Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Shoso "Sho" Nomura Interview
Narrator: Shoso "Sho" Nomura
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: December 14, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-nshoso-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: Why did you get chosen for the Dixie Mission?

SN: Well, they needed, they knew... when the group was formed, they, the C.O. of the Dixie Mission knew that the Chinese communists had Japanese prisoners of war, and so they naturally wanted to try to extract as much intelligence or Order of Battle of intelligence, principally, from these people. So the only guys that could speak their language is the four of us that were in Chungking at the time. So two of us selected out of the four. I raised my hand. This George Nakamura, he was better in the Japanese language than I was, so, he went up to Yenan first, and I guess it was August of '44, and I went up in -- he went up in July, and I went couple months later in September of '44 to Yenan, Dixie Mission.

gky: When you got there, what did you do?

SN: Well, this -- our immediate officer, language officer, was a Caucasian. He was a former journalist for the Wall Street Journal in Tokyo. But he spoke some Japanese and had a minimal amount ability in reading and writing. But as far as gathering Order of Battle of intelligence, Order of Battle intelligence is about finding as much intelligence about the size of the unit, who the commanding officers are, and where they're deployed, and that sort of thing. And he was very good at that. The only thing that he needed was if he got captured documents from the Chinese communists of even from the prisoners of war themselves, George and I read and translated that sort of information for him. So we worked out very well.

gky: Would you mind putting your hands down just a little bit? They're a little bit in front of your mouth.

SN: Okay.

gky: What exactly were the goals of the Dixie Mission? What were you told were the goals of the Dixie Mission?

SN: You know, it's very strange. We thought that, George Nakamura and I thought that we were there just to interrogate the Japanese prisoners of war, and when we got through with that we'd probably go back to Chungking, we thought. But there's also the fact that there were other units represented in our Dixie Mission, like there was a couple fellows from the marine corps and about three from the air force, and then there was about five or six from the infantry, and so it was a mishmash; a very elite group in my estimation, that were selected to go to Yenan to observe and see the pros and cons of the Chinese communists and their armies. So throughout my stay, why we had people, sending people out with the communist troops, too, and they would observe their attacks on, you know, their guerrilla warfare type attacks, and stuff like that. So it was very interesting in that respect.

gky: I guess there are a couple of things that puzzle me about it. First of all, why would the communist let non-communists observe their tactics?

SN: Firstly, in retrospect, firstly I think it's because they wanted to get the material from us. By that I mean have us supply them with guns and rifles and, gosh, what else, you know, warfare armaments, and instruments. That's what I think was their principal, their principal hope was that we could, that we would support 'em materially.

gky: Okay. And then, what did America hope to get from observing, the Dixie Mission observers?

SN: Our initial first C.O. of the mission, of the Dixie Mission, wrote his memoirs postwar. The astonishing thing about his statement was that nobody told him what the purpose of that Dixie Mission was. See, Stilwell was the one that asked for it; that we have an observer mission in northern China where nobody's ever been, you know, I mean as far as Allied forces are concerned. And, he says, as far as intelligence is concerned, it's a total blank. We know nothing about who's winning or who's losing, or anything. So he would like to know if the Chinese communists were really pursuing the war. And when we got up there, we sent guys out in the field and said, heck, yeah, they're fighting a war, but nobody knew. There was no way they could have known exactly what they were do, the Chinese communists were doing.

gky: Boy, that's such a surprise to me.

SN: What was?

gky: Well...

SN: That nobody knew what the aims of the... yeah.

gky: Why was it called the Dixie Mission?

SN: I really don't know. There's all kinds of stories, you know. They says are the communists really communists, and that sort of thing. I think it's a takeoff of "Is It True What They Say About Dixie," you know. But then I heard the other stories about the Dixie was named the Dixie Mission. But...

gky: What did you, so, what exactly did you do as an observer?

SN: I never, I didn't get the chance to go out in the field to be attached to any Chinese communists, but George Nakamura did. He spent about three months out in the field. I forget -- I know it was over Christmas of '44, because he wasn't at the base there in Yenan in 1944, but he -- [coughs] -- so, George Nakamura, I thought, I think he saw a little action as far as combat was concerned following the, being hooked up with one communist unit or another. Plus a couple of the infantry guys that went along with him, that he went along.

gky: Were you supposed to stay there from, let's see, when did you go over to the Dixie Mission, what month and year?

SN: It was in, I went in August of '44 and George went in July of '44.

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