Gus Tanaka '45 and his family were also living in one of the converted stalls. He had been a freshman at Reed, a pre-med student, but since December 7, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he had sleepwalked through school. It had been impossible to concentrate on homework. He dragged himself to classes every day, but while his professors held forth on the Iliad or introductory chemistry, he was consumed with thoughts of his father, a doctor who had been taken into custody by the FBI a few days after the Japanese attack. Now Gus feared, on top of everything else, that he'd lose credit for the entire academic year.
It was a wrenching time for these young people, and thousands others like them. Their uncertain futures were set against a backdrop of hatred and fear. Hours after Pearl Harbor, rumors about nikkei collaboration began surfacing. One story claimed that they had secretly cut sugar-cane fields in Hawaii in the shape of arrows pointing to the U.S. naval base. Another insisted that nikkei fishermen in California were hiding Imperial Navy uniforms in oilskins on their boats, ready to join a Japanese attack on Los Angeles. In Oregon there were rumors that a Japanese submarine was poised off the coast ready to release frogmen who, with the help of local Japanese Americans, would swim up the Columbia and invade the interior. In Astoria the harbormaster feared that nikkei fishermen and cannery workers would set fires in the hills to help guide Japanese bombers on attack runs.
Meanwhile, Japanese Americans in Oregon and up and down the West Coast formally and vigorously pledged their complete support of the United States. "There cannot be any question, there must be no doubt. We, in our hearts, are Americans-loyal to America," read a telegram sent by the Japanese American Citizens League to the White House. But the mixture of war hysteria and racism was too potent. "A Jap is a Jap," the military commander in charge of Western defense told a Congressional committee. "They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not."