Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Sunao "Phil" Ishio Interview
Narrator: Sunao "Phil" Ishio
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: November 7, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-isunao-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: The date is November 7th, year 2000. We're talking with Phil Ishio, P-H-I-L, Ishio, I-S-H-I-O. Phil, would you give me your name and the years that you served in the MIS?

SI: Yes. Well, my Japanese name is Sunao Ishio, and...

gky: Okay, let me try that again. Your name and the years you served in the MIS.

SI: I didn't quite hear.

gky: Your name and the years you served...

SI: Oh, okay. My name is Sunao Phil Ishio, and I served in the MIS from 1941 to the day that I was discharged, 1947.

gky: Okay. In 1947?

SI: 1947. And I was discharged from active service and I joined the reserves, I stayed in reserves until '75. So this is the length of service in the active duty and end of the service.

gky: Okay. So, do you say Sunao Phil Ishio, 1941 to 1947?

SI: 1947.

gky: Okay, but will you say that?

SI: Oh. Sunao Phil Ishio, 1941 to 1947, active duty and, well, active duty until '47, yes.

gky: So when you got out of the army, what rank did you get out as?

SI: I -- see, I got out of the active duty as a major.

gky: Phil, before you said that the MIS was considered a secret. Why was the MIS considered a secret?

SI: Well, there's several reasons for that. One, the -- we did, the army really didn't want to know, let the Japanese know that there was such a school. Two, they did not want to release the names of the students because they have relatives in Japan and they would suffer if they found out. The fact that we had a school was necessitated because the fact that there was no language capability within the military as a whole, not just the army. And we, I've read stories about the cryptographic side where they did not allow Nisei to work until around '44 in that field because of the fact they couldn't trust us. And imagine just how much information is lost because of that.

gky: You have said that you can't pick up a language and expect to be fluent in it. What do you mean by that?

SI: For all practical purposes, if you want to utilize the knowledge of a language, it's got to be at the level of someone who can read a newspaper and also be familiar with the idioms, local usage of the language, at various levels. In Japan you have various gradations of language, depending on your social status and your, whether you're talking to your boss or to your friend or to a superior officer. It varies. So all of that has to be taken into consideration and you can't acquire that within a short period of time. Now, what -- of course, I guess the general feeling was, well, all you have to do is get your dictionary and use a dictionary to translate. It just doesn't work that way, especially Japanese.

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