History of MIS by xld14276


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									     Japanese American Military Intelligence           History of MIS
     Servicemen and the War in the Pacific             Japanese American Military Intelligence
                                                       Service (MIS) servicemen made vital contributions
     "When the U.S. Army needed Japanese-              to both the Allied victory in the Pacific War
     speaking soldiers for military intelligence       and the peaceful Occupation of Japan. This
     and combat duty, the Nisei answered the           select group of soldier-linguists used their
     call. They served under very difficult            understanding of Japanese language and culture
     circumstances, not the least of which was         to translate captured documents, monitor
     that their own fellow soldiers were liable to     enemy transmissions, and interrogate prisoners
     mistake them for the enemy. They rendered         of war. Called the "eyes" and "ears" of every
     invaluable service: interrogating prisoners,      combat command, the MIS linguists' much
     intercepting messages, translating captured       needed language skills were vital, but their ethnic
     documents, infiltrating enemy lines, and          ancestry and cultural awareness gave them a
     other vital functions. They saved countless       better understanding of Japanese people and
     lives and shortened the war in the Pacific,       culture. These sensibilities allowed them to approach
     perhaps by as much as two years. Because          the Japanese with humanity, even in wartime, which
     of the highly classified nature of their work,    helped them when they communicated with POWs
     their full contribution to America's victory      and made them cultural ambassadors during the
     would not be recognized until decades             transition from war to peacetime occupation. The
     later. When the full story was finally told, it   secret nature of their work, classified for
     played a major role in securing passage of        decades after the war, has kept them out of
     the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which            history's spotlight. As a result, many of their
     Congress enacted in an attempt to redress the     deeds have gone unrecorded and their heroic
     injustice of the internment"                      deeds unrecognized. Col. Sidney Forrester

Mashbir, Commandant, Allied Translator and Interpreter
Section, pronounced: "The United States of America owes
a debt to these men [Nisei linguists] and to their families
which can never be fully repaid."

Prior to WWII, Japanese Americans primarily lived in
small ethnic ghettos in Hawaii, California, and other
West Coast states. Issei (first generation) parents strove
to provide a strong community for their Nisei children,
the first generation of American citizens. They established
schools, clubs, and other groups that kept the Nisei
connected to Japanese culture and community while
they slowly integrated into American schools and society.       (MISLS) opened in an old airplane hangar in Crissy
Their immigrant parents did not want their children to          Field in the Presidio of San Francisco.
lose the language, and most Nisei, no matter what social
class, went to Japanese school. Issei also brought              The director and lead instructor of MISLS was John Aiso,
Japanese cultural values of bushido (the way of the warrior)    a remarkable Nisei who was fluent in Japanese and had a
and oyakoko (filial piety) across the Pacific and               law degree from Harvard. The First Class of MISLS consisted
instilled them in their children. Nisei linguists later took    of sixty students—fifty eight Nisei and two Caucasians.
these values and applied them to their notions of citizenship   Many of the students in the first class were Kibei - Nisei
in the United States, which gave them a deep sense of           who had been sent to Japan to live and study. Due to this
obligation to serve their country.                              experience, the Kibei were fluent in Japanese and had the
                                                                clearest insight into Japanese culture.
In June 1941, months before the United States entered
World War II, Japanese aggression increased in Asia and         On December 7, 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
anti-Japanese rhetoric and sentiments intensified on the        and launched the United States into World War II. At
West Coast. The potential for armed conflict between            MISLS, the pace of their studies increased as they realized
the two countries grew, and top U.S. Army officials             that the students soon would play a crucial role in the war.
realized they needed to find soldiers fluent in written         By February of 1942, anti-Japanese sentiments and war
and spoken Japanese. Two officers who had trained in            hysteria in the U.S. had increased to a fever pitch, prompting
Japan, Colonel John Weckerling and Captain Kai                  President Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066.
Rasmussen, began testing the language ability of Nisei
who were already serving in the armed forces. Contrary          The order evicted all persons of Japanese ancestry living
to their expectations, they realized that only a few Nisei      on the West Coast and incarcerated them in detention
soldiers could speak and write fluently, and only a             camps throughout deserted areas in Midwestern states.
slightly larger group could become fluent after                 Hawaii, which had the largest Japanese community in the
extensive training. On their recommendation, the Army           U.S., did not incarcerate Japanese Americans, though they
decided to build a secret school to train mostly Japanese       were treated with a great sense of suspicion. On the mainland,
Americans as linguists. And so, on November 1, 1941,            several hundred community leaders were arrested by the
the Military Intelligence Service Language School               FBI and sent to detention camps on the mainland.

