Local Japanese fishing boats in Hawai'i and December 7th


The day after the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. aviators, fearing a second Japanese attack, strafed four local Japanese sampans off Barbers Point, killing six civilian crew members.

On December 8th, four local Japanese sampans were returning to O'ahu, unaware that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. The crew of the Kiho Maru had been out at sea fishing since December 4th although the crew realized "something was happening" when, according to crew member Seiki Arakaki, they saw columns of smoke from Pearl Harbor on December 7th and "the whole Island was pitch black" that night.[1] At daybreak, as the Kiho Maru began its return toward Diamond Head and was two miles off of Barbers Point, it met up with the Miyojin Maru, the Sumiyoshi Maru, and an ahi boat believed to have been the Shin-Ei Maru that was also returning to port. Around 9 am, Arakaki recalled that, "all of a sudden, there were four or five Army P-40s flying over us," and the planes started shooting at the boats, strafing the sampans three times. Arakaki was hit two times in the leg while the captain Sutematsu Kida, 54, was shot in the leg and chest. His son, Kiichi Kida, was shot in the jaw and back. The third crew member, Kiho Uehara, 29, was also shot in the back and according to Arakaki, all three men likely died in the first attack. Three of the four fishermen aboard the ahi boat were also killed and the only survivor was Tetsujiro Yamamoto. Fortunately, the crew members of the Sumiyoshi Maru—skipper Kenji Takumi, Kichimatsu Urakami, and Eiji Okimoto—had ducked into the engine room when the planes attacked and while Takumi was hit by shrapnel, the crew was otherwise uninjured. According to Takumi, he knew that there was trouble that day when earlier he had been headed to Kewalo Basin. While staying relatively close to shore, he realized that there was "water splashing around the boat . . . like raindrops" and then he saw bullets hit the boat.[2] Realizing he was being shot at from shore, Takumi steered the ship away from land and was within 100 yards of the other three boats when the air attack began.

Following the attack, an American ship pulled up to the sampans, and after the sailors rescued the men, they commandeered the Sumiyoshi Maru and took it to Kewalo Basin. Sannosuke Onishi, who was the captain of the Miyojin Maru that caught fire when a bullet punctured the fuel line, had ordered his crew members—Jinnosuke Yabu, Torakichi Nishi, and Takumatsu Miyaragi—who had all suffered burns, over the side of the boat. All four hid in the water while hanging on to the boat's hull and Oishi's left arm was bleeding from a bullet wound. The last Onishi saw of the Miyojin Maru, a Coast Guard cutter was towing it toward Kewalo Basin. Onishi recalled that authorities took the dead and wounded to Queen's Hospital upon arriving at Kewalo Basin. However, at Queen's Hospital "all the wounded were put in one room and there were twin armed guards inside all the time." As authorities confined and questioned the men who were not allowed to speak Japanese, family members who had heard about the attack came to the hospital. Emiko Shidaki, daughter of the Kiho Maru's skipper, was told by relatives working in the Kewalo area that her brother and her father had been killed. Shidaki, who was the eldest of seven children, took responsibility for making the funeral arrangements, as her mother who had waited at home took the deaths hard. "My mother, her hair turned all grey in one week," Shidaki recalled. "She was in a state of shock for weeks." Kimiko Watanabe, the widow of Kiho Uyehara, who was also aboard the Kiho Maru, was also stunned by the news and recalled that "I had a rice pot, I was going to cook rice, I dropped that and I grabbed Dickie [her son] and I cried."[3] In shock, she was only able to go down to Queen's Hospital later in the afternoon, only to find that she was not allowed to see the body until his funeral.

Following the attack, several of the families hired local attorney Clarence Shimamura and petitioned the U.S. government for reparations. In 1967, twenty-six years after the incident, the government sent Mrs. Kida, widow of the Kiho Maru's skipper, a check for $8,000. The Sumiyoshi Maru's skipper Takumi received $2,500 plus the proceeds from the sale of his fish that was aboard the boat on the day of the attack. Onishi, however, said that he received nothing.

Further research is needed on this incident as it reflected yet another instance of anti-Japanese sentiment and suspicion that flourished in Hawai'i after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Saiki, Patsy Sumie. Ganbare: An Example of Japanese Spirit. Honolulu: Kisaku Inc., 1982.

Footnotes

  1. Hank Sato, "6 Fishermen Died in '41 in Attack by U.S. Planes," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec. 7, 1977, A-1.
  2. Sato, "6 Fishermen Died," A-4.
  3. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Center for Oral History, An Era of Change: Oral Histories of Civilians in World War II Hawai'i (Honolulu: Center for Oral History, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 1994), 1314.