Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Art Okuno Interview
Narrator: Art Okuno
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 1, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oart-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

KP: So do you remember December 7, 1941?

AO: I sure do.

KP: Okay, what were you doing? Can you kind of --

AO: I was studying for my finals and listening to my radio. There's no TV then. And then this broadcast comes over the radio saying the Imperial Japanese forces have attacked Pearl Harbor. And I said, wow. I was shocked, I guess, and I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was then, except it was somewhere in Hawaii, but... I guess my initial reaction was shock. Although, this is a, we used to have a summer Japanese school, and in one of my classes there was a Caucasian fellow there and we got to know each other, and we were talking and he said, "You know, if there's a war between Japan and United States," which was unthinkable to me, he said, "You are all gonna be put into a camp." His father was a colonel in the army. I said, "Oh, you're kidding." And it came about.

KP: And this was Japanese language school?

AO: Summer school. Yeah, he was in there studying Japanese. It turned out his father was a colonel and he knew what was going on.

KP: It's interesting, I don't think I've heard of, this was a Japanese language school in the summertime?

AO: Yes. They had, like, three, four weeks, about a month. Yeah.

KP: I don't think I've ever heard of a Caucasian being in the Japanese school.

AO: Oh, yeah. Well, I remember, remember this one fellow because I was conversing with him. Yeah, that was shocking to me.

KP: You don't happen to remember his name, do you?

AO: Boy. It was unbelievable what he said, you know, but...

Off camera: Can I ask a question?

KP: Sure.

Off camera: You said that war between the United States and the Empire of Japan was unthinkable.

AO: Right.

Off camera: So there was no sense of --

AO: Well, I didn't even -- pardon?

Off camera: You had no sense of any kind of leading up to war?

AO: No. No. I said, "You must be kidding." Yeah.

KP: Do you remember what, what year that was, like '40 or something? Two years before the war, three years before the war?

AO: Jeez. Yeah, it must've been, like, '38, '39 or something like that. Yeah.

KP: So --

Off camera: One other question, was there any awareness amongst your family or friends of the news that was going on, like with the war between Japan and China?

AO: No. There was war, Japan was invading China, but before then we heard about what's going on, but we never expected that it would affect us, American citizens of Japanese ancestry.

KP: So after you heard this radio broadcast, what did you do? Did you go tell the rest of your family, or did they know or -- you were at home?

AO: Yes. Oh yeah, I told them and, I don't know, I guess they were surprised, too, because it was a surprise attack.

Off camera: Art, had your family ever visited Japan before the war? Had you ever gone there?

AO: No. No, I've never gone. My parents never went. My mother was corresponding with her father, I remember that, and her father said, when I was born, that he was kind of pleased with that. That's about all I remember.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.