WWII Military Intelligence Today


Dad is trying to read the name of the young man the Japanese war flag was signed for.  It is not as easy as you may think but the Japanese characters are not only written with a brush and charcoal ink, it is written in an artsy handwriting style.  Further, the characters used by pre-war Japan are largely not used anymore. (ps If you look hard enough, you can make out the bruising under his eye.)

World War II Military Intelligence techniques are still important and in use today – but for entirely different reasons.

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During the war in the Pacific, US military personnel were forbidden to keep notes or diaries in the event they were captured.  Nothing more disillusioning to be captured or killed, then have the enemy read about the ammo dump you just left from.  Especially for your buddies still stationed there.

On the other hand, Japanese soldiers were allowed to keep notes or diaries.  Apparently, the Japanese military saw the diaries similar to “water cooler gossip” at the office.

That was their downfall as Americans like my father translated such documents.  The Military Intelligence Service.  It was from these diaries that the Allies first began to see that the enemy were not the samurai of lore.

They had gripes of their commander – even by name.  They complained of starving, no ammunition, no water.  They also had uncensored letters from home – their families were starving, sick or had no home left for the soldier to come back to.

A mortar crewman wrote of how terrified they were to launch a mortar shell at the Marines as for every round they fired, the Marines would send ten back their way.

The MIS did their job faithfully back then on those hell hole islands.  Their job was to help kill the enemy.

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The flag.

Today, albeit in a roundabout way, MIS veterans like my father are still doing their job.

Last week, a representative of the “Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA.org)” contacted me again to enlist the help of my father.  As mentioned in an earlier short story, Dad was a “kibei“, or an American of Japanese descent who got schooling in Japan.  He was fluent.  More so, he still is fluent in reading the pre-war Japanese writing.  There really aren’t that many left with this ability.  Dad is 93.

Unfortunately, Dad had a bad fall the day the request came in.  He fell flat on his face and shattered his glasses in the process.

Apparently, a gentleman had in his family’s possession a captured Japanese flag.  Presumably, someone in his family brought it back as a souvenir.  Of course, if an Allied soldier brought one home, it may have been removed from a corpse.  In the best case scenario, it was taken from a prisoner.  You just didn’t find them laying around on the battlefield.

Dad on Saturday enjoying a “youkan”, or sweet bean jelly. He has a pretty good sweet tooth.

According to the request, the owner of the flag stated he wanted to return it if possible to the family.  Not an easy task – even for “I Dream of Jeannie”.  These flags were created at the farewell party of a soldier who was going to be dispatched to the war and certain death.  There is usually the name of the person for whom the flag was presented.  If you are lucky, the flag may have a city or town written.  I’m sure my Uncle Suetaro received one.

Even for Dad, the complicating factor is not knowing how to read a Japanese character.  It is HOW it was written.  These were all signed by brush and charcoal ink.  The ink lasts forever since it is carbon.  But have you ever tried reading signatures?  Try your hand at this one:

You get the picture.

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Anyways, Dad – and while his glasses were shattered in the fall – was able to say the person for which the flag was signed was likely for a Mr. Tokio Miyake.  Unfortunately, there was no true town or city named specifically.  Nevertheless, we were able to make out what appears to be “Kurayoshi Mayor”, or the mayor of “Kurayoshi”.

Last night, I did a little reserch and almost unbelievably did find a town named Kurayoshi.  I tracked down the town’s website and sent a blind email (in my broken Japanese) to the mayor’s office and asked if there was a mayor named “Furuya” during the war.

We’ll see.

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While my Dad did not participate in the hostilities, his Nisei unit did their job and greatly shortened the war according to General MacArthur.  The Nisei’s job was a true secret weapon.

Hopefully, this no longer secret weapon can serve some peacetime good and bring two families to peace.

Oh.  That was Johnny Depp’s signature.  Thought you ladies may like that.

Tiramisu – Mechanic Style


My young years as a mechanic were some of the most fun in my life.

Working alongside veterans of the US Army’s most decorated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made it so much better.  If you haven’t heard of that heroic combat team, you will be surprised.

Anyways, I didn’t do much cooking then.  Can’t figure out why I started either.  Old age.  Too many gasoline fumes, perhaps.

But one of my most requested deserts is my homemade Tiramisu.  Never mind gasoline fumes…  The rum fumes will disperse all the oxygen molecules and you will get high. Just kidding.  About getting high.

The only ingredient not shown here is VERY strong coffee.  Even Dean Martin would have diluted it.

Tiramisu ingredients. The bottle was empty, by the way.

And no mockery of my serving plates and dishes for I have none.  Remember, I am a former mechanic.

One batch finished for a party.

Another batch for a neighbor’s party…  Adult party.

Like my Pyrex?

I don’t recall any pecks on the cheek, though.  Hmmm.


