Archive for Thursday, December 5, 1991


December 5, 1991


By HUGH A. MULLIGAN AP Special Correspondent

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) For Japanese Americans living in Hawaii, as well as thousands of Japanese visitors, this December will be the cruelest month: mingling memories of Pearl Harbor with a desire for Japan to be recognized as a peaceful ally worthy of reconciliation.

With the approach of the 50th anniversary of the Day of Infamy, Dec. 7, 1941, strong emotional currents tug at them from different historical directions.

Japanese Americans comprise nearly 23 percent of Hawaii's 1.2 million population, the second largest ethnic group after the Caucasians in the only state where all races are minorities. They remember with pride the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team that went off to become the most decorated U.S. unit in the war in Europe and suffered the highest casualty rate while their fathers and uncles were put in internment camps as enemy aliens.

Many of the old vets now have become interested in discovering their Japanese roots. They share the new wave of national pride sweeping their ancestral homeland at Japan's economic accomplishments in the last half century.

But many of the younger ones wonder if they should venture out on the streets or send their children to school during the four-day observance of the air attack that claimed 2,403 American lives, sank or severely damaged 2l ships in the U.S Pacific Fleet and destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft.

Japanese tourists and business travelers, who numbered 1.4 million last year and contributed $4 billion to the state's economy, hope the Pearl Harbor anniversary will not be an occasion for ``Japanese bashing'' or add to the widespread resentment at Japan's $35 billion investment in the islands, which many locals blame for skyrocketing land prices.

They show up in group tours at the Arizona Memorial, where nearly half of the American dead lie entombed in the wreckage, but they seem to have read little about Pearl Harbor in their history books. They are better versed in the bombing of Hiroshima, which they regard as World War II's immoral equivalent to Pearl Harbor, but many times worse in death and destruction.

The visitors from Japan genuinely love Hawaii as America's most Asia-oriented outpost: a great place to invest, do business, honeymoon (by the thousands) and play golf (by the chartered planeload). Even the parking and restroom signs at the Arizona Memorial are bilingual.

When Emperor Hirohito visited here in October, 1975, his royal aircraft landed at Honolulu airport on a southeasterly approach to spare His Highness any sensitivity, personal or political, that might have resulted from flying over Pearl Harbor.

Such sensitivity hardly applies these days. Capt. Frank Coughlin of Pittsfield, Mass., commander of the submarine base, gazes out the same wide picture window from which Adm. Husband Kimmel watched his career and his Pacific fleet sink from sight. Now the view often is of Japanese naval ships and submarines tying up. They regularly participate in combined maneuvers with U.S., Australian, Korean and Canadian warships.

Most mornings, Japanese tourists, arriving on the overnight flights, are the first to board the launches out to the Arizona Memorial.

Occasionally a bride will toss her bouquet on the water, still purple streaked with the gallon of oil that seeps daily from the wreckage. Others sprinkle confetti or sake in silent tribute to warriors on both sides who died that day.

The Japan-America Society of Honolulu, whose more than 1,000 members include Americans doing business in Japan and Japanese bankers and corporate executives based in the islands, has devoted a number of seminars to ways of coping with the Pearl Harbor semi-centennial. So has the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, which at a recent luncheon meeting heard public relations consultant Barbara Tanabe warn of rising anti-Japanese sentiment as the anniversary nears.

``Many will not forget and some will not forgive the Japanese for the attack on Pearl Harbor that claimed more than 2,000 American lives and plunged the country into a devastating war,'' she warned. ``They will be the catalysts for a new round of Japanese bashing, stimulating the perception of Japan as an unfair trading partner, an unwilling supporter of the U.S. military effort in the Gulf War, and an economic power that has taken over some prime American companies and properties.''

The first view the approaching Japanese submariners had of Hawaii through their periscopes before dawn broke on that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday was of the illuminated twin pink towers of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The hotel is now Japanese-owned.

In the past decade, Japanese investors have acquired a number of apartment towers, banks, shopping centers, a couple of dozen golf resorts like Hilton's Turtle Bay, all the 7-Eleven convenience stores and several office buildings in the downtown business section.

``When you think about it,'' says Ray Emory of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Assn., ``the Japanese have been a lot more successful buying Hawaii than bombing it.''

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, 157,905 Hawaiians of Japanese blood were caught up in a hysteria of suspicion and racial taunts.

Yet, seven separate investigations failed to turn up a single instance of sabotage in Hawaii's Japanese community, which responded stoically to the wartime hysteria of verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

Later in the war, the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team proved itself time and again.

Fighting through Italy and France, the ``Go For Broke'' Nisei regiment won seven presidential unit citations and more than 6,000 individual awards. Their casualty rate of 650 killed and 4,500 wounded was triple the combat average in World War II.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm in the fighting in Italy, is willing to let the past bury the past.

``Fifty years of pain and hatred is long enough,'' he told a Japan-America Society banquet a few weeks ago. ``The time has come for reconciliation.''

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