Phil Ishio (2nd from left) and Arthur Ushiro (Ishio’s interrogating a Japanese POW (right) in Buna, New Guinea, on January 2, 1943. Ishio retired as Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and was a founding member of JAVA. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
JAVA Research Team
During World War II, all ethnic Japanese in America were viewed as disloyal and 110,000, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens, of the Pacific coast states were unconstitutionally placed in internment camps, guarded on the ground and from guard towers with machine guns. Absent any other resource to translate and interpret the difficult Japanese language, the U.S. Army recruited some 6,000 Nisei, many from internment camps. Some 3,000 of them served wherever they were needed, including with infantry and Marine invasion forces in the Asia-Pacific theater. Nisei were pleased to serve to prove their loyalty. The passage of tactical intelligence, obtained from translating captured documents and interrogating prisoners, in real time to commanders helped them prepare counter actions that won battles and saved American lives. The article below describes what the Nisei linguists did and where they served. After Japan surrendered, an additional 3,000 Nisei men and women served in the rebuilding of Japan as an industrial power. Their contributions were recognized by remarks from Japanese and American officials and awards such as the Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and individual awards received only in combat zones (Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. No Nisei was convicted for disloyalty or desertion
Washington, D.C. When World War II began, the U.S. government and many Americans viewed all ethnic Japanese as potentially disloyal and collaborators of Imperial Japan. The War Department stopped enlisting Nisei and forcibly placed 110,000 ethnic Japanese residing along the Pacific Coast in internment camps guarded by sentries on the ground and from guard towers with machine guns. The Department of Justice and FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, concluded mass internment was not necessary. Army, Navy and FBI intelligence penetration of Japanese communities disclosed no subversive activities. Nevertheless, the White House and War Department gave in to the demands of prejudiced leaders on the West Coast and decided to break up the Japanese communities and imprison the ethnic Japanese. Decades later, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, mandated by the U.S. Congress, concluded that internment was not justified by military necessity, but that it was caused by war hysteria, racial prejudice and the failure of political leadership. In Hawaii, the military governor, LTG Delos C. Emmons, was directed by Washington to prepare plans to place all ethnic Japanese on one small island. However, that did not occur because Emmons assessed, after a thorough review, mass internment of ethnic Japanese similar to the U.S. Pacific Coast states was not necessary. His Army intelligence chief and the FBI special agent in charge for Hawaii assured General Emmons that 1,500 suspects were detained, and the rest could be controlled under martial law. Laying his rank and career on the line, Emmons stonewalled Washington, including the President, for two years, long after the threat of land invasion by Japan had passed. Ultimately, nearly 2,000 Hawaii Japanese were relocated.
Nisei, individually and in groups, petitioned the government to allow them to serve in combat to prove their loyalty. For this and other reasons, the government removed 1,432 Nisei from their former Hawaii National Guard units in mid-1942, reorganized them as the newly formed 100th Infantry Battalion, shipped them to Wisconsin for training, and subsequently deployed them to Italy for combat. In 1943, the government also activated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, consisting of 4,000 volunteers from Hawaii and the mainland, trained and shipped them to Italy to join the 100th. Ten thousand Nisei would serve in this unit, judged and publicized at the end of the war as the most decorated unit in the U.S. Army for its size and period of combat.
Need for Nisei Linguists
Even before war with Japan became imminent, War Department officials anticipated a large number of Japanese linguists would be required to prosecute any war. Their judgment soon proved to be correct as huge volumes of documentary and other reports containing intelligence information came into American and Allied hands. These documents included the complete list of Japanese army officers and their ranks, units and locations, information vital to U.S. commanders to identify and assess their adversaries; lists and locations in Japan where ammunition and military hardware were stored, vital data for U.S. bombing targets; an intercept of Japan’s ambassador to Berlin’s report of the German Atlantic Wall defenses he had just visited, vital information for Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion; interrogation of Japanese prisoners on the front lines that produced tactical intelligence describing their battle plans that commanders used to prepare counteractions that won battles and saved thousands of American lives; and, a top secret Japanese Navy master plan to defeat the U.S. Navy in the battle of the Philippine sea, vital information for U.S. naval commanders whose forces virtually eliminated Japanese naval air power in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The “Z Plan”, as the Japanese Navy called it, was translated by a team including two Nisei. It came into U.S. hands via Filipino residents of Cebu Island and Filipino guerrillas.
