Norman Kikuta
Military Intelligence Service

December 7, 1941

Norman is dressing for church when the attack is announced on the radio.

He volunteers for the Hawaii Territorial Guard. He serves meals and guards the Moiliili Quarry, where he confronts a suspicious car.

In early 1942 HTG is disbanded and those of Japanese ancestry are dismissed. Some join the Varsity Victory Volunteers. Norman drives an ambulance for the Office of Civilian Defense.

In 1943 he leaves the OCD to practice teach at Kawananakoa School.

We had to attend church services, twice on Sundays. We had to attend a morning service at 8:00 and the evening service at 7:00. That Sunday morning, 7:55, I’m at the dorm. We had to wear coat and tie, so we’re dressing. And I don’t know whether I was in Spark Matsunaga’s room or not, but he had a radio. Then, who’s that announcer who said, “This is the real McCoy”? Webley Edwards?

We heard the announcement and we looked out the window and there was shooting up in the [sky].

Of course, the instruction was to stay indoors and not go out. We listened to the radio all day and we heard reports about a few civilians getting killed while they were outside. Now, that was December 7.

Civilian casualties of Pearl Harbor attack
Civilian casualties of Pearl Harbor attack, 1941

Hawaii Territorial Guard

I think December 10, or so, the authorities organized a Hawaii Territorial Guard, consisting mostly of the ROTC members at the University of Hawaii. [Hawaii’s governor officially formed the Hawaii Territorial Guard December 7, 1941. It was placed under the command of the Provost Marshal on December 11, 1941.]

Hawaii Territorial Guard, Company B

I volunteered for that and I got accepted and was assigned to the Headquarters Company. We received the usual training. We went to the firing range at Koko Head for about a week and our company commander was Francis Aiwohi. Later on, the company was quartered at Lanakila School.

I got the best assignment of all. I was the mess steward. All of our troops were assigned out on the outlying areas. I know we had one group way up above Kamehameha School [Kapalama Heights], I guess that must’ve been a water facility or something like that.

So, every day, I would have to drive three times a day, well, not really drive, but accompany the mess truck to [feed] the men up there. They all got to know me very well.

[My job was to] go along with the mess truck and help serve the troops. [I did not have to cook.] We had the regular army cooks.

Moiliili Quarry

You might have heard stories about some policemen being shot at down at the waterfront. [At one time], one of our company assignments was the Moiliili Quarry.

Moiliili Quarry, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1923

The quarry, from a building materials standpoint, is important. We were to safeguard that from any enemy or terrorist action. That’s why most of the security assignments were for electrical installations or water pumping installations or [any location] having to do with utilities.

One night, I was assigned [to a post] at the entrance to the quarry. [I was] supposed to challenge any traffic going up and down University Avenue or those trying to get into the quarry. This car came up slowly, driving slowly, and I challenged it to stop. [It] didn’t stop. I shot one round into the air.

The occupants were cops! That’s the first and only time I shot at cops (laughs). They must've thought, “This stupid, untrained soldier.” Yeah, it’s hard to believe but things like that happened.

I didn’t know [if there was a real threat]. Nobody knew. We’re talking about, let’s say, late December [1941] or early January [1942]. Nobody knew.

Shortly after around [June 1942] the [Battle of] Midway action was very decisive and the Japanese navy was just about devastated. From that point on, security wasn’t that big a concern, not in Hawaii.

Disbandment of the Hawaii Territorial Guard

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The story about the HTG, the [Hawaii] Territorial Guard, was very unfortunate.

After going through the December and January training and miscellaneous assignments, all of a sudden, one morning you wake up, you’re told, “You’re no longer needed, you’re no longer needed.” That was a blow. And the thing was that we didn’t know the reason.

They never told us that maybe the higher headquarters or the [U.S.] Department of the Army didn’t quite trust us. And they didn’t want any niseis with guns. They didn’t tell us.

I don’t know [how I felt when I heard the news in early 1942] — not knowing the basis for the so-called disbandment of the HTG, I guess had they told us the truth about they didn’t want any niseis, of course I would have been really downcast and all that. But not knowing the reason. . .

[In retrospect, I think it was better to not know.]

As a result of that, a majority of the HTG members who were now free gathered together and formed the VVV, Varsity Victory Volunteers. Ted Tsukiyama was one of the leaders in that movement with Ralph Yempuku and Hung Wai Ching.

VVV assembled in formal dress with gas masks

Office of Civilian Defense

Just about that time, I was at loose ends. I didn’t expect my parents to support me while going to school. So, I sought employment with the Office of Civilian Defense. In what we call the emergency medical and ambulance service, they had these stations at the various schools, and I got accepted as an ambulance driver at Liholiho School.

Civilian defense, gas maneuvers
Civilian defense, gas maneuvers, Hawaii

[The pay was] really generous, $125 a month. Big money for a student. When I was in HTG, the pay was $21 a month. Now you are getting $125 a month. And it’s clean work, and fortunately, I got the night shift. So, during the day, I was able to attend school [at UH].

By the time I heard about [the VVV], I was already [employed]. There were some others who were with the OCD, Office of Civilian Defense, who were in the same boat as I was. They had already accepted a job with medical service and they didn’t join the VVV.

[I was an ambulance driver] for the area. All of these so-called stations were strategically located. I was at the Liholiho [Station]. That’s at Kaimuki, 9th Avenue. We had stations at Waikiki School, Kaahumanu School. They were located throughout the city.

I’ve been living in Honolulu since [19]39. [Getting to know] Kaimuki is easy. They’re numbered streets, 8th Avenue, 9th Avenue, 10th Avenue, et cetera, except the side ones like Harding, Pahoa. But Kaimuki was relatively easy. No small lanes or anything like that.

The whole emergency station staff had classes. The director was an MD [Dr. Robert Katsuki]. On several nights a week, he taught classes. Emergency medical treatment and so on. That lasted for about two hours in the night. Then from about ten o’clock on, you’re free. So, I went to bed. Unless you’re called for, but hardly any emergencies came up.

Of course, [being OCD during blackout,] if you’re on the road and you’re stopped by any police or [whomever], you had every valid reason to be on the road. You know, you’re not just wandering around. You were on official business.

Practice Teaching

At the start of my practice teaching, I gave up my OCD [Office of Civilian Defense] job.

To get a bachelors of education [degree], you needed about 128 semester hours. I had 130 but I did not finish one major requirement. I didn’t finish my practice teaching. Because of that I wasn’t awarded my bachelor’s [degree].

In March of 1943, I was doing my practice teaching, which was my last semester in Teachers College. I was at Kawananakoa School, and let me tell you, the kids were rough (chuckles). I had the sixth graders and some of them were bigger than I was.

Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.

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