Military Intelligence Service
314th Headquarters Intelligence Team
Takejiro is assigned to the 314th Headquarters Intelligence Team.
They proceed to New Guinea.
Later, in October 1944, the 314th lands on Leyte in the Philippines.
In the distance, Takejiro hears cries of "Tenno heika banzai! (Long live the Emperor!)." Celebratory in the Okinawa of his youth, the words now discomfort and scare him.
The team that I belonged to, assigned to, the 96th Division, was known as 314th Headquarters Intelligence Team.
[W]hen we left Oahu, the original plan was to land on Yap Island. But somehow, while we were on the way, the navy bombarded Yap Island, neutralized the island. So no longer need to land. So our unit was sent to New Guinea. New Admiralty Island. And at that moment, over there, we came under the command of General MacArthur's headquarters.
I forgot how many months we were there. [We did] Nothing. Just hang around. Sort of a what they call, taiki [stand-by]. Alert. Doing nothing, just exercise, do whatever you want. Some training, of course. Exercise training. Not regular training, but calisthenics, more like. Keep in shape.
I think 96th was the only division landed in Leyte [in the Philippines]. We landed on October 20, 1944.
We were living in a tent. And we had a bomb shelter right across of our tent. The engineers dug up the hole and covered it with coconut log, and then piled up the dirt. So unless you have a direct hit, you're probably safe. We, several times, ran into there. Air raid alarm. And nothing happened. Luckily.
And the first few days, we were very close to the front line. So we could hear, at night, banzai charges. It's a real eerie feeling. Oh, about, I would say, I don't have a wristwatch so I can't tell exact time, but I would say after midnight, yeah. Early in the morning you can hear, in the distance, in the hillside, "Tenno heika banzai! [Long live the Emperor!]" And then bang, bang, bang, bang. And then soon after the machine gun open up, it's just like a firecracker. It's a funny kind of feeling when you hear those words. Banzai charge. And then a day or two later, we hear the report from the front, there was so many dead bodies and whatnot.
Tenno Heika Banzai
During the Okinawan campaign, I understand American's didn't fear [the banzai charge] too much. Because by then, they're kind of used to it, eh.
So American GIs, oh, about five o'clock, they quit fighting. Set up a base, defense position. And then in Okinawa, first time they used the snoopy scope. You can see at nighttime. It's an infrared sight mounted on a rifle. Not everybody had it but few in the company platoon had it, eh. So what they do, according to what I heard, was they placed these guys with the snoopy scope in a strategic position. And they would be the watchdog. See, that darker the night, you can see better. If it's an ordinary night, moonlight, probably can see better than the snoopy. But the darker night, up to about fifty yards, you can see the difference between human being and a pig running loose. Only thing, you cannot tell is what kind of human being; Japanese or haole or native. Human being shape, you can tell.
So [the infantry boys] set up this guy with the snoopy scope every so many yards. And then cover him, they have machine guns, yeah. So when the enemy penetration comes through, this snoopy scope operator shoots a tracer bullet. And then crossfire. So at that point, the machine gun opens up and slaughters all the guys coming through.
So in fact, it's kind of not nice words to use, but they welcomed the suicide charge. That way, they can slaughter more Japanese than individually. And by then, they're kind of used to banzai charge terms so they weren't too upset. They were mentally prepared for that.
[Hearing the banzai charge]. . .it's a queer, I mean, not sad - scary. Very uncomfortable feeling. Even though we know it's quite a distance away from us, but still, funny kind of feeling. You don't feel good hearing those words. And especially when soon after that, machine guns open up and bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. You know, just like firecracker, no more end.
I mean, in school, tenno heika banzai is a happy occasion, eh. This one is not a happy occasion. So the feeling is different. This one, fear attached to that banzai charge.
So to the haoles, so far, in South Pacific, every time they have a banzai charge is severe fighting. And a lot of casualties. So because of that, probably, they had a fear in their mind.
Same thing with the Tokyo Rose. Beginning part, when Japan was winning the war, there was a demoralizing effect on American troops. But when the tide turned, it became like a joke. So, in fact, toward the end, I think was acting like our entertainment. We used to look forward to that hearing. And that hearing, oh, bullsh*t again. Because from New Guinea to the Philippines, according to Tokyo Rose, we were sunk about three times. And the ship's radio would put it on once in a while, eh, for entertainment purpose, really. We used to laugh at each other, "Hey, we sunk again. How come we're still alive?" (Chuckles)
Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takejiro Higa.