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

<Begin Segment 1>

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.

<Begin Segment 2>

LD: How did the other American troops treat you, the fellows in your unit? Actually, over time, you had to win them over.

HM: That's right.

LD: How was it for you to deal with?

HM: Well, at the very outset, when we went overseas, the language school, intelligence school, on an experimental basis, tried our unit as a unit in the front lines. That was the purpose and the object for sending us out as a group. Now, one group came from the Caribbean, another group came from Camp Carson in Colorado. Then we picked up some other units, and they joined us in San Francisco. San Francisco we went on the Lurline, it was all painted green, olive drab. And when we set sail, we didn't know anyone. We didn't even know officers, the commanding officer or anything, we just came from Minneapolis, right into San Francisco. And, well, the way the other troop people, "So that's how a Japanese looked like," the way they looked at us. We imagined all those things. And, well, they stared at us and all that, they didn't know how Japanese looked like.

And we went on board, and I guess some of the officers felt that there might be some harm done to us. We were in about one or two cabins, we had good rooms and all that. But along that line now, the officers decided to have us give talks to the troops. So all of us gave something, some aspect of how Japanese behaved. Somebody may have given the weapons of Japanese army, and the geography of Japan. All of those things, and there were fourteen of us, so fourteen of us went all over the ship and spoke to the group. And by then, we were really a godsend to them. They were blind, deaf, that's why the Japanese attacked them. They don't know anything how they behaved in combat. So by the time we were in India, we had picked up the whole battalion from Guadalcanal, combat wise veterans from Guadalcanal. And that was the 3rd Battalion of which Hank Gosho was. He was in 3rd Battalion, and they were battle wise already.

So when we landed in Bombay, we had the regiment. We didn't have any vehicles at all, because Burma, mountainous terrain, muddy, monsoon, you can't take any kind of vehicles in there. So we brought Missouri mules, and they were so surprised, the mules, of the size of the mules in the Orient, throughout China, Japan, all over. They're so small, short, low, they could, pony or something. Now when the mules came, they came along with the mule attendants, we used to call 'em, mule skinners. They actually cared for the mules. And the way they handled the mules, you can't even going, hit them or throw rocks at them or anything. Then they'll come after you.

Now, these people were all on our ship, and they had all kind of ideas how "Japs," the enemies. So we dwell on the behavior of the Japanese soldiers, we emphasized the point that in Japan they teach 'em from sixth grade, they imbue in them that spirit. They don't go with weapons, but they imbue in them the spirit of unification. Even if you're a small group of people, that small can penetrate a larger mass of people if they're unified. That's the part we dwell on, and show how Japanese unify, and they deified the emperor as a sun god. That was there way, and everybody just bowed to him, or in his direction. But they had one strength there: entire people unified spiritually. Now, with proper weapons, they can do damage. They can go into battle so easy for the leaders, the officers, to control them, and it is true. As far as training, ability, I would say the Japanese soldiers out-excelled us, oh, I don't know how many times.

Because look at myself, when I went in the army, I didn't even know how United States Army rifle looked like. I didn't know the first thing about training, drafted, I volunteered for the first draft. And went in, private, they issue us our clothing, rifle, and we didn't know how to, even how to shoot actually, in the true sense of the word shoot. But we can pick up a rifle, and blam. That's shooting, but we're not using it to the maximum efficiency.

So all this thing was taking us abroad, and by the time we landed in India, I would say well over fifty percent of the GIs were on the boat with us now, felt safer with us, any one of us. And we went into jungle training somewhere in central India, Deogarh, it's not even on a map, Deolali, [inaudible], river crossing and going into the jungle, and marksmanship, they used to give us certain amount of ammunition, shoot the targets.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LD: You had an officer named Laffin, didn't you?

HM: Yes, Captain Laffin.

LD: How did you feel about your officers?

HM: Personally, the only thing he was good at was speaking. Because he was connected with a United States company in Japan for maybe close to twenty years, I don't know the exact number of years. He could speak the language fluently, he couldn't read or write. When we went to Snelling from Savage, language specialists, I was handling language specialists then, he was one of them, he couldn't read or write. That's because they commissioned him. At that time, the injustice given, done by United States Army, our instructors, they all excel in the language, but because of our skin, none of us were commissioned, no. And then instead, person comes in, Caucasian comes in, and he goes to, maybe he spends four years in Tokyo as a military aide, all right? So he comes into school, and he goes to a specialist school. He can't read or write. He can speak, converse, yet he's commissioned to lead us into combat without knowing anything about military regulations and rules and regulations, no. Because they never had basic training. So they led us in, well, I hate to say it, but Laffin lost his life. People who were there, we know, we saw him, we buried him. That kind of injustice. If we had been given a leader with the unit, who qualified as a language, linguist, military tactician or strategist, we would have done lots more up there. Because none of those officers that accompanied us were qualified. They were officers commissioned by the United States Army.