                                                                                                        March 2005          17
                         The government's decision confused and angered many
                         Nisei students. While they prepared to fight as U.S. soldiers,
                         the Army rounded up their families and friends into
                         temporary assembly centers.

                         With classes cut short, from one-year to six months, the
                         First Class of MISLS graduated in June 1942. Of the first
                         sixty students, 45 graduated and most quickly left
                         California to participate in campaigns in Alaska, Hawaii,
                         and Australia.

                         MISLS was not immune to Executive Order 9066. After
                         graduation, the school moved from San Francisco to Camp
                         Savage, Minnesota, where the governor and the state
                         welcomed the Nisei linguists. As the war expanded to
                         various fronts in the Pacific and the demand for linguists
                         grew, the school expanded. A few of the graduates from the
                         First Class stayed in the U.S. to teach at Camp Savage, and
                         a new class of soldiers began studying in June 1942. By
                         1944, increased enrollment and the need for larger facilities
                         forced the MISLS to move to Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
                         Eventually, over 6,000 soldiers were trained at MISLS for
                         the war effort.

                         The Pacific War
                         By the time the first class of MIS linguists had graduated,
                         the Japanese military had captured the Philippines, New
                         Guinea, and other islands in the Pacific. On the Asian
                         mainland, China and South East Asia had come under
                         Japanese control.

                         The first 35 members of the First Class arrived at their
                         destinations in time to participate in battles in the Aleutian
                         Islands, on Guadalcanal, and on New Guinea. Initially, the
                         Nisei linguists were treated with skepticism, but once
                         commanders realized their value, the MIS linguists began
                         to work behind the front lines and at command posts. By
                         translating captured documents, interrogating prisoners,
                         and intercepting radio transmissions, they immediately
                         proved to be strategically vital to the war effort. In fact, the

18   Veterans Magazine
success of the first class
of MIS soldiers convinced the
War Department to create the all-Japanese
American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of
the most decorated units in the European theater.

But compared with the Nisei of the 100th and
442nd who fought in Europe against Germans
and Italians, the Nisei of the MIS faced the risks
of being mistaken as the enemy by their own
troops. Further, for many of the MIS Nisei soldiers,
the thought of being taken prisoner by the
Japanese Military was of greater concern than
being wounded or killed, as they would be                        all Navy and Marine units and participated in all of the
branded traitors and suffer horrible punishment. During          their campaigns. Also, MIS linguists were attached to the
the early phase of the war in the Pacific and China-Burma-       Army Air Force and to the strategic bombing campaigns
India (CBI) Theaters, MIS linguist soldiers were assigned        that bombed Japan.
body guards to protect them from being mistaken by fellow
American soldiers.                                               Once stationed in the Pacific War, they worked on a few
                                                                 primary tasks:
MIS linguists participated in almost every battle                Translation - Allied soldiers captured documents and
throughout the Pacific War. As their importance                  diaries, many off dead soldiers. Many Japanese soldiers
increased among the Allied commanders, they were                 also had a habit of maintaining their own diaries. On the
under great demand and deployed with other Allied                battlefields up in the front, the linguists, at times,
country forces such as the British, Australians,                 obtained important and timely tactical information from
Canadians, Dutch, and Chinese. The small numbers of              the translated documents, such as when the next attack
linguists made each one a valuable member on the battlefield,    would occur or about the morale of the enemy troops. In
and they received orders in small teams that moved               many cases, this tactical information resulted in Allied
them from unit to unit depending on where they were              victories. These captured documents were then sent to
needed. The nature of their deployment and movement              the higher echelon headquarters where larger groups of
without any commanding officers also made it difficult           linguists further translated and prepared briefings of
for their work to be recognized.                                 more strategic information for the commander. The
                                                                 information could include technical information on new
The U.S. Navy did not accept Nisei during WWII and as            equipment and weapons, identify troop strengths,
a result, the linguists were attached from the army service to   movements or planned military strategy.

                                                                                                      March 2005        19
  "The Military Intelligence Service provided United States forces
 with an unprecedented amount of intimate, authoritative, detailed,
            and timely information on enemy forces.”

 One of the most significant translations of tactical importance    Undercover Agents - Before MISLS opened its doors,
 happened when a Philippine guerrilla discovered the                two young Hawaiian Nisei, Arthur Komori and Richard
 Japanese plan "Operation Z" for an all-out counter attack          Sakakida were recruited by the U.S. Army to work
 in the Central Pacific Theater. After the MIS linguists            undercover in Manila, Philippines. They made contacts
 deciphered and found what the enemy planned, the Allied            with Japanese businessmen and were the first linguists in
 Forces prepared for the attack and were able to shoot              the Pacific War. The Japanese military captured Sakakida
 down hundreds of enemy planes, crippling Japan's naval             in the surrender of Corregidor. He suffered torture and
 air attack in the battle dubbed by the Allied Forces as "The       near death before finally escaping when the Japanese
 Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".                                      began retreating from the Philippines.

