Military Intelligence Service
Bodyguard: Captain Fernandez
Fellow soldiers cannot distinguish Takejiro from enemy Japanese. To prevent his being shot by U.S. troops, he is assigned an escort officer, Captain Fernandez.
A Japanese officer surrenders after falling in love with his nurse. He provides information in exchange for a marriage ceremony. Takejiro, Captain Fernandez, and others witness the event.
Captain Fernandez was my constant escort officer. . .because being a different faced Japanese, if you go roam around by yourself, I might get shot from my own troops. Being a disguised enemy. Because there was an incident at corps headquarters. A guy named Ito from California, nisei boy, assigned to the 24th Corps Headquarters under George Takabayashi. One day, he was roaming around, away from the corps headquarters. So a Filipino guy grabbed him and treated him like a Japanese prisoner. And George Takabayashi, the team leader, has to go over there and bail him out. So, because of that, for our protection, we had one haole officer assigned to us as a bodyguard anytime we go out from the headquarters out. And Captain Fernandez was my escort officer all the time.
Fernandez Falls in a Cesspool
One day, we were coming back from the cave flushing and running through a village. It's a small farm village away from our division headquarters. We saw one man running. So we thought maybe that was Japanese soldiers. So he and I got off the jeep and chased him into the farmhouse. And in Okinawa house, usually, there's a pig pen. And next to the pig pen, there's a cesspool, open cesspool. Lengthwise, about this wide. Four, maybe five feet. And about little narrower, but deep. I know what it is, so I don't try to jump over. Captain Fernandez, not knowing what it is, tried to jump over. He misstepped and fell into it up to here.
So I had to drag him out. (Laughs) Stink like the dickens. So he tells me, "Junior, you know how to drive jeep?"
"Okay, you drive."
And he sprawl out on the front, jeep, and I'm driving jeep, back to division headquarters. So the MP, watching the entrance, look at us with the curious eye. Everybody looking at us. But I drove him straight to the shower room first and hose him down. So everybody, "What happened?"
So I told them what happened. And in the meantime, I asked the supply sergeant, "Oh, go get the complete set of fatigues for Captain Fernandez." He had to throw away all that. Stink like the dickens. I got to brush him off and hose him down.
Thoughts on Being Captured
Because we're within our defense unit. . .our front troops all around us. That's why [Captain Fernandez] got to be there to protect me. All around us, American troops. I didn't feel any fear about being captured. No. Of course, if you overran the position, then might, possibility. But other than that, no. I never even thought about being captured.
So because of the safety reason, as I say, we had a bodyguard all the time. Every time when I went to caves, Captain Fernandez was always with me. Right beside me. So protect me.
Everywhere. Whenever I go out from headquarters, [Captain Fernandez] was my officer protecting me against our own troops. Otherwise, they might shoot me, yeah. Being Japanese face. And even though I'm in uniform, they can easily say this guy is a disguised prisoner. So protection. And one day, even general told me, one day, while taking a shower, "Hey Junior, do you realize in case of emergency and we have to get out from division headquarters, you get higher priority than me?" So I told him, "Ho, General, that sounds real good."
He said, "The reason being this: we know too damn much about our own unit. So if I'm captured, although we are trained not to say anything more than name, rank, and serial number, under pressure you might spill out, yeah. So that's one. And the other one is, if you're captured by Japanese, guaranteed to be tortured and probably killed. So we're supposed to scram out before, ahead of anybody."
I knew [we were vulnerable]. But I knew also, I was well protected. Covered by all the non-coms and even officers in the division headquarters. And the only time I go out from division headquarters was when I go to caves. And a couple of times to POW [prisoner of war] camps, civilian compound. Other than that, always in division headquarters because I have to be ready to receive calls from regimental headquarters if the two guys in each regiment need help. I got to be available.
[Captain Fernandez is another person, I'm very sad to say, I never kept up with him. I'm don't know if he's still alive or what but I never got to contact him after the war. For one thing, I didn't have too much time. Soon after the war I was shipped out to Korea. So I never got to him to know much about it after the war. Only during the campaign.
Anecdote: Wedding Story
[Captain Fernandez] keep me company as well as protection from the other guys. Because of that, I was lucky because then I got to see the Japanese officer getting married to an Okinawa girl during the wartime.
See, soon after we landed - I don't know, within about two or three weeks - this Japanese officer surrendered to front troops because he fell in love with his company nurse, Okinawa girl, [Shizuko] Arakawa something. And in order to save her, he decided to give up. He threw his pistol and his Japanese sword and came out of the cave. And proposition to the frontline command, "If you let me marry this girl, I give you all the information you want to know about our unit in the front." So the front troop commander could not give permission. So how far up it went up the channel. But finally, the permission was granted. And the wedding was conducted at one of the hillsides.
One afternoon, Captain Fernandez came to my tent and said, "Hey Junior, let's go, let's go." I tell, "Where, where?" "Shh. Confidential." So we went out together and ended up in a wedding scene. I forgot where it was now.
Anyway, this Japanese lieutenant, Second Lieutenant Kimura, machine-gun company officer, surrendered. I think he was in the Kakazu Ridge area because that's very close to the front line at that time. And he surrendered and permission was finally granted. And the ceremony was conducted by the American chaplain in one of the hills. If I was smart enough, I would have sit behind the couple, so my picture would have been in there.
But I believe I was the only nisei who witnessed that because it was held in confidence. And the reason why even Captain Fernandez found out was because he's the commanding officer of the counter-intelligence corps. So he gets to know a lot of secret stuff. So because of my relation with Captain Fernandez, I witnessed that, too. (Laughs)
Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of National Archives and Takejiro Higa.