Like when we were in Savage, going back to Savage, we graduated, we handled, like military terminology. That's something we don't hear in the United States, Japanese military terminology. Here comes a bunch of less than twenty years old and twenty-five years old boys, they stayed in the school maybe two months and all got commissions, second lieutenant, they're all Caucasian. Oh, there are a bunch of Jews, the "Chairborne Infantry" we used to call them. You go to combat, you don't last. They don't endure. Why, I don't know. First of all, they're not qualified language-wise. You've got to fight them with language. Because I don't care, what we do is psychological warfare. We're only fourteen in numbers, we can't outfight the Japanese. I turned them around mentally, it's very hard. That's what Kenny Yasui did, [inaudible]. He went over there, but they didn't know he was there, American men, GI. We used to go on the radio, loudspeaker, in the jungle, all that. I think Hank Gosho may have done some, I don't know for sure. Calling to the Japanese troops to surrender, "You're all battled out, you're surrounded," this and that. And, "You don't have food, you don't have ammunition. How are you gonna fight?" We even can hear the GIs weeping back there, not American GIs. And then during the daytime, our bombers go up, drop bombs all over like toothpicks and matchsticks, you can see that. And then the whole ground would shake, and that's about three, four miles away. That continued for I don't know how long. All this time leaflets were being dropped, that's part of psychological warfare. And they were being prepared back there, we've got some people who were Delhi, I think, or maybe Calcutta.

LD: What kinds of things would you say to Japanese soldiers you think would appeal to him? What kinds of things do you say, what did you say in your appeal to surrender or appeal to give in? What would you say?

HM: Well, we always used the same line: "to die is so simple, to live is the hard part, to live. If you don't have any people, relatives, living back there in Japan, go ahead and die. Leave your remains over here in Burma. But if you care for them, your own children, if you love them, by all means, live and go back there, if that country needs some changing, change it." That's the kind of... well, along that lines, we used to appeal to prisoners.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

[Ed. note: there were problems with the video on the original tape for this segment.]

LD: What were you told about this assignment when you first started? What were you and others told was the nature of this assignment? What were you told?

HM: We were told that we're going overseas. Exact country was never given us as India or Burma or anything. You're going overseas, and you're going into combat. We might be the first United States Army troops in continental Asia, and seventy-five percent casualty is expected. With that in mind, the colonel told us, "You have been selected to lead this group." Then, of course, we got scared, normal. So at that time we stopped, then we talked it over. "Gee, shall I go?" If we don't go, somebody else is going, we don't know. I'd like to give it a try. After all, what have we done up to now? What we did with the 100th Infantry and the school here, to prepare ourselves for war, battle. And that's the final test. We don't go, whatever we did was all for naught. That's the reason to give it a try and see how the others feel. And then we started collecting people, seven from Hawaii, seven from the mainland.

LD: What kind of things were you thinking about when you picked somebody or tried to decide who to pick?

HM: Well, actually, who to pick wasn't we go after somebody. There were so many people coming up to... I don't know how the story got out. "You fellows going to lead one outfit into someplace on the Pacific? How about taking me?" We didn't have only fourteen, we might have gotten a hundred, we don't know. From that group, well, they all wanted to go. Came to a point where it was more difficult to pick somebody. And the mainland boys, well, we left it up to certain mainland people to select them.

LD: How did you pick them then? Why did so many people want to go, and how did you pick them?

HM: I don't know. I don't know why they want to go. After all, in that MIS school, that school was never exposed to combat. And in a military sense, combat is the final test. It's something that you have, you have arrived. You made it if you go to combat. Unless these people want to stay in the background and don't do anything, they might, but you're training every day, imitating war and this and that. When the final time comes, you're going to war. Your mind is already, gee, we're going to war. Now everything comes back to you. You're going to war, your family, your sisters and brothers and all that, you start to think of those things, but there's no turning around there. You're going to turn around, I felt you should have turned around at the very outset, before you started on to this.

LD: So how did you think the fellows, what kind of... what were you looking for in the fellows that you picked?