U.S. and Allied powers’ only resource to translate accurately the large number of Japanese documents captured on Pacific battlefields was the Nisei. Those Nisei who had attended schools in Japan before the war, especially middle schools and universities, called Kibei (Americans who studied in Japan and returned), were the most qualified. At the same time, they were considered as having the highest security risks. Many had colloquial or native-level knowledge of Japanese, acquired through long residence with Japanese families and schooling in Japan. This knowledge was valuable for reading the Japanese script called sosho and for understanding the nuances of the language. Very few Caucasians achieved this advanced knowledge in Japanese. Most Nisei were not Kibei, but spoke Japanese language at home with their immigrant parents and attended Japanese language schools. The Army determined they would need intensive training to be of military value as linguists. A school was established at the Presidio of San Francisco the month before Pearl Harbor, but moved to Minnesota the following spring, renamed the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). The largest classes of MISLS Nisei were recruited in 1943 and consisted mainly of volunteers from Hawaii and transfers from the 442nd RCT, which was training in Mississippi, and the 100th Bn. Some MIS Nisei failed their pre-induction physical examination, but the Army was willing to waive this requirement because of the pressing need for their special skills. The MIS also accepted a few Nisei World War I veterans. Despite their government’s harsh treatment of them and their families, Nisei were proud to serve in the military to help win the war and to prove their loyalty.
During the early period of the Pacific war, Army infantrymen and Marines were trained to “take no prisoners; kill all Japs." This explains why some Nisei sent to the Pacific in the early months of the war were puzzled to be assigned to jobs like truck or jeep drivers. Captain John A. Burden, a Caucasian graduate of the MIS Language School, who was born in Japan, educated there and later lived in Maui, HI as a sugar plantation doctor, was sent to Guadalcanal to serve in the XIV Corps, commanded by MG Alexander Patch. When Burden recommended the assignment of Nisei linguists, Patch declined, saying he preferred to take no prisoners, but rather to kill them. Other generals and enlisted infantrymen and Marines shared the general’s assessment. When Patch later saw the value of Burden’s intelligence reports produced in real time, he relented and agreed to allow Nisei on the front lines. Burden arranged to have linguists Masanori Minamoto, who was assigned to Tonga as a jeep driver, and two Nisei in Fiji transferred to the Solomon Islands. The value of their real time translation of captured documents and interrogation of Japanese prisoners impressed Patch, who recommended Nisei to other commanders. Later, when Patch was transferred to France as Seventh Army commander, an officer offered to brief him on the 442nd RCT, which was attached to the Seventh Army, Patch waived the briefing, saying he already knew about Nisei courage and performance.
Nisei Linguists’ Duties
While some 31,000 Nisei men and women served in the U.S. military during WW II, including some 10,000 who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the MIS Language School produced approximately 6,000 linguists during the war. About 3,000 of this number would serve overseas. Actionable intelligence produced by Nisei made them indispensable to front line units. A Caucasian bodyguard sometimes was assigned to protect each Nisei serving on the front line, as well as to report any security transgressions. MIS Nisei received a large number of combat awards, a testimony to their frontline service. Nisei interrogation technique was non-hostile; it was friendly, respectful, caring by offering food, cigarette, water, and medicine. This made a huge psychological difference to a prisoner who was trained he would be severely tortured if captured.
Where Nisei Linguists Served
Nisei linguists served in large numbers in translations centers such as ATIS (Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, Australia); SEATIC (Southeast Asia Translations and Interrogation Center, New Delhi, India; SINTIC (Sino Interpreter and Translator Center, China); and JICPOA (Joint Intelligence Central Pacific Ocean Area, Hawaii). They also served in small teams (2-10 linguists) as described below. Nisei linguists were loaned to allied forces such as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, and India. Geographically, MIS linguists served under military commands from Paris, France, westward to the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Micronesia, Polynesia, Melanesia, the Philippines, Australia, Southeast Asia, China-Burma-India, and, eventually, Japan. The presentation below is designed to show the different ways Nisei linguists served in the war effort.
European Theater of Operations
Toward the end of the European War, three MIS linguists were dispatched to General Dwight Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in France. One of them was Kazuo Yamane of Honolulu, HI and a Waseda University graduate, who trained with British commandos in preparation for an airborne raid on the Japanese embassy in Berlin. Yamane’s role was to identify and seize key documents. This operation did not occur because the Soviets had entered Berlin first.