 An example of more strategic information was when MIS              In 1945, on August 6th and 9th, the United States dropped
 linguists assigned at Camp Ritchie, Maryland, near                 atomic bombs on the metropolitan areas of Hiroshima and
 Washington D.C., uncovered among many documents, a                 Nagasaki. Soon, Japan issued a formal surrender and the
 large book that documented Japanese artillery warehouses           war ended. In battle zones around the Pacific War, MIS
 and installations. This strategic information was then used        linguists interpreted surrender ceremonies and translated
 for targeted bombing missions during the war. It was also          documents. In Tokyo Bay, three Nisei linguists witnessed
 used early in the Occupation of Japan to easily locate and         the surrender ceremony on board the U.S.S. Missouri
 destroy stored weapons without conflict.                           where General Togo and the Emperor came to officially
                                                                    sign the surrender with General MacArthur.
 POW interrogation - In Japanese military training, soldiers
 learned to avoid capture at all costs, even by suicide. By         Many Nisei who had not received promotions during the war,
 the time Nisei linguists met them they felt they could not         regarded by some as a prejudiced snub, quickly received
 return to Japan, did not feel obligated to withhold information.   commendations to encourage them to continue their service
 Once the Allies provided medical care, food, cigarettes,           in Japan. Those who arrived in the first year after the war
 and other amenities, many POWs opened up and often                 witnessed the devastation in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and other
 provided the Allies with intelligence about the troops and         areas. They watched city dwellers sell their silk kimonos in
 military strategy.                                                 the countryside for sweet potatoes and saw women and
                                                                    children waiting by the Army's cafeteria for table scraps.
 Radio Intercepts - Throughout the war, linguists around
 the Pacific listened to the radio waves for any information        In every aspect of the Occupation and the rebuilding of Japan,
 broadcast by the Japanese. Because the Japanese believed           the linguists served vital roles as interpreters and cultural
 their language was too difficult for foreigners to master,         diplomats. They taught both U.S. troops and Japanese how to
 they did not use codes. In one instance, linguists in New          get along with each other—a task they learned growing up in
 Guinea, Hawaii, and Alaska, intercepted a broadcast that           America. They translated and interpreted the War Crimes trials,
 indicated the time when Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto                   screened POWs returning from Siberia, and worked in the
 would arrive at Bougainville to meet front line troops.            Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) and the Civil Censorship
 (Yamamoto had orchestrated the attack on Pearl Harbor).            Detachment (CCD) and many other offices. Their
 The Allies anticipated his arrival and shot down his plane         unheralded yet key contributions towards winning the peace
 in what General MacArthur has called the single most               in post-war Japan were essential in helping make the U.S.
 significant action in the Pacific War.                             Occupation a success.

20     Veterans Magazine
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed
the Civil Liberties Act into law, which
apologized for the unjust incarceration of
120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. The
loyalty, courage, and sacrifices made by
Nisei soldiers in World War II played an
enormous role in convincing the American
public and political leaders of the injustices
suffered by people of Japanese ancestry. If it
were not for the Nisei linguists of the first class,
together with the 442nd Infantry Regiment and
the 100th Battalion, it could be argued that the
historic redress bill would not have passed.

Finally, after living in the shadows of Pacific
War history, the Army awarded MIS linguists the
Presidential Unit Citation in June 2000. The citation
states: "The Military Intelligence Service not only
played key roles in battlefield situations, they also
provided United States forces with an unprecedented
amount of intimate, authoritative, detailed, and
timely information on enemy forces to support planning
and execution of combat operations...."

Serving in the U.S. Army during WWII, Nisei soldiers
served because they were Americans like any other
American boys. Having been interned themselves or
having family in the internment camps, made it difficult,
but their decision to serve their country during war-time
was firm and decisive. The decision to fight against the
country of the birth of their parents and grandparents was
difficult, but they had to decide. For many MIS linguists
who volunteered from within the confines of internment, it
was also difficult because they had been reclassified by the
Draft Board as 4C "Enemy Alien". To fight in Europe
would have been an easier decision, but to fight Japan and
eventually fight on Japanese soil was not an easy choice to
make. That is why even to this day many Nisei MIS veterans
are reluctant to talk about their role during WWII.

                                                               March 2005   21

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