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-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And so, going back -- so people found out about the MIS in World War II because they would ask, "Well, Colonel Spady Koyama -- ?" And they would understand or hear about your history and why, and how you got to your position. Because it must have been, to many people, sort of puzzling to see...

SK: Just last Memorial Day, Memorial Day this year, in Spokane, at a large cemetery called Fairmont Cemetery, We had the annual Memorial Day services sponsored by -- every year -- by the Marine Corps personnel of Spokane. And the main speaker was the mayor of Spokane. And he knew me from before, so he came up, and I'm in uniform, he greeted me. And the master of ceremonies, he knew me, he came up and greeted us. And of course, later on, strangers -- there were about five, six hundred people there, I guess, with cameras, some of them had cameras, they wanted to take my picture. I said, "What about the mayor?" "I want your picture," 'cause I'm in uniform, the mayor is not.

TI: Uh-huh.

SK: And some of them would ask me, "Well, can you tell us a bit about -- ? Well, I've been to three wars in the U.S. Army -- World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. And they're just flabbergasted. They never -- I said, "There were thousands like me in World War II in the Pacific." And they're just flabbergasted. To this day, the general public is unaware.

TI: Uh-huh. How about others like you that were with the MIS? I imagine during the occupation there was -- they recruited a lot of the ex-MIS soldiers to join, as they did you. Did very many of them continue on and serve in the Korean and Vietnam conflict?

SK: I think quite a few did because, at the same time in 1946, when I was asked to go back on active duty, that resulted from a special recruiting directive that was concocted back East, because of the need by General MacArthur for linguist service and support in Japan. And that in itself should prove how valuable we were to his effort. I'm sure that he could have gotten Japanese citizens to speak English and support it. But he needed Americans to do that same job, so that he could trust them completely -- cleared for security job. So he needed Americans who were linguists -- that's us. And most of us were getting out of Japan on point system because of our need to go back to the Pacific Coast and get our families out of so-called relocation camps, get them settled in old homes and get their jobs back and their possessions back. And reportedly, MacArthur sympathized, but he says, "I still need them with me here in Japan." And that's the reason why I got that special letter inviting me to come back on active duty. Not ordering me. And they were willing to give me a special waiver of my disability to do that.

TI: And how many? Are we talking about dozens or hundreds or...?

SK: Well I would say, I would say dozens and dozens, because, to the best of my knowledge, there are about -- I'd say from the top of my head -- two dozen or more, two dozen to maybe thirty of us who made the service a career and who are retired today as top three graders. That, by that, I mean majors, lieutenant colonels, or colonels -- perhaps more. I think there were about, oh, last... quite recently, I attended the, what we call -- what do we call that -- roast and toast of a Colonel Harry Fukuhara, in California. And there were eleven Nisei full colonels in attendance. And I tried without success, group picture of the eleven, but I couldn't get it. But there were eleven -- I counted them -- eleven of us from World War II days, you see. Now, not one of us made general because we were not in grade long enough, because we were enlisted and not officered, unlike those who are coming in today from, say, universities, ROTC -- directly as an officer. Now, they would have enough time in grade to keep on going. And therefore, today we have what? About six, seven who are retired as generals or admiral. And we have a four-star general, Eric Shinseki -- unheard of in World War II, see. So...

TI: And do you -- because I know General Shinseki gives credit to the Niseis and what they did in World War II. Do you believe that, that you helped pave the way for people like General Shinseki?

SK: Yes, because if it hadn't been for us -- and we proved, through our blood and guts -- in every campaign in the Pacific there were Nisei linguists -- because the thousands of us who, who graduated from the, the so-called Camp Savage language school, which was very closely held, were scattered all over the Pacific in small groups of complete team -- translator, interrogator, who could interpret, who could cave-flush, go into caves and flush out the personnel in those caves. Oh, anything that required language work, we could do. And we were scattered in every campaign in the Pacific. And that brings to mind the fact that we were never allowed, never allowed to enlist in the navy. Therefore none of us were in the Marine Corps. And that's the reason why, when I was wounded and they cut off my uniform, they thought that I was a navy -- that I was a Marine. They put me in a navy hospital, until couple days later, someone with a paper and, paper and pen, comes in and says, "What's your home unit?" And I said, "Well, GHQ, Australia. "No, no, no -- your home unit." I said, "Well, Sixth Army at Holladia, New Guinea." "No, no, I want your home marine unit." I said, "I'm no marine -- I'm army." They thought I was a marine.

TI: Right. Okay.

SK: And to this day, the Marine Corps does not carry any list of Nisei personnel assigned to them because they were not assigned to them. They were just borrowed from the army.

TI: Uh-huh -- yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.