Military Intelligence Service
Military Service: Duties
In October 1945 PACMIRS is sent to Tokyo. The unit looks through university library books and identifies those with military value. Books determined to have military value are kept; all others are discarded.
Because of the incendiary bombing of the city, most buildings are destroyed or badly damaged. A few near the Imperial Palace are unscathed.
Yoshiaki encounters malnourished civilians begging for food.
Tokyo: October 1945
[A]fter the war ended - in October, PACMIRS was sent to Tokyo, on temporary duty, to collect more material.
When we were in Camp Ritchie, Maryland, it was called the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Section. But later on, somewhere along the line, our outfit had the name of Washington Document Center. And so it might have been when we were in Tokyo that that name was changed.
We were there in Tokyo to collect documents, military documents. And so, perhaps I mentioned already that what sort of offended many of us, was the way these books were treated. We had, as our working place, it was called Daiichi Tokyo Zoheisho. Zoheisho. I suppose that could be translated to arsenal, the First Tokyo Arsenal.
The building seemed to have been intact, might not have been bombed out. But we used one of these larger halls where the books were all brought and just laid out on the floor. And we went through the books to see whether they were of military value or not.
The thing is, these books came from the libraries, mostly from university libraries. And all kinds of books. Not all military. There were a few, very few, but these books were just thrown on the floor and we went through them. And we all wondered what's going to happen to them, those that we didn't select.
And we suspected that they would all be thrown away, just discarded. And so we had raided the libraries of all the books there, selected what we wanted, and just discarded the rest.
But, I guess, that might have been a necessity. I mean, they weren't going to reorganize these books and return them to the libraries. So, we spent a few months going through all of these books, selecting what we wanted. And these, we brought back to Washington D.C., where we proceeded to translate those that we considered important.
Collecting Military Documents
[Tokyo] was bombed out, you might say. The place was bombed with incendiary bombs, so they just burned the whole city. There were a few places remaining but generally it was all flattened. There were some places that - the rooms, for instance, that were useable in the basement. The basements were not damaged and so those places were used.
But right along the palace, right in Tokyo, many of the buildings were standing. Like the Nippon Yusen [Kaisha] Biru, NYK building. And that's where the ATIS, the Allied Translation and Interpreters Section, was stationed. And we were attached to that group, so we stayed at the ATIS building.
Right next to it was the Marunouchi building, another large building, and that was intact. The Daiichi building was General [Douglas] MacArthur's headquarters. And that, of course, was standing. Because the palace wasn't touched. Of course, we couldn't get in there, but we visited that area. But generally, Tokyo itself was practically razed completely.
Civilians in Japan
I remember a couple of [civilians]. For instance, at the ATIS building, we had our meals and we ate in the cafeteria. And there were a lot of young boys hired to work there as busboys. And the thing is, they all looked like me. And you can see that they're malnourished, I mean, they're under-nourished. They looked a little bit skinnier than they should be. And they'd go around, in fact, begging for food, and so on. And that was pretty sad to see. That was one.
Another was, one day, I visited the PX [post exchange] and bought a can of candy which I thought of giving to my cousins who lived there in Tokyo. And so I was carrying this Almond Roca, you know that pink can, and I had come from the PX. And I was walking down the street, I was approached by a man begging for food. Saying, "Can you give me something?"
And all I had was the can, so I said, "Well, have this." And so I gave it to him. And the thought in my mind was, wow, it's so sad that he's begging for his family and all I can give is this can of candy which will be gone in maybe a day. How much they must be suffering. That kind of feeling. And I thought, well, maybe because they're Japanese - because I look like them or they look like me. Those are a couple of impressions that I have of that time.
Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Center of Military History, U.S. Army Signal Corps, and National Archives.