G-2 Intelligence/ Nisei part 2

Ben Hazzard (mustache) w/ the 306th Language Detachment

Ben Hazzard (mustache) w/ the 306th Language Detachment

In the Solomons, a think document emerged from a grounded Japanese submarine. It contained a list of the enemy’s submarines with the code names, ship types that were unknown to the Allies and air squadrons and their bases. Three Nisei enlisted men of the Army translated all the paperwork.

MIS translations included: artillery charts, the Japanese Z Plan, mine field layouts and shipping schedules. The Nisei wrote surrender instructions and even decoded the documents that resulted in the aerial ambush that killed Admiral Yamamoto. Maps were deciphered and read mail. The Nisei donned headphones in the field and listened for that all-important “one-word” signal order directed to the enemy troops.

interrogating a Japanese general

interrogating a Japanese general

The Nisei flushed the enemy out of caves and bunkers, often while they themselves were unarmed. They fought alongside their fellow soldiers, interrogated prisoners and helped to empty munitions factories on Japan before the G.I.s went in to dismantle them. They endured the racism of the American citizens, some of the soldiers, the navy and even the taunting of the Filipino people. Yet, the Higa team went on to flush 30,000 Japanese men out of the caves and tombs on Okinawa. On 19 April, at 0640 hours, General John Hodge ordered his troops to break through the Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru line. The attack was shattered and 750 Americans died. According to Hodge himself, if the work the Nisei had done was given the attention it deserved – “it would not have happened at all!”

Nisei Soldier of WWII Bronze medal

Nisei Soldier of WWII Bronze medal

reverse side of bronze medal

reverse side of bronze medal

Outside Washington D.C. at Vint Hill Farm Station, MISers translated wires from the Japanese Ambassador, Gen. Oshima, sent to Berlin (via a station in Turkey). They were thereby reading Hitler’s mail to and from Tokyo almost before he did. The Pacific Military Intelligence Research Service (PACMIRS) was situated at Camp Richie, Maryland (later known as Camp David). At PACMIRS, Kazuo Yamane received documents ignored by the Navy and was found to be the Imperial Army Ordnance Inventory. The OWI used MISers and the Nisei proved themselves in the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (Australia) and the Southeast Asia Translator and Interrogation Center (India).

During the occupation, Nisei helped to track down many of the war criminals. Shiro Tokuno, for one, improved Japan’s agriculture in the Natural Resources Section and later in the fisheries, forestry and boat construction areas. By the end of the war, twenty million pages of documents, diaries, etc. had been examined by the linguists. MacArthur’s Chief of Staff for Military Intelligence gave credit to the MIS graduates by saying that they had shortened the war by two years, saved a possible one million lives and probably billions of dollars. With the occupation still in progress, the MISers continued to be of assistance in Korea, although most Koreans did speak Japanese.

S/Sgt, Dick Hamada, Sgt .Fumio Kido w/ Blakenship 3 Jan. 1946 for Soldier's Award

S/Sgt, Dick Hamada, Sgt .Fumio Kido w/ Blakenship 3 Jan. 1946 for Soldier’s Award

They were not without a sense of humor, as James Tsurutani showed. He would lie down on the ground for his buddies while they held a bayonet to have a picture taken to send back home with the caption, “Captured another Jap!”

Upon returning home from Japan, my father and several other troopers from the 11th A/B, including two Nisei, went to a saloon to celebrate their return to San Francisco and the good ole U.S. of A. The drinks were put up on the bar, free of charge for returning veterans, and Smitty began to distribute them. He said he stopped laughing and talking just long enough to realize that he was two drinks shy of what he ordered. He knew right off what it was all about, but he tried to control that infamous temper of his, and said something to the effect of “Hey, I think you forgot a couple over here.” The reply came back in a growl, “We don’t serve their kind in here.” Dad said he was not sorry that lost control, he told me, “I began to rant things like, ‘don’t you know what they’ve been through?’ and ‘what the hell’s wrong with you?'”

By this time, the other troopers had heard Smitty yelling and it did not take them long to figure out the scenario between my father and the bartender. No explanation was necessary. In fact, dad said the entire situation blew apart like spontaneous combustion. The drinks hit the floor and all hell broke loose. When there was not much left in the bar to destroy, they quieted down and left the established (such as it was). The men finished their celebration elsewhere. Smitty said he never knew what, if anything ever came out of the incident. He never heard of charges being filed or men reprimanded. (I’ve wondered if Norman Kihuta, who was discharged on the same date as Smitty, was there on the scene.)

back at the office...

back at the office…

There were very few pictures taken of the Nisei soldiers for two main reasons. many of them had family in Japan and some relatives fighting in the Imperial Army and Navy, therefore their picture, if recognized, could possibly cause undue harm to those families. Another reason was the greed of the press for a spectacular story, which usually meant they were covering the actions of the Marines. The fighting in the Philippines did not seem as glamorous; with the Marines they could cause much more dramatic headlines. (ergo: less print, less photos). The linguists sent to China received very little recognition because the War Department would not admit they had American troops there.

By 1977, the MIS school produced 75,000 linguists speaking fifty languages.

…………………………..Dom’ arigato gozaimashita.’…………..

(Thank you very much for what you have done.)

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Resources: “Yankee Samauri” by Joseph D. Harrington; National Archives; cia.gov; NPS.gov; nisei.hawaii.edu; niseiveterans.blogspot.

I also located a very interesting blog by CGAYLEMARIE who is researching the Japanese-Americans at Oberlin College, if this subject interests you, stop in for a look… http://cgayleguevara.wordpress.com

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 3, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Thank you for enabling the remembering of so many brave young people who gave so much, and whose stories deserve to be archived for posterity.

    My late husband was one who wanted to serve on active-service but who became part of the design team at Fairey Aviation until after World War II. His two older brothers saw active service at Dunkirk and throughout Europe.

    I just wish I could feel that what they did was truly appreciated by those in power who remain ready to commit more young lives to more of the same futile war games. I wish that world leaders, so ready with their glib responses, would devote as much time to peace and concord as they do to rousing ‘the fighting spirit’, spreading disharmony, and warning us of the dire consequences of not voting for them, but then the arms dealers and manufacturers would not invest in their election campaigns.

    It’s all so true: little cogs drive the great wheels that make the world go around. – and a small commodity that oils those wheels called – money.

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    • I grew up thinking that if politicians wanted to argue – put them in a ring and let them duke it out. Why do our best have to fight and die? They not only lose their lives, but the human species loses the best gene pool. Your husband may have felt bad about his work during the war, but behind the scenes work was just as important as up on the front lines. (And – no matter WHAT the question – the answer is ALWAYS money!!)

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  2. One more note? I have some details on the 2nd photo showing an interrogation in process. Per Dr. McNaughton’s “Nisei Linguists”, further info is as follows:

    T3g. Jiro Arakaki (right) helps an Army intelligence officer (center) question a
    senior Japanese officer, Yonakunajima, Ryukyus, 7 October 1945.

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  3. Thank you again, gpcox, for honoring the largely secret and unrecognized behind the lines work of the MIS Nisei in WWII. Indeed, the US Navy shunned accepting Japanese-Americans into their service but in the end, the MISers saved the lives of hundreds of Naval aviators with their translation of the Z-plan and such.

    If you can find a DVD copy of “MIS: Human Secret Weapon”, if will provide some further “amusing” yet poignant experiences of those Nisei in actual combat.

    You did refer to the Congressional Gold Medal as bronze, as the replicas ARE cast in bronze. The one and only true Gold Medal is displayed at the Smithsonian. My family is blessed with three Congressional Gold Medals for their involvement with the MIS.

    Thank you again, gpcox, and yet another salute to Smitty. I wish I could have met him.

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    • I did not remember that you had 3 medals in your household, you must be so proud! That makes your comments to me all the more impressive. Thank you again.

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  4. Brilliant stuff. Thanks for posting this.

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  5. The things we did not know. The work of the Nisei solders truly amazes me as they had the ability to decipher documents with ease that would have taken others quite some time- if at all in complete accuracy. Glad to know they were humble men doing their work with a sense of honor instead of needing praise. Thanks for another interesting post.

