Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura Interview
Narrator: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-keugene-01-0013

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TI: So where we left off after the first hour was right before December 7, 1941. So let's, let's go to that date, Sunday, December 7, 1941. Can you describe where you were when you first heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

EK: Yeah, I was at home doing homework. My mother was correcting some Japanese school test papers and so forth, and we heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by Japanese. I was incredulous. How in the heck do they, would this happen? How can they, what shall I say, hope to antagonize, or rather to take on America with its vast resources and so forth? So that, in a sense, we didn't believe it, we didn't want to believe it. But then the newscasts kept on repeating it and substantiating the fact that it was not only at Pearl Harbor, but in Philippines and so forth. So I think I greeted the news with wonderment, fear, apprehension, the whole spectrum and so forth. And then we looked outside and we saw neighbors who had never been too friendly with each other talking about it and so forth. So even at the young age, I felt, "Hey, my life's gonna change." But, by the same token, we said to ourselves, "Look, we're American citizens. We were born here. I feel sorry for our parents, but the government wouldn't -- not shouldn't -- but wouldn't do anything to native-born Japanese." So that seemed to allay our feelings, which was totally wrong.

TI: Because you, at this point, you were in college, so you had --

EK: Yeah, sophomore at the University of Washington.

TI: Right, so you had studied civics, the Constitution and all that. So as a U.S. citizen, you felt that you would be protected by the laws, the Constitution of our country. So let's talk about, say, the next day when you went to school.

EK: Yeah.

TI: What was it like going to school? Did you notice anything different in terms of...

EK: Yeah. In our carpool, there were four Niseis, you know. I think it was four or five Niseis. And as we stopped at a stoplight, people, Caucasians in the cars often would look, pointed at us and so forth. So it made us feel uncomfortable. And when we went to the university... what happened now? They said that the class would be suspended temporarily while we listened to President Roosevelt come out with his "Day of Infamy" speech. And then when that happened, they were saying that there was a state of war. I'd say that the vast majority of students did not display much emotion, but there were some that were very sympathetic, very understanding, said, "Hey, this is kind of tough on you guys, isn't it?" and so forth. On the other hand, there were others which were just, did show their innate racial hatred and so forth, but we tried to ignore them. Because we kept on listening, remembering our parents' admonition of shikata ga nai, don't rock the boat, and so forth. But it was very uncomfortable. Then came Executive 9066, was it --

TI: Well, even before we get there, talking about, or thinking about your experiences that summer where you were in Sitka, you saw the barracks, you were questioned coming into Seattle, and then Pearl Harbor, I think in the last section you mentioned that it kind of, you were thinking that something perhaps was happening more than what you were just hearing over the radio. That perhaps there might have been more information that, in terms of, perhaps, what the U.S. government had been doing or whatever. But were those the kind of things that you were thinking at this time, or did this happen much later? At what point did you starting maybe questioning what you heard on the radio versus the reality of what was going on?

EK: Well, the thing that sort of surprised me was that the Japanese technically were able to do this, traveling over vast distances, and the fact that the U.S. was totally nprepared -- not totally, the U.S. servicemen and certain leaders like the Short and so forth in Hawaii, were not informed that war or something would happen. This was all after it happened, after I kept on reading things and so forth. So that, in essence, in the back of mind was, "Hey, maybe I wasn't wrong about that four months ago." But I wouldn't go advertising the fact that, hey, I saw things going on in Sitka. But to myself, I said, "Hey, this is part of the whole scheme of things." And this whole scheme of things were revealed in Kashima's book, too, that the plans were, plans were drawn up twenty years ago to get rid of us.

TI: Right. And how did you feel about when the press, the media kept saying over and over again that there were spies and saboteurs within the, the Japanese community?

EK: I didn't believe it.

TI: Okay, so when you read that, you just said, "That's not true," or did you think, "Oh maybe there are some." What were you thinking?

EK: No, I didn't say that. I think that those people who were responsible were trying to find a scapegoat.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.