Event, Aftermath Still Vivid for Those Linked
LOS ANGELES — HENRY CRUZ had just come out of the shower and was finishing a cup of coffee in the officer's pantry when he and First Lt. Samuel Fuqua heard the drone of aircraft and muffled explosions in the distance.Baffled because there were no mock air attacks scheduled for that drowsy Sunday morning, they scrambled up to the quarter deck - just in time to witness a Japanese bomber take out the front of their ship. In the ensuing panic to man battle stations, Cruz, a steward's mate, ended up trapped in the bowels of the ship, fighting neck-high water and spurting oil. He eventually made it off - the last crewman rescued from the Arizona, the ship that went down with 1,177 men on board and whose sunken hulk remains a memorial at Pearl Harbor. "Never a day goes by that I don't think about Pearl," says Mr. Cruz, a retired sheet-metal worker living in the San Diego area. "I have nothing against the Japanese," he adds, "not the younger ones anyway." America awaits tomorrow's 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with deep ambivalence. To many, it is just a gauzy memory, a time of past hostilities that now seem almost surreal in an age when the two nations have become powerful allies, current trade frictions notwithstanding. But a few others - particularly some who went through the experience - harbor residual animosities. Some would like to see Japan apologize for the war. Others urge reconciliation. For Japan, which perpetrated the attack but lost the war in a nightmarish atomic denouement, the anniversary evokes its own complex emotions. The event comes at a time of growing suspicion on both sides of the Pacific over economic ties. Thus all eyes, East and West, will be on President Bush tomorrow as he delivers a sensitive speech at the Arizona Memorial. For months, Japanese American groups and others have been urging Mr. Bush to strike a tone of peace and healing when he honors the 2,403 killed in the attack that altered world history. They worry about a new wave of anti-Asian sentiment in the United States, just as some Japanese worry about budding anti-Americanism in their country. "I think 50 years of pain and hatred is long enough," Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), a Japanese American who lost his right arm fighting for the United States in the war, said in a recent speech. "I think the time has come for reconciliation." Dec. 7 is always a difficult time for Americans of Japanese ancestry, particularly those who were alive at the time of the attack or lived in its aftermath. Don Nakanishi remembers vividly growing up in Los Angeles after the war. Each year the anniversary would come around, some teacher would bring it up in class. Even though Mr. Nakanishi was born here, was as American as anyone else, his Japanese background would bring glares from classmates. "It was probably the worst day of the year for me," says Mr. Nakinishi, director of the Asian-American Studies Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. "Everyone one in the room would sort of turn to you and wonder if you were responsible for it." Some 120,000 people of Japanese descent were interned in camps in World War II. While the US government has officially apologized and is paying $1.2 billion in reparations to 60,000 survivors, many would like to see Mr. Bush acknowledge the American citizens who were interned - and those of Japanese ancestry who died fighting for the United States. "When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked every American, including Americans who by accident of birth happened to be of Japanese ancestry," says Rep. Norman Mineta (D) of California. Mr. Mineta was interned with his family when he was 10 years old. Images from the experience are always there: the Boy Scout uniform he wore on the train to the camps, the searchlights sweeping across his room every night, the ubiquitous guards in their watch towers. "For Japanese Americans, there was a very strong feeling that came out of this experience - not one of rancor or bitterness - but the feeling that it shouldn't happen again to any group," he says. A recent survey of Californians, the nation's most ethnically diverse populace, showed that 22 percent of the state's adults still hold the bombing of Pearl Harbor against the Japanese. Six out of 10 in the California Poll believed it was right for the US to drop atomic bombs on Japan. Thirty percent thought it appropriate to intern US citizens of Japanese descent. While pollster Mervin Field notes that this is a dramatic drop from 1955, when a similar survey showed that a majority supported internment, many still find the numbers disturbing. "Japanese Americans were affected on that day, too," says William Kaneko, vice president of the Japanese American Citizens League, a civil rights group. "Japanese Americans were guarding military posts. They were giving blood. It wasn't as though they were helping Japan." Several thousand American survivors of Pearl Harbor are in Hawaii for the commemoration this week. Many believe it is a time to forgive Japan. But others find it hard to embrace their old enemy completely. Mr. Cruz says that, for the most part, he has no negative feelings. He mentions, though, an encounter he had with a student from Tokyo who was attending a local university. Cruz had been asked to speak about Pearl Harbor. The Japanese student came up to him after the talk and told him he was sorry for the attack. He also said he had an uncle who participated in the raid. Cruz told the youth he had no reason to dislike him. But of his uncle, he said pointedly: "Tell him when you go back he wasn't good enough to kill me."