Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grace Sugita Hawley Interview
Narrator: Grace Sugita Hawley
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 3, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-hgrace-01-0005

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MA: So then you were, let's see, ten years old when Pearl Harbor happened in December 7th. And can you tell me about your memories of that day?

GH: Well, I remember going to my cousin's house because I wanted to show him the Christmas tree my dad had put up the night before. It was a little early when you think about it, December 7th, it's early for Christmas tree. My dad liked to trim the tree, and so he did it the night before, I went to get him. And then we heard all this, sounded like rocks falling on the corrugated roof next door, and our cotton factory had corrugated roof. Sounded like rocks, and it turned out there were shrapnels from the planes. Then we saw planes flying overhead. I took my, I think I took my cousin home, I was so scared. And then finally my father woke up, he thought the kids were throwing rocks at the roof there. And turned on the radio, we found out that we were being attacked. But I saw the airplane with the Japanese pilots. They were that close, because we were, Kalihi is pretty close to that Pearl Harbor, Hickam, that area, 'cause it's close to airport. 'Cause right after airport is Hickam. So the planes, they were flying overhead. I can remember, I can remember those. And because the shrapnels fell, they must have been still shooting at somebody, at other planes, maybe. But all I knew in my ten-year-old mind is that, "Oh, they're gonna land and shoot us and kill us." That's all I thought. I was so scared, I ran into the house. And so that's when our lives changed.

MA: And what did your parents do that day? What was their reaction?

GH: Well, I guess it was shock for everybody. It was a shock that it was happening. And I don't remember too much except we couldn't go out. I can't remember too much what happened that day. It's a good question.

MA: What about right after that, there was, martial law was declared in Hawaii. Can you talk about that a little bit?

GH: That I don't understand too much about because I don't think it was instantly. I don't think it was right away that day. Eventually they did, but then they, that's right, and then they said they had to enforce blackout, and everything had to be black. So no light could penetrate because of the air raids, night raids, they don't want nighttime raid. So everything had to be painted, the windows had to be painted. And then in school, when we went back to school, it was, they had to issue us gas masks. I still remember now, this long, we had to go through practice sessions and wear the gas masks. Oh, it's suffocating, but we had to learn how to wear it. We had to carry it with us everywhere we went, because we just never knew when we would be attacked and we were gonna need it. And then they had to build air raid shelters. The schools build air raid shelters and homes, all the homes had to built air raid shelters. Every home had to have one. And so... 'cause there were quite a few false alarms. One time I remember we were walking to the theater nearby and we heard the alarm, air raid alarm, and we ran home for our dear life. Because at that time, people, it was so real already, after that December 7th, that we get so excited just to hear that thing, the alarm going on. And so anyway, I still remember that time, we ran, ran, ran home. But when we go to school, we had to carry gas -- everywhere we went, we had to carry our gas mask. But we never really had another raid. We never had another raid. But then, we were there... yeah, I guess we were there a year later, we went to the mainland. For one year, we lived through the war. And so then for my mother, of course it was harder. I didn't understand that much.

MA: You were so young, ten years old.

GH: Fifth grade, I guess, ten, fifth grade.

MA: Do you remember maybe in school or sort of around town, feeling, like, singled out because you were Japanese or anything like that?

GH: No, I don't think so. I don't think it was that, because in Hawaii, there's so many Japanese people. And we were not minority, we were not minority. So we didn't have that feeling, not that I can remember.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.