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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

23 thoughts on “WWII Military Intelligence Today”

    1. I wish to ensure your understanding is correct. While you dad was in the Army during the conflict, my dad was in the prison camps. Only after his release did he enlist. He did provide valuable intel on Japanese soldiers were held as prisoners for up to three years.

      1. I was afraid of that. I am so sorry our country was so horrible to people of your nationality. I have read much about Manzanar and what went on there and it hurt my heart. I had no idea about these camps and it was a stopping place for us on our way to Bishop. It had a ton of trees and made a good picnic area. After my first stop there I went to the museum in Independence and bought a book that was written by a girl who was twelve years old when her and her family was sent there. I was horrified to learn what happened to her while trying to live there. It was wrong and still brings a tear to my eye.

        Now working with the picture that the German POW drew I found out we had POW camps too. Our country is all about our diversity and had I been running the country I would have sent them all to Disneyland. I am truly sorry, from the bottom of my heart.

      2. Please do not fret, notsofancynancy. Everybody in the world – on either side – suffered greatly. In Europe, not only were Jews imprisoned, they were murdered or died there.

        The message my father, uncles, aunts and cousins who were imprisoned in these stateside camps is simply, “Let us not allow this to happen again.”

    2. BTW, do you have access to something like Barnes & Noble or similar? I subscribe to “World War II” magazine. By pure coincidence, they have a very detailed article on the 387,898 Nazi POWs that were housed here in the US. Every state except Nevada had POW camps.

  1. Such a lovely story and it must have made your father feel so useful. We have our fingers crossed you hear back – that would be so nice if you do track the family down.

    1. Indeed. But in an effort to impede his dementia, I like to give him these tasks to do as well.

      Also, as he is mathematically gifted, he is a whiz at sudoku. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by during your busy days.

  2. I hope that bruising is not hurting your dad.

    I hope this flag can be returned. I look forward to what you are able to find out.

    You should make your father some tiramisu. 🙂

    1. He aches a bit but never complains. He 我慢。

      As he does not drink at all (he turns bright red) , I shall make him some of my patented bittersweet chocolate mousse cake. 🙂

  3. There is so much to our history that is never told. Thank you for telling us this part of our history. I too will be waiting to hear when you get some information. I pray that the family is found – what a beautiful gesture to have the flag returned to the family. Patty

    1. The scale of that war exponentially escalates the personal, bitter nature of that war. Massive frequency of hand to hand combat between hundreds of soldiers. When a battle ends, only those that survived know of its personal terror.

      Perhaps the soldier, Marine or sailor that brought that home was involved in such terror. Perhaps he won it shooting craps. We will truly never know. However, I am sure that family will attain some closure if the flag can be returned. Even then, it may be the family may not wish it returned.

      Thank you for the visit… and did you see the recipe?

  4. I love it.
    Give your dad a big ol’ handshake. From me and a couple kids. He is still doing honor to his country and flag. Both of them. As he always did.

    And yeah. Signatures. I had to ‘untrain’ mine (we’ve got about 3) during the military to something unreadable, but to anyone who knows, it’s ‘me’. Had to do with security for something. You can’t read a thing. Just an undecipherable scrawl. I still use it, and it paid off big one time. When some checks were stolen from an organization’s bank account I was overseeing, it was no trouble clearing my name – because the clerk could read my name on those signatures the thief left. When she saw my ‘scrawl’ it was “Oops! Our bad!” – and the money was repaid. Paid off in the end, huh?

    But all those Army and Marine Corps requisitions and orders I signed . . . you won’t find my name. Just an undecipherable scrawl. For ‘security reasons’ I had to change my ‘name’ – or the written one, at least. Just one of those strange things . . . (even I’m puzzled sometimes, and left scratching my pumpkin head, LOL!).

    And btw: don’t forget that hug for your dad. I am very proud of what he did and is doing.

  5. Very interesting post.
    Signatures are odd and seem to have lives or directions of their own.
    When my mother saw me sign something last year, she said, “Oh my God!” She has a master’s in family counseling with a specialty in art therapy.
    I like looking at people’s signature. It seems like it’s a window to their brain waves… 😀

  6. Fascinating to read of your Dad’s exploits Koji, always a pleasure. Good to read the comments thread too. Hope he is reocvering well. They’re made of sterner stuff, that generation!

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