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Japanese Americans who Served in Merrill's Marauders

01 Mar 2021 2:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


Merrill’s Marauders. Herbert Miyasaki, BG Frank Merrill, Commander of Merrill’s Marauders, and Akiji Yoshimura in Burma, April 1944. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.

David Tsuneishi 

The Japanese Americans who served with Merrill’s Marauders were Edward Mitsukado, Thomas K. Tsubota, Herbert Y. Miyasaki, Robert Y. Honda, Roy K. Nakada who were originally with the 100th Battalion and Howard Furumoto, Henry Gosho, Grant J. Hirabayashi, Calvin T. Kobata, Russell K. Kono, Roy H. Matsumoto, Ben S. Sugeta, Jimmy Yamaguchi, Akiji Yoshimura. They were led by Captain William Laffin, whose mother was Japanese. However, when the movie Merrill's Marauders (1962), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056234/ and its fictionalized counterpart Never So Few (1959), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053108/ were filmed, there were no Japanese American MISers in the them. Never so Few, which features Charles Bronson as a code talker did have several Japanese American actors including George Takei and Mako who play uncredited Japanese soldiers. Even though General Merrill, the famed leader of Merrill’s Marauders, had high praise for the Japanese American MISers, "[a]s for the value of the Nisei group, I couldn't have gotten along without them. Probably few realized that these boys did everything that an infantryman normally does plus the extra work of translating, interrogating, etc." One of the reasons World War II movies about the war in the Pacific left out the participation of the Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service may have been because of the classified nature of their work. 

One movie featuring Japanese American veterans of the Pacific and Europe as themselves was the Next Karate Kid, released in 1994. My father, JAVA member Warren Tsuneishi and JAVA member Grant J. Hirabayashi are in the Next Karate Kid scene at the beginning, filmed near the Iwo Jima memorial as extras in a celebration for Japanese American veterans including Mr. Miyagi. When we took my daughter and her cousins to see it, they exclaimed, "there's grandpa" when they saw his headshot fill the screen. The 442nd of which Mr. Miyagi was a fictional member had their film, Go For Broke. Maybe it’s time for a movie about the Japanese Americans who served in the Military Intelligence Service to have theirs.

Additional resources:

U.S. Army Center of Military History - NISEI LINGUISTS

https://www.goforbroke.org/learn/history/combat_history/world_war_2/china-burma-india/merrills_marauders.php

 "The Marauder Samurai," Merrill's Marauders 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional), accessed January 2, 2015, http://www.marauder.org/nisei01.htm


306th HQ Intelligence Detachment, XXIV Corps, Leyte, Philippines, November 1, 1944. Front row, l to r: George Shimotori, Saburo Okamura, Thomas Sasaki, Francis Yamamoto Herbert Nishihara, Warren Tsuneishi (author's father). Back row, l to r: Hiroshi Itow, Joe Nishihara, Lt. Richard Kleeman, TSgt George Takabayashi, Lloyd Shimasato. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.


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