1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
December 7, 1941
From the home he shares with a brother-in-law in Kaimuki, Toshiyuki hears bombing – not loudly, but still he could hear it.
From radio broadcasts, he learns of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Heeding a call to dig trenches on the UH campus, he and others, mostly ROTC, are put to work until they are told AJAs are unwanted.
Residents of Hawaii are soon subject to blackouts and other wartime restrictions.
When the war broke out . . . that was a Sunday morning. I was living up with my brother-in-law in Kaimuki, 1st Avenue.
You could hear the bombing. Not real loud but you could hear the bombing. We went to take a look. What’s going on anyway? Then we put on the radio. In those days no TV yet, so we put on the radio and they talked about it, the bombing that took place in Pearl Harbor.
They announced over the radio that even the classes at the university were not in operation for a while and then they were recruiting Japanese Americans to the [U.S.] Engineer Department to dig trenches all over the university campus.
[It was] mostly Orientals, the university people, the ROTC people. They were in ROTC, but they didn’t have any weapons, they were just put to work.
I was doing that for a couple of days and finally they abandoned us and said that they just didn’t want any Japanese Americans anywhere [near military installations] during that time.
Some way, somehow, they seemed to think that we might be spies for Japan and certain things.
At that time — you see, like I was born and raised in a plantation town where immigrant kids, whether they were Chinese or Filipino or Japanese, the plantation didn’t treat us, even the kids, like citizens of Hawaii.
In fact, if I recall, many of us had dual citizenship: Japanese citizenship and American citizenship. And as long as we had dual citizenship, I guess they didn’t accept us as true Americans. But anyway, that’s how it was until finally we were able to get rid of the Japanese citizenship and just became American citizens.
But at that time, even in town everything was blackout and every time you hear the news on the radio it’s, you don’t do this, you don’t go out in the community, you stay home. Blackout, so you stay home. If you’re going out, you got to be home by a certain hour and so forth. All kinds of restrictions.
But anyway, at the same time I got my notice to report for draft notice.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.