Military Intelligence Service
December 7th and Home Front
On December 7, 1941, Dick sees smoke rising from Pearl Harbor. Scanning the sky with his telescope, he sees Japanese pilots smiling from open cockpits.
Workers of Japanese ancestry are not allowed to report to work at Pearl Harbor.
About a week later, Dick and his brother report to Red Hill where they work on the construction of Tripler General Hospital.
In 1942, their pregnant sister commits suicide while in an internment camp. Her baby survives.
December 7, 1941
When war broke out in 1941 [my brother and I] were employed by Pacific Naval [Air Base] Contractors and working in Pearl Harbor. We used to play poker Saturday night, so I was kind of sleepy [that particular Sunday morning]. But then I heard a lot of noise, bombing from Pearl Harbor area.
As I woke up I can see smoke rising from Pearl Harbor and Hickam area. So I got my telescope and I took it out and I scanned. I used to live close to the University [of Hawaii and] Shinonome [Tea House]. Used to be a teahouse [on Kalei Road].
I scanned the sky. Of course, we didn’t have all those high structures there and we could see planes with the hinomaru [rising sun insignia], the red dot on the fuselage and the tail and the wings passing by. All of the pilots flying by didn’t have their cockpit locked, they had it open, they slid it back. And I could swear that the pilots were smiling and laughing because here they were about to attack Pearl Harbor and they caught the Americans sleeping, and yeah, they were smiling.
When that happened my brother and I decided to go see what was going on. And so we start walking down, the traffic was a jam. There was no traffic moving, streetcars were just stopped. We walked down and saw in the McCully [Street]-King Street area, that some of the [anti-aircraft] shells that the army was firing at the enemy planes fell. It failed to explode in the sky and when it hit the ground it exploded, killing a few people in that district. There were [anti-aircraft] shells falling down by McKinley [High School] and by Washington Intermediate School. Washington Intermediate was on fire, but firemen came, extinguish the flame.
The next day, we didn’t go to work. There was so much confusion, chaos.
December 8, 1941
December 9, 1941
On Tuesday morning, my brother and I decided, “Eh, let’s go to work.” But when we approached the Pearl Harbor Main Gate we saw the military, the marines, gathering all the niseis and ripping off their [identification] badges.
They were like me, [workers at the shipyard]. You see, every member who passed through the gate needed an identification, which was pinned to your collar. When they were gathered at the gate the MPs [military police] removed the badges, ripping off from their shirts. They were forced, double time, to a bus or several buses that were waiting near the John Rodgers Airport. It’s about quarter mile further down [from the present Honolulu International Airport].
So my brother and I decided, “Eh, let’s not hang around here, let’s go home.” We didn’t get involved because we did not make an attempt to enter the gate.
Those that were corralled and loaded onto the bus, their cars were parked near the Hickam [Field] gate — used to be a parking lot out there — so they couldn’t get their cars. They were driven to Honolulu and dropped [off]. The next few days they asked their friends, like a Chinese fellow or other nationality other than a nisei, to please pick up their car and please bring it home, which they did.
I understood that being a Japanese, although we were Americans, we were looked as enemies to the eyes of the military. So any Japanese that tried to make an entry into Pearl Harbor were treated as enemies and under armed guard they were forced out. They were sort of ill treated, I would say, but nevertheless I guess that was security. I couldn’t blame them for that particular action, but it was not a very wonderful situation to be caught in.
Well, [my brother and I] didn’t work for about a week, but after about a week we were told that we should report to Red Hill, where the [U.S. Army] Tripler General Hospital [today known as Tripler Army Medical Center] was being constructed. So we got out there. But our tools were locked up in Pearl Harbor and they made arrangements to get our tools and fortunately none were missing.
[Tripler wasn’t restricted] because it was out of the base and [many] niseis who worked at Pearl Harbor [Naval Shipyard] and Hickam [Field] that could not find labor in the military, found themselves working up at Tripler General Hospital. I worked till March 24, 1943, building the hospital.
When there was word of the 442nd, the niseis being recruited, they asked for volunteers. I asked my mother if it’s okay if I volunteer. She said, “If you must, you must.” So receiving her sanction, I did.
Side Story: Ayako’s Tale
My sister [Ayako] accompanied [my father to Japan in 1939]. After returning home, [Ayako] married a Sacramento friend, through arrangement in 1941.
When the war broke out, she was pregnant [and living on the Mainland]. She was relocated to an [internment] camp not knowing anybody, and the husband was relocated to another camp. So, she was all by her lonesome self, pregnant, ready to give birth.
You know, as I think what the pressure did to my sister being pregnant all alone, not knowing anybody and about to give birth, it’s something that not too many people can withstand. The pressure was awful. She couldn’t stand the pressure and she committed suicide [in 1942]. It must’ve been hellish for her, so she decided and she consumed a bottle of iodine.
Fortunately, the baby was not affected. It was removed, cesarean, before he got the blood flow of iodine. I don’t know who the doctors were, but they saved the baby and he’s alive today. And he has three offspring.
Think what she went through, it is really, it’s unbelievable, and I can hardly blame her for doing what she did. It’s just like the Japanese soldiers, when they’re captured, they fear they’re going to be tortured.
Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.