Norman Hashisaka will celebrate his 90th birthday Monday.
He often wonders why man cannot live in peace.
He is one of only two known surviving veterans of the Military Intelligence Service on Kauai.
“When I think back about all the wars we have gone through,” said the soft-spoken Hashisaka. “Each of the countries pick their young, intelligent, healthy people to go to the military where they are trained to fight. When you think of all who went to war and were killed — made the supreme sacrifice; when it’s over you have to say to yourself, ‘how foolish.’”
His family moved to Oahu just before the onset of World War II, and when war broke out, he volunteered on Oahu where he was inducted on Jan. 3, 1944 and sent to Camp Savage in Minnesota for basic training.
“Uncle Sam sent us there in the middle of winter,” Hashisaka said. “This was the first time I saw snow in my life.”
Following infantry training in Arizona, Hashisaka, transferred as an Allied Translator, joined by 150 other soldiers in the Philippines, the central dispatching point for Allied translators in the Pacific.
Unlike the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, the MIS soldiers did not go to war as a battalion or regiment, Hashisaka said in a prepared statement.
“We were assigned to various units as a team of about 10 men, or in some cases, a smaller number,” Norman said. “Nisei MIS soldiers were all over the Pacific, from Australia all the way up to Southeast Asia, being assigned the the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and also to the Australian and British forces.”
Norman said the MIS soldiers’ role was dangerous.
“We were in triple jeopardy,” he said. “When assigned to combat up front, we could be shot by the enemy, and by our own comrades by mistake. We could be killed by the natives in the islands because of mistaken identity. Some of the natives hated the Japanese soldiers because of the atrocities they committed when they occupied the island. When we landed in the Philippines and the Filipinos saw us in American uniforms carrying rifles, they were terrified, pointing their fingers and calling us ‘Hapon, Hapon.’ They thought we were Japanese soldiers disguised in American Army uniforms. We were warned not to go into town without a ‘haole’ as a bodyguard.”
He was in the Philippines when news came announcing the end of World War II.
“This was one of the most disastrous things of the war,” Hashisaka said. “The command was calling for a 10-man team for duty in Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of Japan. There were a lot of people who stepped forward, eager to get to the front. The group left and we got the report of the plane crashing in Naha, Okinawa and the airport full of smoke. The pilot made three attempts to land, and on the final attempt, the plane crashed into the mountain — on the day the war ended.”
Norman said among the casualties, one was from Kauai — Kazuyoshi Inouye of Lihue, or Kapaia.
Mabel Hashisaka, Norman’s wife, said Inouye and others were employees of the Lihue Plantation, and when the subdivision in Lihue was being built, one of the streets was named in his honor.
“He was not the only one,” Mabel said. “There are other names in the area known as Fujii camp — Japanese names on streets. No one named streets after Japanese at that time. It was quite an honor for Lihue Plantation to honor its employees who were KIA in this manner.”
Norman said the situation was melancholic.
“I was happy the war was over, but sad because we lost the 10 men, four, or five of them in training together,” Norman said. “The following month, I was asked to go to Japan as part of the occupation group.”
His first stop was the Rokurasho, or Treasury Building where the Japanese offices were moved out as housing for the Allied forces.
“This was one of buildings which were not bombed,” Norman said. “This was part of General Douglas MacArthur’s plan — not to bomb the Imperial Palace and buildings surrounding it.”
From the Rokurasho, Norman was transferred to the NYK Building, another intact building used by a ship building company. This became the Allied Translator station and Norman was assigned to the war crimes trial in Yokohama as the court interpreter as well as monitor for other court-related matters.
“This was a really unpleasant job,” Norman said. “They were trying Japanese POW camp commanders charged for atrocities commited against Allied, mostly American, POW. These were terrible crimes. They really mistreated POW.”
He paused, quietly whispering about afidavits.
“There was one case, Kitaro Ishida, who was called The Bull because he bullied prisoners and mistreated them,” Norman said. “He was sentenced to death by hanging and brought to Yokohama.”
Mabel said Norman was the only Japanese in the courtroom of seven judges, mostly American and one British.
“The families of the convicted would come and talk to him,” Mabel said. “They wanted to appeal the judgement, especially the death sentences. Norman was the only Japanese and they would see him.”
Norman said the MIS, estimated at more than 5,000 under the command of Gen. MacArthur, also did work re-doing the Japan constitution to become a more democratic form of government, land reform, interviewing security work, and repatrioting Japanese soldiers.
“At that time, land was owned by big zaibatsu, or corporations, and farmers were tenant farmers,” Norman said. “Under the reform, the farmers were able to buy and own land they farmed. Today, the farmers are doing well — they got to own the farmlands.”
Norman said one of the first true homegrown heroes of the MIS was Arthur Komori of Lihue.
“Arthur was recruited by the Counter Intelligence Agency in February, 1941 — before the attack on Pearl Harbor — and sent to the Philippines,” Norman said. “As an undercover agent, he gathered and provided valuable information to Gen. MacArthur and his staff. He escaped Bataan, and before the fall of Corregidor, he was ordered by Gen. Jonathan Wainwright to leave on the last flight out of the Philippines and join Gen. MacArthur in Australia.”
Gen. MacArthur said, “Never in military history did an army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement.”
Komori was later elected to the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, but Mabel said when he returned home, he didn’t have any of the VA benefits, leading Norman and other veterans, including Dr. Quentin Belles, to write letters of support and other documents on behalf of Komori.
Norman said the MIS Memorial Honor Roll includes 21 names of men who gave their lives for America in the Pacific Theater of War during World War II.
In documents unlocked from classified information 37 years following World War II, Major General Charles Willoughby, Gen. MacArthur’s Chief of Intelligence is quoted, “It is appropriate to record the invaluable services rendered by linguists of Japanese ancestry, the ‘Nisei’ from Hawaii and California, the Japanese Americans amply demonstrated their loyalty to the United States in every capacity, indeed there is absolutely no record of sabotage or treason … the Nisei shortened the Pacific war by two years and saved possibly a million American lives and possibly billions of dollars.”
Prior to his discharge from the Army in June, 1946, Norman said he was asked to remain in Japan and offered jobs because there was a big demand for interpreters.
“No,” he said. “I going home.”
He returned to Hawaii, resuming his life by going to college on the GI Bill and started to build his family enterprise, the Kauai Kookie Kompany.
“He is a real good employee,” said his daughter Ann Hashisaka, who takes charge of the family’s daily operations of the Kauai Kookie Kompany. “When I came home, I thought I knew a lot, but found out how much I didn’t know. My father comes in on his free time and helps because he is needed. He’s part of our volunteer ohana.”
Norman smiled, munching on a sushi while enjoying his kale smoothie with strawberries and banana at the Kauai Kookie Kalaheo Marketplace.
“After World War II, I thought that would be the end of war,” Norman said. “We might have won the war, but when you think of all the losses, war is such a foolish thing — nobody really wins. As human beings, we haven’t learned to live in peace. I hope someday, we can all live in peace.”