Island History: Sgt. Terasu ‘Terry’ Yoshimoto

During World War II, Lihue born-and-raised Terasu “Terry” Yoshimoto (1917-1987) served with the Army’s Military Intelligence Service as a Japanese POW interrogator in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

His first overseas assignment with MIS was at the Allied military base in New Caledonia.

Next came Guadalcanal, followed by his first amphibious landing and duty with the First Marine Amphibious Corps at Bougainville, beginning in Nov. 1943.

Sgt. Yoshimoto then made another beach assault with the 4th Marine Raiders on Emirau.

Yoshimoto also took part in mopping-up operations on Shortland, New Georgia and Green Island, before participating in the invasion of the Philippines at Lingayen Gulf in Jan. 1945.  

While serving in the Philippines, Yoshimoto was constantly accompanied by three bodyguards to protect him from excited Filipino guerillas who might have mistaken him for a Japanese soldier and taken a potshot at him.

Japanese POWs were first given food, clothing and medical treatment before being turned over to Yoshimoto for interrogation.  

They were always surprised to find themselves face-to-face with Yoshimoto. At first glance, they would presume he was one of them. One even asked him when they first met, “When were you captured?”

Initially, Yoshimoto would chat with them to gain their confidence, after which he would begin his interrogation.  

Japanese enlisted POWs, Yoshimoto learned, were surprisingly willing to give away their gun positions, troop dispositions and other military information, which was usually accurate.

Officers, on the other hand, preferred suicide to capture. In fact, the only officers captured were those who couldn’t commit suicide due to wounds or illness.

From May through Aug. 1945, Yoshimoto, speaking through a loudspeaker in the Philippines, saved untold lives by successfully convincing about 700 Japanese soldiers to surrender.

Among his decorations was the Bronze Star Medal.

Terasu “Terry” Yoshimoto is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.

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