Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Spady Koyama Interview II
Narrator: Spady Koyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-kspady-02-0003

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SK: And I was doing that when I was frozen in recruiting. And I just couldn't see myself spending a lot of time in recruiting for the Army Language School, so I asked for what -- is known at that time as Camp Holabird, home of the Counter Intelligence. So I applied for that and got accepted. And I went back there and attended (MD,) the basic officer's course at the CIC School -- Counter Intelligence Corps School, Camp Holabird, which later on became Fort Holabird. (The school) is now located at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I was finally sent to Japan (in 1949). And there's an interesting sidelight. After I graduated and while I was waiting assignment to what turned out to be Japan, there's a -- there were other Nisei officers there, including a fellow named Richard Sakakida, of Hawaii. He and I were both waiting assignments, and he is waiting to be assigned to the Air Force OSI, Office of Special Investigations. And I was waiting for assignment to 441st, CIC Detachment, Tokyo. And every chance we got, we would be participants in a poker game, just to while away the time. And Richard Sakakida at no time mentioned anything, not a word, about his fabulous background that he had suffered and survived through years of torture and -- all the other kinds of treatment that he had suffered while a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines.

TI: Well, let's talk about that. So Richard Sakakida, was he an ex-MIS?

SK: And he had gone into CIC work. And he had been assigned to Philippines as a sergeant -- was a cover story. And he was there before war started. And after war started and MacArthur was getting ready to evacuate the Philippines down to Australia, and Sakakida had an opportunity to go there, he declined. He stayed put because he gave up his seat to another Nisei. And stayed on in the Philippines, and finally -- became a subject of investigation by the Japanese intelligence.

TI: Now, did he stay specifically for counterintelligence reasons?

SK: Right, right. Because he was placed under a cover story into the Philippines for that purpose, before World War II started, you see. And he finally -- when the war tide turned against the Japanese, and they were evacuating farther and farther up north, he went so far. And then he (escaped) to try to get back to American lines, and finally succeeded after he was wounded in -- I think it was the stomach area. And he took care of himself and survived.

TI: Well, I'm a little confused. So let's go back. So he, he stayed in the Philippines to do counterintelligence. He had a cover story -- I believe he was, a cover story was a Japanese businessperson? Was that his cover story?

SK: No. His cover was -- he was a deserter from the merchant marines because he had jumped ship. Therefore, "I cannot be seen associating with Americans because they will arrest me and put me on trial. And that's the reason I hobnobbed with you fellows in the Japanese community, staying away from the Americans."

TI: Okay.

SK: That was his cover.

TI: Uh-huh. So he was doing this cover, and then the Japanese started investigating him?

SK: Just to make sure. That's right.

TI: Okay.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And then what happened?

SK: And he survived all their torturing methods, and finally reached the point where they finally thought, "Well, why not use him? He's a linguist -- he speaks English and Japanese. We need linguists." So the Japanese assigned him to a colonel to be his errand boy. And this colonel was very lackadaisical about security. So Richard was able to ferret out a lot of useful information, which he gave to the local Filipino guerillas, who in turn transmitted the information down to Australia.

TI: So -- wow. So he was like an undercover, I mean, he was actually working with the Japanese military then, with this colonel, and was able to take that information and give it to the underground.

SK: And his greatest achievement, I believe is that he engineered the successful prison break of 500 Filipinos imprisoned by the Japanese, by posing as a Japanese, by ferreting out bits of uniforms of the Japanese, and posing as a Japanese. And he successfully succeeded in this prison break. So that, as far as I know, he has probably the highest Filipino decoration.

TI: So he, he did this while he was still working with the Japanese...?

SK: Japanese -- that's right.

TI: ...the Japanese colonel?

SK: Right. Right.

TI: And this was sort of covertly...

SK: Right. Right.

TI: ...he did this.

SK: That's the reason why we tried -- through this Colonel Harry Fukuhara of San Jose -- years to try to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor from the U.S. government, which did not succeed. So that we finally settled for the Distinguished Service Medal, which he finally got quite recently. I think it was early (1999) in Hawaii that the ceremony was held, because I was given (a) written invitation to attend that ceremony. I believe it was February of this year, (but my wife was still recovering from surgery.)

TI: When Sakakida was doing this, was he still part of the counterintelligence reporting somehow to...?

SK: Right. Right.

TI: How does that work? How does he get orders, or does he have orders? Does he...?

SK: Oh, he has orders before he goes in, to look for this and this and this, of course. Any useful information because he's trying to find out among the so-called Japanese businessmen, who are the military personnel among these so-called businessmen. How did they come in the gate? Through what channels? Through whom? Anything that would be useful to the American side.

TI: And when you said that when the Japanese questioned him -- investigated, and then you said tortured him, was that because the Japanese knew that he was a...?

SK: Suspected, possibly, that he would confess if, if placed under physical torture.

TI: But obviously he didn't confess. And then...

SK: He didn't confess. He survived.

TI: ...and then the Japanese decided to -- that he was -- he checked out.

SK: Yeah. Right.

TI: And, "Let's utilize him as a..."

SK: He survived.

TI: ...linguist."

SK: Right.

TI: And so now let's go back to your training. And you're playing poker with this gentleman. And you said he never talked about this with you?

SK: He never talked about his background. We never suspected. We didn't know. We just didn't know. And that would be 1948, '49, something like that. And it wasn't until 1991, at Presidio (of) Monterey, California, where the MIS is having their national reunion. And I'm on the stage at the beginning of the ceremony to lead the Pledge of Allegiance on the stage. And I notice that Richard Sakakida and his wife (Cherry) are seated on the stage. And after I got off, I asked somebody about the, the presence of Richard. "What's he doing on the stage -- ?" and so forth. And I learned for the first time that he's the main speaker. And it was at that time that he finally unloaded all that had happened to him during World War II, much to the shock of his wife. She didn't even know.

TI: So he went on stage...

SK: That's right.

TI: ...and that was the first time that you...

SK: First time he publicly...

TI: ...his wife, had ever heard...

SK: That's right.

TI: ...about it.

SK: Right. That's 1991.

TI: And...

SK: And it's, that's why, to me, it's been a source of pride for me to have been the person who nominated Richard -- Lieutenant Colonel Richard Sakakida of Hawaii, to be honored by having a building -- permanent building, in Fort Lewis named after him, which we did. And that, if you ever get to go to Fort Lewis, there's a operational building of the 201st Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by a full colonel, named Sakakida Building. That's in honor of Richard Sakakida.

TI: Right that's, that's interesting. That's a wonderful story.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.