Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Saburo Sato Interview I
Narrator: Frank Saburo Sato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 14, 2017
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-445-17

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's talk just a little more detail about each. So John, you mentioned earlier, volunteered, and was first with the 442, and then in the 442 with the 522nd, the artillery unit, which makes total sense because of his math, physics background. He would be one of the guys who could figure out the mathematics of artillery, how to do that. Do you know how long he was with the 522? Was this just in training camp? You said he never went to Europe.

FS: Just in training camp. When he finished training, that's when they recruited him out of there and sent him to MIS, to Fort Snelling.

TI: Before MIS, I'm just curious if you ever heard or knew, I remember talking to some other people in the 522nd, and they talked about, because they had such great math wizards, they actually figured out algorithms and formulas that were better than the manuals. And so, at one point, they actually got in trouble because some of the officers said, "You guys aren't following procedures because you're firing too quickly. If you go through all these steps, it will take you a certain amount of time, and you guys are like half the time. So cut it out." Like, "What are you doing?" And they would then show them that, well, we went through the manuals, and we just did the math a lot better, so here's a faster way of doing this. Did John ever talk about that? I was just curious if he was ever involved with that.

FS: I know nothing about that.

TI: Okay, yeah. It was just a great story of how, because of that, the army started changing their manuals. Because these guys who generally were in college or college graduates, figured out better ways of the procedures of firing and targeting these cases.

FS: That doesn't surprise me, Tom, and I'll tell you why. I don't know how I learned this, but brother John was one of the top physics students at the UW, and there's one other Nisei that I've heard of, and you may know the name, Fumio Yagi. Fumio Yagi was the other guy that I understood was one of the top physicist candidates at the University of Washington. But those guys -- and I knew Fumio from camp days -- pretty strong intellectual guys. So it wouldn't surprise me to hear that, but I didn't hear anything about that. But, you know, my brother John was a very quiet man. He was the kind of guy that didn't say much, and even when I asked him stuff, he was the kind of guy that he'd give you kind of a short answer, you know. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, too bad. I wish I had a chance to interview him. But let's continue with his story. So from the 442 and the 522nd, he then is recruited to go to the MIS, and that's camp Snelling at that point?

FS: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And so he's there, and then you mentioned he then went to, was it Florida, you said?

FS: Yeah. He was with, in Orlando, Florida, for air force technical and tactical training, is my recollection, is what it was called.

TI: Did he go with a group? I've never heard of this sort of transfer, from the army MIS to the air force, so this was a little different.

FS: I think there was a small group of Nisei MIS guys. And I've mentioned to you I don't know this for a fact, but just thinking back, I think the air force was already thinking about the bombing situation.

TI: Now, was their role still as linguists, or what was their role?

FS: He was in MIS. So when he finished that training in Orlando, Florida, he went directly from there to Hickam, and he was stationed in Hickam until he went from there to Guam. Now, did I tell you how I found out about all this?

TI: No, tell me.

FS: You know, when I was DOD, and my job at that time was the head audit guy for the Department of Defense. My boss, Fred Wacker, who was the controller of the DOD said to me one day, "I got to go to Korea, would you line this trip up for me?" And I said, "Sure." And the reason why he asked me was I had staff in Korea and in Japan and Vietnam. So I arranged this trip, and to make a long story short, we went from Washington, D.C. to Korea, we were there a week, a week in Japan, and then Guam, and back to Hickam. And typically what would happen is when I'd go on a trip like that, I'd generally come back through Hawaii and I would see my brother John there sometime before I'd come back to Washington. So this particular times, since I was with my boss, we were staying in VIP quarters at Hickam. And I called John and Ruth, I said, "Hey, come have dinner with me." And we were at the Hickam Air Force Base Officer's Club having dinner, and John says to me, "Okay, Frank, where were you guys this time?" So I told him. And when I got to Guam, I said, "You know, we were at Guam in this place, and there was all these nice hotels the Japanese had put up. And right north of there is a small navy listening station, and we helicoptered right over." And he almost jumped out of his chair and he said, "Frank, that's where I was during the war." I said, "What?" He says, "Yep, that's where I was." It was a navy intelligence listening station that he was at. And they were monitoring broadcasts from Japan and so forth. From there he went to Guam, from Guam to Tinian. And he told me he went from Tinian, then on to the USS Missouri for the signing of the peace accords. And none of us in the family, not even his own family, knew anything about this. But the thing is, they were restricted in disclosing any intelligence data. And my brother John is one of these guys that if you told him this is what you do, you wouldn't see him violating that. So it's only by chance that I found out about that. And that's how I found out about him going into Nagasaki and Hiroshima also, from that same conversation. Otherwise, I'd have known nothing about it.

TI: Now, what was it, did you ever find out why he was one of the four Niseis who were on the USS Missouri? I mean, that seemed like a very high honor.

FS: You know, I don't know. He never did say, and I wanted to find out. And I talked to this lady that I met from the Japanese American National Museum, and when she told me that this other guy, that's when she confirmed that there were four of 'em. I even looked online to see whether I could spot him on board ship. But my guess is he was underneath, below deck, monitoring all the radio transmissions and so forth at that time to make sure that everything was safe. Because that was part of his job.

TI: Interesting, okay.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.