Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview
Narrator: Hank Shozo Umemoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 30, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-uhank-01-0013

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TI: Okay, so Hank, we're gonna start the second portion. In the first hour we really talked about your, your childhood, little bit about your family, so let's go to December 7, 1941. And at this point you're, I think, about thirteen years old?

HU: Twelve.

TI: Twelve?

HU: Let's see, December, yeah, thirteen. Right.

TI: Yeah, you just probably had turned thirteen.

HU: Yeah, turned thirteen.

TI: So tell me, on December 7, 1941 what, what can you remember about that day?

HU: It was about ten o' clock, the family, they were out on the farm working and I was listening to the radio, and they said, "the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor." And I didn't know what they were talking about, Pearl Harbor, so I went to Ben and say, "Hey, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Where's Pearl Harbor?" He said, "Hell if I know." So nobody knew what, what Pearl Harbor was, so I still remember that day. And then after that the rumors start flying, Japan's gonna win this war in couple of months, that kind of stuff. [Laughs]

TI: So when you say those rumors, can you remember how you heard about those rumors, where those rumors were coming from?

HU: Issei people. They used to listen to the shortwave, before they, before it got confiscated. Shortly after the war we had to turn in our things like, I remember we turned in two cameras, twenty-two rifle, twelve gauge shotgun, and we were supposed to turn in the shortwave radio, but in those days they had tubes and they had coil for shortwave, so all we did was unplug the coil and hide 'em.

TI: I'm curious, going back to those Isseis who talked about Japan winning the war, things like that, when they said that was it, do you remember, was it a sense of excitement or confidence? How would you describe the feeling that, the Isseis when they thought Japan was gonna win the war?

HU: I think they were pretty confident that, they would listen to shortwave radio and it's all propaganda, so they were just convinced that it's gonna be over in a very short time. And then of course, I guess the Niseis, I don't think they got, had the same feelings.

TI: So what were you thinking? So here you just grew up in America, you hear about Japan, people are talking about Japan winning the war, what did you think at this point?

HU: I thought Japan was gonna win the war because the Isseis were talking so much about it and they were so confident about it.

TI: So how did that make you feel, thinking, well, if Japan beats the United States, what would that mean to you?

HU: You know, I really didn't think that far ahead. I would just, I was more interested in playing and fooling around and war was just secondary. It's beyond my interest.

TI: Now, did you notice any changes in the community, in the, right after December 7th or even on a day, like, there were FBI pickups, did you know about any of these things?

HU: Yeah, there was a guy named Mr. Inoue, he had, he was a veteran, he was Issei, but quite a few Isseis were in the U.S. Army before, during World War I. He had part of his nose clipped off by German, a bullet. He was veteran. He was one of the first to be taken away. He was among the few thousand, there were two thousand on the FBI list before even, the war even started, and so he was one of the first guys to be taken away. There was another guy, I think his name was Ono, I think he was a sort of a community leader among the community, that community, and also there were, there was a Japanese teacher, he got taken away, so just in our community they were taken away. Of course, in Florin there were, merchants were just taken away during the first --

TI: So I'm curious, you mentioned the first gentleman who's a World War I veteran, Mr. Inoue, do you know why he was selected?

HU: He was a leader among the, among the Taishoku group, he was one of the important person. He was more the leader of, of the community, because he had that World War I background and I think, I guess he was a little more educated and so he was one of the leaders.

TI: You would think that a veteran, a World War I U.S. Army veteran would not be picked up.

HU: Right, but they, they didn't, they didn't care. They just picked up whatever.

TI: And so what, did you have a sense of what the community felt when these men were being taken away?

HU: No, not really, but I remember one thing, the day after Pearl Harbor Japanese school closed down. We didn't have to go to Japanese school, so I was happy that I didn't have to go to Japanese school. That's one thing good about it, I remember.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.