Military Intelligence Service
Four MIS teams are attached to Division Headquarters.
The Aerial Photo Interpreters Team interprets and analyzes photographs for military value. The Japanese Order of Battle Team identifies enemy units and their background. The Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) watches for subversive activity.
Takejiro and his brother Warren are assigned to the fourth team to interrogate and seek information about the enemy.
[Supplemental historical text excerpted from Ted Tsukiyama's manuscript, "The Battle of Okinawa."]]
"[T]he team that I belonged to, the 96th Division, was known as 314th Headquarters Intelligence Team. And it consisted of, altogether, ten of us. But four at the division headquarters, two each at the three regiments, assigned to the regiment. These are the advanced parties. So the first prisoner been captured by our unit, will be interviewed by these two guys first. These two guys weren't too akamai [skilled] on the Japanese."
Throughout the entire Okinawa campaign and the occupation thereafter, many Nisei U.S. soldiers as Japanese language linguists and specialists were assigned to and served with the XXIV Corps headquarters, the four major infantry divisions and the three divisions of the Marine Amphibious Corps in every phase of the war to help defeat the Japanese defenders.
These MIS Nisei gathered, translated and interpreted all forms of Japanese intelligence at the front lines and rear echelons to enhance the combat strategy and tactics against the enemy, saving many American lives in the process and hastening the ultimate victory at Okinawa. But their most unique and significant value in the Okinawa campaign as the eyes, ears and voice of the American military may have been the communication and rapport they finally established with the battered Okinawan civilians to save many lives and to assuage their suffering and trauma as Okinawans entered American lines as POW victims of that war.
"So if they needed further interrogation, they used to send them to the division headquarters for me to interrogate. Very basic interrogation was done at the front. There's two each assigned to the headquarters, the regimental headquarters. They are further up in the front than the division headquarters. So a lot of prisoners came through division headquarters for me to interrogate."
A strong Nisei linguist team was assigned to the 96th Division, the 314 HQ Intelligence Detachment led by team leader T/Sgt Warren T. Higa and comprised of Takejiro Higa, Thomas Masui, Rudy Kawahara, Takeo Nonaka, Fred Fukushima, Haruo Kawana, Osamu Yamamoto, Herbert K. Yanamura and Akira Ohori. Landing with the invasion forces on D-Day, the 96th Division bore the brunt of the attack against General Ushijima's forces throughout the bitter three months' battle for Okinawa.
"I might add though, at the division headquarters, there were three other special teams attached to the division headquarters G2. And they were - one team was what they call Aerial Photo Interpreters Team. These are small group of people. . . . In fact, our division only had three: the commanding officer, Captain Krueger, and the two sergeants. Their job is to interpret and analyze aerial photographs for military value."
"And the other team is Japanese Order of Battle section, JOB. Their job is to identify the enemy unit. Its history, if possible. And knowing their background, the higher command can anticipate what kind of tactic these people might use. So that's useful information they can get. Knowing the officers in charge and the history, if they have it."
MIS linguists in the Solomons had captured and translated Japan's Naval "Order of Battle." The United States and its allies now had a full list of Imperial Navy ships, plus their call signs and code names. They also learned about the existence of previously unknown ships and designs.
In New Guinea, MISers had stumbled across the Japanese Army Officer List. The Allies now possessed the complete roster of 40,000 Imperial Army officers. These documents listed each man's rank, the unit he was attached to, and the job he was assigned. Allied possession of this Order of Battle cost the Japanese dearly and saved many American lives. In Washington D.C., a Nisei team kept the Order of Battle file up to date.
"And the third team is Counter-Intelligence Corps, CIC. CIC's duty is to see any subversive or any irregular activity among our troops. To keep an eye on our own troops who might do something against a military rule or the order of military rule or custom. And they can punish the guys. Sort of FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] working for the army. And us, our job is to get the information about the enemy. So these four teams, a special group of people, assigned to the division G2. G2 is intelligence, as you know."
“6,000 Nisei in the War in the Pacific saved over a million American lives and shortened the war by two years.”
Major General Charles A. Willoughby, Chief of Intelligence under General Douglas MacArthur
"Of course, Tokyo doesn't know we're listening, eh. You know why? Navy intelligence broke Japanese military code early in the war. So the intelligence upper echelon knew exactly what Japan was doing all the time. So Midway battle, famous Midway battle, they knew exactly what was coming. So they waited until close enough to Midway. And from Midway, there's a base, yeah. Bang, bang, bang, and bust up the Japanese navy. After that, the Japanese navy was a skeleton. And the same thing happened with Admiral [Isoroku] Yamamoto being shot down. They knew exactly what plane he was in. So the five P-38s, you know, the light fighter plane, two-fuselage plane. Five of 'em waited for them to come to Rabaul. So when the Japanese group of bombers came, approached Rabaul, they went straight to Admiral Yamamoto's plane and shoot 'em down. They knew exactly what plane he was in, about what time they would be arriving over there. Because of the intercepted message. It was the best secret message, I mean, information of the war. They knew exactly what the Japanese were up to."
"[We translated] whatever comes in. Whatever. Any kind of document they pick up, it comes in to our headquarters. They don't know what kind of material that is, so everything. Even sometimes trash that comes in. But the ones we're going to pay first attention is the map. Especially enemy troop disposition map. And then we look through."
"Among the captured documents, the most useful information comes from diaries. See, Japanese army, they have a habit of keeping a diary. In America, no-no. We're not supposed to keep anything with us. Because in case you're captured or dead, and in your pocket you find something, might be useful to the enemy. Whereas the Japanese, no such thing. No counter-intelligence training. Because they're told to fight until die. So they cannot give you training say, oh, in case you're captured. So regular soldiers, they have no training whatsoever. They don't know the value of intelligence. So they spill out everything they know. But the ranking non-coms and officers know the value of information. So they're tight-lipped. If they do talk, they give all bullsh*t. So very useless interrogation, those guys."
The tasks performed by the MISLS graduates were numerous and varied. One of the most common included translating diaries taken off the bodies of slain Japanese soldiers and any other documents discovered. It is estimated that millions of documents were translated by the MISers.
When Japanese Prisoners of War (POWs) were brought in, MISer's interrogated and wrung information out of them. The Japanese military never expected their soldiers to be captured alive and did not instruct them on what to do upon capture. Interrogation strategies designed specifically for Japanese POWs was developed and passed along. These POWs provided a wealth of information.
"First, their name, of course [in the diaries]. Date where hey move around from. Today, what they did during the day. And sometimes they write some information about their family. All kinds of - just like daily activity."
"And that becomes real useful information to the higher command. They piece together. Not only one source but from all the sources accumulated becomes a good picture. So sort of a crossword puzzle. My information, or the information I got from this guy, might fit into someplace else, make more sense. So it's an accumulation of this kind of information becomes real useful to the higher command, higher-echelon intelligence officer. For intermediate to me, not too much useful. Yeah, because I could care less where they come from."
"Well, yeah [the documents were legible]. I mean, there's some wet and hard to read. But many times. Especially written documents, the printed kind, it's pretty good. Ink, handwritten ones, were hard to read."
Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Historical Information excerpted from the manuscript "The Battle of Okinawa," courtesy of Ted Tsukiyama. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps.