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Air attack hit home for Spotsylvania man page 2
Retired Air Force major from Spotsylvania witnessed Pearl Harbor attack from another perspective

 Donald Funai, 81, who is of Japanese descent, witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, while living in Hawaii. He later served in the U.S. Air Force and worked as an air-traffic controller. He now lives in Spotsylvania.
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Date published: 12/7/2012


"We lived in a lower- to middle-income bracket rental home. It was fun," Funai recalled. "Next door to us was a Chinese family with about nine sons and daughters. Across the street was a [Japanese] guy who owned a jewelry store. Directly across was a native Hawaiian; next to him, another Japanese family."

There was no ethnic backlash in the days after the attack because the neighborhood in Palolo, a suburb of Honolulu, was made up mostly of Asians, he said.

Still, it was clear that dark days were ahead. Martial law was imposed, and some Japanese educators and Buddhist priests were detained, Funai said.

"They either shipped them out or locked them up."

Funai and his younger brother, Melvin, attended a Catholic boys' school.

"Several of us were going to Japanese-language school for about an hour during the week and a couple hours on Saturdays," Funai said.

It was canceled.

"I said, 'Hooray, no more language school!'" From a boy's reckoning, the decision meant more time to play. He added, "That's why I'm not bilingual to this day."

According to War Department records, a few hundred of Japanese heritage in Hawaii were placed in internment camps; about 400 were repatriated to Japan. By contrast, on the U.S. mainland, over 100,000 were detained in camps spread around the country.

One of them was Funai's uncle, who had just graduated from college in Seattle. The man and his wife were sent to an internment camp in Tule Lake, Calif.

In Hawaii, "There wasn't any racial discrimination; people weren't picking on us like they did on the West Coast," Funai said.


A few days after the attack, Funai remembers his father coming home in tears.

"He had tried to volunteer for the Army. A whole bunch of them [Japanese] went down to enlist."

At 38, his father was too old to serve. The recruiter told him to go home and care for his family.

"I'd say a majority supported the U.S., because we were all American citizens," Funai said.

Weeks later, the family went to the island's North Shore to visit his grandparents, passing Pearl Harbor on the way.

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