Japanese American Veterans Association

e-Advocate

Vol 1 No. 10, October 16, 2019 

Dwight and Cathy Gates Present "BG Kendall Fielder: Champion of WWII Nisei Soldiers"



JAVA President Gerald Yamada (R) presents Dwight and Cathy Gates with Commemorative JAVA Coin. Photo: Neet Ford


Serving as Master of Ceremony, JAVA Vice President, Howard High, introduced guest speakers Dwight Gates USA (Ret), a former Army and Department of Defense Intelligence Officer and history enthusiast and his wife Cathy Gates, the only granddaughter of Brigadier General Kendall “Wooch” Fielder. Sharing the stage, Dwight told members that his side of the talk would focus on Wooch’s leadership qualities and the unique role that he played as a “Champion of WWII Nisei Soldiers,” while Cathy explained that her grandfather’s accomplishments were unspoken and unknown to her as a youth and that she would recount her childhood memories of him.

Before launching into his talk, Mr. Gates told luncheon attendees about his introduction to JAVA in 2002 when he learned that the late WWII Veteran, lawyer and Nisei historian Ted Tsukiyama of Hawaii was coming to DC to speak at a JAVA event. An admirer of Tsukiyama, who is known as the Father of National Archives Records Administration Project (NARA), Gates attended the talk. One thing led to another and Gates became not only a member of JAVA but also a charter member of the JAVA NARA team that over many years scanned hundreds of Japanese American military documents, many fragile, from the National Archives.

In Mr. Gate’s eyes, “leadership was the real reason things went well in Hawaii and not in California” after Pearl Harbor. And leadership was practically woven into Brigadier General (BG) Kendall “Wooch” Fielder’s DNA. With a great, great, great grandfather serving in the Revolutionary War, a great, great grandfather in the War of 1812, a great grandfather in the Civil War and a father serving as a lawyer and Solicitor General, there was some destiny at play in Kendall Fielder’s remarkable military career. Born in Cedartown, GA in 1893, Fielder’s leadership skills were evident early on. At Georgia Tech, the Textile Engineering major, was captain of the football team his junior year. The star athlete was coached by John Heisman of famed Heisman trophy, an award that speaks to athletic ability and also hard work and dedication, all qualities that that could be used to describe the young Fielder.  Mr. Gate’s related that a misprint in the local newspaper was responsible for Fielder’s nickname – a name that he was forever known by; the sports headline read “Wooch Fielder” instead of “Watch Fielder.” Cathy added that she even called him Wooch and not Grandpa. Off the field, Wooch was President of the Student Governing Board as well as president of several campus organizations. At graduation, his classmates noted Wooch’s leadership: he was voted “the man who had done the most for Tech” and “most influential.” Perhaps not surprisingly, after finishing at Tech, he followed the path of his forefathers and joined the US Army to fight in World War I (but not before marrying May Crichton of Atlanta in 1917).

Continuing with the early military career of BG Fielder, Mr. Gates told members that the recently commissioned Wooch was sent to France in 1918 with the 7th Division as a machine gun platoon leader. He fought at Argonne Forest and St. Mihiel and was wounded in action. After the war ended, he was part of the occupational force in France and then held several assignments at Camp Funston, Fort Meade, and the Military District Washington.  In 1927, Fielder was assigned to the Philippines and served for three years as a Commanding Officer of Company I, 57th Infantry. After returning to the states, he led as a battalion commander and was commanding officer of troops at the Army War College.

According to Gates, the critical turning point in Fielder’s career came in November 1938, when he was assigned to Hawaii as a battalion commander and Executive Officer of 22nd Brigade. “One of Wooch’s responsibilities was training the 298th National Guard.” It was in this position, Gates remarked, that Wooch got to know “the loyalty of Japanese-Americans that served under his command.” However, Wooch’s knowledge of the Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) community went beyond the National Guard. At the time, Wooch was coaching a local football team and came to understand the vital role AJAs played in Hawaii. One-third of the population, AJAs were critical to the lifeblood of the islands. They farmed, fished, had businesses and defended Hawaii. Fielder’s fondness and appreciation of Hawaiian AJAs would shape his career and US History.

