Today, December 7, 2013, marks he 72nd anniversary of the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor that began the official entry of the United States into WWII.
Today is also thirty-seven years since my father died at age eighty-eight. He was a young twelve-year old immigrant from Okinawa to Hawaii when it was still a U.S. territory, and labored in the sugar plantations of Paia, Maui, later in Waialua and Kahuku on Oahu, before deciding to become an independent truck farmer in Kahaluu, Oahu. Ironically, his little known province of Japan was the focus of a major battle, the Battle of Okinawa, and now that island is an important American base.
Two weeks ago on Nov, 22nd, the fiftieth commemoration of the assassination of President John F Kennedy was observed and older adults who were then children reminisced of the day when the tragedy occurred.
That had me recalling the death of President Franklin D. Rosevelt in April, l945, when I was in the third grade at Waiahole School. FDR is the president who declared, “a Day of Infamy” of the December 7th attack. The principal came into our classroom at mid-morning and tearfully announced, “The President died today and you may all go home.”
In that era when few rural homes had telephones, nor were parents informed of anything such as that news as they now are, nor the bus company called, we all packed up our books and began walking home, a distance of three miles for me and my siblings. The narrow, two-lane highway hugged the coastline and there were no sidewalks but only a narrow shoulder on one side where we could walk. There were several dangerous curves, and army trucks and jeeps rumbled by often as they drove toward training grounds at the North Shore.
The December 7th attack resulted in martial law declared for the entire territory, a requirement to carry gas masks, register for ID cards with finger prints, get typhoid immunizations, war bond assembles, black out curtains in homes, military patrols at night, rationing and other restrictions we youngsters did not know or were blase about.
We of Japanese descent had FBI searches of our homes, and some of our classmates were children of Japanese men interned in unknown locations as suspects possibly disloyal to the United State merely because of their employment as professionals who had been educated in Japan, or Buddhist priests or fishermen. One we knew personally was the Japanese language teacher whose family lived in our community and were loyal to the United States as anyone else. And we only heard whispers of Pacific Coast Japanese relocated into camps in the deserts and swamps of the interior states. It was not until I was an adult that we learned anything about the ten “relocation camps” nor knew anyone who had experienced it.
It was many years later before they were given token amounts of money to compensate for the years lost, and a formal apology from the government for summarily having had their civil rights taken away. Yet, most of those persons we have personally become friends with are not bitter and have overcome their ordeal and led successful lives after the war.
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