Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Fred Korematsu Interview
Narrator: Fred Korematsu
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: November 15, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-kfred-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about Pearl Harbor? How did you feel?

FK: Well, I was shocked. And at that time I was with my girlfriend, she was Caucasian. And it was Sunday morning, and we were in a car up on the hill looking down at the Bay Area, we were deciding what to do, you know. It was a nice Sunday morning, the sun was shining, it was nice, and if we should go on a picnic or what, you know, that day. And then this came out on the radio about the Pearl Harbor attack. And it was quite a shock to me, you know, just couldn't believe it.


Q: Fred, what was your reaction when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

FK: I was up on the hill on Sunday. It happened on Sunday, December the 7th. And I was up on the hill with my girlfriend, Sunday morning, and we were deciding what to do, it was such a nice day, either go picnicking or something like that. And then it came on the air, the car radio. And I was quite shocked, we both were. In fact, we were practically numb from hearing it. And it just completely spoiled the whole day, everything. It just... knowing that we had to get home. And so I took her home and then I went home. And my parents were all shocked, they were all sitting around the living room. And the thing that I was bitter of is that Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. You know, "Why'd they do such a thing?" And you know, in a way, I was wishing that if some country was gonna attack Pearl Harbor, that I wish it was Russia. I just thought about that. Because we've been having problems with Russia all, ever since that time, and I was hoping that something like that happened to Russia and then now we wouldn't have the problem like this if we went to war with Russia instead. But this happened, and I was bitter with Japan for having this happen. So I just didn't know what was gonna happen at that time, the Pearl Harbor attack. But I was just miserable anyway, 'cause the future looked so black. Does that answer your question?

Q: How did the attack affect you or your family? Were there changes in your life and can you tell us about them?

FK: How did it... repeat that question?

Q: How did the attack on Pearl Harbor, you know, that incident, affect you and did it have any effect on your lifestyle or your working or anything in the family?

FK: Well, that time, let's see... my dad had a business, the flower business. And doing business was awful hard to do then on. And since we were right next to the nursery, I mean, next to the foundry, within a few days after that they put spotlights on the whole nursery at night. And they had a guard standing right near our home there, right around the fence there, and watching us. 'Cause I went out one time to, one night, to have a cigarette, you know, I was standing on the porch and then I lit a cigarette. And the guard, the person in the foundry yelled out if I was signaling somebody. Ridiculous. And, but it affected my life because, you know, the future, I mean, I couldn't see what I could do. There wasn't anything that I can do in the future since there was so much racial hatred after that, of the Japanese.

Q: Could you tell us of any incidents, racial incidents that you can remember?

FK: Well, I've heard that, I think out in the country where some Japanese farmers were, some cars went by and shot at the house. And during the curfew, whoever went out, people were watching every... it was not only our house. Any Japanese home, there was some person figuring he's a good American citizen by doing our duties, and they were watching every move each family were doing. Or if they went out, they followed them to see where they were going. So that's, that's how it was.

Q: How did it affect the community, the Japanese American community?

FK: Well, I don't know too much about that, because I decided to leave after that, away from the family. Because there was so much sadness, you know, this happened, and so much worry because here they lived most of their life at the nursery and so forth in this country, and they were proud of being Japanese, you know. And they obey the law and they did what should be right, they did everything they're supposed to and then whatever they can help other people. And then they concentrate on raising the family and just a normal life. And to have this happen, it put them into shame and so forth. It was even hard to talk to them after that. When the evacuation notice came, they had to worry about what they were gonna take and what they could take, and what was gonna happen to the nursery. So all those things... and they had to do it, and they only were given a certain amount of time to do all that before they were pushed into camp. And so especially my mother, worrying about everything, and the children and all, too. Whatever my problems were, they just didn't have time for me. I had problems myself. I was, I was twenty-one then, and I had, when you were that age, you have a girlfriend and all that, you know, just like anybody else. And she was more important to me than anything else, too, at that time, at that age. So we didn't know what to do. And in order to think clearly and so forth, I had to get away from them, and I, when the evacuation order came, I told them that I would like to leave ahead of time, you know, and maybe to go out of state before this happened. And they said if I can do it, go ahead. So I decided to leave on my own.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.