HM: Well, actually, we didn't go to the individual and say, "We pick you." No, we submitted their names, and actual... well, confirmation was done by the colonel and I don't know who the other options would be. We submitted the names, and then they were all approved. We didn't go to each individual and say, "You, how about you come and join our group?" Not to that extent. We picked the names knowing that this person is this type of person, is good in English, and this and that, and we compiled fourteen names, submitted to the chief, colonel, and the orders were cut. And that's the first and that last group to go as a unit. From Savage or Snelling, they always sent in groups of nine, twelve, fourteen, in teams, but none ever went into combat. Only our group. They all went into Australia, Philippines, all over, and they worked out of the headquarters of some unit. They might have gone on a mission, troops, individually that is, then come back. You've heard of Hoichi Kubo? He was in my barrack, he was my assistant barrack leader. He was one like that, see. He went up and he did the daring thing and climbed the cliff and bring back those Japanese from the caves, the civilians. But he was that kind of person, gutsy, very gutsy.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

[Ed. note: there were problems with the video on the original tape for this segment.]

LD: Soon, you... you found out pretty soon that you were going to be behind Japanese lines. What kinds of things did you do to protect yourself from being mistaken?

HM: Well, when we were in regimental headquarters, he had the normal guards around him. At that point we didn't need any special protection. Wherever we went, whenever we went, then they would have bodyguards when we went to patrol duties. I'd say, all right, once, this was after the battle of Myitkyina, we had captured Myitkyina late in the campaign, and the Japanese were driven back north and east across the Irrawaddy River. Now, the northern group used to come in at night and forage for food in Maingkwan and all those small little villages. And they used to come from a place called [inaudible], a Japanese stronghold. And to trap, to catch them coming in, we knew they didn't have much ammunition, they didn't have food. A patrol was sent out with the second lieutenant, maybe ten to fifteen GIs, and Akiji and I went along. Now, when we went maybe a mile or so out of our area, we cautiously moved up forward, as far forward as we could, and we stayed there the whole night. Now, doing that, Akiji maybe on this side of the street, and I was on this side. We had maybe three or four bodyguards. Because in the event that a skirmish takes place, the Japanese coming in, and we go after them and we capture them, now our own people can mistake us for the enemy, these guys in American uniform. We never carried any identification. Our troop was such that no one carried identification, even the officers, they carried their insignia of rank underneath the flaps here. As far as you can see, even binoculars, they would look at us, they can't pick out officers from the enlisted men. Like once you're assigned a binocular, binocular officer carried them, they never carried them. Somebody else carried it for them. I don't know if officers going to be picked off, because they're always looking for officers. Knock off the officers, the whole party or detail or squad or platoon going to be without a leader.

LD: What was the terrain like? I mean you were pretty good at interrogating prisoners --

HM: I wouldn't say I'm good, but, well, I had the actual combat experience. I'm not good, no. I've seen better interpreter, yeah. No, I wouldn't classify myself good, but I would say that I can do it.

LD: You have a feeling for these guys, you have a feeling for --

HM: That is right, yeah. It started with the first feeling I have for these people are pity. Regardless of who it is, pity, and that... why pity? Because let's say I was in his position, far away from home, the family in the back, this and that, and he left all that and came here. So did I, but I'm not the captive, he is. And we may have captured, in most cases, we captured the diary, and he has it in his pocket all the time, most of them. And I would read that on the side. Not in front of him, because as soon as he's captured, he comes in, everything, he's frisked of everything. Weapon, even cigarettes, matches, and everything, including the diary. So when so and so is captured, then we have a list of the people who are captured, and their diaries. And some of them, there's sizeable amount in there, personal things, taken from their payroll, going back to Japan, I don't know how they sent it back. And then we know they are good sizeable savings, now why do they save? That should answer a lot of questions. And read their diary, and then the diary protracts a period of, let's say, a month or over. You know that he's thinking about the mother. The mother will come out every so often. Or his wife or children. As you read, you find... it's all written in Japanese, so now, ha, this fellow has a wife, he has two children or three children, whatever it is, and he has a mother, okay. And the mother's name is Tani. Before the wife, the mother's name is more important to him. I can see that in Japan.

