LIHU’E — Their fathers couldn’t serve in the military because the U.S.
government wouldn’t let them.
Second-generation Japanese in Hawai’i and on
Kaua’i (called “Nisei”) were sent to the Mainland to learn their own language,
Japanese, then to infantry boot camp, then to some of the areas of the most
fierce fighting in the Pacific during World War II.
Their heroic deeds
couldn’t be chronicled until many years after the war, but they translated
captured enemy documents (orders, diaries, maps), infiltrated Japanese society
in the Philippines, interrogated captured Japanese soldiers, intercepted enemy
communiqué via courier, telegraph and radio, and even assisted
occupation forces and aided at war crimes trials in Japan after the
There, as in Hawai’i and on Kaua’i, and on the Mainland, they were
victims of cruel discrimination, looked at on certain occasions as potential
spies or Japanese sympathizers.
In areas like the Philippines, folks in the
Military Intelligence Service (MIS) such as Kalaheo’s Norman Hashisaka, were
in what he called “triple jeopardy.”
They could be killed or wounded by the
Japanese enemy, or by Filipinos who despised the Japanese because of war
atrocities in their country, or by their own or Allied soldiers in cases of
When Hashisaka and his MIS comrades were allowed trips
into towns, they were encouraged to take bodyguards or Caucasian soldiers with
them, and to be very careful, because of that triple jeopardy they knew they
were in, said Hashisaka, 74.
Because the exploits and actions of this
covert group were classified information — MIS members couldn’t talk about
their wartime work until documents were declassified in 1972 — the work which
some military officers credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by one
to three years went largely officially un-rewarded.
As the information
began trickling out, though, it became obvious that the work of the MIS —
including Kauaians like Hashisaka, Jiro Yukimura, the late Judge Arthur S.
Komori and many others — was indeed brave and heroic.
While Pres. Harry
Truman gave the more-famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry
Battalion the Presidential Unit Citation shortly after the war’s end in August
of 1945, it would be 55 years before the MIS soldiers would get the same
It came this weekend during the 36th biennial convention of the
Japanese American Citizens League in Monterey, Calif.
Kaua’i native and
Army Chief of Staff Eric “Ric” Shinseki presented the MIS the Presidential Unit
There were over 6,000 MIS members in the Pacific
Probably the greatest interception the MIS made, according to
Hashisaka, was what came to be known as “the Z Plan,” or Japan’s strategy and
tactics for an all-out counterattack by the entire Japanese naval and air
forces against the Allied naval forces moving westward across the central
A plane crash sent the plans into hands of Filipino guerrillas,
who got them into the hands of Allied translators, who sent the documents to
Australia for translation, from where they were forwarded to all Allied
All of this was done without Japan knowing their Z Plan was in
The documents were found in a waterproof container, in a
folder with a red cover with a black “Z” on it, hence the “Z Plan.”
the Battle of the Philippine Sea was all-Allied (with knowledge of Japan’s
plans allowing for a swift and surprise attack, and the invasion of the
Marianas turned into “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot,” as U.S. aircraft picked
off enemy planes.
From the Z Plan, translated by the linguists, the Allied
forces learned of Japan’s master plan for the defense of the Philippines. As a
result, the U.S. Navy annihilated the counterattacking enemy forces in three
major sea and air battles in late October, 1944.
On another occasion, a
radio dispatch was intercepted which spelled out the exact time Japanese Adm.
Isoroku Yamamoto was to inspect troops at Bougainville.
commander-in-chief of the Japanese Imperial Fleet, died when his plane was shot
down en route to Bougainville. Gen. Douglas MacArthur described the incident
“as one of the singularly most significant actions of the Pacific
Even Yukimura and others in the MIS didn’t know how many others were
also in the MIS.
“Unlike the other infantry units, we went to school.
After graduation, we were assigned all the various units covering the Pacific
war against Japan,” Yukimura said.
“So we were all scattered in groups” of
teams of 10 men or less.
Yukimura left San Francisco for Brisbane,
Australia, where MacArthur’s headquarters was located. Some of his friends were
assigned to Australian or Indian units, as interpreters, interrogators and
“So it took a long time for people to realize that Niseis also
served in the Pacific war,” said Yukimura, 79.
Hashisaka ended up just
outside Manila, at the Allied Translator Interpreter Section headquarters,
translating enemy documents, and occasionally being assigned to Allied field
units to interrogate, translate and interpret.
Materials were translated,
and sent to superiors as intelligence material, he said.
never forget the mixed feelings the war’s end brought in the summer of 1945,
because only a few months before he lost 10 friends to the war.
A team of
10 was being recruited to go to Okinawa. “Most of us volunteered, because we
wanted to go up front, where the action was,” Hashisaka recalled.
reason, his commanding officer didn’t pick Hashisaka. The 10 perished as their
plane crashed near a small island off Okinawa. Among the dead was Tommy
Kazuyoshi Inouye of Lihu’e.
So war’s end brought feelings of rejoicing
(because the war was over and Allied forces prevailed) and sadness (over his
Both Yukimura and Hashisaka are honored to finally get the
“It’s good, of course,” Yukimura said. “I felt good,” Hashisaka
said. “It’s nice to be recognized. Long in coming, but I think it’s great,”
Some Isei (first-generation Japanese immigrants)
probably wanted to fight in the war, but the U.S. government didn’t let the
Isei become naturalized U.S. citizens until 1952, Yukimura said.
immigrant groups were allowed to become naturalized citizens, he
Yukimura and Hashisaka recalled the intense, six-month training in
Japanese language at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, Minn.
studying. Oh, no fooling around,” Yukimura said. “Day and night language
(training),” Hashisaka said.
“You just live the language, you know,
Japanese, learn how to read, write, speak, interpret, translate, and learn how
to interrogate prisoners.”
After Minnesota, Hashisaka went through regular
infantry boot camp in Fort McClellan, Ala., learning combat techniques, how to
use weapons, and taking long hikes with full field packs. Then, he shipped out
After the war, Hashisaka and others became part of the
occupational forces in Japan, initially translating documents and doing some
interpreting. Eventually, he was assigned to war crimes trials in Yokohama,
again assisting in interpreting and translating.
The cases he assisted with
were largely for prisoner-of-war camp commanders and noncommissioned officers
accused of mistreating American prisoners.
The result of one trial was that
Kitaro Ishida, a noncommissioned officer in a POW camp, was sentenced to death
“That was quite an experience. Kind of an unpleasant kind of
experience,” Hashisaka said.
Again after the war, over 5,000 Nisei helped
with disarmament, civil affairs, military government work, intelligence work,
and even helped draft the new Japanese Constitution, which pledged that Japan
“forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.”
They also were
involved in the Land Reform Law, whereby 75 percent of the farmers of Japan
became land owners.