certain things that my mother could not get from the market owner. There were certain cuts of meat that she couldn't get. No merchant would sell to her, but will sell to somebody else. She was even being bypassed in line. Mom resented a lot of things that were done by Japanese merchants. Even our landlord. There was a real arm's-length kind of relationship, a 'Talk to us if you have to, don't talk to us if you don't need to.' "

-- A son of an internee, recalling the cold shoulder his family received when his father's incarceration became known


"Seeing us being Japanese, (wartime customers) got pretty mad, so they call us names. Or they would have a cold drink or something and they refuse to pay. We would call MPs and have them come and take care of the soldier. But, we don't want to cause any trouble because, after all, they are soldiers. They're doing their duty for the country."

-- A Waikiki cafe owner, about name-calling and other problems from wartime customers


"When the war started, you forget everything Japanese. You're not permitted to even speak Japanese. Wherever you go, (sign) says, 'Be American! Speak English!' "

-- A nisei singer, recalling that she had no choice but to sing songs in English


"I thought that was a real shameful thing that happened to us. I didn't know of anybody else in the neighborhood or at school that got evacuated. ... I did not know at that time that it was mostly based on us being Japanese. But I do remember the officers questioning whether we were Japanese, whether Grandma was alien. I thought about my father. He was an American citizen. ... When I think about our situation, there were nobody to stand up for us."

-- A grandchild, a teen at the time, recalls how his three-generation Japanese-American household was ordered off their lands before sundown, a few weeks after Dec. 7; they had lived on nine acres in Pu'uloa, next to Pearl Harbor


"The sentry said they got rumors that Japanese parachuters in blue were coming down on St. Louis Heights. He said, 'Our soldiers might get trigger-happy, if you walk around in Fort Shafter.' So I went home, changed clothes and went back to work."

-- A nisei clad in blue, called to work at Fort Shafter on Dec. 8, recalling the hysteria and suspicions against those of Japanese ancestry

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