So when I start questioning him, I don't dwell on these things first, no. I got him to talking, answering back, that's the first thing. Most of them, many of them, at the beginning, just clam up. They won't say a word for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. Then, "Are you comfortable? You want a cigarette?" or something of that sort. Then they'll have to answer, "Yes." "Do you smoke?" They have to answer yes or no. And once they start talking, get them to start talking, first thing you know, when they say... "What's your mother's name?" "Oh, Tani." Now, that's inside their chest all the time, so they're gonna get it out, you know, because it's uppermost in his mind, they just want to talk about it. They just want to talk about it. And that true of most of them; they want to talk whatever is most dear or uppermost in their mind. And it's not money, it's not anything to do with combat or anything, it's the rice harvest, many of them, rice harvest, the field must be all ripe by now, and all those things. But all their life they spend on the farm, well, this particular person. Then as soon as you dwell along that line, he's going to join you in discussing all those things. Then when the proper time comes, gee, your wife, your children all must be really suffering with you over here. Who's the breadwinner, who's taking in all the harvest, who's doing the planting, or whatever it is. Then at the opportune moment, just going with the questions you want about his unit, and his position in the unit, and why he was in this area, what was your objective in this area. Your object was to capture this street. After your capture, what are you gonna do? Your successive objectives, or just this one and stay here? And all these things. Then when you get to talking about it, "I didn't want to come, but naturally I was forced into this, so I came here. And we were gonna capture here and go on to such and such an area." They will come out with it. I was always holding higher than myself, always holding higher than myself in life.

You see, Japanese language is a language where there's certain ending or grammar you use for higher people, your peers, somebody with children. And then the grammar is different, and in other words, in the language there were such honorifics, but you, prefix and suffix of honorifics, whenever it's an officer, and the officer is a proud individual. So while on that line, you must have suffered greatly to get into this group. What officer school did you go? And CO has to go to a certain kind of school. In officer school, there's four prominent ones strewn throughout Japan. And if he comes from the southern province, naturally, he will go to certain heigakko, whatever you call it. And even some naval people in there, I don't know what they were doing out there.

Along that line, well, interrogation is not a five minute job. Neither is it a half an hour job. It might take day after day until you get through it. And you know when you get through it. You go in for certain information, and that information is right in our operation room, and we have to get this information. And that's in our mind, too. First thing we know, that's how we build up our battle. That unit's commanded by so and so, all those things piecemeal we put it in. Then, by then, the commanding officers can formulate some kind of plan of attack, knowing who the commander is. Then we know that commander's characteristics. That we have from intelligence given to the unit from other sources. But when the name of the commander comes up, if he's an arrogant officer, naturally his whole unit, unit's activity, will be one of arrogance, most likely portray what is in him. If he's a passive guy, well, the whole unit will be passive. All those things, you get to know that when you get to interrogate the person, and complete the interrogation, whether it be half a day, one day, or three days. So interrogation is not just a short activity.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

[Ed. note: there were problems with the video on the original tape for the first part of this segment.]

LD: You would give an officer back his sword?

HM: Yes. To me, a sword is not a weapon, a weapon to cut, kill people. It's a symbol of leadership. In the days of samurai, yes, they fought with swords to kill each other. But today, not today, but that Second World War, Japanese soldier with a sword, many of the swords were family heirlooms. You can't buy those. In other words, to that officer who owned that sword, his ancestors are all with him together to go into combat in spirit. In Japanese, as I said, from the time they were in fourth grade, fifth grade, in spirit they will teach them unity. Whatever you do, united, we are strong, like a house divided, four walls taken apart and fall down, all the, it's Abraham Lincoln saying, but they take it up, too. See, put together, like breaking one chopstick, you can, but take ten, try and break that. You can maybe because of your strength, but it's very difficult. All this principle, and the prisoners will repeat back to us, and they learned that a long time ago.

LD: Did you learn anything like that?

HM: Yes, uh-huh, in Japanese school.

LD: What would you say you learned in Japanese school, what kinds of things?

HM: Well, offhand, I cannot say I learned this and I learned that. But when the prisoners repeat, and I know, oh, yes, oh, yes. Those things come in, but I cannot identify this and that, this and that right down the line and enumerate it, no. There are so many things.

LD: You had a feeling for these.

HM: I do. Without feeling, you can't interrogate. I would say you cannot complete. You have to be with him, for him, at the same time you're trying to extricate certain information. You're not gonna cheat him, but you're gonna outwit him. Yeah, well, it's an interrogator's primary purpose.


LD: Did an officer ever try to give you his sword?

HM: No, no, no. Officers never gave me, no. Because by the time they come to me, to us, the interpreters, everything that they have in their hand or on their body, all taken away from them by the captor. They don't have anything. There wasn't a single soldier, officer that came in and tried to give my his sword. By the time we started interrogating, everything that they had was gone, taken away from them.

LD: Didn't you give them back the sword?

