Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Daniel Inouye Interview
Narrator: Sen. Daniel Inouye
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Beverly Kashino (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 30, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-idaniel-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's now jump forward now to December 7th, 1941, the day that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and let's talk specifically about your experiences as a young man, I believe, eighteen years old at that time.

DI: I was seventeen at that time and a senior in high school. I was well aware of the events of 1922 and '24. And although our neighbors were very friendly and understanding, when the news of December the 7th finally hit me and I realized what had happened, I sort of concluded that the end of the world was here as far as our future is concerned. Because after all, the men who piloted those planes looked like us, looked like me. And who knows, some may have been related, cousins or something like that, because I do have relatives in Japan, all of us have. So it was a difficult time, but our neighbors accepted us. They understood the problems that we had. They felt sorry for us that we were singled out for special treatment by the FBI. And I was, believe it or not, an employee of the federal government soon after December the 7th. I was a member of the first aid station and had been training for over a year. For some reason we anticipated problems in Hawaii. In fact, on December the 7th there were bomb shelters already built so it was wasn't anything new, and we were already training for over a year on how to participate in mass injuries or mass evacuations. And so when December the 7th came, the aid station was already established, and I was put on the federal payroll as a member of the civil defense agency.

TI: And describe what was happening at the aid stations after the attack.

DI: Well, I've been told -- I have no way of documenting this -- I may very likely have picked up the first civilian dead of December the 7th. What had happened in the hysteria of the initial bombing when our anti-aircraft units went into operation, I think some of the men got so excited that they forgot to put the timer on. See, these shells have to be timed so that it will burst at a certain height, and if the planes are coming in at so many feet, you set it up for that height. Well, there were, I would say, about ten shells during that period that somehow failed to have these timers and many of them fell in our neighborhood, and so the aid station in which I worked was called upon to do the work. And I led the stretcher team that picked up this elderly Japanese lady who was just having her breakfast at that time, I think, oblivious to the fact that an attack was in progress, and a shell just went through the roof and sliced her head.

TI: I mean, probably at that moment you couldn't think about this, but do you ever reflect back on the ironies of, in the planes the pilots were Japanese, and perhaps the first is a civilian, this is the first time I've heard this, was a Japanese.

DI: My first reaction as a young man was anger to think that my future was now destroyed because of the stupid act on the part of the Japanese. I was like most people, I had no idea as to what was happening diplomatically, and I had no idea as to whether such justification existed. All I knew is that these people who looked like me, dropped those bombs and, therefore, had an impact on my future, which it did.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.