Where my dad, uncle, aunt and three cousins were imprisoned during the war…

Minidoka Pilgrimage's Blog

http://magicvalley.com/article_d438f39c-c0dc-11e1-92fe-0019bb2963f4.html

Frank Yamagata worked the land, helped build Intern camp — to provide for his family

Frank Yamagata Portrait Frank Yamagata

Frank Yamagata Portrait
DREW NASH • TIMES-NEWS

As a newlywed, Yamagata lived in this two-room granary on his farm near the Minidoka War Relocation Center

July 02, 2012 2:00 am  •  By Tetona Dunlap tdunlap@magicvalley.com

TWIN FALLS • Frank Yamagata was 24 when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Yamagata wanted to join the army and defend his country, but his family believed his duty was at home being a farmer.

“I didn’t mind being a soldier,” Yamagata said. “I kind of wanted to go; it was an adventure. When you’re young you never considered you might die.”

Yamagata, 94, lives in a Twin Falls assisted living home. The back that once worked 160 acres of farmland is now hunched over a walker as he shuffles through the hallways near his room.

Yamagata, a second-generation Japanese-American…

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“Old Man Jack-ism” #2


One of the rare photos of Jack and me together as I always snapped the photo… My little Brooke who was about seven at the time took it.

Listening to Old Man Jack’s wisdom was like cotton candy and a movie. The ones you will remember over time are the movies that get super-glued into the consciousness of the movie-goers in a good way.

A few years ago, I went to see Old Man Jack in the Board Room – his cluttered garage facing my house across our street lined by peppercorn trees.  Well, actually, he always wanted me to come over. We’d always have a good chat about this and that or he’d let a demon out from enduring combat in the Pacific during WWII. That day, though, I just wanted to get something off my chest about the wife.

When I started to whine about what the wife did, he stopped me after a few words. Dead in my tracks. He knew what I was going to complain about.

He said, “You poked her. Live with it. Now shut the _uck up.”

I did.

Precious.

“Old Man Jack-isms”


Very little outdoes short blurts of wisdom from a World War II combat vet.  Nothing fancy-shmancy.  No big words.  Just good ole salty sailor speak.  To the point.  He earned that right.

Some of his wisdom will be shared here and there without censorship to honor his generation.  You will appreciate that.  “If you don’t, I don’t give a shit,” as he would lovingly say.

But there is regret.  Regret that I did not video Old Man Jack more often.  I have excuses.  Many excuses…but they all lead to regret.

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A couple of months before he secretly moved away, he was lamenting.  Lamenting on apparently losing his long battle with his daughter.

In short, he wanted to live out his life in his home of 58 years.  His home across the street from me.

It wasn’t to be.  His daughter wanted him to move “up” to Big Bear where she lived.  So she could take care of him.  That was the battle.

This day, he knew he would be leaving his beloved home.  He knew in his heart.

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I did have my Droid and managed to turn on the darn contraption in time as we were talking.  I sensed an “Old Man Jack-ism” coming.  It even recorded and properly saved it.  I even uploaded it properly.  Amazing.  It was meant to be.

He was in his beloved wife’s wheel chair…  In his beloved blue plaid shirt with a pocket for his glasses.  I thought he was joking about women in general but realized after he moved the significance of what he said that day.

When arguing with women, “A man ain’t got a chance.”

Gotta love this great American.

There Be Gold in My Family


There be gold in my family.  Really.  Well, the Congressional Gold Medal, that is.  And it is made out of gold and honors the “Nisei Soldiers of World War II”.  Its on display at the Smithsonian.

In fact, my family was awarded two of them.  Two Congressional Gold Medals.  Pretty neat, don’t you think?  Three if you include a distant relative.  Four if Dad had enlisted in the Army five weeks earlier.  OK.  Enough of that.

Face of “Nisei Soldiers of World War II” Congressional Gold Medal
Backside of “Nisei Soldiers of World War II” Congressional Gold Medal

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It was just a miracle mom and her younger sister Eiko survived the war having lived in the heart of Tokyo where very little was left standing.  My grandmother was required to train with a sharpened bamboo spear to repel the invaders that were expected to come.  It’s true.

But when war ended in 1945, neither my mother nor my Aunt Eiko could have possibly thought that they – through no grand scheme – would each end up marrying an “invader” and that they would end up living in America.  The country that bombed their home into ashes.  But it was a brutal war.  Just fact.

Even more stunning is that they would be unknowingly dovetailed with the famed US 8th Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) for the rest of their lives.  (I had briefly reported on the top secret MIS in an earlier short story.)
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Taken on December 8, 1946 in Tokyo. (L to R) Mom, Taro, Aunt Eiko. Standing are my grandparents.  Notice the US 8th Army shoulder patch on Taro.  Isn’t he handsome?  He was 21 years old.

The first family member bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal is my mother and Aunt Eiko’s cousin, Taro Tanji; he is pictured above in a family portrait taken in Tokyo.  He was born in Merced County, CA.  Taro, like my father, was imprisoned in the camp called Granada in Colorado for being of Japanese heritage although he didn’t speak one word of Japanese.

