Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Bannai Interview II
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 29, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-02-0001

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AI: Okay. Today is December 29, 2000. We're continuing our interview with Mr. Paul Bannai. Thank you once again for sharing your time and your experiences with us. And the last session, you had just begun telling us a little bit about your experience after graduation from the MIS Language School.

PB: Right.

AI: And maybe we should just continue there. You were saying that you were initially, you were initially going to be training some MPs, some military police.

PB: Right.

AI: But you ended up being attached to the MPs and being sent overseas with them.

PB: Right.

AI: So, could you tell us about that?

PB: Well, I think everything in the army is by necessity. And I happened to be in a unit that was very close in New Guinea to where MacArthur was. So when he found out that many of us spoke Japanese and he could use us, the first thing that I remember is that I left the MP unit, and he asked me to accompany troops to look into areas in which he could send troops in. That would be the approach to Manila and eventually to Japan. So I was on PT boats and submarines by myself with the units, and we would meet with the Filipino scouts. And I remember several places, one was Palawan, it's a little island that stretches down from north to south along, near Corregidor and Manila. I went to Zamboanga, which was down south. It was a large city. I went to Cebu, which was on the eastern side of the Philippines, and also went to Leyte.

After all the data we took back, MacArthur decided that Leyte would be the ideal situation primarily because of the troops that we would face, Japanese troops. He felt that that was a kind of a soft spot. Also there was an airport at Tacloban. And he said from there with our Air Force in there, we could bomb Manila very easily, the objective being that if we could take the Philippines back again, we could work from there and then go on up to Japan. So that was my job for a little while. And because of knowing the area, I was asked to land with the MPs in the Philippines. And naturally, everybody knows we landed in Leyte -- Tacloban, at the airport, near the airport. And when we landed on the beach, because of the shortage of MPs, we didn't only set up camp for the prisoners of war that we captured, but we also did maintenance of traffic on the roads, things of this nature.

AI: Now, you mentioned that you were by yourself as the only...

PB: Most of the time, yes.

AI: ...MIS person, personnel, and also, were you the only Japanese American with these units that you were...

PB: Yes.

AI: ...working with? And how did they accept you? Did they understand that you were American, that you were an American soldier?

PB: Oh, yes.

AI: And did you ever feel that you were in danger? That someone might confuse you for being an enemy Japanese?

PB: Oh, yes. And that is why whenever I went to a unit, they made sure that they knew who I was. And I remember when I was assigned to the Australian forces, the Australian general looked at me, and he said, "With your uniform, American uniform, you would be mistaken very much for a Japanese soldier, and you would be in danger." So I immediately was given an Australian uniform, a digger hat, and generally at the beginning, I was always accompanied by someone, an Australian so that it protected me from that. Now, when I was in the Philippines, since they were all American soldiers and they were told who we were, that wasn't that much of a problem. But because people knew that Nisei, Japanese American soldiers were landing, I remember on the first or second day after landing at Leyte that I saw a LST come up and a suicide plane hit the ship. And I was told that there were several Niseis on there that were injured. And subsequent to that, I found out about Cappy Harada and knew that he was one of them. And then another one you interviewed, which I understand, that lives up in the Oregon area...

AI: Yes. Spady Koyama...

PB: ...or Washington. Yeah.

AI: ...was also on that ship.

PB: Yeah. So it was quite an experience.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.