Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Herbert Y. Miyasaki Interview
Narrator: Herbert Y. Miyasaki
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: December 2, 1985
Densho ID: denshovh-mherbert-01-0001

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HM: Because let's say bilingual, English speaking and Japanese speaking, equal strength, you could speak to the American forces and then speak to Japanese prisoners, at the same time, be interpreter right there and then. You can; you can do it. And in the beginning we used to classify these, well, language people, Japanese American language people as a translator, translate with a dictionary, and translate English to Japanese and Japanese to English. They used a dictionary primarily. Now, there's an interrogator, just questions, he learns out of questions. Interpreter, if translating or speaking the, like English now, and he's Japanese, this person is Japanese, same thing, and vice versa. So most of us, we used to call it triple threat. Reason is, we could do all three. But if you can interpret, you can interrogate, you can translate, although the hardest part is interrogation. It's a battle of the mind. You outwit the other guy, lead him into an area he has no escaping, you got the information out of him. And that requires studying of his background, you pick up his diary, how he writes, so you can get something in your mind. So when you interrogate that person, you've got in the back of your mind, some people are cheap, the way they dress, fastidious, all those things coming, you try to help him shave or whatever he wants, see. And you make the atmosphere very conducive to interrogation, and then he will cooperate with you because you cooperated with him.

LD: Let's say you are training somebody how to interrogate, giving them instructions, advice. Tell me how would they say, now, when you want to interrogate someone, tell me how you would get a job as interrogator. What is important?

HM: The primary, first thing you do is get the confidence of that captive, whoever he is, regardless of his rank, don't talk rank. Don't talk what organization, what were you doing and all these things. Just sympathize with him. And whatever you think you can go into him to win his confidence, do it. Might be something very unorthodox, something you never did before, but for that person, or he comes from certain prefecture in Japan, they have certain practices. All those things we tried to learn, see. We don't know everything, we're not native to Japan. But once we get hold of this thing, and we find out this person, he's from Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hiroshima, or Hokkaido or Fukushima, then we'd draw from our mental library. Now Fukushima, Aomori area, that's north of Tokyo. Now what kind of... their language is this way different, this and that. Then you dwell on those things, and hey, after all, I have some ally here. When they get to that kind of feeling, now, well, you decide for yourself when is the right time to go into the actual interrogation. You might have to spend maybe half an hour, forty-five minutes, just getting to him, then going into the interrogation. But once you start your interrogation, you have to fire away all the questions. Because if you give him time to think, he's going to think, "Hey, these guys are doing something they're not supposed to." Then he stops, very hard to get him started again.

LD: Can you give me an example of somebody that you interrogated?

HM: Oh, yes. There were so many, I don't know... like most of our prisoners, I would say all of our prisoners were patients. They're wounded, and they had to be hauled in a stretcher. And the way we made them captive was tell the American doctors, "I want this prisoner saved. I've got to question him, because I can't find certain elements in this area or that area or what unit or something, I can't get it, and he might be the right man to get it. I want him brought back." Then when he's brought back, then he's a patient in the hospital, and he's a prisoner of war. Our prisoner of war was, I would say, ninety, ninety-five percent, maybe more, that type. Now, being in that condition, I used to tell the patients, I used to visit them. "If you want to leave, by hook or crook, you're gonna leave," or this and that and all that. "To die, anyone can die. They can commit suicide. But since you're in the hospital, the United States government put so much into you, try and live. You want to get back to Japan, don't you? You have a wife and children?" and this and that. So, as time goes by, he knows when I come back, what I'm going to tell him, and all those things come in. Then when I feel that he's relying on me for something, that's, I know, to a certain extent, that I've won over his confidence.

LD: Say these, all your prisoners who were medical cases. Because not enough surrendered, right?

HM: No, none surrendered in the true sense of the word, by raising hands and all that, no. None. None as far as I know. Maybe for somebody else, they captured the prisoners a different way. Our unit captured more prisoners than any other, all others put together, I would say, because we saved their lives rather than... we saved, three quarter dead all from malnutrition, people, they haven't eaten for thirty days. It's amazing human being doesn't die after thirty days without food. But they can't go two days without water, they will die. And all those people, they hardly could stand, we brought them back, picked them up, maybe in a group, and in the hospital we fed 'em, brought them back and questioned 'em one by one.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.