Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Kenjiro Akune Interview
Narrator: Kenjiro Akune
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: December 13, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-akenjiro-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: This is tape one with Ken Akune, A-K-U-N-E, in L.A. on December 13th, the year 2000. Ken, when you heard that the bomb had been dropped, how did you feel?

KA: Is this December 7th?

gky: No, no. This is August 8, 1945.

KA: Oh, you mean the Hiroshima bomb.

gky: Yeah, yeah.

KA: Okay.

gky: The atomic bomb.

KA: Yeah. Well, we didn't really know what it was. I know that one person that was very much affected was one of our members. His wife was an actress in Japan and she married this journalist from the U.S. who was also a hapa, and she returned to Japan on the Gripsholm when the exchange took place, and I don't think she was aware that he was in the service. So when -- being with the Office of War Information, we had various information that came through and we had some information relative to the fact that there was an entertaining troop that was in the Hiroshima area, and the immediate thought was that Clark's wife probably was there to entertain the, either the Japanese people or the troops there. And, so, he was very concerned when the bomb was dropped, and when we heard it was the atomic bomb, naturally we didn't know what atomic was, but as the information flowed through we heard that what it was was the splitting of the atom and it destroyed the whole city of Hiroshima. And so it was a devastating blow, and my first thought was I hope that Japan would somehow take this as a warning and immediately cease fire. Because there was already indication around that time that the good, that Japan was approaching the good office of the Russian embassy, or Russian government to seek some sort of resolution to seek for peace. This kind of information was already flowing through, so we were hoping that that would end the war. But Hiroshima is another place. I mean, to me, I know it was a city in Japan, but it didn't affect me so much because of the fact my parents were west or southwest of that area.

gky: Now, were they near Nagasaki?

KA: Nagasaki is a little closer, but...

gky: Too far for...

KA: Yeah, too far for them to even observe it, I don't think.

gky: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: You said that when you came back to the States, you found some names, that your name had been dropped from the honor roll. Can you talk about that?

KA: Oh. Well...

gky: Where it was, when it was...

KA: Well, shortly after I went to visit my parents with Harry, I came back to headquarters and I saw that, being from another theater, which means China-Burma Theatre, there was no chance to get any kind of promotion in the service, and I couldn't see myself sticking around in the service at that time. I served two years overseas and no promotion, no nothing, so when I saw this sign saying that those who were attached to ATIS [Allied Translator and Interpreter Section] for the last six months had not been promoted, sign your name here. Well, that automatically put me out of any kind of promotion. And I really didn't see any hope of a civilian job or anything else there, so I didn't want to stick around and, you know, serve in the military any longer, so I decided to go home. So I got home shortly before Christmas, and so I decided to visit my hometown and also to check to see where I stood for a high school diploma. So I went to this high school called Hilmar, which is in the rural area, and so I went to this school and I happened to be in the hallway. The principal was tied up on a phone conversation of some kind, so I was just observing what was in that hallway. And I saw this honor roll, they call it an honor roll, and I happened to look at it and I saw all these names of my friends that were, you know, non-Japanese names were up there. And so, no Nikkei names were up there. And, suddenly this old coach that I used to have in school, and also the current vice principal, happened to come by and he immediately noticed that I was looking at this thing, so he tried to pull me away. I think it sort of embarrassed him because here I was in a uniform, showing that I was discharged, and I don't know what he thought, but right away he tried to take me aside and tried to change the subject. And that sort of teed me off, so I told him, "Hey, you know, my brother was in the service, Johnny's in the service, Isawa's in the service, and I don't see their names." And he didn't know what to say. I mean, I think he felt embarrassed. He didn't know what to say or do. But that really upset me, you know. I didn't think the school would be that way, but that's the way it was.

gky: Hilmar is spelled H-I-...

KA: ...L-M-A-R.

gky: Hilmar?

KA: Yeah.

gky: And is, was that Gardena?

KA: No, no, no. That's up central Cal, south of Stockton.

gky: In what town?

KA: Hilmar, a little town in Hilmar. In fact...

gky: Near Fresno or further?

