Chito Isonaga
A Different View

Life After the War

General MacArthur has the WACs discharged. They can return home or stay as U.S. Army civilian workers.

Chito stays. She discovers her Hiroshima relatives are alive and saves C rations for them. She acquires cotton material for her former schoolmates.

In the office of Lt. Colonel Paul Rusch, Chito and others help translate the diary of an important Japanese government figure.

From the 1950s to ’70s, Chito works for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Postwar Japan

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Before going to Japan we were in Hawaii. We went home for leave for about two weeks. And then on the way to Japan we stopped at, I don’t know, Guam or somewhere and stayed there for about two weeks. And finally they had enough space for us on the plane to go to Japan. I remember sleeping on the floor of the plane. When we went — I think it was a navy plane.

As we approached Japan, Mount Fuji was right in front of us. The pilot there got each of us to go up in front where he was piloting, sit down there and see the Mount Fuji right in front of you.

Mount Fujiyama as seen from the USS SOUTH DAKOTA in Tokyo Bay, Japan, 1945
Mount Fujiyama as seen from the USS SOUTH DAKOTA in Tokyo Bay, Japan, 1945.

We landed in Chiba [prefecture], Kisarazu Air Base. And then we rode on the truck and came to the Dai Ichi Building, where we reported. That is where [General Douglas] MacArthur [who was in charge of the Allied Occupation of Japan] was, on the fifth floor. When we reached there, we were told MacArthur didn’t want any WACs in Japan.

So, they stuck us in the men’s outfit and we went down to [U.S. Naval Air Facility] Atsugi and got discharged. We were told that those of us who want to go back to the [U.S.] Mainland can go, and those of us who want to remain in Japan [could] become civilians and work for the [U.S.] army there. We had a choice, so some of us decided to stay.

[WACs got benefits like the GI Bill.] We had that. Oh yes. But, we were [in military service as] WACs for such a short time not like the boys. So, some people took advantage of [the GI Bill] and some became schoolteachers.

[I decided to stay] because I wanted to help my relatives [living in Japan]. When we first reached Tokyo and stayed at the hotel, there was one girl from Koloa town [working in Japan]. We were family friends. With her boyfriend, she came to the Chiba Park Hotel where we were billeted. She says, “You know, Chito, I am going to see my uncle in Hiroshima.” The uncle lived not far away from where my [relatives lived] — well, they didn’t know each other, but lived close by.

So I said, “You know, it doesn’t have to be in a hurry, but if your uncle has time, I’d like him to go down to this address in Misasa, where my uncle and his family was living, to see if that place is still intact [after the atomic bomb] and see the situation there.”

She asked the uncle and he did go down. Was not immediate, but he went down. There was, I guess, some part of the house remaining. There was a notice on the gate or something saying that they were all well and they were somewhere [else]. So I wrote my mother and said, “Our relatives in Hiroshima didn’t get affected by the bomb.” And so, they knew that they were all safe.

[Being in the service,] we were able to ride the train free. And so, I packed what I could get at the commissary, which is practically nothing. I saved my C rations in this big duffel bag. When I had enough I took that to [my relatives]. But in the meantime, they came back and they had a home there, more like a shack, but they moved back from the country. I helped my aunt, with whom I [had] lived [while attending school]. She was living with her nephew down a couple of stations away. I built her a home, a shack-like building, and she moved back to her place in Yokogawa. And then, whenever I could, I used to go down and take her things.

G-2 Military Intelligence

We became civilians [after being discharged].

I worked for G-2 [military intelligence], I’m sure, at different sections of G-2. Towards the end I worked for the government section. The government section was headed by General [Charles] Willoughby, who was MacArthur’s right-hand [man]. So I worked on the fifth floor in the government section. Those foreign office people used to come all the time. I never saw General Willoughby, but he used to go to General MacArthur’s office because he was, more or less, his right-hand man.

[I was] translating, mainly, and sitting at the front desk. That was an easy job. Not much translation to do.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Rusch

[Paul Rusch] was [previously on staff of MISLS at Fort] Snelling. We used to call him “Pappy Rusch.” His office [in Japan] was the former home of Madame [Miki] Sawada, whose husband [Renzo Sawada] was a diplomat. It was right close to the British Embassy. We used to go — we had an old car. Kim-san [Mr. Kim], a Korean chauffeur, used to drive us from Chiba Park to that mansion every day.