HM: Well, if they had a sword, yes. To them, it's a sign of leadership. Now, if you want them cooperate with you, let them behave, at the same time, we had guards around them. I'm not armed. But somebody behind the prisoner is taking down notes, Naomi's back there now, like if I'm interrogating you, then she's taking down the notes. The prisoner doesn't know that. And the officer or whoever has the sword, he feels that much more comfortable, safer, I think, because he has a sword. And they still have, I wouldn't use the word never, but it is not normally used for cutting people. But it is a sword, a symbol of leadership, so when they go charging or attacking against the United States forces, there'll say, "Follow me," or advance," the common word is susume. And when they do that, they pull their sword out over their head, and they lead.

LD: Did you finally have to explain that to the other American soldiers?

HM: Oh, yes. They were afraid because that sort, they're gonna cut each other. They can, sure. They can. Like a dog, if you corner it, a non-biting dog, and you come in and just strangle the dog, he's going to bite you or scratch you, a cat or anything. If he had the sword, he's gonna chop you. But on his own volition, he will never come in. Well, maybe I'm wrong, but attack you with a sword.

LD: You made the point of feeling a good feeling, or picking the right place to have an, interrogate a person. You would think about that.

HM: Oh, yeah. Well, I liked to have an atmosphere that was very conducive for interrogation, and not distracting. You know all the people are cooking maybe, or some people, vehicles moving back and forth? Those are all distractions. And any other diversion would take attention away, that's negative to me, the interrogator. So I would try to chase him out of here, or get him completely away, take my guards with me. And the person who would take the notes behind, then maybe side of a river, bank, bank of a river. Then go into it, slowly but surely, grabbing to each... and then weighing each answer he gives, why he gave that answer. I wonder why now. You can take it both ways or two ways or three ways, that's interrogator's decision to make, you've got to make it on the spot, and then to follow up with the next question and all that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LD: What was the terrain like where you were? What made it so difficult to work in that part of Burma?

HM: Burma, in northern Burma, that's where we operated, northern Burma is a very mountainous area, mountainous terrain, high mountains, deep valleys, and river down there. Now, the main river there where we operated, Tanai, H-K-A is the river in Burmese, Tanai River, Tanai Hka, the way they pronounce it. And to us, very discouraging was we climb up a mountain, we see down the valley, and we see the mountain, next one here, higher maybe. Holy smokes, now we have to go down through this jungle, no path, no anything, we have to hack our way with a machete, go down there, maybe spend the night down in the lowland. The next day, start climbing, one after another. Because we didn't want to go in the main thoroughfare where it's easy for the enemies to come in and block us off or cut us off and anything. Now, our commanders said it so that we go -- well, originally we were upwards and behind enemy lines. To stay that way, we went all around. Regardless of the number of days it took us to go over a mountain, we took it. Where the enemy least expect us, we didn't have any kind of... what we didn't have was meals. They carried all our radios, the bulky ones, and a few of the mountain artillery we had. And there were pack mules for that, that's the Missouri mule, the big ones.

LD: Who were the other [inaudible] you were working with?

HM: Well, Chinese primarily, many Chinese. Chinese, maybe three divisions. Then we had the Mauritius forces, France, and the ANZACs, Australia and New Zealand, the one with the slouch hat? And southwest Africans, they're British forces, and we were the only American forces. Chinese forces predominately in size, in numbers. British forces came next. We were about the smallest maybe, but we were the most effective because of our high mobility. Like Chinese, they would carry their kitchen utensils, the cooks, they would jangle and all that. They would climb up the mountain, and they set up the kitchen. But I used to eat with Chinese because they'd never die from eating poisonous plants. As they go along, they pick all kind of shoots and all that, edible shoots. And since we lived on ration, sometimes we had bacon. The bacon grease we threw away, Chinese people know, they carried about three, four water bottles. Well, three of them carried bacon grease. So whenever they cooked, steel helmet, throw bacon grease, and these greens [inaudible] they'd eat rice. I used go to Chinese.

Because in our headquarters group, whenever we're going to patrol, we had Ghurkas, we had our American combat engineers, they act as our bodyguards, big six-footers. They were from the Minnesota area, most of them Norwegian, Swedish and all that, and then Johnsons and Swenson and all that. Now, Ghurkas were by far the best fighters, then they're Chinese, they can understand certain Chinese language. Now, I understand a little Mandarin, and because I can read and write Japanese, I can read Chinese, the meaning's the same. When I was stationed in Nanking, they pronounce it another way, Hong Kong another way maybe. But written language all one in China. And then we had some Kachin. In northern Burma, the tribal people, native Burmese, were Kachin, Naga, Shan. And then the Burmans were down south in the Rangoon, Mandalay area, as Burmans. But in the north, in the hills, we stayed mostly with the Kachins. So I'm out of practice so I can't remember words, but we used to converse in fragments, of course. The Chinese, I used to converse with them in Mandarin. Oh, I used to get along with a lot of Chinese people because I used go to and eat with these people.

