Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Bob Utsumi Interview
Narrator: Bob Utsumi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: July 31, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ubob-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So let's talk then about December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and your memories of that day and how you heard about the, the news.

BU: Okay. I was, on December 7th, at that time, I was in a local theater. And it was Sunday, and a couple of us, I forgot who I was with, we were in a local theater in Oakland, and we... I don't recall them interrupting the movie, but others say they did, but I don't recall that. But what I do recall was walking home from the theater back to the studio. I remember these newspaper boys, at that time they had boys selling newspapers on the street corners yelling, "Extra, extra, read all about it," type of things, and "Japs bomb Pearl Harbor." Couple things about that, "Japs," I never liked that term, I always took offense to it, bombed Pearl Harbor, but where was Pearl Harbor? I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was until I got home and, of course, no TV then. We, my folks had the radio on, and then found out that... well, soon as we found that out, that "Japs bombed Pearl Harbor," I knew things weren't good, and I just kind of had a sinking feeling, I remember. And then later on, got home, and I don't know, all kinds of reaction. Even though I'm Sansei, it just felt that my (ancestors) betrayed me by bombing Pearl Harbor, you know, bombing the United States. And I remember having that kind of a feeling, mixed feeling. And then fear because right after that (when) the war as it progressed went to the Philippines. And of course, we had a lot of Filipino -- not a lot, but we had Filipinos in that Chinatown area. And we had these blackouts, and at one of the blackouts, while we're in the studio, we heard the front plate glass window break, and went out there, and there was this pool ball that somebody had thrown through the plate glass window.

MA: Did you feel from the Filipino community that there was some ill feelings?

BU: We assumed that it was. Never proved that, but we just assumed it was because the Filipinos were, they were taking a beating in the South Pacific at that time. And this was not December 7th but sometime after that. And sometime, during one of the blackouts, there were a couple of incidents out in the Stockton area somewhere where somebody got shot and killed. But there wasn't an awful lot of it, but just enough to scare the heck out of you. So we were always, you know... oh, then I had one incident that scared the heck out of me, was again, downtown Oakland, and I ran into one of my elementary school buddies, Bill Smith. And I'm... was he in uniform? I forgot now. I think he was in uniform. Anyway, Bill and I were just talking there on the street, and some drunk comes up to me, sailor I believe now, he grabs my arm. And he says, "You a Jap?" And I said, "No," and ran, broke away and ran like heck. Scared the heck out of me. But that, that's the only overt incident that I experienced while in Oakland.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.