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We spent more time at the PX, too, when we worked for [Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch. Many times, when the PX [post exchange] opened, [Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch would send us over there when they started selling — Japan started to manufacture cotton material and used to ration us six yards of cotton material. We used to go and buy it for him. Because Madame Sawada was connected with an orphanage, we used to give it to the orphanage.

Then I found my schoolmates and I started helping them. They were having their first babies and they didn’t have any diapers or anything. I used to write home and they used to send. In fact, Mom sent regular [cloth] diapers. They didn’t use it for diapers. They made shirts and stuff with the diapers. And when the PX [post exchange] opened and they start selling cotton materials, I would just buy that and give it to them.

Mom used to send Bayer aspirin. She had a friend who had an orphanage down in Hiroshima, so she used to send aspirin and stuff like that.

We were doing translation of a diary of some secretary to somebody influential, a politician or somebody. [Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch, through connections, got that diary. [That person] was somebody important in the [Japanese] government. The secretary kept that diary of what he did, who he saw. There were about twenty of us working on [that] translation, just one portion.

We had a professor from Kyoto University help us. We had a lot of Japanese help us, too, on the side. And I remember at one time, a portion of what I translated was used for the [International] Military Tribunal [for the Far East]. We looked for it, just one small little paragraph of the secretary’s [diary] . . . And there were piles of his diary.

[Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch was really nice. We used to have lunch there, at [Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch’s office. He used to have parties there, too. [Lieutenant] Colonel Rusch used to take care of the symphony orchestra. I think every Sunday or something, they used to have performance. He used to feed the orchestra members before they went to work, you know. [The state of Japan’s economy during the occupation] used to be that bad.

[Rusch founded Seisen Ryo, retreat lodge of the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project.] He started it [in 1938]. We used to go up there every weekend, practically, on a truck or on a train. Once Prince Takamatsu came along on the train with us and went up to Seisen Ryo.

Central Intelligence Agency

I don’t know whether I’m supposed to [talk about working for the CIA in the early 1950s]. But maybe I can. I think it’s okay because my W2 form has Central Intelligence Agency [as my employer]. So, it’s not as secret as it used to be. So, I’m sure it’s all right.

I went back to another section, back to G-2 I think. [Later,] I wanted to go home, the long way. Before I went on my long trip, I met a friend who used to work together with us, who had gone to work for CIA. He told me, “Why don’t you sign up with us?” So I said, “Okay.” And so he brought me this long paper and I started filling it out. It was so long, I was about ready to throw it out and give up. But I did sign it and I gave it to him.

Then I went home [to Kauai]. In October, when I was about expecting the orders to go back to Japan, the colonel calls me. He says, “I’m sorry, but there was a big reduction in force and as long as you weren’t on the ship [heading for Japan] it’s easier to cut you out than the people [already in Japan].”

So, my father was sort of ailing, and we had a store there [on Kauai]. So, I thought, oh good, then I will help [him] for a while.

Isonaga Family. 1953. Koloa, Kauai
Isonaga Family. 1953. Koloa, Kauai.

When Christmastime came I wrote a card to [my friend in the CIA] that says, “I’m willing to work for you.” More than six months [later], I got orders to go back there again. [The CIA] hired me and so I went back to Tokyo again. That was in what, 1954? Yeah, I worked about twenty-one years until the 1970s. I retired at [age] sixty.

[I did] mostly translation. Once I did a reverse translation, from English to Japanese. And I must’ve done a good job because the navy sent a letter to them and that’s when I got a promotion (chuckles). I think I was the only one that could do it. Of course, somebody else did the writing in Japanese. The navy sent a nice letter back to us. So, I got a promotion out of that one reverse translation I did.

[I wasn’t] that good, but I consulted a lot of stuff and I knew the format. Japanese had a certain format to follow and I must’ve done it correctly.

[After I retired in 1975,] I came home and I rested for a while. I wanted to look for a job because at the time I was employed, the federal workers didn’t have to contribute towards Social Security, so I didn’t have any Social Security credit. So, I started looking for a job, but my mother said, “Don’t take away jobs from people who really need it.” (Chuckles)

Chito Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Chito Isonaga.

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