Skip to main content

StoryCorps: Irving Gordon Remembers Pearl Harbor


The StoryCorps MobileBooth visited San Diego for a month in early 2006. Friends and loved ones came to the booth to interview each other about their lives. Here, Patricia Gordon-Reedy interviews her father Irving Gordon about the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Patricia Gordon-Reedy: My name is Patricia Gordon-Reedy. I'm 48 years old.

Irving Gordon: And my name is Irving Gordon MD retired. I am 80 years old and I am being interviewed by my daughter.

Patricia Gordon-Reedy:Now, when you were, I believe in high school, Pearl Harbor came along. And I'm wondering how that affected you in a number of different ways. First of all, do you remember when that happened?

Irving Gordon:I remember exactly when it happened. It was on a Sunday morning on December 7th, 1941. I was 15 at the time. It was a frightening time for us. But I think one of the real tragedies of that time were the incarceration of the Japanese people. The street I lived on, I think we had three or four Japanese families living there. And I know this family had just, in 1940, purchased their first automobile; it was a beautiful green Oldsmobile and they were so proud of it. We would help them clean it and shine it. And then they were ordered in a matter of two weeks, to pack up all their belongings and a truck would stop outside their house and pick them up and off they would go to the relocation camp. They had to practically give away their new automobile for whatever anybody would pay them. And we all stood out there and helped the older folks or grandparents get into these open trucks and hoisted their belongings up for them. They had to leave school; they didn't graduate. Your mother went to Washington High School in southwest Los Angeles, and they had a large Japanese population. She told me here all these kids were good friends and the day after Pearl Harbor, which was Sunday, they went to school on Monday, and the Caucasian kids were beating up the Japanese students. 

Patricia Gordon-Reedy:Are there any words of wisdom you'd like to pass on to me?

Irving Gordon: People have to live with one another. They have to be tolerant of people who have different ideas, different ways of living, different religions. And they have to treat them as they would like themselves to be treated.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.