Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Hosokawa Interview
Narrator: Bill Hosokawa
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Daryl Maeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 13, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, now, you, you did write in one of your Out of the Frying Pan columns, "I feared the war in the Pacific would quickly turn into a race war. Overnight, people like us would no longer be seen as Americans but as dirty, sneaky, slant-eyed, yellow-bellied Japs and worse." And I'm wondering, do you think that other Japanese Americans shared your fear, or was this something that perhaps you had a heightened awareness?

BH: Well, it's, it's very difficult to generalize. There were some Japanese Americans who had no concern. And there other -- there were other ones who were very, very sensitive and fearful of what would happen. I think I was different in that I articulated that fear.

AI: Well, one thing that everyone who can remember that time seems to be able to articulate is what their reaction was on December 7th, 1941. What was your reaction when you heard about the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese?

BH: Well, I heard it from a friend who called me who'd been listening to the radio. And my immediate reaction was, "How could it be?" And then I said to myself, "It's really hit the fan. We're going to be in deep trouble, we Japanese Americans."

AI: When you -- when that occurred to you, what was going through your mind? What kind of trouble?

BH: Well, I knew what happened to the Germans in World War I. I was aware of the prejudice that Japanese Americans had experienced in our country here, even during the best of times. I was aware of the growing tension, the growing fear of Japanese militarism in the years that I was in Asia. And I was afraid that all of that would crystallize in feeling against us, because we looked like the enemy.

AI: Well, in fact, just the very next day, it must have been quite apparent because of the FBI's actions in picking up many of the Issei.

BH: Yes.

AI: Again, what -- did you immediately hear of and know of those arrests, and what was your thought?

BH: My recollection is that I was not aware of what was going on until I picked up the papers the next morning. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor there, the FBI were -- conducted raids all over Japanese American communities up and down the coast. And I guess there were several dozen people from Seattle picked up. And when I saw it in the paper, I think my first reaction was, "Geez, they're sure acting quickly on this." And, and then I began to wonder, "What is the need to pick up these poor old guys?" Yes, they were prominent in the Japanese American community. And yes, they had, they had very strong feelings about Japan and China. But I could not see them as being any kind of hazard, any kind of threat to the United States. But then I suppose I began to rationalize, saying, "Well, it's only natural for the United States to take precautionary steps like this." And I figured that they would release these people shortly. I knew they couldn't be spies, and they were certainly not saboteurs, they're just gray, old Issei, struggling to make a living. And I knew many of the people who were being picked up.

AI: Well, in some of my own research in looking at newspapers of that, of that week and a couple of the weeks shortly following that, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I noticed that in some of the newspapers, there were actually some positive statements made about Japanese Americans.

BH: Yes.

AI: Distinguishing Americans of Japanese ancestry from the Japanese --

BH: Yes.

AI: -- who were responsible for the bombing. And I'm wondering, from your point of view, having been there at that time, how did you experience what was happening in the newspapers and in the neighborhoods, reactions from white people, yourself during that period? The first few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

BH: Well, I did not have very many friends in the media in Denver -- in Seattle at that time there. A lot of things had happened since I had left Seattle. I wonder if you didn't look at -- see the papers some weeks after Pearl Harbor. The JACL established what was called the Emergency Defense Committee, and one of its functions was to try and change public opinion. And I was a sort of a head of that committee. And I would feed stories into the newspapers. I recall one full-page spread in the Seattle Times, pictures of Japanese Americans doing various things in the community. Peaceful, law-abiding, constructive people. The implication being, "How could these people be disloyal? How could they be saboteurs?"

And we were thinking of all kinds of ways to modify hostile public opinion. And one of the things I did was write to the fellow who, the cartoonist who ran, who worked, produced the Joe Palooka comic. And I asked him if he couldn't have a Japanese American soldier, Joe Palooka being friendly with a Japanese American soldier. And he did produce a panel which the Seattle Times ran. I was doing whatever I could to publicize the fact that, we were Americans. You had nothing to fear from us. "We are your neighbors. We have been born here, we live here, we work here, and we are as outraged as you are about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2001 Densho. All Rights Reserved.