Military Intelligence Service
End of War
As often as possible, with rations and other gifts in hand, Yoshiaki visits relatives in Tokyo. In turn, his relatives serve him delicacies -- fried bees nests and shellfish.
He also visits a grandmother in Toyama-ken.
After about five months in Japan, Yoshiaki returns to Washington, D.C. as a master sergeant.
In October 1946, he is informed that his father is ill. Given emergency leave, Yoshiaki returns to Hawaii where he is discharged in December.
Relatives in Japan
I visited [my relatives in Tokyo] as often as I could. And I'd bring some rations and stuff like that. But every time I visited, they would put their best foot forward. And I learned to eat a lot of gourmet food like fried bee nests, you find those larvas. That's what they used to eat. And they would fry it and was very tasty, I thought. (Chuckles) Another was some kind of shellfish. And I thought, wow, they must have spent a lot of money just to entertain me.
So anyway, they tried to do their best to entertain their cousin. But this family was my dad's younger brother's family. And he had gone to the Yokoyama family as a yoshi and so their name was Yokoyama. At one time, he was the chief of police in Niigata city. And you can imagine, in Japan, that kind of position would be very prestigious and all that. And so they're used to a lot of luxury, I guess.
They had three boys and two girls, five kids, and the mother was still alive. The father had died early. And we traded stories. So the three guys, they were all in the army, and the eldest was first lieutenant in charge of fortification on Hachijojima, south of Tokyo.
The second son was with the finance department in the military. He was a second lieutenant. And the third one was a buck private and he was with the clean-up squad for Hiroshima. He had gone there to clean up. So he remembered seeing all the terrible things down there. So we traded stories like that.
[W]e were family. . .so we were able to communicate. And my grandmother, on my mother's side, was still alive in Toyama. Yeah, Mother was from Toyama. And this woman, I had met about fifteen years earlier when they lived here in Hawaii. Of course, Mother was four years of age when she came with the family, I mean, with the father and mother. And they lived on Kauai. But a few years after a few of us were born, they went back to Toyama.
Grandfather had died but Grandmother was still alive during the war. And so I decided to visit her. And she had evacuated to a village up in the hills called Yatsuo in Toyama. And it's a snowy country, lots of snow. So it must have been in December or January, when I visited her.
And I remember that feeling I had. Here I'm visiting Grandma as a sort of a conquering soldier but at the same time, I want her to accept me - all the people around her - to accept me as one of them, that kind of complex kind of feeling. And so I stayed with her just one day and went back to Tokyo.
[The people in the area] were polite, but I could see that, well, they didn't have any special love for a conquering American. But, of course, Grandmother was perhaps the only one who really accepted me then. Yeah, that again, was a long time ago so I don't know what we talked about but I suppose just knowing that we're family.
Return to Washington, D.C.
We were [in Japan] about five months.
And when that assignment ended, about two or three top translators, these kibei guys, were asked to stay in Japan to serve in the tribunal. And so, these guys were the ones with the master sergeants. And so they stayed back and then the rest of us were sent back to Washington, D.C.
And at the same time, the TO, the table of organization, opened up at the top because all the master sergeants stayed back in Tokyo. And so those of us below were automatically raised up. And soon, I found myself as the master sergeant. I was the top man.
[W]e sailed all the way to Seattle and we disembarked there. Took the train, and went right across the continent. So I remember passing through Minneapolis and Chicago and then on to Washington, D.C.
[W]e were billeted at Fort Myers in Virginia, right across. And from there, we went to our office, which was on Fifth and K, Fifth Street and K Street in Washington, D.C. There was a building there, so I think that was it, Fifth and K. Northeast. That was our office, and we proceeded to do translation work. Most of the people who went with us to Japan were there, also. PACMIRS was a kind of an Allied outfit. And so we had Australians, New Zealanders, British, Canadian, American, both officers and non-coms. And so we got to - we didn't socialize too much with the officers, we were just soldiers. But we did our work.
Discharge from Army
And in October of 46, we got word that my dad was ill. And so I was told to go and make the arrangements for my return to Hawaii. I was given emergency leave. I remember walking through the halls of the Pentagon, getting signatures, and passes, and things like that. And took the MATS, military transportation, the Military Air Transport Service, MATS. And, of course, it's an availability kind of thing, so I had to wait, waited for their call, and then flew across the continent, and ended up in Hawaii sometime in October.
I was ready for discharge already, in December, and so the emergency leave turned into terminal leave, so I didn't do anything, I just stayed home, visited home. By then, Dad was all right. I think he had a heart attack or something. But he had recovered.
So I was discharged then, in December of 46.
I didn't have any plans. But as many of us did, we, as we left the army, some of us joined the army reserve. And I was in the reserve very briefly and then I volunteered for the National Guard. In the National Guard, I was a second lieutenant for a few months.
Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani.