Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Kenji Goto Interview
Narrator: Kenji Goto
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: December 8, 1985
Densho ID: denshovh-gkenji-01-0003

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LD: You feel that many instructors were disappointed that they didn't have certain opportunities, they felt like that they were kind of [inaudible], that they didn't have certain opportunities? And then what kind of things did more, did they have the opportunity to do teaching? What kinds of things?

KG: Well, number one, I think we should have been commissioned, second lieutenant, first lieutenant. Now, when I was made the chairman of the oral language, because when 1945 arrived, the need for language men was so great out in the battlefield that most of the language men were stationed in the regimental headquarters or battalion headquarters. And whatever document that they captured would be brought to the headquarters. Or a prisoner was captured, well, he'd be brought to the battalion or regimental headquarters and get interrogated. By that time, the situation on the battlefield had changed, and for that reason, they say that they needed more language men right up in the battle front. And as soon as the Japanese soldier is captured, well, he would be interrogated. Now, therefore, instead of learning difficult Japanese words, but I was asked to train people, "What is your name, what is your rank, what is your, how many men are in your, what you call outfit? Where is the machine gun, where is this and where is that?" You know, so that type of training that, this oral language division, and I was selected as the chairman, and I was given twenty instructors to train these people in war interrogation technique. So whenever the...

LD: What would you emphasize? How was the interrogation, what were the important things that you always did out in the field? What was your basic approach, laying some technical aspects, what was the basic stance that you were training the students? What would you say to them about how to approach a prisoner, how do you interrogate them? And did that change as the war went on and you started getting reports back from the field, and then did you say with a single way of interrogation, did that stay the same?

KG: Well, first of all, well, out in the battlefront, we felt that food is, you don't carry food but if you had some food and if a prisoner looked famished or give him anything to eat, and in that way create a friendly feeling and tell him that, "You are captured, but we're not going to kill you," and give them a sense of safety, and then start interrogating. So those questions are sort of, from name and rank and so on, we taught them how to go about that.


LD: Why don't you start by telling us again that you were in charge of the oral, what did you call that?

KG: Oral language.

LD: Training, speaking and interrogation, conversation and so on. Could you tell us that and then talk about what would you actually tell your students? When you first start with them in a class on interrogation method, what would you say to them? You can start by telling us that you were in charge of the oral language program.

KG: You mean in Japanese?

LD: No, telling me now that, "I was influential because..."

KG: Yeah. As I said, about the beginning of 1945, there was more demand for language men, and the demand was more for language men who would be out in the battlefront interrogating prisoners immediately after capture. So these men, we did not have to teach them too much kanji or too much writing or too much translation. It was more, they are to be specialized in interrogation, and therefore it was more oral than translation. So the purpose was, when the prisoners, under the old system, the prisoners used to be taken to the battalion headquarters or regimental headquarters and interrogated. But while, when they are taken to the regimental headquarters or battalion headquarters, well, the situation in the battlefield had changed already. So many times, what the prisoner has told the interrogator, and the order goes out to the battlefront, the situation already had changed. Therefore they wanted to interrogate the prisoners right on the battlefield. So it was more a list of questions to ask in regard to the enemy's situation.

LD: You would not have any, use a "get tough" method.

KG: No. There was one disadvantage that the instructors had. We've never gone to the battlefront. We were just picked out after graduation. Well, so and so is good in both languages, he might make a good instructor, and therefore... and most likely that, for instance, I was in section 1, that is the well-balanced person, people in both English and... so all the section 1, twenty people became instructors. And so, but from the report we received from the battlefront, that the Japanese soldiers, the Japanese are very appreciative if you are kind to them. Now, therefore, as soon as they are brought to the headquarters for interrogation, well, you give him cigarette, give him food, and treat him nicely. Then he would respond and pour out, tell everything. And another thing that the Japanese army did not instruct their men was that Japanese soldiers were not supposed to be captured. They were told, "When you are to be captured, well, kill yourself," or something to that sort. And so they were not taught what to do when captured. Well, the Americans are taught you give your name, rank, and your serial number, and according to the Geneva treaty, well, they cannot beat you up. So, but the Japanese were not. Therefore, the first thing we did was to offer cigarette and gave 'em food. And in that way, then he would feel very appreciative and start telling you everything he knows.

LD: Were there students that [inaudible] during your training at Savage, who didn't do so well out in the field or vice versa, some students who, of course, you thought they were poor, not very strong, and when they went out in the field did very well, and what is that, what does it take to do well out on the field?

KG: Well, I guess it was luck, maybe a fellow was gutsy. Wasn't too good in the language but gutsy. For instance, there are people who went into the cave single handed and without weapons, and talked the Japanese out of, to surrender. Well, I wouldn't say Hoichi Kubo, who did that, was... he was one of the good language men, he knew his Japanese. But there were some people, I think, who had the bravery to go in and tell them, "If you don't surrender, we're going to dynamite this cave and close the cave. But we will not kill you, we will not treat you badly if you surrender. And they got the, not only soldiers, but civilians to surrender. So those people who were not too good in the language and distinguished themselves were, I think, gutsy. I think that's where the difference is.

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