Pearl Harbor-Did Dad Know?

I imagine that Dad was exhausted after his 2-3 week journey on the Trans-Siberian Expressway, yet happy to finally be leaving the Soviet Union behind. After being dropped at the pier by a taxi, he boarded a Japanese steamer for the passage across the Sea of Japan. From my research, I learned that once the boat left Soviet waters, the  somber mood of the weary passengers usually lifted.  Like a party, it was not uncommon for them to begin to sing, dance, and cheer with happiness once they realized they were free of the iron fists of their German and Russian oppressors. .  

The accommodations aboard the Japanese steamer to Tsuruga, Japan were unpleasant.  The food was awful, there was no place to sleep, and most of the passengers became sick because of the unrelenting heaving of the sea as it tossed them around like worn-out ragdolls.

At night they all slept on straw mats under the stars, crowded together with thirty or so strangers on a dirty mat, with nothing to cover themselves with except what they had managed cram into their suitcases.

My father had spoken to a man on the steamer who had instructed him to go to Tokyo to purchase a ticket to San Francisco. The train to Tokyo was a brief but wild ride- a distance of only two hundred miles. According to my friend, Jerry Aagaard, “the ride was wild. They go like hell!” It was quite different from the slow speed of the Trans-Siberian Railway.  Jerry Aagaard:Trans-Siberian Traveler Pen Pal

While in Tokyo, Dad met a kind gentleman from Holland who took a liking to him. My father told him that he was headed home to the United States, explaining that he was traveling alone, a victim of red tape which prevented his siblings from accompanying him. When he revealed that he had less than two hundred dollars, the man said to him, “I own a motel here. You may stay here as long as you need at no cost, but please, do not tell anyone.”  Dad accepted the offer, but said he did not take advantage of the hotel owner’s generosity.

The ship to San Francisco would stop first in Honolulu, leaving from Yokohama, Japan. The bus ride to Yokohama was only an hour from Tokyo. When the driver asked where he was headed, Dad explained that he needed to see a travel agent.

Apparently, the bus driver got lost, so my father told him to bring him to a police station. Dad explained to the officer that he was looking for directions to a travel agency in order to purchase a ticket to San Francisco. The story, which is a legendary tale in our family history, is that the Japanese policeman, who spoke in halting English, asked my father his nationality.  When Dad told him he was an American, the policeman told Dad that he must leave Japan immediately because “Japan is going to be at war with the United States very soon.  They are going to ‘boom boom them!” It was mid-June 1941.

According to my father, it was clear that the police officer was trying to tell him that Japan was going to bomb the United States. Dad must have been shocked to hear this, but he also must have known that it was important not to reveal his emotions. He knew little of what was currently happening in the United States since he had been away for ten years. Many of the news reports coming into the Soviet Union from around the world were censored. At the same time, my father was aware that much of the world was at war, and if the police officer was correct, this comment from him told Dad that the United States would soon be entrenched in the hostilities.

There have been many reports over the years that Roosevelt knew in advance of the attack.  Was Dad’s story really true?

Hotel New Grand- Yokohama, Japan


About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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2 Responses to Pearl Harbor-Did Dad Know?

  1. Pingback: Thankful | Do Svidanya Dad

  2. Pingback: Thankful – Mommysmeanderings

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