KA: Northwest of Fresno. It's north about 70 miles. But anyway, I have a dear friend over there; these are the people that I used to live with as a schoolboy. And about a year and half ago we were talking. So, I said, "Bit, I never told you this, but I want you to know that I ran across this situation where I went and the name wasn't on there," and she was shocked. She didn't know that there was such a thing happening, and she was a grammar school teacher, you know.

gky: Did your name ever get put on there?

KA: I don't know. I never checked back or anything else, but I'm sure it was very embarrassing, you know.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

gky: Why did you decide not to make the army a career?

KA: Well, I really was gung ho when I went into the service, you know. And once the war was over and things changed, I mean, I didn't like the idea that, the discipline like saluting and stuff like that. So I decided that wasn't the career for me. I wanted to go into something else, so I decided to come home.

gky: What did you finally go into?

KA: Well, it's a funny thing. I went back to business school, you know. Of course, I did about four and a half years with the civil service in Japan after I got discharged, but I ended up in what they call property management with Hughes Aircraft later.

gky: Did you, were you in the same kind of job in Japan that you would have been had you been military? Some people tell me that they got out of the army in Japan and the next day they reported in to work, sat at the same desk, did exactly the same thing, only they got paid differently and they weren't wearing a uniform. Were you in that situation, too?

KA: No, at the time I was being... leaving for the States, there was no offer for linguists at the time. This was December of 19, early December of 1945. So if they were offering a civilian job at that time, I think I would have stayed because I knew that my parents needed help. But I couldn't see myself being a GI and being able to help them, you know, so I came home. But after I got back and Harry got back and Harry wanted to go back to school, I thought it was about time that I did my share. So I decided -- around that time there was a notification saying that they were seeking linguists for Occupation forces, so that's when I applied and I did return to Japan in September of 1945. And I didn't know what kind of job it was going to be, but I ended up in translation. And I wasn't a strong linguist, you know. I understood Japanese but my English portion was very weak because, as you know, I went back to Japan when I was ten; I came back when I was fifteen. That was in 1938. The war began in 1941 so there was only three-year, less than a three-year period that I went back to school trying to learn English. And I completely forgot most of my English, so everything... I started back in the eighth grade. I mean, I left at ten years old, and you know how much English you have up until that time. And I missed a tremendous amount of period where I spoke no English at all. And, besides, like the construction of the English language, for instance, I didn't know what a verb was, a noun, or anything else, and here suddenly I get dumped into the eighth grade and I don't understand anything that's going along. They're talking about Constitution and stuff like that, you know, which is entirely foreign to me. The only thing I did have an advantage is I had a good math background, you know, when I came back. So anyway, when the military came along and I volunteered, I think I learned more during my service, three-year service, because I was attached to an organization called the Office of War Information [OWI], which was basically a propaganda type of operation at that time. So, I had some pretty strong... in fact, the fellow that I really admire, Clark Kawakami, he was an English major out of Harvard Who's Who. His father was Who's Who of Japan, and he was very strong in English. He was a Phi Beta [Kappa] out of Harvard, too, so I learned quite a bit from him, you know.

gky: You were attached to the OWI in Burma?

KA: Yes.

gky: What exactly did you do in Burma?

KA: Well, my job was to interrogate prisoners. After the first line troop had interrogated the prisoners, we were, our job basically was trying to convince the Japanese that the war that we were fighting was useless, that the cause they were fighting for was not right, and we were trying to convince them that they were really out there fighting a losing war, and hoping that they would surrender, you know. But, as Harry was saying, the Japanese were very well indoctrinated, no giving up type of attitude and stuff like that, and they believed in their cause because they were educated all along as to why they were fighting the wars for. They started out with China and they were in a pretty bad state, but yet they went on fighting and even fought the U.S. government. So their mind was set that they were, if you want to call that a holy war, they were fighting a holy war, you know, to preserve or to save their country. So our job was to try to, I guess, plead to their intellect saying that the war they were fighting is not really for the country, but to the wish of the zaibatsu, they call it, the people with the money, the people who had the power to manufacture and stuff like that, and also the military, the greed of the military. And so we were trying to talk to them in a sensible fashion to make them understand, hoping that the indoctrination they had all during their youth and adulthood were leading them rather than, you know, and misleading them so that they were really fighting a cause they shouldn't be very proud of. So it was a hard thing. We knew it was a very, very difficult task, but we had to try.

gky: How successful do you think you were?

