Herbert Isonaga

December 7, 1941

At the Atherton House YMCA, Herbert hears radio reports about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

There is no panic among the residents of Atherton House. Herbert waits for more information.

I was at the YMCA and probably about seven in the morning, we got word that - you know, the radio was blasting away - that this was not a maneuver, that this is the real thing, that we were invaded by Japan.

USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor
USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor

And I know that I wasn’t — I didn’t panic. Others in the YMCA, Atherton Y[MCA], I noticed, there was no panic. We accept that’s the situation and [were] waiting for further information as to what was happening and what each of us should do.

I know there was a call out for ROTC members, that they should report to the campus. But I wasn’t in ROTC, so I didn’t go down to volunteer for the territorial guard.

That evening, there were rumors that parachuters had landed on St. Louis Heights and they said that people were scrambling up, troops, to St. Louis Heights. But I don’t know what happened.

I truly cannot recall how I felt at that time, other than to say that I accepted the situation without panic. And being an optimist, I felt that things are going to work out eventually. That was my general attitude, that this situation will be resolved and no need to, you know, feel any serious panic or alarm.

When they reported that the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] was picking up prominent community leaders, etcetera, I knew my father wouldn’t be included because he wasn’t (chuckles), he wasn’t a community leader. He didn’t get involved.

My dad didn’t want to get involved in things. Neither did my mother. My mother, although she was very well read and anxious to be informed, she wasn’t one to get directly involved. She wasn’t a joiner. She didn’t join organizations. You know, like she didn’t join the church.

Our family was never a member of the Buddhist church. They contributed. The only time our family associated with the Buddhist church was when they came to the house, O-Bon. You know, the minister made the call, “I’m coming.” That’s the only direct association our family had with the Buddhist church.

My father was never involved with the school. The Japanese[-language] school had a hierarchy, I guess, board of directors or something like that. He was never involved.

So I never worried about he being targeted as one of the possible subversive aliens.

Herbert Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of National Archives.

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