Continental United States
MIS Nisei served at various locations, including: three Nisei linguists in the Pentagon; forty Nisei linguists at the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Section (PACMIRS), located at Camp Ritchie, MD, where captured enemy documents were stored; sixty Nisei linguists at the U.S. Army Signal Security Agency activity (known as Vint Hill Farms Station), located near Warrenton, VA. Messages from MG Hiroshi Oshima, Japan’s ambassador to Berlin, were intercepted in Turkey and relayed to Vint Hill Farms, where they were translated. Two were assigned to the Manhattan Project, to an office in New York City’s Fulton Fish Market; thirty were assigned to the once luxurious resort hotel, Byron Hot Springs, located at Tracy, CA, sixty miles east of San Francisco, to interrogate high-level POWs believed to have unique military, political and scientific information.
Alaskan Defense Command
In May 1942, five Nisei linguists were deployed to Anchorage, Alaska. The following winter fifteen additional Nisei arrived to serve in the liberation of the Aleutian Islands region. MISer Pete Nakano sustained bayonet wounds during a Japanese banzai charge on Attu. Following the Alaska assignment, some MISers were transferred directly to the South Pacific.
Central Pacific Command
From his command center in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was responsible for the area from Hawaii, to Micronesia and westward to Okinawa. Fifty Nisei linguists served in JICPOA, a CINCPAC entity located in a former furniture store in downtown Honolulu because the Navy would not allow Nisei to enter Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Beginning in November 1943, Nisei participated in the amphibious invasions of the Gilbert Islands, Tarawa, Makin, the Marshall Islands, and the Marianas; the February 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima; and the April 1945 invasion of Okinawa. Terry Doi of California, armed with a flashlight, entered caves in Iwo Jima to persuade Japanese soldiers to surrender. In Saipan, Hoichi Kubo of Maui, HI, obtained a report from a Japanese prisoner on July 5, 1944, subsequently confirmed by another prisoner, that the enemy was planning to mount a gyokusai, an all-out attack more fierce than a banzai charge, at daybreak the next day. The intelligence report was sent through the chain of command to the commanding general of the 27th Infantry Division, who realigned his forces. The following morning, the enemy struck and was crushed: 4,000 Japanese killed; 406 Americans killed and 412 wounded. After the battle, Kubo entered a cave to negotiate with eight armed Japanese soldiers who were holding 120 Japanese civilians hostage. Two hours later the civilians surrendered followed by the eight soldiers, their weapons left behind. Kubo was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Ben I. Yamamoto, Pearl City, Oahu and a student at Waseda University, interrogated Japanese prisoners at Byron Hot Springs, served with the Marine invasion force in Iwo Jima, in the postwar demobilization of Imperial Japanese forces and the Occupation of Japan. Nobuo Furuiye was assigned to the Aleutians to serve with the Canadian Grenadiers, then assigned to JICPOA, then served with the Marines for the invasion of Iwo Jima, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Dozens of MIS Nisei, trained in communications intercept, served in bombing runs over Asia to monitor communications between Japanese pilots and their base stations.
Southwest Pacific Area
After Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941, General Douglas MacArthur moved his headquarters to Brisbane, Australia. Left behind was Richard Sakakida of Honolulu, who had served as an undercover agent for U.S. Army intelligence in Manila before the war. He and another Nisei spy from Hawaii, Arthur Komori, donned their Army uniforms when Japan invaded and fought on Bataan. They were ordered to leave on the last flight from Corregidor, but Sakakida gave his seat to another Nisei who had also been working undercover in Manila. When the island fortress of Corregidor fell, Sakakida was captured, one of the very few Nisei taken prisoner by the Japanese. He was tortured by the Japanese military police, who might have been more fierce if the Japanese Army headquarters in Manila did not need an English-speaking linguist. Sakakida, who pretended to work diligently, gained their confidence and was left alone in the office during their long lunch break. Sakakida read their documents, gathered intelligence from them such as movement of vessels and details about prisons in the Manila area. He passed intelligence information clandestinely to Filipino guerrillas to transmit to MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia. He arranged a mass escape of Filipino guerrillas who were held in a Japanese prison near Manila. Sakakida himself did not escape from Japanese custody until the end of the war. Japanese naval defeat at the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 and the defeat of their army at Buna, New Guinea, in January 1943 ended Japan’s plans to invade Australia. T/Sgt Charles Tatsuda, who was born in Alaska, led an 11 Nisei paratrooper squad of the 11th Airborne Division in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. Nisei such as Phil Ishio of Salt Lake City, UT (see photo above) who attended Waseda University; Harry Fukuhara, who attended school in Hiroshima where his mother and four siblings lived during the war; Team Leader Lt Horace Feldman; and Terry Mizutari of Hilo, HI, who was killed by Japanese troops at the battle of Lone Tree Hill at Maffin Bay, New Guinea in May 1944, served in these campaigns. James Yoshio Tanabe, a radio intercept specialist, was wounded while serving in New Guinea with the Australian forces. After he recovered at an Australian hospital he served in the Saipan invasion and subsequently went to Japan for demobilization and occupation duties.