KA: [Laughs] Well, I would say we might have touched some people. To give you an example -- I don't know if I told you this story -- I was interrogating all these prisoners. In fact, there was about three hundred of them and I was, you know, there was two of us doing most of the interrogation. And one of the questions we would ask says, "Have you ever seen our leaflet?" And several said, "Yes, we saw it, but we didn't believe it." You know, that was it. And I ran across a guy that seemed quite interested, and he had a leaflet in his possession. So in conversing with him, I said, "Have you seen the leaflet that we've been dropping?" And he said, "Yes." And so I said, "Well, what do you think about it? Did you believe anything that we were trying to say?" And he said, "No." So you know, here I thought, "Wow, this guy's going to tell me something nice, you know." And pretty soon I said, "By the way, I see you carrying the leaflets." In fact, he had not only the normal one, but he had one that said "Surrender." And so I said, "Wow, maybe this guy was willing to surrender." And I said, "I see that you have the leaflet in your possession. How come you're carrying it if you don't believe in it?" He said, "Oh, yes, but it makes good toilet paper." [Laughs] And boy, there went my ego, you know, just burst. I couldn't help but start laughing, you know. Because, here I thought, boy, I was waiting for a chance to use this thing, you know, but I never had the opportunity. But he didn't say that. He just said it made good toilet paper.

gky: When you went on to China, what did you do?

KA: Well, basically, when, if you understand the war in the Burma Theatre, the Allied forces there, especially the American forces, was there to open up the Burma Road because to resupply Chiang Kai-shek by airplane was, I mean, by plane is almost impossible. And so, what we wanted to do is open up the Burma Road, which is a land route into China, so that we could haul, you know, munitions, plane parts, and everything else into China. And that was basically the task of the American forces. Now the British was naturally interested in recovering Burma and all the other territory. And somewhat, the Chinese force was also there to help open up the Ledo Road. Once the Ledo Road was open, basically our task was over. Although propaganda-wise I think we could have stayed there, but don't tell me why the Office of War Information moved to China, but that's where we moved. And I don't know who did the propaganda after that, because the propaganda by the Office of War Information was not only the Japanese language, but we were dropping leaflets and doing broadcasts in various language telling the people in that area not to cooperate or help the Japanese. That was probably, you know, our task. So it would seem that the OWI would have stayed there to the very end, but they didn't. The operation moved into China. And my task was basically to continue interrogating the Japanese prisoners there, but I got sort of delayed for some reason. I was the youngest member, and we had four Japanese prisoner of war that was willing to, that were willing to help us in our propaganda phase. Because it was very important that we get their view as to how we should do the propaganda, and since they were willing to help us and they were convinced that the war that they were fighting was indeed wrong, you know, they were sold on the idea that what we were trying to tell them, that Japan was doing war that was not justified, you know. And they wanted to speed up the end of the war, so they were willing to help us. And they were educated people. One was a school teacher, one was a lieutenant, he was an engineer. Another one was very fluent in Chinese, but he was a college-educated guy. The third one was an average John Doe. We needed that, too, because in order to communicate to the regular John Doe, we felt that we needed an average person to look over these things. But since they were willing to help us, the organization decided to transport them into China. So, my task was to watch over them until there was transportation for us to fly over to China, and that's what I did. In fact, I took them to China when the war ended. I brought them back and turned them over to the British because any prisoners of war caught in that particular theater was turned over to the British.

gky: What years were you in the army?

KA: I was in from December '42 to December '45.

gky: Exactly three years.

KA: Three years, almost to the day.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

gky: What do you think is the legacy with what you did with the MIS will leave?