LD: When people talk about how bad it was there, they're really exaggerating, but it really was pretty bad, right?

HM: It was very bad, very bad.

LD: What were the bad things about it?

HM: Well, the brutalities, captured prisoners. See, I'd rather not go into that detail, it's gory. How they tried to get the information out of these people by force, they're slashing their back just to get them to talk and all those things. But this is not done by Americans, no. So we went the normal... as I just said, interrogating way, the way we were taught, the way we practiced. No physical brutality or abuse was used, never violence.

LD: That's what you really think of as the worst part of that experience?

HM: Well, that's one of... well, snakes, too. With snakes, one gets bitten by a large snake you don't worry, because it's not poisonous over there. You get bitten by a snake this long, yeah, you die in thirty minutes, maybe. You get weaker and weaker. So they just give an incision where the snake bit you, and somebody got to sick this blood out until he just, he can't even move really. Then you're sure you get the venom out. It has to come out, otherwise...

LD: I read somewhere that you don't like shows like MASH because why?

HM: Because it's Hollywood version. War is the, they should portray war as war is, not something somebody can make fun of. Those pictures are, they just make them for entertainment. And war is pitiful. You can imagine yourself in a battle, if you're going up along the trail, dead bodies to the left and right, three or four days old, bloated, black, the bodies turn black after three, four, five days. Then you see the skin bursting, the white skull, and the jaws all white comes out. As you go by, you're going to see all those. And there are great big, I don't know if they're flies or what you call it. They look like small birds, tiny birds. But they're the ones go inside and eat out the innards. Now you see all those things, well, I don't know what a normal person thinks. Those things are never shown in movies. Movies when they show, they show that the Germans are these brutal, Italians are brutal, Japanese are brutal, because that's Hollywood. If you go over there, brutality is there, circumstances do control the brutality, sure. That's for sure. But we, United States forces, never resorted to brutality, we didn't have to. We achieved whatever we went out for, just the way the army operates.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LD: You respected the guys that you were with in the Merrill's Marauders, not just the other Nisei, but the other fellows in your --

HM: Oh, yes. They saved our lives. They saved my life many times. Oh, at one point, they grabbed me and pulled by my legs until I was all scraped here, strawberry, you know. I was out on patrol duty listening to the enemy at night, just talking, maybe in a drunken stupor, I don't know, but they were talking loudly as Japanese do. And listening, well, we got discovered, I don't know, somebody coughed or something, I don't know what happened. But anyway, the enemy machine gun on the perimeter started firing. If I had stayed there, naturally, the machine gun was in firing range, it would hit me. They don't only machine gun fire that way, they're gonna move back and forth. And these guys are six-footer, two hundred plus pounds. I'm a hundred thirty pounder, he just grabbed my shoes, pulled me back, I don't know how, maybe thirty yards, saved my life. That's one incident.

Same thing when we all had to jump in the river at one point. We were being fired from the opposite bank, and we could run into the jungles that way, and we're going to get all dispersed. We jumped into the river, and then I submerged myself and floated down, I don't know how long. And here comes somebody grabbed my neck. They knew, I had certain identification that they knew it was me. Grabbed me right here, dragged me, saved my life. Otherwise I would have drowned, maybe, or I might have been shot. Those incidents happened.

LD: Are you still in touch with any of these guys or do you talk with any of them...

HM: For a while, see, that group, forty years ago. For a while, yes, we used to exchange correspondence and cards, Christmas cards and all that. I used to send them things. Some of them, the sister of one of the boys who died in combat, I brought back the remains. And, well, it just petered out slowly. After all, forty years, a long time ago.

LD: But you feel that all the guys in that unit were not brutal?

HM: Huh?

LD: Were not brutal.

HM: No, no, no. You mean American forces? No. American forces, no. Brutality was not part of their...

LD: What happened at the end for the unit? They say that the unit was overused and kind of...

HM: That is true. Well, Myitkyina is the northern terminal of the railway, and that's where the mission was, the objective was to capture, recapture the airfield. Then we went into the town, it was held by Japanese general and colonel, I think the general committed suicide or something, the colonel just disappeared. Now, this was in May of 1944. We were there June, July, August, and all our troops, American forces, were really exhausted. We had marched right across Burma. And then the food was nutritious in so far as sustaining life, but you can't be eating all the same thing day in and day out, breakfast, lunch and dinner, in small carton like this, k-ration, the same. You have selection of two or three breakfast, two or three lunch, it's written, B, L and D for dinner. And it's all highly waxed so moisture cannot get in. You live on that, you're going to get sick and tired of it. At times when we had a little rest between action, then they might drop us food by air, then we might have something like nine in one, nine person can eat one meal, which is really a feast, really a feast compared to what we'd been eating. And c-ration packed in cans, which is not palatable, let's say. But nutrition-wise, it is there. That's all been experimented, and it will sustain our life. People, well, they just throw away their food maybe, maybe gave it away, so they became weaker and weaker. Many of them, they didn't like going to eat that food. And they got disgusted, that's when morale went down, the morale went down, dissatisfaction, the commanders couldn't hold back. So the morale is weak in itself from within, not because of enemy action. Lot of them took sick, and then they were sent to the rear, and before they fully recuperated, they were sent back into combat. Not from their own choosing, but because combat-wise, soldiers weren't around. At one point in Myitkyina, they even used engineers. They were annihilated, engineers. The commander who brought them in shouldn't have brought them in.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LD: At the outset...

HM: Let's say a prisoner comes in front of me. Then I look him over, then after I look him over, I would say, "Do you have something to tell me?" Then some of them, "Yes, who are you? You're an Oriental, aren't you?" Oriental, of course, Asiatic, Asiatic. I said, "I'm Japanese just like you. The difference is I was born over there in the United States, you were born here. I went to United States schools, you were educated here. Childhood, our education was directed differently. You were controlled. Mine was never controlled. We don't degrade our flag or anything of that sort, but the President of the United States is nothing superior to anybody, he's put there by the people, whereas in your case, it's different. And you people believe in sun god and all that, well, it's all right for you people. That's the difference between you and I." And they said, "Where did you learn to speak Japanese?" "Well, my Japanese is not as good as yours, but I couldn't have learned in Japan." I never told them I went to Japan, he's a prisoner there. Said, gee, I can't believe... I have some writings from the prisoners, they said, oh, no, this can't be. They're not Japanese. They're devils or something, you know, in writing. And at the end, they conclude that after all, we are born in the United States, and we had a whole wrong perception of Japanese Americans, Japanese in the United States. Because they're not this type, they're not that type. You see, what they were led to believe comes out at that time, that Americans are huge. I'm an American, but I'm not white. We went to the same school, we ate the same food. "Oh, you eat Japanese food?" "We have, yes. Because our parents came from Japan." "Oh, is that right?" They were really surprised, "and you speak English, too?" "I do," and all those things come in.

At the same time, I have to get their confidence, main thing. So, "If you have anything you want to tell me about yourself," throw it at him and then let him go. I just give a leading question and just get him to talk. "Now, you went to school, you went chuugakko, middle school, high school?" "You married, I take it, at your age?" "Yeah." "Where's your wife at now? What prefecture in Japan?" And then when they give me the prefecture, I know the division already, military division, second division or fourth division, different prefectures, different divisions. And you come from inside of that prefecture, then there'd be certain regiment, three regiments make up a division. And, of course, slowing down and down until pinpoint his organization. Even if he doesn't tell me, by then I would know by area.

And going into details, but many of them just couldn't get over it, that we Japanese, speaking Japanese, but born in United States, and fighting for United States Army. No, I'm not fighting for United States, I'm fighting for my life and country, same country that you're fighting for your life. I'm not fighting for United States, I'm fighting for my country, which is United States. Anyone born in that country will fight for that country, regardless of... because it's inside you. It's not what you, come out of the mouth, not something that comes out of your mouth or my mouth or anything, it's inside of you that cannot be taken away. Then they got to thinking, and some of them, I could never convince them, but they knew I was Japanese, and some of them even called me "traitor" at the end. Not at the end, right through. "No, I think you're a traitor. You don't know your Japanese blood," all those things. But if I lose my cool, I'm the loser in a battle of wits there, so, no. But I never, well, I tried my best not to let them have the initiative or come to me with questions. But sizing the prisoner up, I would let them come out first, if they have anything to say or something. Then they will come out, out of curiosity.

LD: How about the American troops, the other American troops? They understood that that was your attitude?