After defeating the Japanese Army at New Britain in December 1943 and the Admiralty Islands in May 1944, all while leap-frogging up the spine of New Guinea, General MacArthur, fulfilling his vow to return, landed at Leyte, Philippines on October 20, 1944. In February 1945, George Kojima, a trained paratrooper, and Harry Akune, who had no parachute jump training, both jumped into Corregidor in February 1945. Spady Koyama was seriously wounded when his troopship was hit by a Japanese bomber at Tacloban, Leyte. He was declared dead and his body was placed with other dead soldiers to be picked up for burial. While a chaplain was offering last rites, Koyama awoke. He spent over a year in Army hospitals near his home in Seattle and was discharged. Subsequently, the Army offered him a commission and duty in Japan, where he reunited with a Japanese prisoner he had interrogated during the war. A warm lifetime relationship was formed.
Also among the MIS serving in the Southwest Pacific was Frank Hachiya of Hood River, OR. While serving with the 7th Infantry Division in Leyte, Philippines, Hachiya, before leaving for Honolulu on rest leave, volunteered to interrogate a prisoner. After the interrogation and while returning to his command post, he was shot by a sniper. Severely wounded, he reported to his commander and died. Hachiya provided vital information for the counter attack. Hachiya was awarded the Silver Star posthumously. Another MIS in the Southwest Pacific was John Tanikawa, a WW I veteran who served in France where he received the Purple Heart and a French Medal. Tanikawa was 42 years old when he served as a translator and interrogator in Hollandia, New Guinea. He later served in Mindanao, Philippines.
South Pacific Area
Commanded by Admiral William Halsey, combat was centered on Guadalcanal, Bougainville and other parts of the Solomon Islands. Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti and New Caledonia, which were not occupied by Japan, served as Allied support bases. Following is an example of a skilled interrogator, Roy T. Uyehata, Gilroy, CA, as described by Dr. Stanley L. Falk and Dr. Warren M. Tsuneishi, MIS in the War Against Japan. In February 1944, the U.S. 37th Infantry Division and the America Division of the XIV Corps fought the Japanese 6th Division from Kumamoto Prefecture. Uyehata interrogated a prisoner, who said he assumed the Americans knew the Japanese were planning to attack at dawn on March 23. Uyehata was not aware of this information and believed it was new. In an attempt to obtain maximum details in a natural setting, Uyehata pretended he knew the information and said he wanted to review it with the prisoner. When he got the information he needed, Uyehata feigned a headache saying he needed to report to the medic. Uyehata instead reported this information to his commander, Captain William Fisher, who arranged the re-interrogation of another prisoner who had been cooperative. The intelligence information was confirmed and reported up the chain of command to the corps commander, General Oscar Griswold. The night before the planned Japanese March 23 attack, U.S. forces launched a massive artillery bombardment from land and sea. Result: 5,000 enemy killed and 3,000 wounded. The U.S. suffered 263 casualties. Uyehata was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Captain Fisher arranged for his own parents to make a goodwill visit to Uyehata’s parents at the Poston, AZ internment camp to tell them about their son’s contribution to victory.
South East Asia Command
Britain’s Lord Louis Mountbatten was the over-all commander with U.S. General Joseph Stilwell as Allied deputy commander and commander of U.S. forces. MIS Nisei linguists were involved with translating enemy documents and intercepted communications and broadcast propaganda. A smaller number were part of Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Detachment 101, which organized the Kachin tribesmen of northern Burma to harass Japanese forces and rescue downed Allied aircrew. When the Nisei asked one of the Kachin soldiers how many enemy soldiers he had killed, the Kachin emptied a bag containing dried human ears. Merrill’s Marauders and its successor, the MARS Task Force, conducted special forces work behind enemy lines. Henry H. Kawabara led an MIS language team to work with the British Army and Eiichi Sakauye served with a British Gurkha glider force that captured Rangoon.