KA: Well, it's only a hope, but I hope, like Harry said, I mean, I did contribute something towards the early termination of the war, because that's what we were shooting for. I know that our task was very hard. I knew after talking to the Japanese that what we were doing was, in fact -- a lot of time we thought it was a waste of time, but we were hoping that even after they were captured, maybe we could at least educate them on democracy, somehow to convince them to go back to Japan and make a better Japan for themselves, you know. And because we knew... we weren't trying to really brainwash them or anything like that. By action, things like the daily activities we had, the easy going-ness, the way we tried to help them. We were hoping that they would be able to take that back to Japan. And, again, from our point of view, we wanted the Japanese to know that Niseis, even though we did fight for the U.S., we were really thinking about their welfare as well. It's not only the fact that we're American, but we're hoping that because Nisei in general, I think, even when I was there, they were sort of looked down on. So we were hoping that maybe they would go back and say, you know, if it wasn't for the Niseis it would have been, it might have been pretty hard for them, you know. But again, though, as I look back, I don't think it was wishful thinking on my part to think that the Japanese will say anything about us, you know, during the war. Saying that we did help them out or anything else, because they were pretty close, you know, tight lipped about everything like that, so...

gky: So, you really as a Nisei, as a Japanese American, you made a difference.

KA: I, myself, may not have, but I think there was a lot of -- the majority of the Niseis did, I think. Because without them, I don't they would have shortened the war. Because there's an example that I think of how some of the hakujins looked at the Niseis, you know, after the war. But, I was in a hospital with a kidney problem in Burma, Burma-India Theatre, and I was laid up and the medical team wouldn't even look at me, you know, thinking that they probably were thinking that I was a POW or something. And I was laying there and I was, it's a kidney infection. I was having a hard time. And a guy next to me was a Caucasian officer -- I mean, not an officer, he was an enlisted man -- and we started to talk to each other and pretty soon he calls the doctor and the nurse over and say, "Hey, you better take care of this guy." He said, "These guys are valuable." And I found out he was a member of the Merrill's Marauder. And there was fourteen Niseis in the Merrill's Marauder. And he said that, "Boy, you know, what those guys did really saved our butts on many occasions." So here was a guy that was telling these people to take care of me, and I think if the other Niseis didn't do what they did, they probably would have -- this guy would have just ignored me and I would have just stayed there and maybe -- I don't know what would have happened because I had high fever and everything else.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: When you went back to the United States, when you were in school, you said that people assumed that you were in the 442nd.

KA: Yeah.

gky: Can you talk a little bit about that and sort of keeping quiet that you were in the MIS, that your weapon wasn't -- your weapon was language?

KA: Yeah. Well, you know, when you get praises like that, you know, you're not going to knock it. [Laughs] Because the 442 had a tremendous reputation and when you're in school and if anybody showed any inkling of being prejudiced to the Nisei, these people stood up and say, "Hey, these guys are great fighters in Europe," and stuff like that. So you sort of take advantage of it and just say, because we were -- it's a funny thing about the MIS. We were told that we were not to be known as to what we did, you know. So even though the war was over, I think all of us stayed quiet, I mean, we never said anything about what we did, you know.I think it's a nice trait on the part of the Niseis, you know. We can really say that if we're told to keep our mouth shut, we kept our mouth shut. Even though it was way over, and I know that we were permitted to talk afterward, but even then I think that's why it made it so difficult for us to talk. And like Harry was explaining, most of the Niseis that served in the MIS had some exciting experience, but they don't like to brag about it so they just keep quiet, you know. And they're satisfied that they did a good job and that's it. So I know a lot of people say, "Why don't you guys talk about it?" But I think most of us are satisfied that we did our job. If they want to recognize us, so be it. If not, we can carry it and forget about it.

But the more you think about it, it's not so much a fact that I'm satisfied, but I think about the young people, you know. And that's why I'm so involved with the monument [Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles]. I want the young people to know that if they're ever challenged about the loyalty of the Japanese Americans here, all they have to do is say, "Look at the monument. That tells you what we did." But then, on the other hand, I think we have to let them know what we did do too, because it's one thing to look at the monument, but it's also another thing to leave some sort of a writing or evidence of what we have done. Because I know when we were youngsters, I didn't know that there was Isseithat served in the service before that time, you know. If there were, there were very few. So, you kind of feel embarrassed if somebody say, "What the hell did your ancestor ever do to, for this country?" We really didn't have too much to show except to say that our parents were hard working.


KA: They never said, gripe about anything, even though the condition they worked under, the way they were robbed and everything else, they gaman and then went on to do their job. But that wasn't the kind of thing that you could be proud of, you know. Even today though, I feel real proud that they did that, but at the time when I was a youngster, you know, I didn't feel that way.


