Takejiro Higa
Military Intelligence Service

Interrogations: Classmates

Toward the end of his tour in Okinawa, Takejiro interrogates two enemy soldiers who for fear of being poisoned refuse to eat or drink.

To Takejiro's surprise and the soldiers' relief, all three learn they were classmates. It is a tearful reunion.

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[T]he very last instance I had in Okinawa was, again, very close to the end of the battle. Of course, at that time, I had no idea battle's going to end. [A]bout a week before the actual end of the incident - two shabbily-looking dressed [Japanese soldiers] were brought into our headquarters for interrogation. Very shabby, you know, all broken uniform, and shredded. And so I look at them, pitiful sight.

Warren Higa questions a Japanese prisoner, Okinawa

I give them water, and I try to give them chocolate candy, D Ration, we called it. D Ration, about the size of a quarter pound butter. Very hard chocolate. And this chocolate, each guy has two apiece before we land. And I was told that one of those of D Ration, if you eat that and drink sufficient amount of water, it's equivalent to one meal. Very nutritious high-energy bar. So I try to give them one apiece. They wouldn't eat. So I look at them, "How come you don't eat?"

They say, "Maybe it's poison."

I tell them, "Stupid!" I yell in Japanese, you know, "Bakatare!" I show them that it's not poison. I nibble a little bit. They look at me nibbling, so I give back. They gobble up in no time. You know, one big chocolate, you know. Hard chocolate. So, after gobbling up one, I told my brother, "Eh, you guys still get the D Ration left?"

They say, "Yeah."
"Okay, give me two." Two guys, you know, from two guys, I get one each. I give 'em, let 'em eat. Give them all the water they want to drink.

And I start question: name, rank, serial number. That's military standard interrogation. So name is Okinawan name. I recognize the name. So I say, "Oh, what village you come from?" And certain village. "You?" Same village, you know. And the same village, very familiar village to me. It's the same village from which we assembled in the same school. Same school district. So, "What school did you go to?" Same school, yeah. Everything, answer, lead to me saying that they are my classmates. Indication. So I look at him. "Was there a teacher named Nakandakari Shunsho in your school?"

They look at me, "How come you know him?"

I tell you, "I am a graduate of a United States Military Intelligence Language Service school. I know everything about you guys, so don't lie to me." You know, I'm straight-faced, now. "Don't lie to me." So next question I ask, "Was this student from Shimabuku, Takejiro Higa, in your class?"

"Huh? How come you know about him?"
"Didn't I tell you, I know everything about you guys?"
"Yes, there was one," so-and-so.
"Where is he now?"
One of 'em said, "I think Higa went back to Hawaii, I don't know."
The other guy said, "We haven't seen each other for some years now, I don't know where he is." So I look at two of them, and say, "If you look at him today, you would think you would recognize him?"

They say, "We don't think so," you know, shaking their heads, see.

At that point, I couldn't stand any longer. So I look at, straight in the face, "You stupid, don't you recognize your own classmate?"

"Huh?" In Japanese, of course, you know. Then they start crying. "Why are you crying?"

"You know, until now, after this interrogation is over and our usefulness is over, you guys might take us over the hill and shoot. But now that my own classmate is on the other side of the fence, we figure our lives will be saved. We are crying for happiness."

And at that point, I couldn't stand it any longer, too. To tell the truth, three of us grabbed each other's shoulder and I cried, too. Because if I didn't run away when I was sixteen years old, I may be in the same boots as they were, somebody may be interrogating me. I couldn't hold back any longer. And to this day, when I think about it, I get cold sweat.

So after the war, I visited Okinawa many, many times. Each time when I go to Okinawa, Ryukyu Shimpo used to write about me looking for a little girl and the old lady I met in the beachhead. And if they're still alive, I want to meet 'em, you know. And I was looking for my classmate. I never go to see 'em. At the 50th anniversary, the son of one of the deceased classmates saw the article, contacted the newspaper, and [I] arranged to meet with him. And then so the newspaper reporter, my cousin who was driving me around, and I think was Nakandakari sensei, too, who went to see this boy, one of the sons of the classmates that went to hakamairi [visit graves].

Takejiro Higa at grave of classmate he interrogated in Okinawa during the war

The other one, nobody seems to know what happened. They think after the war, he got crazy. Nobody knows what happened to him. Every time I go to there, I'm looking for them. And newspaper article writes up about my visitation. But I never could meet them. Nobody knew what happened to them. Maybe nobody even talked about it, being a prisoner, or, you know, shame. Nobody knew. Except the son, you know, fifty years later, he remembers his father talking about it. So that was the last time I saw any of the people that I was connected with the civilian Okinawa battle.

Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps and Takejiro Higa.

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