In May 1944, the 5307th Composite Unit -- Merrill’s Marauders -- achieved its goal of capturing the airfield at Myitkyina, an all-weather airport that was the gateway to the Burma Road which hauled war materiel to China. Fourteen Nisei linguists and team leader, 1st Lt William Laffin, who was killed in combat, served dual roles as linguists and riflemen. One night, Roy Matsumoto, who attended high school in Japan, where he received student military training, crawled to the enemy bivouac area, eavesdropped on their discussions and reported to his battalion commander the enemy was planning a largescale attack at dawn. The commander prepared and waited. The following morning a large Japanese force struck and fell into the trap. When the second wave hesitated Matsumoto stood up and shouted in Japanese to charge. The Japanese did, to their peril. The third wave withdrew. The enemy sustained fifty-nine killed. Grant Hirabayashi, who attended high school in Japan and was allergic to Army K rations, survived on Army biscuits and occasional Japanese food left behind when Japanese soldiers fled in haste. He was evacuated before the Myitkyina attack due to jungle disease and malnutrition. Before the mission began its journey, the medic had recommended Hirabayashi be exempt from serving in the MM but Hirabayashi declined, determined to stay on a mission that War Department officials warned 85 percent of the men would not survive. With only 200 men left standing when Myitkyina fell, Merrill’s Marauders was deactivated and the MARS Task Force took over by defeating the last of Japanese military presence in the Lashio area.
In China, five Nisei joined the Dixie mission to serve in the caves of Yan’an on the invitation of the Chinese communists. Sanzo Nozaka, Japan Communist Party (JCP) head in secret exile at Yan’an, arranged for MIS Nisei to interrogate captured Japanese soldiers. Nozaka, who received newspapers from Japan within 10 days of publication, also provided psywar advice which was forwarded to the Nisei psywar unit. The irony of this cordial wartime relationship is that the JCP would become the No. 1 intelligence target of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps during the Occupation of Japan. One Nisei, accompanied by a Chinese communist escort, was sent on a mission to rescue a downed American pilot. The pilot was initially skeptical of the Nisei but grateful. The Americans were invited to the Chinese Communists’ Saturday night dances where they fraternized with Mao Tze-tung, Chou En Lai, Chu Teh and other Communist leaders. This was the first U.S. government-to-government contact with the Chinese Communists. Immediately after Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender, OSS Nisei accompanied each OSS parachute missions to Japanese prisoner of war camps in China to ensure Allied POWs were not harmed by their Japanese captors and released as quickly as possible.
Invasion of Japan
The invasion of Okinawa began on April 1, 1945. MISers of Okinawan descent, who spoke the Okinawan dialect, volunteered to serve as a team in Okinawa. Many other Nisei linguists served in the climactic Battle of Okinawa, including nearly 200 who were assigned to civil affairs and medical units and sent directly there from Hawaii without undergoing training at the MISLS. Others went with language teams assigned to each combat division. Takejiro Higa of Hawaii was part of the 96th Division’s ten-man language team. Higa had attended school in Okinawa and spoke the Okinawa dialect. He advised American officers about Okinawa, persuaded Okinawa civilians to leave the caves and surrender peacefully. Higa met some former school mates in one interrogation session and took a few moments to cry with them. Nisei entered caves to persuade Japanese soldiers and civilians to surrender. Having established an operating base on Japanese soil, Allied forces were about to mount the invasion of Kyushu when the A-bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered.
Occupation of Japan
Following Japan’s surrender, Nisei, who just fought the Japanese, now worked peaceably with them to achieve Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) MacArthur’s directive of building a democratic industrialized Japan allied to the Western world. This involved the demobilization of the Japanese armed forces, war crimes trials, and the occupation of Japan. In addition to many of the Nisei who served in combat or overseas, some 2,000 additional Nisei, served during the occupation from the national to the local levels to ensure occupation policies were carried out. MacArthur’s orders were sent to the national government, which distributed them through the Japanese administrative system to the village level.
