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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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