KA: You know, we were told that we weren't to divulge anything that we were doing. But this is real funny, because I went over with a team of ten men, and among us was one Hungarian. How he landed with the MIS, I don't know. But when he was assigned to our team, we went overseas together, you know, sailing out of the ship here, from Wilmington. But his English was, well, better than mine probably was, but he spoke fluent German. But anyway, this guy memorized Hitler's speeches, he memorized [Joseph] Goebbels' speeches and, of course, I didn't know he really spoke the same way, but he had that expression and everything else. And he used to entertain us on the shipboard communication, because one of our tasks of going overseas, there was twenty GIs on the ship, and he would be on the gun watch and he would be giving these speeches just to keep us entertained. Well, anyway, when we landed in Calcutta, India, he -- and when we reported to New Delhi, India, I mean, New Delhi headquarters, he asked to be relieved of his duty as a linguist. And he became a writer for the theater paper called CBI Roundup [China-Burma-India]. And, it was -- what year was it? I think it was in 1944. I think I have a copy of this article. But he told about our team. He mentioned my name, Kenji Yasui's name, he called, the article was called something about Nisei Sergeant York [Sergeant Alfred York was the most decorated American soldier of World War II]. So right away when we saw it, I said, "How could they announce this? We're supposed to be not known anyplace. What if the Japanese or what if we had spies among our people, they would notify the Japanese right away and immediately our job would become ineffective." And so that came out and we hoped that it would die right away. So, anyway, this fellow here, his name was Edgar Latham, he told me as we were going overseas that he was an Hungarian-born person, he was in Australia, he wrote quite a few articles about MacArthur in Australia and it appeared in the Reader's Digest. He also had written a couple Japanese, I mean, books about the Japanese military. He was very favorable about the military training in Japan, and he had two of those things.

But anyway, what I was trying to say was that this fellow here, the moment the -- I think it was shortly after the Ledo Road was opened, there was an article that appeared in the Yank magazine [Yank, a U.S. Army weekly, was published during World War II], and it said something about operating behind the enemy lines. And there was a Sergeant Richardson of the Yank magazine that wrote an article about his adventure behind the enemy line, and this guy said, "That was my idea. I should be the one that's writing this article." So, anyway, he convinces the editor of the CBI Roundup to do the same kind of thing. So he happens to come by to where we were stationed. He was going to make this trip with the Kachin Rangers [Allied guerrillas in World War II in Burma]. So he comes by, and so Clark Kawakami and I went down to see him. Even though we knew that he wrote an article about our operation, we said, "Edgar, you have gone through the language training, and you have a certain amount of information that the enemy knows nothing about, supposedly." And so we said, "It is very important that you never get captured, because if you ever get captured, all our operation is going to be known to the enemy." And he says, he told Clark and I, said, "Don't worry about it. I have these two books that I wrote about the Japanese military training, very favorable." Japanese thought he was great and everything else. He said, "If I ever get captured, I will show this and that would be it." But I said, "You know, you could be tortured and everything else. But he said, "No, don't worry about it. So he said, "Never get captured. Just remember that." And, so he said, "Don't worry." So that was the last time we saw him.