In August of 1939, Gates told audience members, the FBI sent Robert Shivers to open a Hawaii office and work with military intelligence to investigate Japanese loyalty and possible “bad apples.” In June 1941, Major General Walter Short, Commanding General of the Army's Hawaiian Department, chose Wooch to be his G-2 (Intelligence Officer). In this new assignment, Fielder was called on to be a part of Shivers Committee for Inter-Racial Unity. Wooch’s committee work further confirmed his trust in the AJAs. The trust did not falter on December 7, 1941. As Mr. Gates related, “Wooch was getting ready to go to a picnic at Bellows Field when he noticed black smoke over Pearl Harbor. He immediately changed into his uniform and reported for duty.” Gates added that Wooch made the first phone call through Army chanels to let Washington know that the Japanese had attacked. The phone call was just the start. Wooch’s thoughtful leadership style and belief in the allegiance of AJAs were needed in the days, months and years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Gates emphasized that after the attack, the Islands were rife with unrest and rumors - stories were circulating about “invading Japanese paratroopers and cryptic arrows in fields pointing to Honolulu. Wooch started working with newspapers to put an end to misinformation and to calm the public." He made radio addresses on December 10 and again on the 14th to report that no sabotage had taken place. He also reminded residents that “citizens of all races must work and fight together.” Gates highlighted that not everyone shared the vision of “racial unity.” When Lt General Emmons took over island leadership, he came with marching orders that all AJAs should be put in concentration camps, possibly on the outer island of Molokai. Fielder, fellow Morale Committee members, along with FBI agent Shivers, saw the situation differently. Fielder and the others were certain of the ethnic Japanese’s loyalty. Gates underscored that sentiments on both sides ran deep, “the heated exchanges between Fielder and Emmons could have been cause for Wooch’s court martial.”

Despite Wooch’s vigorous defense of the AJAs, ethnic Japanese members of the University of Hawaii ROTC were dismissed from Hawaiian Territorial Guard. In a show of loyalty, those dismissed petitioned for a defense role and with some persuading by Wooch, Emmons agreed in February 1942 to let the group form a unit, the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV), to shore up infrastructure. Fielder’s promotion of the group did not end there. He also arranged for Assistant Secretary McCloy who was visiting from DC to observe the VVV hard at work. Meanwhile, on the mainland, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 calling for the incarceration of over 120,000 AJAs living on the west coast. Although vitriol towards AJAs was strong on the mainland, Gates elaborated on how the tide of opinion had shifted in Hawaii, in large part due to the efforts of Wooch and the Morale Committee. By the fall of 1942, Emmons thought internment was the wrong path and sent Fielder to Washington to push the unpopular idea of an all-Nisei division. On January 1,1943,General Marshall approved the formation of what became the 100th Battalion and then the 442 Regimental Combat Team. Gates noted that in November 1944 Wooch was promoted to Brigadier General and “followed ‘his boys’ as they fought in Italy, France, and Germany." After the war, he served in the Pentagon and then returned to Hawaii in 1948.

Mr. Gates told members that Wooch was humble, and although he is “sometimes called ‘Father of 442nd’ and is one of only three honorary members of 100th and 442nd, he was never one to take credit.” His life of strong leadership – standing up to his commanding officer, standing up against popular opinion, standing up for what he believed in – remains an example to all.

Cathy Gates saw Wooch through a completely different prism. While growing up, he was just her grandfather. She may not have known about her grandfather’s military accomplishments, but she did know that he was a fabulous amateur magician and recalled him putting on a show for her and her friends. Affable and gregarious, Wooch and “Tutu” (the Hawaiian name for grandmother) were very social and loved going to parties. Cathy reported that as a young teen she visited her grandparents in Hawaii and she was whisked off to four parties during her stay but not before a shopping trip with Tutu to find just the right dresses. She added that Wooch was a scratch golfer and her grandparents had a home right on the golf course. In Cathy’s words “Wooch was fun, laughs and jokes.” In closing, Mrs. Gates told attendees that Wooch and Tutu are buried at the Punchbowl in Hawaii, at rest in a place they loved and that loved them.

After a hearty applause from the audience that included The Honorable Norman Mineta, Minister Kenichiro Mukai and his daughter Mori, and Major General Garrett Yee, USA and his wife Maria, JAVA President Gerald Yamada presented commemorative JAVA coins to Dwight and Cathy and thanked them for a most interesting and informative presentation. Indeed, all left feeling like Wooch lived up to his college yearbook quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a Man.’”


L-R: Dwight Gates, The Honorable Norman Mineta and Cathy Gates


JACL DC Executive Director David Inoue and Minister Kenichiro Mukai, Embassy of Japan

L-R Noriko Sanefuji, The Honorable Norman Mineta, Mori Mukai, Wade Ishimoto


Caucasian Officers’ Role as leaders of MIS Teams assigned to the Asia Pacific Theater During WW II


 

JAVA FOUNDER Sunao Phil Ishio and Arthur K. Ushiro (third and fourth from left) Interrogate a Japanese prisoner in Papua New Guinea. Early 1943. Signal Corps photo.


