Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: James T. Johnston - William R. Johnston - Dorothy J. Whitlock Interview
Narrators: James T. Johnston, William R. Johnston, Dorothy J. Whitlock
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Sedona, Arizona
Date: April 16, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-jjames_g-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: Do you have memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor or learning of it?

DW: Oh, I do.

KL: What are your memories of it?

DW: I just remember, first I remember there was a lot of silence and tension and all radios were running. And then I remember actually hearing the President's voice. But I was still just encompassing it, but I knew it was serious and major and scary. I do remember that. And then when we lived in the camp, weekly, we did see newsreels of all the war events.

WJ: We stayed up with the war progress, both in the Pacific and in Europe. You know, as a second and third grader, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention, talk about the bombs blow up, and then films of that. But I didn't understand the hate that everyone was feeling for the Japanese. I was going to school with them every day, and they're just folks. Some of 'em couldn't speak English, that was a handicap, but most of 'em did.

KL: Among the children, too?

WJ: Yes. There were a few kids that did not speak any.

DW: Oh, I don't remember any kids that didn't speak English in my class.

WJ: There were some in mine. Maybe they just didn't want to talk to me, I don't know. [Laughs]

DW: I was gonna say, this is the way they would really get to you in the minority status. Most of the kids went to school all day, the Japanese children, and then they would go to Japanese classes at night if they were short on Japanese. Because the grandparents that were with them were totally all Japanese-speaking. So they kept up with the language to communicate with their own family. And when they wanted to shut you out, they'd speak Japanese and they'd giggle and point to you, and you don't know what they were saying. But they were just making fun of you. Kids are kids.

KL: Yeah, yeah. A secret language is the best thing.

DW: So you learn real quick, okay, I'm the oddball out here.

KL: Where was the Japanese language school? Was it in the school buildings?

DW: I think they had them just in the... no, it was private with families, and all the kids did not go, but some did, I know. Because most of the, even in the fourth and fifth, were fluent, or at least they were when they wanted to be around me. It could have been bad and I wouldn't have known the difference.

WJ: They might have been speaking terrible Japanese, but the other kids understood, and then we didn't know what they were saying.

DW: Right, exactly.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.