And shortly after -- I don't know, about a week or ten days later -- we get a report saying that this guy is lost. And so in interrogating these people who were with him, they told us that they came into, they ran across a Japanese patrol and they hid for a second and they decided to retreat because it's too dangerous. So they go across the river and then suddenly, this guy Edgar, says, "Oh I forgot a very important document. I'm going to have to go after it." And this, the Kachin officer, or whoever it was leading the patrol, said, "No, no, no. It's too dangerous for you to go. We will go after the material." But Edgar said, "No, you would never find where I put it." So reluctantly, I guess, they let him go. And he went, and that was the last we heard. So right away, we were on alert. We wanted to make sure -- we didn't know what had happened to this guy, so immediately when we were interrogating prisoner, we'd say, "Hey, have you ever seen a guy, a Caucasian fellow, being a captive?" And we asked lots of people. And, finally, one guy, one day we ran across this guy says, "Yeah, there was a Caucasian fellow that was living among the officers." And so we further interrogated and I asked him what did he look like, you know. And fortunately we had a picture of the guy, so -- in a group -- so we presented it to the guy. He said "Yeah, it's this guy." And so we wanted to know what was going on. "So he said, "Well, what'd you find out?" He says, "Oh, this guy said he was a German spy waiting for an opportunity to come to the, their enemy side, and he was living among the Japanese officers." Now what kind of information he divulged at that time, we don't know, but this prisoner said definitely this guy was living with the officers. So right away, you know, we were put on alert. I think that information must have gone topside, but we never found out how far it got into the Japanese command. Because I'm sure if the Japanese command were smart enough and if they got that information that he went through the language school and he found out that the Niseis were doing all this work in the linguists' area, I'm sure that the Japanese would have started encoding all their message. But for some reason, I guess it never got beyond that particular area. Whether it was not important enough or not, I don't know. But there was an occasion like that. But it was a funny thing. We were in China after the war, and it showed, you know, a newsreel and they were panning prisoners of war rescued in Bangkok. And I know somebody said to me, "Edgar was there. He was waving." And I wished the heck we could have somehow, you know, have tracked that down to see if it was indeed him, you know. But nobody followed through.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

gky: You know, you said that we're not in the same time that we were fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, can you sort of project yourself back, and did you think about having your civil rights violated then? Or did you feel that your civil rights were violated?

KA: You know, like I said, I didn't know enough about the Constitution, you know. All I was mad about is the fact that the Issei parent are saying to us, "You're an American citizen and you're in here, you know, just like we are." And that -- and what they were saying was true, and that really hurt. But I didn't, I wasn't smart enough to know that my civil rights were violated. In fact, I didn't think about this phase of it until I happened to be helping the museum [Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles] during, I mean, during Nisei Week, many years ago. We had a display of the Manzanar diorama and a hakujin came in, you know. And I wanted to explain about the camp, and that's when it really hit me. You know, I lost my freedom. And it didn't occur to me, I didn't want to raise any question or anything else, it just suddenly hit me then, I just choked up as I spoke to these people. I said, "You know, during that time, we were locked up and we lost our freedom, and it really hurt." And it hit me then for the first time that boy, I mean, you know, you don't know what it is to feel that. I mean, when you lose your freedom by being locked up for no other reason than being a Japanese, it really hurt. It's not the fact that I was tied in chains, or anything else. It's just the fact that you were in an enclosure, and you could move within there, but you couldn't move out. And so a lot of these people say about the civil rights and everything else, and I know that they talk about the resisters and everything else; boy, they were awfully smart compared to I was, you know. Because I didn't think about those kind of things.

And the other thing is, when they were talking about the redress, I wasn't a gung ho person for redress, as such, you know. I figured, let the thing lie and just forget about it. But then this lawyer that was working, I was working with, one day he said to me, "You know, apology yes, but no compensation." And he is of German descent. So that really -- you know, until then I never thought about it, then suddenly this guy tells me this. So, I said, "Bill, let's face it. If it was you, you wouldn't be settling for $20,000, it'd be in the millions, so don't give me that bull." And he was shocked because he didn't think I would say this. But, you know, little things like that sort of made me realize that this violation of our civil rights, you know. That's why I do work on this thing, because I kind of feel that people should know. I mean, you don't realize these things until, I hate to say somebody points it at you, but then somebody starts saying that your rights were never violated. If they start saying that, I say, "Hell, no, we were violated," you know.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

gky: Can you talk of [Japanese] Admiral [Teijiro] Toyoda after the war?

KA: Right.

gky: Can you help us understand how the war could have made this man into, could have made him do such brutal things?