JAVA Research Team (JRT)

Washington, DC.   “What are those two goddam Japs doing here?  Shoot ‘em.”  Someone said, “No, they’re good Japs, working for us.  Well, shoot ‘em anyway.”  The conversation occurred in 1942 in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, at XIV Corps, as Military Intelligence Service (MIS) linguists Shigeru Yamashita and Isao Kusuda walked by; American commanders as well as soldiers questioned the loyalty of Nisei and did not want them around.  A major task of Caucasian MIS Team Leaders, with varying Japanese language skills, was to change this anti-Nisei bias.  They also authenticated the Nisei, validated the accuracy of their translation or interrogation reports, and supported the Nisei in their interactions with doubtful Caucasian staff and commanders.  MIS Nisei linguists in Asia Pacific Theater had three missions:  help win the war, fight discrimination on the home front, and fight discrimination overseas. 

From this challenging beginning, Nisei linguists diligently passed to combat commanders tactical intelligence obtained from captured documents and prisoners.  Caucasian officers and soldiers changed their attitude when they began experiencing how timely tactical intelligence from documents and prisoners won battles and saved lives.  When Japanese families began returning to their homes on the Pacific coast to racially-charged receptions, Caucasian soldiers who served overseas with Nisei, challenged the bigotry by vouching for Nisei loyalty and patriotism thereby accelerating their integration in America’s mainstream. The highest praise for the Nisei linguists' loyalty and indispensable skills came from President Harry Truman when he referred to them as “our human secret weapon.”  

US military Japan Specialists in the War Department soon realized that intelligence officers with one or two years of language training were unlikely to reach the level of fluency needed to translate all handwritten Japanese documents.  They came to understand that native fluency could only be achieved by long residence in a Japanese environment and by attending Japanese schools. They recognized that for ideal intelligence officer candidates, the higher the level of education and the longer the stay in Japan, the greater the greater the knowledge of the language as well as ties to Japan.  This group, which the Japanese called Kibei (born in US, studied in Japan, returned to US), who had regained their fluency in English, ranked high for US Army recruitment.  Although some viewed such recruits with concern, there was no case of a Nisei violating his oath of enlistment. Meanwhile the Japanese military had incorrectly assumed Nisei were not being used in the Pacific War and took comfort that no Caucasian had the ability to read their written language.  

The first class of 42 Japanese language trainees at the MIS Language School (MISLS), which included two Caucasians - 1st Lt John Alfred Burden and 1st Lt David E. Swift Jr., began in Fall 1941, just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack.  Nisei volunteered to serve in the first, second and third wave of Marine and infantry invasions to translate documents, interrogate prisoners and pass reports immediately to commanders to prepare counter actions.  They also entered caves to persuade Japanese soldiers to surrender.  While the risk of getting killed was high, many Nisei felt they could do the most good in those positions.  General George C. Marshall, who assumed Nisei served at the Division and Corps headquarters, was surprised to hear of their use on the front lines. 

Eventually, some 6,000 Nisei linguists graduated from MISLS and were assigned in small teams to every unit that required them during and after WWII.  They also served with Allied forces of Australia and Great Britain.  When the war ended, Nisei served in the demobilization and occupation of Japan as well the war crimes trials - efforts that insured a peaceful transition from wartime to peacetime Japan.

Burden and other Caucasian team leaders elevated the value and recognition of Nisei linguists in the Asia Pacific Theater.  Nisei linguists’ superior performance on and off the battlefield caused infantry and marine commanders to recommend them for combat awards, promotion to officer rank and for language team leader positions.  MISers reciprocated by staying in the service and using their language skills for post war duties in Japan. 

1st Lt (Colonel when he retired) Burden attended school in Japan, obtained a medical degree in Kentucky, and served as a sugar plantation doctor in Maui, Hawaii.  When the first MISLS class was formed, his Army reserve officer status was activated and ordered to attend the first MISLS class.  Upon graduation he was sent as a MIS team leader to Fiji, where he was assigned to monitor incoming telephone calls, a duty that did not utilize his language training and knowledge of Japan. Japanese American MISLS graduates were also wrongly assigned. For instance, MISLS graduate Masanori Minamoto,was sent to Tonga where he was assigned as a truck driver, while MISLS graduate Tateshi Miyasaki,was assigned to be a General’s jeep driver.  During Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Fleet, visit to Fiji he was introduced to Burden. Once he learned of Burden's language skills, Nimitiz told Burden to pack his bags, and take a flight to Guadalcanal.  

When Burden reported to MG Alexander M. Patch, CG of XIV Corps, Patch said he saw no value in the assignment of Japanese linguists.  He wanted “all Japs killed.” Such a mindset was, all to often, shared by infantry and marine officers and enlisted ranks.  Meanwhile, Patch was sending documents to his rear headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia with a turnaround translation time of six weeks.  Burden convinced Patch and subordinate officers about the value of on-the-spot translations and interrogations, in addition to the preparation of air drop of leaflets to persuade the Japanese to surrender. Burden worked to have Minamoto and Miyasaki assigned to Guadalcanal and they began producing and circulating their reports that convinced American commanders the value of taking prisoners.  

