232nd Combat Engineer Company
December 7, 1941
That Sunday morning while at his defense job, Hichiro sees planes flying in formation coming from the north.
The planes circle Pearl Harbor and drop bombs.
From Red Hill, Hichiro witnesses the attack: "But, it's something, really, you don't want to see."
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
That Sunday morning — the attack was right after eight o’clock, I’m pretty sure it was. Because we were working — that was a Sunday morning — and we were building the concrete crusher, the defense job.
And as we went up the conveyor belt — what do you call that bridge or whatever that goes to the rock crusher tower? — we saw planes, plenty planes, flying in formation, coming from the north side, Kahuku end of Oahu.
And before you knew it, they were circling Pearl Harbor. The raid was on, they started bombing Pearl Harbor. And at first, we were thinking, “It’s kind of funny being a Sunday morning that early, and then so many planes flying.”
Before you knew it, the bombs start falling on the ships and Ford Island.
Then we think, “Who the hell,” you know. And then some guys said, “Oh, Japan plane,” because they saw the red ball [rising sun insignia] under the wing. And then everybody got excited.
Then no work was done. When a war’s going on, something like that, you drop everything and we went up to the main area of Red Hill. And then, all us local boys, and then plenty haole workers from the Mainland, from there, we saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
And the bombing lasted for some time. Planes keep flying, drop their bomb. And another wave came, they dropped their bombs, too. And that they, simultaneously, they attacked Hickam Field, which is close to Pearl Harbor. And Wheeler Field was bombed, too. But that, we heard later from the reports. But it’s something, really, you don’t want to see.
But like the Japanese say, "Things like that, sho ga nai [can’t be helped]."
[T]he radio was going on and then when you see something like that, you more or less can make out for yourself. And they dropping bombs. I think one of the first ships they hit was [USS] Arizona. And that ship was sunk in, ooh, no time, with all that sailors being on the ship, being a Sunday morning.
Reaction to Attack
Some guys said that they kind of felt ashamed, your people coming here and they attack Pearl Harbor, especially it was a sneak attack. But I didn’t quite feel that way, being an American. Because I was in the twenties already, I was just about a full-grown man, and so that’s about it. So, and then, like come back to sho ga nai, they our people but different country.
I had only my mother [at that time] because my dad passed away already. But the thing is, I know she took it bad. Because let’s face it, they’re the old people, their mind and everything is, the old country style.
And when they called up volunteers [for U.S. military service], we had five boys, and all five volunteered. She didn’t question us. Because I know for myself that quite a few families, the mom told the kids, “Why did you volunteer?” So that, I’m really glad that my mom didn’t ask us that question.
[N]ot too much changed [after the war started]. But the only thing, every night we had to stay home. You cannot go out. But one thing I was glad, I never get girlfriend yet. (Laughter)
Because how many guys my age, the age for getting ready to get married, yeah. What they going to do? Those poor guys, they say, oh, they cannot go here, they cannot go there, and all that.
Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of National Archives.