MIS representatives, like Peter Okada of Seattle, WA, who were assigned to SCAP’s education section at the village level made unannounced visits to schools to ensure photos of the Emperor and Empress were removed and martial arts training was discontinued. The youths were despondent. Okada, using his own time and resources, introduced American football to two high schools. This grew into a program involving 120 high schools in the Kinki and Tokyo regions. Eventually, over 200 colleges and 100 company clubs also formed competitive American football programs. Okada was invited to Japan in 1992 to be honored at a midfield ceremony at the Nishinomiya Bowl as the father of American football in Japan. Emperor Hirohito commended the Nisei role in the Occupation. In a meeting at the Imperial Palace, the Emperor told Major Kan Tagami, a MARS Task Force veteran and later an aide to General MacArthur: “Your Japanese ability has truly made the government’s work much easier. The Nisei are a bridge across our two countries. Thank you very much.”
As the internment camps closed at the end of the war, many internees settled in different parts of the nation; a number of them returned to their homes and businesses in the Pacific Coast states. Some local residents were openly hostile to their return, shooting into their homes, burning their warehouses and yelling epithets. Caucasian soldiers who served with the Nisei in the European and Pacific theaters, where they saw Nisei displays of courage, the use of actionable intelligence Nisei produced, and commitment to their nation, were among the Nisei greatest supporters. Shawn P. Quinn, Manager, Stamp Development manager for the U.S. Postal Service, December 10, 2020 response to JAVA President Gerald Yamada’s letter about recognition for the MISers in the U.S. postage stamp that honors World War II Nisei soldiers and will be circulated in 2021 said, in part: “There will be occasions when we will have limited space [to name all deserved entities], but we will be sure to explain that soldiers who served as linguists and interpreters are included in this important group.”
Post War Developments
It rained hard in Washington, D.C. on July 15, 1946, the day President Harry Truman was scheduled to review the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The military aide recommended Truman cancel his portion of the day’s event. Probably reminding himself he too fought in the rain in the Vosges during World War I, Truman replied, “hell no, for what these boys have done I can stand a little rain.” The MISers, who served equally courageously fighting against persons of their racial background, where brothers served on opposite sides, were there at the Ellipse in spirit that day to share the President’s remarks: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won”. Truman’s remarks resonated across the land supported by strong editorials. Through his remarks to the national audience and his presence that day, Truman 1) affirmed Japanese American loyalty, 2) removed from the table the stigma of disloyalty placed there when war began, and 3) placed Japanese Americans in the nation’s mainstream. In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that allowed the Army to imprison unconstitutionally 110,000 ethnic Japanese for the duration of World War II, although two-thirds of them were Americans by birth. Three years after the war President Truman, drawing inspiration from the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Nisei soldiers and other minorities, issued Executive Order 9981 in 1948 which desegregated the armed forces and allowed minorities to compete for any job and rank in the military. The effects of this Executive Order were felt in the civilian sector as well. (E.O. 9981 is further explained in the JRT comment below.) In 1988 President Reagan offered the nation’s apology for the internment.
How Did MISers Do?
Nisei who served in the MIS should be judged on three points: (1) their loyalty and patriotism; (2) the value of the intelligence they produced; and (3) their role in the Occupation of Japan. As for the first point, the colonels who steadfastly attested to Japanese American loyalty, such as Colonel Moses H. Pettigrew of the Japan Branch at the War Department, and Colonel Kendall Fielder, intelligence officer to the military governors of Hawaii, must have been satisfied their judgment of the Nisei loyalty and patriotism was proved correct: No Japanese American was convicted for collaborating with the enemy or for disloyalty. As for the second point, Col. Kai Rasmussen, wartime commandant of MISLS, at the Presidio, Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, in a lengthy press release issued on 22 October 1945, said, “never before in history did one army know so much concerning its enemy prior to actual engagement as did the American army during most of the Pacific campaign.” Dr. James McNaughton, while on the staff of the Army Center of Military History, responded to JAVA’s query on February 5, 2007 that some writers have erroneously attributed this quote to General MacArthur. As for the third point, The Emperor expressed to an officer of MacArthur’s staff Japan’s appreciation for the Nisei role in the Occupation.
[JAVA Research Team (JRT) Comment. Executive Order 9981 said, “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” Responsibility for content and presentation is JRT’s. Sources most helpful for the preparation of this paper were Dr. James McNaughton, Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in MIS During WW II; MIS Veterans Hawaii booklet The Nisei Intelligence War Against Japan, 1993; NJAHS booklet The Pacific War and Peace, 1991 from which the reference “eyes and ears” was taken; and JAVA’s Falk and Tsuneishi’s American Patriots: MIS in the War Against Japan, 1995.]