Larry Nakatsuka left legacy of 'firsts'
The former Star-Bulletin reporter played a unique role on Dec. 7, 1941.
THE FIRST Japanese American to report for the Star-Bulletin, Larry Nakatsuka
was assigned in 1939 to cover Japanese news. Two years later, that included confronting the Japanese consul general: "Do you know that Japanese planes are bombing Pearl Harbor?"
That would stand out in the memory of Nakatsuka, who went on to be press secretary to the late Govs. Samuel Wilder King and William F. Quinn and assistant to the late Sen. Hiram L. Fong. Nakatsuka died Sunday at the age of 85.
Born on Kauai, Nakatsuka joined the Star-Bulletin straight out of St. Louis School as a "space writer" at 9 cents a column inch. He later reported on labor issues, was promoted to assistant city editor, and joined King's staff in 1953 following a year of study as the first Japanese American to win a Harvard University Nieman Fellowship. In 2002, the Asian American Journalists Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the Japanese consulate on Dec. 7, 1941, Nakatsuka would recall that the consul general, Nagao Kita, appeared surprised at his question, and said he thought the gunfire he heard came from American ships and planes on maneuver.
The reporter sped back to the Star-Bulletin's Merchant Street office to write his story and returned to the Japanese consulate in time to see police dousing flames from papers being burned. His article appeared in the second and third extra editions that afternoon.
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