Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu Interview
Narrator: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-utetsushi-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So we're going to start the second hour, and where we left off with your life was just around the time of Pearl Harbor, and then we sort of got off on a tangent talking about some of the MIS stories. But let's come back to your life, and why don't I start by asking, so December 7, 1941, why don't you describe to me that day and what happened to you?

TU: Sunday, December 7th was a Sunday. And we had a radio, Philco brand, and turned that thing on, and sure enough, Pearl Harbor was bombed. We didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. So all kinds of things settled in our minds. At first it's a shock, and so everything's kind of a blank. But then later on thinking about it, the war's started, and we may have to go back to Japan, and we would be fighting my brother who was already in the U.S. Army.

TI: So those kind of thoughts were going through your head?

TU: There you go.

TI: That they'd round up all the Japanese, send 'em back?

TU: Yeah. All kinds of wild thoughts come in. It's like a dream I guess. But at that age, I'm sixteen, yeah, sixteen, seventeen. So I had enough brains to think about these things. But then on the other hand, thought, well, Gene's in the army, U.S. Army, so we should be okay as Gene's family. But those are wishful thinking. [Laughs]

TI: So when you were thinking about that, did you think about things like, well, you're an American citizen so you should be okay? Maybe your parents, there might be something, were you thinking also along those lines?

TU: No, it never occurred to me; we would always be together. I wasn't afraid, but just wondered what could happen.

TI: And so what was it like the next day when you went to school?

TU: You know, that was interesting because the principal had called an assembly of the whole student body in the auditorium. And we listened to Roosevelt's speech, "Day of Infamy," etcetera. And everybody listened quietly, and then it finished, and I don't know if the principal said anything, but anyway, we were dismissed to go to our classes. And we're going to our classes, nobody said anything derogatory towards us, towards me anyway. I don't know if that was the same with the other guys or not, but in my case, my friends, they kept being friends with me.

TI; Well, do you recall the principal or any of the teachers saying anything though about... because you mentioned earlier there were quite a few Japanese in Loomis, anything about the treatment of Japanese Americans during this time?

TU: No. Oh, I should back up a little bit, Mr. Gates was the principal of the Loomis Union grammar school. Now, I hear later on that he had nothing against the Japanese because Japanese kids were good students. So he kind of stood up for us as I understand it. Now, I'm hearing this third-hand possibly. But anyway, he paid for that. I don't know if he got dismissed or anything like that, but anyway, he got into kind of hot water as far as the public was concerned.

TI: So it was kind of an environment that if you were viewed as pro-Japanese American, that that would be a negative thing, that I guess the whites would have to be careful in some ways, is what you're saying in terms of showing too much, they showed that they liked Japanese.

TU: Yeah. They put themselves on the spot if they did that. They'd be called "Jap lovers." But anyway, getting back to our assembly, when we went back to our classrooms, nobody said boo about the Japanese army doing what they did. Nobody took, said anything overtly to me. They might have held something in their mind, I don't know, but keep in mind that I was on the baseball team and at practice and so on, no problem there.

TI: So even the weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military had the military success and military victory after victory. And so I know there was a lot of fear on the West Coast about that. I mean, as that happened, was there more tension or anything else about that? Especially as people found out in terms of what the Japanese army was doing in the Philippines and different places like that? Was there more tension during that time?

TU: Not in our particular case. You know, up in Newcastle and Auburn, it was a little different, I guess. We walked down the stores, it might have been store that said, "No Japs." But on our farm, no problem. My friends were friends, we continued to play with each other. Nobody said, "I don't want to play with you," or anything like that.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.