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  6. This is an interesting part of history that we do not normally get to know. At least, I have never seen any documentaries regarding these men’s contribution.

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  7. Thank you Sir!! Truly a fantastic post!!

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  8. I can just picture the bar brawl — after all we’ve all seen it in the movies of the time period! I think it’s wonderful the way your dad stood up for them.

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    • Dad said their service was beyond pretty much what the rest of the men did. I don’t think he even thought about the first punch, just did it.

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  9. I believe the “Go For Broke” motto started with the 442nd and quickly spread to all Nisei troops from there. Also, if the memory is working correctly tonight (always a crapshoot), there were some Nisei involved with the infamous “Akutan Zero”, a Zero fighter that crash-landed in a swamp nearly intact on Akutan Island in the Aleutians. The Air Corps repaired it and got it flying, then used the information gained to pass along to Grumman and Vought Aircraft companies to build the two planes that finally out-matched the Zero, the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair.
    Nice side note about the interception of Admiral Yamamoto. Well done!

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    • Thank you. Thanks for the story. After going thru the Korean War, I’ll be back-tracking to the very start of WWII, so I’ll be certain to look into this info in the Alaskan section. Thanks again.

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  10. Fascinating as usual and informative~

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  11. Once again a very interesting and informative post. This war was so big and took so much effort on many different fronts that some acts of service have been overlooked and even forgotten. Thanks for bringing it to light.

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  12. I am truly amazed by the ignorance of some people and the fact that it continues in this country, and maybe throughout the world. People are people – there are good and bad individuals in every race but the bigotry during World War II is something we should all be ashamed of. Have the Nisei, MIS and others been recognized for their tremendous assistance since the War?

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    • I believe they did not receive public recognition until about ’75 when the archive reports were first opened. You see, the Nisei (out of honor) do not brag. Dragging a story out of them is harder than the normal G.I.

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  13. Part two is even better than part one. Even with all the contact I’ve had with post-war Japanese culture, I have never heard these stories. Thank you so much for digging this up and sharing it. Adding Smitty’s story in the bar brings it so close to home. I’m sure your father is proud of you. (Almost wrote “would be proud” — but I know he IS.)

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    • Thanks for the compliments, very flattering. I love it when I locate those stories that aren’t well-known; I don’t want to repeat the same ol’ – same ol’.

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  14. Good to know they had preserved a sense of humor.

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  15. I would like to have Smitty as my friend, not my enemy. His exploits remind me of a Marine buddy of mine. At a before work meeting, one morning, a co-worker made the mistake of calling my Marine friend lazy. In an instant, the accuser was knocked to the floor. He stared up at the ceiling, stunned.

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    • Smitty had more friends than I could ever count (used to amaze me), but he learned to curb his temper until necessary and he could see both sides to any argument (broke up many a fight that way). I miss him terribly.

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  16. Father served 8th Armored 1942-43. Have two illustrated booklets. Would like to send you cover of each see if useful your history but need email. Regards.

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  17. Hi GPCox, Thanks so much for stopping by and introducing yourself. You’re writing about a fascinating history…thanks for sharing it! If you’re on facebook you might also enjoy the RAXA Collective page. See you there!

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    • Thanks for stopping back. Frankly, I personally don’t trust Facebook, they all your info and have had too many security breaches. Hope that won’t stop you from coming here. Have a good day..

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  18. I hit the wrong star button – I meant to give this 5 stars. Very interesting.

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  19. Once again I am left astounded at the complexity of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ during war time. The Nisei were incredible and very hardworking, it would seem. I am not surprised Smitty was furious at their treatment in the Bar.

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    • Yes, dad was quite pleased with himself for helping to destroy the place, but he felt the “Nisei-boys” (as he called them – then again dad was generally 7 years older than everybody in the unit) deserved any and all recognition that they could get.

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  20. Pierre Lagacé

    Typo…

    a think document

    Thick?

    I really enjoyed that post. Very informative and it pays a well deserved tribute to these men.

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    • You’re quite right – and to think I re-read this before posting it – maybe I’m just too old. Thanks for stopping in and the compliment.

      Like

  1. Pingback: A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 5 | Masako and Spam Musubi

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