Janet Matsumoto
A Different View

Forced Evacuation

On December 30, 1941, the U.S. Navy orders the Segawas to vacate their home in Kolo.

Packing nothing else but their clothing, the family drives to Kaunakakai, Molokai.

Aboard a tugboat for two nights, they are finally allowed to sail when a convoy arrives.

In Honolulu, the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] questions Janet's father.

[Historical information courtesy of Dan Boylan and excerpted from "John A. Burns: The Man and His Times."]

Orders to Evacuate the Family Home

Then December 30 [1941], my father had orders to vacate [our home]. So he just told us, “Just pack your clothes.” And then we all drove to Kaunakakai, they had a tugboat over there, Young Brothers tugboat.

Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai

We went on the boat and we have to wait there for the boat to sail out. So two nights, we were on the boat. They said they cannot leave.

December 30 we went over there, then 31. All day we stayed there and then we couldn’t sail out. They said they got to wait until the convoy comes.

I don’t know what time it was but was late in the night, midnight, I think — that we started to sail out to Honolulu.

The navy [ordered my father to vacate]. Because Young Brothers has no control of waterfront kind. So he was just da kine, so we had to leave, yeah. And then when we came to Honolulu, we had to stay with my aunty folks.

[W]e didn’t take any household things. Only our clothing.

But, you know, my father was saying that after the war, when he went back to our house, everything was shambled. He said our Japanese[-language] school books were all ripped. They must have searched the house, yeah.

[My father] wasn’t questioned or anything, he just had orders to [evacuate] da kine. But after we lived over here [Honolulu], he was pulled in by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] a couple of times, question him.

While we were living in Molokai, there was one haole guy named Jack Burns that used to come to our house all the time. And when my father used to invite him, he used to make chicken hekka. And then at that time, they said that he was a camp police or something. But my father said, “Chee, unusual for a camp police to come around,” yeah.

John A. Burns, Honolulu Police Department

John A. Burns was the head of the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) vice squad when he was asked to head HPD’s Espionage Bureau. The proposal to establish the Espionage Bureau was made jointly by the Chief of HPD and the FBI and was approved by the mayor and the board of supervisors on the island of Oahu.

Actually, he was working for FBI. [My father] said when they questioned him, and he had to go, he said he was there, the guy. And the thing is, Jack Burns - we don’t know whether that was the Governor [John A.] Burns or what because we used to ask my mother. We said, “Is that the governor that used to [come around]?”

She said she doesn’t know. She said, “Kao ga sukoshi chigau,” [face looks different] or something like that.

In January 1941, Jack Burns stepped down from the temporary rank of captain to the rank of lieutenant to assume command of the newly formed Espionage Bureau. He assembled a staff of four, three of whom spoke Japanese fluently. Having grown up in Hawaii, Burns rejected the stereotype that all people of Japanese ancestry were inherently disloyal to the United States. He insisted upon a presumption of innocence until the weight of evidence proved otherwise.

I didn’t think that they were going to have a war. When you’re young, you’re so naïve and you don’t take anything serious.

Janet Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Judge James S. Burns and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Historical information courtesy of Dan Boylan and excerpted from "John A. Burns: The Man and His Times."

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