1st Lt (Lt Col when he retired) Swift, also a Caucasian graduate of MISLS first class, was also born in Japan, the son of a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University.  Born in 1896, he left Japan in 1913 to attend school in the US.   He enlisted in the US Navy and served during WWI.  Swift then joined the US Immigration Service and later transferred to US Customs Service. He received a reserve commission in 1933 while serving as a customs officer.  Swift led a team of eight graduates of the first MISLS class to Brisbane, Australia, where he helped activate and run the Allied Translation and Interpreter Service (ATIS). Retiring from the Army reserve in 1946, Swift returned to his US Customs job.         

2nd Lt Benjamin H. Hazard, Jr., who was commissioned after studying Japanese at University of Michigan and MISLS, was assigned to Saipan toward the end of that campaign.  He was the unit leader when Hoichi Kubo entered a cave and convinced eight armed Japanese soldiers to release their 120 civilian hostages.  Knowing a high award for valor required eye witness affidavits from Americans and knowing Kubo was the only American in the cave, Hazard obtained affidavits from a few Japanese civilians of Kubo’s actions in the cave.  Hazard used these Japanese affidavits for the recommendation for Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the second highest military award and highest battlefield award given to an MISer. 

William A. Laffin was born in Japan of an American father and a Japanese mother.  He served with the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma as an MIS team leader.  After leading a patrol of Burmese Kachin soldiers to reconnoiter a route in the jungle, he did the same by aircraft. His plane was shot down by Japanese forces and he perished. Other Caucasian team leaders included Richard Kleeman and Horace Feldman, both late members of JAVA, Lawrence P. Dowd, and William L. Dozier.

JAVA Member Dr. James McNaughton, the US Government’s authority on the MIS, summed up the Nisei and Caucasian officers roles in MIS this way:  “During the American occupation of Japan [the MIS] helped turn bitter enemies into friends thus securing the victory and serving as a bridge between the two cultures.   Caucasian team leaders forged strong bonds with the Nisei linguists in the crucible of combat, even though their language proficiency was often much less. They quickly saw how the Nisei provided valuable intelligence on every battlefield and became their strongest advocates.”


306th Hqs Intelligence Detachment, XXIV Corps, Leyte, Philippines. Nov 1, 1944.  Front Row, L-R:  George Shimotori, Saburo Okamura; Thomas Sasaki; Francis Yamamoto; Herbert Nishihara;  JAVA MEMBER Warren Tsuneshi; Back row, L-R.  Hitoshi Itow; Joe Nishihara; Lt Richard Kleeman; TSgt George Takabayashi; Lloyd Shimamoto.  Signal Corps Photo.



L-R. Maj  Burden, Head of 25th Division Language Section; T/3 Frederick Odanaka and T/3 Tateshi Miyasaki, Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands; September 1943. Signal Corps photo.


JAVA offers its thanks to the Caucasian team leaders for facilitating the Nisei linguists success.

[Ed Note: JRT appreciates the research support to this article provided by Mark Matsunaga, Historian of MIS Veterans Hawaii.]


442nd Veteran Lawson Sakai Shares Background On Captain  Thomas Crowley

 Lawson Sakai, Co E, 442nd  RCT

WWII Nisei Veteran Lawson Sakai served under Lt. Crowley in Co E, 442nd RCT. Crowley was a part of Company E from its inception at Camp Shelby in 1943 and went to Italy with the unit. Crowley's men respected him for his courage and leadership skills and Sakai reported that Crowley insisted on leading his platoon into combat and always considered the safety of his men.  Crowley was wounded in northern Italy in the Rome Arno campaign and evacuated to stateside hospitals. Although he did not return to the 442nd after his injury, Crowley was always a fierce defender of AJAs and testified to the bravery of the Nisei soldiers who fought alongside of him.

Below is a copy of a speech that Captain Crowley gave to various community and professional groups in West Coast communities to combat anti-Japanese American sentiments and ease the way for Nisei as they returned home and resettled after WWII. In his remarks, Captain Crowley, eloquently describes the heroism of Nisei soldiers, and reminds his audience of the ideals of American democracy. Sometimes his remarks fell on deaf ears. Once, after a speech he gave at an American Legion post in a farming community in California's Central Valley, thugs beat up Crowley who was wearing his US Army's Captain’s uniform with his Combat Infantryman’s Badge, awards and service ribbons. 

Following the WWII, Sakai has visited the Vosges area of France ten times, including escorting six group tours.  He has also participated in nearly every Co E annual reunion which have now transformed into a veterans reunion in Las Vegas, NV. 


Speech By Captain Thomas E. Crowley




[Ed Note: Patrick Crowley, the son of Captain Thomas E. Crowley provided JAVA with a PDF of the speech.]