HM: By then... when we go into combat, just as Hank Gosho was known by his people, the 3rd Battalion kaki group, kaki were orange, you see. Everybody in Regimental Headquarters knew it, and they didn't call me by Miyasaki. "Hey Herbie, Herbert." Even old man Stillwell used to call me Herbert. My name was Herbert to everybody. And they talk about the interpreter, "Yeah, the chief, call, get Herbert." And they would yell "Herbert" here and there. So I got along real nicely, not at the beginning, but as the campaign went on in the jungles, sleeping, at first some of them, at the end they told me, "Gee, I thought some night you would come hit me with a dagger or something." "Why should I? I was afraid you would come for me," in Japanese. That's the kind of conversation I used to have with certain... at the end, no. We're all one, we're all human beings. That's the main thing, you need to think of yourself in these, or yourself in that. That's when the greed, selfishness come out, problems would set in.

We used to share whatever we had in the way of food. Like our troops, we were supplied by air. Every fourth day they would come over in the air, drop parachutes, food, medicine, ammunition, weapons, clothes. The first drop would be animal fodder for the mules. Then comes the medicine, then comes the weapon, weapons and ammunition, then clothing comes last. I wouldn't say last, but behind that other equipments, picks, shovels and all that. And by looking at the parachutes, we know what's coming down. But the enemy used to hit as soon as the drop comes by, the enemy hit and take it all, we had to run away without food. They hit us two or three successive times, that means we went hungry for about nine days, over nine days, fourteen days. But we lived. That's how we were fed, equipped, supplied, right through.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LD: What did you do for Merrill? You were his interpreter?

HM: Right. Well, primarily, he spoke fluent Japanese to start. He was in Japan for a good many years, and he spoke fluent... yeah, General Merrill, he was a military aide in Japan. And he used to hum the Japanese military songs and all that. The times he had some question about the Japanese activities, then he would come and ask me, "Now, how would you think, what do you think, why they made that kind of a move?" Or whenever a captured map comes into the headquarters, the map is all kind of Japanese writings and everything, and arrows showing here. Then after he looks it over, certain things he cannot understand. Not, I don't mean the words, the arrow, why he's gonna attack from this end and this end? The troops are massed here, and this is captured Japanese troops on our map. Then he'd call me in. "You tell me why they would attack from there. You know Japanese thinking," all these things. I have to look at the map, I can see why all this. I would read the writings all on the map, and, "They attacked from that direction because it's a dawn attack, they're gonna attack four o'clock in the morning." Dawn attack, the sunlight comes from this direction. The sunlight comes from this direction, the attack is held back, the sun's gonna shine directly into their eyes, which is against them now. So they swerve to the side, and by using that sunlight coming, they're stymied at that point now. The sunlight would become advantageous to them. All those things, it's on the map, and yet very hard to explain why. That's the kind of times Merrill used to call.

And then he used to have staff meetings of his officers, G-1, G-2. G-1 is personnel, G-2 is intelligence, G-3, operations, G-4, logistic supply. He has a meeting with all the top brass, all colonels, and maybe the underlings come in, too. At that time, he want to explain certain maps, captured map, then he might call on me to explain.

LD: Your father was from the Big Island.

HM: Right. I have to go to --

LD: Just two things I want to ask you. I want to ask you about what do you think the difference between your father's life and your life, and how has it changed? Was your life very different from your father's life?

HM: My father's life was narrow, small channel, with a language barrier. He didn't have the knowledge of a United States of America or Caucasians, different nationality, let's say. Because he lived in Japan until he came to Hawaii, among Japanese only. All predominately Japanese, maybe ninety-nine percent, he might have had a few Koreans and Chinese, I don't know. When he came here, he spoke one language, Japanese, that was it. He went to school, started... he didn't graduate there, but he went to grammar school, that's all. So when he came here, there wasn't anything he could do. He couldn't take certain job, language, he couldn't read. Everything was foreign to him.

LD: But even with language, a lot of the Nisei couldn't have certain opportunities.

HM: No, we didn't have. We were denied. For instance, now, military, there were national guard units throughout the islands, we Japanese -- Japanese now, not Orientals, couldn't join the National Guard. They wouldn't let us join. Only Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian. And a good many of them, when I went in as a draftee, a good many of them couldn't even read and write. They used to sign their checks or payroll with an X. And they were sergeants, staff sergeants, because length of service gave them. That's the kind of people in the Hawaiian National Guard at that time. And after we went basic training, then basic training finished, we were sent to all these units throughout the state here, but we were sent to Big Island units. Naturally, because we could read and write, we're educated beyond those guys, all the jobs could be done on a clerical basis were given to us as privates now. Maybe the job was for a sergeant, we did their work as a private. Because there was no opening. In a given unit, there's only so many sergeants and so many corporals and all that, they're all occupied by these illiterates, I would say.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.