Military Intelligence Service
December 7, 1941
As Yoshiaki prepares to play softball, he sees smoke and planes above Pearl Harbor. He and his friends drive to a park for a better view. There, from radio reports, he learns of the attack.
Yoshiaki and other members of the university ROTC are inducted into the Hawaii Territorial Guard (HTG).
His thoughts on Japan: "I suppose I have, in the back of my mind, a kind of connection with the enemy, through our folks. . . .But, still, they were our enemy."
I was a sophomore. And on December 8, Monday, our archery class was going to have a kind of tournament. I remember that because it never came. But we were looking forward to it.
On that Sunday, December 7, I was in the YBA [Young Buddhists Association] - junior YBA softball league and so we were going to have a game that day. I was dressed in my red sweatshirt, must have had a name and stuff. And I had corduroy trousers and I was barefooted, ready to go play softball.
And then, the bombing started early in the morning. And we thought, "Wow, gee, they must be having a great maneuver out there." And so we went out and looked at Pearl Harbor side and there was a black column of smoke going on out there and a lot of things flying around. And so, "Wow, this is great."
So I corralled all the kids around that area and got into our Studebaker Roadster - it's a small car - and then dashed out to Ala Moana Park. And from there, we looked, you could see Pearl Harbor. And wow, they had a lot of stuff going on out there.
We didn't think it was war or anything, it was a great maneuver. Then gradually, it dawned on us that something was not quite right. I think there must have been a car radio, I don't remember. There must have been. But the radio said that there were attacking planes with the insignia of the rising sun on it.
And my thinking was, "Wow, why are they beating around the bush?" I mean, they can't say it's a Japanese plane. Maybe it's just part of the ruse, this maneuver, and therefore, they're not really saying it's a Japanese plane. But I remember the announcer simply said it had the mark of the rising sun.
Then later on, it was more clear, they said Pearl Harbor is being attacked by Japanese planes. Gradually, we sort of accepted the fact that this was war.
But I didn't fully accept that because when the radio announced the call for the ROTC, university ROTC students to show up there, I said, "Okay." And then from Moiliili, I walked up to the ROTC shed over there, barefooted. Maybe that was the way I used to dress all the time. But anyway, I attribute that to my disbelief. I mean, I didn't think it was the real thing.
Hawaii Territorial Guard
When we came up to the university and reported, the cadre there gave us the old rifle that we used for our drills, 1903 Springfield - five rounds, bolt action. Real obsolete weapon but they gave that to us and said, "Okay, put the firing pin into it." And so we all put the firing pin into the weapon. And then we were inducted into the Hawaii Territorial Guard.
Because I had had ROTC at McKinley High School, I was appointed corporal, the squad leader. And my superior, the company non-com leader, was Ted Tsukiyama. He was our topkick, first sergeant. And so I would joke about that, mo atama ga agaranai. He's been my superior ever since that time.
We were then assigned to different places. And at one time, my squad was billeted at the pumping station by Kapahulu and Waialae [avenues]. Or is that Harding [Avenue]? Yeah, Harding. I think we spent one night there.
Another time, we were billeted at Dillingham Building. Our assignment was to walk the pier, the Honolulu Harbor. And it was at that time that that story arose. Some clever person began to tell a story that on the day after Pearl Harbor, a troop ship came into the harbor and it was filled with marines.
When the boat docked, the marines, some of them, came up to the bow of the ship and looked over and saw us walking up and down. So this one guy nudged the other and said, "Hey Mac, we're too late." (Laughter) Well, I keep on telling that story. I know other guys know it, but they don't like to talk about it that way.
That's called Likelike Way or something like that. Walking over there. And my assignment was from midnight to morning. And we just walked up and down and we were told to say, "Halt, who goes there?" that kind of stuff. But anyway, we were doing that. And then morning came and people began to come to work. And they were digging some trenches, in the library grounds. And these guys, non-niseis, looked at us very suspiciously, antagonistically. I remember that. The sense of fear. But to them, we sure looked like the enemy.
We joked about a lot of things. Like when we went on duty, the person going off duty would pull out the six - I mean the five rounds of bullets and give it to the next person. And then we put it in, and then we guard, and then when we go off, we give the five rounds to the next guy. And so somebody began to ask, "Now, if the enemy should come, and you shoot your five bullets, then what's going to happen after that?" And the answer is, probably just have to hightail it. You have to run like hell.
At least you have five rounds. But just even thinking about it, if you're under fire, five rounds will be gone in a minute. But we never thought beyond that. I guess we were kids. I was only eighteen then. And so even this was just like war games.
[We were instructed to look for] anything suspicious. And so I remember at Dillingham Building, somebody found a laundry slip. And then, oh, I think the officers we gave that to, spent a long time trying to figure out what that laundry slip was. (Chuckles) It looks suspicious.
Thoughts on Japan and Possible Invasion
[W]e had really no idea of what we were looking for. In fact, one of the earliest skirmishes, so to speak, of the HTG, Hawaii Territorial Guard, was a squad was sent up to St. Louis Heights because there was some kind of rumor that the Japanese had landed, that the enemy had landed there. And so, maybe was Ted or somebody who led this group up there and they found nothing. And so we had no idea what we were looking for. Anything unnatural, unfamiliar. And, of course, we heard reports about the submarine out in Waimanalo, and the submarine in Pearl Harbor, outside Pearl Harbor, stuff like that. So we knew the enemy was around, but. . .I don't know, maybe I've just forgotten all of those things completely.
I know one of the fellows in my squad once complained to me that he expected me to be wide awake and alert while they can take naps and rest, and so on. When actually, I was the one dozing off and (chuckles) not being a good leader. And so we were all kids, you know.
[T]he attack was sneaky. Although I think it wasn't intended to be, according to that movie Tora! Tora! Tora! But there might have been some justification, the fact that the Japanese government was being - I think the oil supplies were being curtailed and things like that. They seem to have been pushed to a very bad situation and they had to retaliate violently, perhaps. I mean, that kind of stories going around.
But the fact that Japan, of all countries, would attack us, whose folks are from Japan, this was not a very good thing. I don't know, I suppose I have, in the back of my mind, a kind of connection with the enemy, through our folks. So the anger might not have been as strong as in a person who had no such relationship. I think I tried to understand, though, a little bit more, why this had to happen.
But still, they were our enemy.
Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani.