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A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER : Viewpoints East and West : 'It's Not Just Another Day'

December 03, 1991|STAMFORD SCHERER and GORO HATANAKA | STAMFORD SCHERER, 71, was driving to his parents' home in Great Neck, N.Y., when he heard news of the Pearl Harbor bombing on the car radio. He went down to the draft board to enlist and served as a pilot in Europe. Scherer retired after running a business in El Salvador for 30 years. He now lives in Miami Beach. GORO HATANAKA, 59, is retired from managing his family's warehouse in Tokyo


If you think Dec. 7 is just another day, you're mistaken. It will never be. I may forget my wife's birthday--I may even forget my own--but December the 7th, never.

"My oldest brother was supposed to get out of the Army that day. . . . He stayed another 6 1/2 years. . . .

"I had to wait in line for three days at the enlistment center. Three days, I said goodby to my mother. Three days, I came back. 'What happened?' she would ask. 'I'm still in line,' I would tell her. The line at the Manhattan recruiting center went around the block for three days. Everybody was so patriotic and wanted to serve. Astounding! . . .

"I don't think there were many Americans who lived through those days who were very happy with the Japanese.

"The Japanese are smarter than us. I drive a Japanese car. I have a Japanese TV set. . . . I was quite impressed with Japan (when I visited last year). But then the guide was showing us some port city that was attacked and he was complaining it had been attacked by the American Air Force. Then I said, 'Don't forget, you guys attacked us first, so whatever you had coming, you had coming.' He didn't like that. We destroyed Osaka, I think, a seaport. He felt more prejudiced against us than I felt against the Japanese.

"It will never be all right. I don't ever forgive them. I'm sorry. To me, it's a part of me that I can never forgive them. To these kids today, it has no meaning. They didn't live through it and don't know what it means. It was a shocking thing that happened. Anybody who lived through it will never forget.


Our principal told us that he wanted to talk to us, so we assembled on the school playground. 'Early this morning, Japan went to war with the United States and Great Britain. So all of you please do your best for your country,' the principal said. "But we didn't know why we went to war."

"In those days, if an adult asked 100 kids what will you be when you grow up, probably 100% would say they wanted to be a soldier. Nobody said I'd like to be a schoolteacher or a scientist. Even if somebody wanted to say that, the atmosphere was such that you couldn't say it. . . . Even in play, all we thought about was war. Books, comics were all about war. . . . It was all militarist thinking.

"When my brother went to war, my parents thought they would never see him again. Must have been the same in the United States. But it was very sad. Most would give their kids a special send-off, but my parents never left the house. They thought he would never come back, so they couldn't say goodby to him in front of everybody. . . . I don't think my brother wanted to go, but he went. . . .

"Japanese have the Yamato spirit of patience and endurance. Japanese tend to hold back their feelings. . . . But if some of our leaders go crazy, we all go in the wrong direction towards militarism. If Bush goes crazy, America might go in the wrong direction, too. But America is a democratic country. They discuss things. That is why they are peaceful. But Japan didn't have a democratic system then. Everybody was hungry and it was just the social direction to go to war.

"It is something we should be embarrassed about. But Japan's peace today is based on the sacrifices of young Americans. And Americans shouldn't forget that America's peace is also based on the sacrifices of the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. . . .

"Japan is regaining the Yamato spirit, so even if America criticizes Japan, we will endure it. We will simply think about what America says and rethink our attitudes. . . ."

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