In 1944, along with thousands of other young American boys of Japanese heritage, he was drafted out of the camp into the US Army.  He was a “Nisei”.  He then was assigned to the top secret US Army Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) in Fort Snelling, Minnesota to learn the Japanese language.

After graduating, he was assigned to Tokyo as part of US 8th Army and became part of the Allied Occupation.  Once there, he immediately sought the fate of my mother’s family.

Through the resources of the MIS, he miraculously located my grandmother – the same one who was forced to train with a bamboo spear.  They had survived but were in dire straits like millions of other survivors.

Exactly as my father did for my cousin Masako in Hiroshima, Taro used whatever pay he had to buy them clothing and essentials from the PX, took them C-rations and of course, American cigarettes for my grandfather.  There are many stories of other things Taro did (he was a STRONG man) which I will save for later.

Aunt Eiko and Taro, taken in the late 1960’s at his home in Gardena, CA.

A kind man, Taro became a much loved teacher in the Gardena school system.  He recently passed away in Gardena, CA in 2009.

His CGM was posthumously awarded to his wife, Aunt Martha.  Amazingly, neither mom nor Aunt Eiko realized Taro was part of the MIS until I told them.  I determined that through research of US Army records.
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My Aunt Eiko was sickly as a young girl.  Indeed, it was a miracle especially for her to have survived.  She hates medicine, even to this day.  As a funny story, when the US Army began de-licing the surviving Japanese citizens, she ran away as she was terrified she would get sick from the powder.  Well, it was DDT so she wasn’t that far off.

In 1966, she met Paul Sakuma, a Hawaiian born Nisei.  While Uncle Paul told Aunt Eiko he was also put into camp on the Mainland (the article says that, too), I can find no record of his internment.  However, Uncle Paul was at some time in Springfield, Massachusetts after the war started.  He was “featured” in this newspaper article.  Surely, the title of the article was a sign of the times.

Newspaper article on Uncle Paul during war time, Springfield, MA.

Uncle Paul was also drafted in 1944 and was also sent to the MISLS at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.  This is the only photo Aunt Eiko has of Uncle Paul in uniform.  I stumbled across it last year.  Frankly, Aunt Eiko also knew very little of his Army days but I noticed the building in the background (below) as being the old cavalry barracks at Fort Snelling which sparked my researching again.  He was also indeed a member of the famed MIS unbeknownst to Aunt Eiko.

Uncle Paul at Ft. Snelling’s top secret Military Intelligence Service Language School, circa Winter 1945. The old barracks is seen in the background.

Uncle Paul was also immediately dispatched to Tokyo as part of the Occupation Force.  He was assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion and accompanied patrols where his translation abilities were needed.  A couple of good patrol stories – ones that men would likely appreciate.  Perhaps some ladies, too.  No harm, no foul, as the great Chick Hearn said.

Days before my first marriage, I got a call from Aunt Eiko late at night.  She was hysterical.  Uncle Paul had died of a massive heart attack in 1980 in Tokyo in the new home he had just finished building for them.  He had continued living in Tokyo as a civilian employee of the USAF.

Like Taro, Uncle Paul was posthumously awarded the CGM.  I secured the CGM and surprised her with it.  Aunt Eiko “cried for happy” as he held the medal for the first time early this year (below).  She loves him greatly to this day.  She said, “Even today, Paul brings me great happiness.”  If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes, well, you’re pretty tough.

Holding Uncle Paul’s Congressional Gold Medal for the first time, Aunt Eiko cried for happy. Incidentally, she became an American citizen about ten years ago.

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As dad volunteered in February 1947, he did not qualify for the CGM.  But unbelievably, mom, too, did not know much of what dad did in the Army let alone him being a member of the MIS.  Mom said dad never talked much about it except to say he did not enjoy interrogating Japanese soldiers being returned from Russia and Manchuria.

Nevertheless, mom and Aunt Eiko WERE enmeshed with the famed Military Intelligence Service although they didn’t realize it.  Fate.  They were surrounded by the invaders – secretly.  Famous ones at that.  A prejudiced opinion, of course.
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I am very proud of these Americans.  The Congressional Gold Medal is a tremendous honor and finally brings to public light the importance of the intelligence they secretly obtained for our United States of America amidst prejudice and discrimination.

I like to think that these Americans of Japanese heritage weathered the clouds of that time so we could have glorious sunshine today.


No scenery like this here in the concrete jungle… Sure looks inviting, doesn’t it?

From a Montana Front Porch

Have you ever just taken a drive for the sake of seeing whats on the other side of the hill? And then the next and then the next and, oh well, what the heck, we might as well see what around that corner up there also. Oh look! Another corner/hill! Lets look just so we know! I mean, if we don’t, then we might miss something spectacular! Something that leaves us speechless. For me the speechless part is a big deal! Seriously, it doesn’t happen very often!

Jason introduced me to the art of driving just to drive early in our relationship. I remember us going out in my truck, and him pulling out onto this dirt road that we had never been down before. I finally had to ask him where we were going and he simply stated, “for a drive.”

“Ya, but a drive to where?”

” I don’t…

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