Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

FA: Where were you when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

SS: Well then, I was in Seattle at that time. I remember that morning I was playing golf on the Jefferson Golf Course and I didn't know the war had started. I started around 7 o'clock that morning Seattle time and I got home around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. First time my mother told me. She said, "Shosuke, senso hajimemattayo."

FA: "War has broken out."

SS: Yeah, war has broken -- we were expecting it. And that, that was a cruel period where the U.S. was throwing every possible impediment into the economic success of the Japanese, both based in Japan and the Japanese here.

FA: I know you believe that the U.S. provoked war with Japan.

SS: Oh, that's absolutely no question. That's a fact of history. The U.S. was doing everything possible to provoke a war. They wanted, the U.S. wanted to get into the European war and the pacifist feeling in this country was so strong that they pulled the most successful trick in forcing Japan into a position where she had to strike first.

FA: And how did the U.S. do that?

SS: Well, the U.S. cut off all trade and most of all, the thing that forced Japan to strike Pearl Harbor, was the U.S. also got China, Holland and other countries that might have supplied her with oil, she had them cut all trade with Japan. So when she struck Pearl Harbor, Japan had only forty days of oil left. And for the relative weakness of Japan, well, the United States was rich. Japan knew good and well that they couldn't replace their losses. And I remember in those days, I used to read Japanese and English, Japanese newspapers, so I knew exactly how the Japanese felt. And the Japanese were practically on their knees begging Uncle Sam to ease up because they knew they couldn't win a war because of Japan's lack of resources and Yamamoto knew that. He said, "The first year I'll run wild with our Navy, but after the first year, the losses will start to hurt." That's exactly what happened.


FA: Shosuke, when your mother told you that, "Shosuke, war has broken out." How did she tell you? Was she crying, was she shaking?

SS: No, she wasn't shaking. Oh no, my mother was a, she was a proud samurai daughter.

FA: How did she tell you?

SS: Well, she just, when I came in she just, "Shosuke, senso ga hajimemattayo." You know, when she said that, I knew what had happened.

FA: And how did you react?

SS: I reacted with pride. I thought, well, Japan has, the United States has been insulting Japan in every possible way and the Japanese have decided to stop accepting American insults every day like that. And I thought my feeling was one of pride. I knew that Japan didn't have a Chinaman's chance of winning. But at least she would be going down fighting.

FA: If you reacted with pride, Shosuke, the U.S. government interned all Japanese Americans because of suspicions about their loyalty...

SS: Well, what do you expect when I had only a Japanese citizenship? I was born and brought up there during the youngest years and I did not expect Japan to win the war. I felt that economically, she was so overmatched by American resources that Japan would lose the war unless they could come to some kind of a negotiated settlement. That was the thing I was hoping and praying for.

FA: But if you were proud Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, wasn't then, the U.S. government right to incarcerate you?

SS: No, no.

FA: Why not?

SS: Because I would not have been able to... I would not have done anything to harm this country.

SF: You went to "Camp Harmony."

SS: Yeah.

SF: If you were an Issei, why didn't you get to sent to a Department of Justice internment camp like the other Isseis were sent to?

SS: Well, because I was relatively young yet. I was actually the youngest of the Issei, really.

FA: He was also not named on the lists that the Department of Justice had when they had the round-up for the Issei and only the community leaders of the Issei were picked up and interned in Department of Justice camps.

SS: Also, the, I had a reputation in Seattle of being a law-abiding boy that was very loyal and helpful to his mother.

FA: How old were you at the time of Pearl Harbor?

SS: Well, let's see... thirty. That was '42, wasn't it?

FA: 1941.

SS: '41. Well, I was born in 1912. So I was twenty-nine or thirty.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.