Island History for Friday, August 19, 2011

Toshiharu Yama (1908-1976) was born and raised on Kaua‘i and had attended Hanama‘ulu School and Kaua‘i High School and worked for Lihu‘e Plantation before serving in the Army’s Military Intelligence Service during WWII as a Japanese language interpreter.

The MIS to which T/5 Yama belonged was comprised primarily of Nisei Japanese Americans trained in the Japanese language who served in the Pacific Theater of WWII with United States and Allied Armed Forces.

Their duties included translating captured Japanese documents, interrogating enemy POWs, persuading Japanese soldiers to surrender, and monitoring and intercepting enemy radio communications.

In August and September of 1945, Yama, who had recently arrived in the Philippines, recorded his experiences there in letters home to Kaua‘i.

He wrote that after disembarking his ship in Manila Harbor, Filipino children ran alongside calling out, “Hey, Joe, want banana, mango, coconut, pineapple?”  When GIs yelled back, “How much?” the youngsters replied, “One pack cigarette.”  

Yama also noted that his guide in Manila was Army Cpl. Andres Cariaso, who had fought in defense of Manila during the Japanese invasion in 1941-1942 and had later evacuated to the mountains to join guerilla forces.

Another highlight Yama wrote of was his purchase in Manila of a souvenir handkerchief for his wife on Kaua‘i embroidered with “Philippines 1945.”

At camp outside Manila, Yama also mentioned he had met T/4 Natalio Artacho of the Army’s 1st Filipino Regiment, who had known Yama’s father during 1924-1926, when the elder Yama had been a luna with Lihu‘e Plantation and he had worked in Kealia for Makee Sugar.

After the war, Yama attended Southern Methodist University, served in the Territorial House of Representatives (1952-1956), and retired as Kaua‘i manager of the Hawai‘i Housing Authority.

He and his wife, Kikue “Kay” Tamayose, had two children, Karen and Eric.

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