KA: Well, one thing I'll say about Admiral Toyoda, very much of a gentleman; very intellectual, you know, intelligent. I know when we were trying him, he was being tried for mistreating the prisoners of war. But, you know, after interrogating with the lawyer, questioning him about his action and everything else, I truly believe that he had never been a part of that. In fact, he was exonerated of all charges. He said one thing. He said that there was a prisoner of war someplace in northern Japan, and he heard something to the effect that there might be a case of mistreatment, and he said he looked into it right away and he warned the people that there better not be any mistreatment of prisoners. Because this gentleman -- I say gentleman now and I say it then, too, but he was in the navy. He's been to the United States and he was partly educated in the U.S., you know, in the ways things were done. So I truly believe that the people in the navy were more worldly than the army people. They knew something about foreign countries. I think [Japanese Naval Marshal General Isoroku] Yamamoto [Commander-in-Chief of Japan's Combined Fleet during World War II] was the same way. That's why he said that they made a big mistake when they first attacked the U.S. I think they knew what our capabilities were; they knew something about the foreign countries, the way democracy worked and stuff like that. They weren't dumbbells. They were bright people. So I think they really truly believed that the war that they were going into was a waste. They had an idea if they didn't somehow got the U.S. to seek for peace right away, they had a bad time ahead of them. And I truly believe that Admiral Toyoda was one of those guys. In fact, he told our, the lawyer, his name was Deutch, Jesse Deutch, I remember he's from New York. He told him, after we were ready to try him, he says, "Admiral, once this trial was over, is over, let's go out and have a celebration." Because he was that confident that this guy would never be convicted of any crime.

gky: You were working for the war translation division?

KA: I was working for the prosecution section of a Class A trial at that time.

gky: But you only did it three months before you were discharged?

KA: No, no, no. This was after the war. After the war.

gky: This was after -- you were a civilian?

KA: Yes.

gky: Oh, okay.

KA: See, I came back as a civilian employee in 1946, around September, and I worked with ATIS for about six months or so. I had a little problem with somebody in the translation area. And I knew I wasn't a good translator, but I hated to have somebody accuse the whole team of Niseis of slacking on their job. He could say that to me, but he can't say that to the rest of the team because I figured they were very capable, and he blamed the rest of the guys and I wasn't going to take that. So when I heard that he made that statement, and when he judged our, when he made the evaluation, he blamed all the rest of the team members for the poor performance of his operation. I said I wasn't going to take that from no one. So I went up to see the personnel officer, telling them that I wasn't going to take this kind of thing. I didn't go through war for this kind of thing, and if he didn't do anything about it, I was going to go, you know, leave. And this man's name was Andy Anderson. I never met him before. He said, "Ken, I'll find you another job. Be patient and I'll get you someplace else." And that's the way I ended up with the [Japanese General Hideki] Tojo trial in the defense section. I didn't do anything there either, but I ended up with war crimes after that.

gky: With the Tojo trial, what exactly did you do?

KA: Well, we were sort of responsible for the translation of the Japanese translators. We overlooked and tried to smooth out the English translation that they were making. And I wasn't very good at that. [Laughs]

gky: Can you think of anything else you want to add? Anything else you want to say?

KA: No, all I can say is that the Japanese prisoners, you know, they weren't trained with the military training that we have, saying all you have to give if you're a prisoner of war, name, rank and serial number, you know. They weren't trained for that. And once they found that we were human, we treated them like human beings, they were very easy to interrogate. In fact, anything you asked, I'd say that they gave it to us very willingly. Maybe the only thing they might have hid, or falsified, was probably their names. That I, you know, I kind of expected that. In fact, these four that we decided to keep with us did use names that were, you know, not their true names at all. The only thing I would like to say, as an MIS-er, I wish the Japanese, former Japanese prisoners, would acknowledge the fact that the Niseis did really help them out, you know. Not so much that we got valuable information from them, but that through the Niseis I hope they learned something about being human. Because I think, like Harry was saying, I think we did treat them, you know, even though they were prisoners of war, we understood what they went through. They were doing their job. Unfortunately, they were fighting, from our point of view, for a wrong cause. They thought it was the right cause, but, you know. So what I'd like to do is to meet these people, not so much as to embarrass them that they were prisoners of war, but to find out how they fared after they came back. I know that they went through hardship and everything else. Maybe there's some people there that became very successful. I don't know. But I would -- I'm not trying to make them feel obligated, but I wish they would say something nice about the Niseis, you know. That they would say, gee, if it wasn't the Niseis, their life could have been very, very difficult, you know. Not as a thank you to us but, you know, I wish they would realize that the Niseis did really help. Because if it was left up to the non-Niseis, I don't know what could have happened. Because, like the story that Harry was saying about the guy wanted to chop the ears off, you know, and stuff like that. It could have happened if it wasn't.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.