fix bar
fix bar
fix bar
fix bar
fix bar
fix bar

I'll Remember April (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Regent Releasing
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Dramatic film directed by Bob Clark and written by Mark Sanderson set in April 1942 about four young boys who discover a Japanese sailor. One of the boys is Japanese American, and he and his family also prepare for their imminent forced removal and incarceration. Pat Morita plays the boy's grandfather.

Four young boys of around twelve years old living in an unnamed coastal California town play war games together in April of 1942 as the town reacts nervously to stories about Japanese submarines being spotted off the coast. The leader of the group, Duke Cooper (Trevor Morgan), has an older brother, Anthony, who is a soldier in the Pacific fighting against the Japanese. Another of the boys is Duke's best friend and next door neighbor, Willy Tanaka (Yuki Tokuhiro), a Japanese American. Willy lives with his widowed mother, Kimiko (Diana Tanaka) and his grandfather, Abe Tanaka (Pat Morita), a restaurant owner and fisherman. Abe washes off racist graffiti someone has painted onto their house and with the help of Duke's mother, Barbara (Pam Dawber), fights off a sleazy real estate agent (Paul Dooley)—who is the son of German immigrants—who wants to buy the Tanaka home for a rock bottom price. Meanwhile, while playing in an abandoned mill that the boys use as a pretend fort, they find a wounded Japanese sailor named Matsuo (Yuji Okumoto) who had accidentally fallen overboard from a Japanese submarine off the coast. They lock him the "brig" while pondering what to do about their discovery. Upon returning, they discover he has escaped, and when he confronts Duke, Duke falls into a water tank. Seeing that Duke can't swim, Matsuo dives into the water and saves Duke. The boys and especially Duke slowly develop a friendship with Matsuo, with Duke going so far as to bring him some of Anthony's clothes. As the FBI comes into town to investigate the rumors and local Japanese Americans, the boys ponder what to do with their secret, and the Tanakas prepare for their forced removal with the steadfast support of the Coopers.

The premise for the story is very loosely based on an incident in February 1942, where a Japanese submarine lobbed sixteen shells towards the California coast near Goleta, the only such Japanese attack of the war. [1] The portrayal of the Tanakas' preparation for removal and incarceration touches on many familiar tropes: opportunists seeking to take advantage of them (in this case a German American real estate agent), racist remarks and actions by townspeople, and vandalism of their property. The Tanakas are portrayed as typical Americans—at one point, it is noted that the senior citizen Abe's father and grandfather were born in the U.S., making him a Sansei , a near historical impossibility. Abe is also briefly arrested by the FBI, though is he released that same day. When he returns, he tells his family that they will be taken to an "assembly center in Millington and from there they take us to an internment camp ... I don't know where." The movie ends with the Tanakas driving their own truck to the assembly center.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Tsuru (2014); Moving Day (1965); A Crossroad Called Manzanar (2010)


  1. The movie begins with the epigraph: "Following Pearl Harbor, Japanese submarines torpedoed the California coast. True events inspired this story." The Goleta submarine attack is also referenced in similarly exaggerated fashion in the movies 1941 and If Tomorrow Comes .
Media Details
Release Date 1998
Runtime 90 min
Director Bob Clark
Producer Paul Colichman
Writer Mark Sanderson
Starring Pat Morita (Abe Tanaka), Trevor Morgan (Duke Cooper), Pam Dawber (Barbara Cooper), Yuki Tokuhiro (Willy Tanaka), Mark Harmon (John Cooper), Yuji Okumoto (Matsuo), Haley Joel Osment (Peewee Clayton), Richard Taylor Olson (Tyler Walker), Diana Tanaka (Kimiko Tanaka), Paul Dooley (Earl Schimmel)
Music Paul Zaza
Cinematography Stephen M. Katz