Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Edward H. Mitsukado Interview
Narrator: Edward H. Mitsukado
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: February 1, 1986
Densho ID: denshovh-medward-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

LD: You were saying that there was a lot of mutual feeling out there, and some of the guys had special feeling for the fact that you were a Japanese also. You told me something about what they did the first time you saw a Japanese dead body, when you had to get the things off the dead body. Can you tell me about that? There was something they did for you.

EM: Well, the first time that we got into action and then we saw --

LD: Tell me where you were. The first time you got into action, you were where?

EM: We had just left, we had got into Burma, and must have been about... maybe about a couple of weeks, I guess, after we had got into Burma, forgot exactly the dates or anything like that. But I think it was a place called Walawbum, and places like that, where we had our first action. And we heard the firing ahead and everything, and all of a sudden it was spasmodic firing, and then all of a sudden silence, and then, what do you call, go ahead signs. So we started moving forward, and then for the first time I saw some dead bodies there, in uniform. It was kind of hard to look at bodies like that, but then we're passing by, you have to look, and I saw they were Japanese soldiers. And for our work, like for myself and my partner, the other Nisei fellow, would be to sort of check for the bodies and see, look for identification. And, of course, the main thing was to look for identification of who would be in that area, what units or whatever, what military units would be in that area and all that. And maybe an idea as to whereabouts it would be, looking for papers and all that. The fellows that I was with told us, "Keep going, Eddie. We'll get the things for you." So later on, they would show us some of the things they had gotten. Because the thing was, the way that they kept the soldiers away from the bodies was that watching the bodies could be boobied, you see. Then if someone, firing is done, and then right after that you see bodies, there's no, nobody's going to be able to put booby traps on that. But that was a good excuse to keep people moving, you see. But then would be my task, so [inaudible] to look for something. And at first, of course, I thought maybe because they didn't want us to look at the bodies or turn the bodies because we being Niseis and those being dead bodies of Japanese soldiers, would be too much for us. Well, it wouldn't be too good, I guess, in a sense, racially and all that. They probably thought in that fashion, I don't know, see. But they told us to, "Go ahead, we got the things," of course, meaning that whatever can be found can be passed on to us later.

LD: Bodies in the jungle putrefy very vast. They're infested with... what do they call those worms? It's a very ugly business, and very unpleasant. So it's not anything anybody would want to do, but it was your job.

EM: Yes.

LD: Could you tell us that... I know this only from having read about it. The viewer doesn't know that. Could you tell us... you're in the jungle, you're in Burma, you're behind enemy lines. You're with Merrill's Marauders. What is your job, what is the situation, and what is it that your buddies did for you because they have some sensitivity and some concern for you, and knows about that. What do you think, why they did that. Put the... "I was..." you can start with maybe the subject is, and the way in which your fellow soldiers, who were not Nisei, have concern, consideration for you, or consideration for the other Nisei, but certainly consideration for you.

EM: Yes. Soon after we entered Burma, in our march from India to operate behind Japanese lines, we encountered our first action with the Japanese. I was with a group that's sort of behind. The advance groups were more patrols than anything else, and they were the ones that got into with the Japanese troops there. Well then after some firing, everything got still. Well, during the firing, we all stopped, and when the firing stopped, we started moving again, they told us move forward again. And then after a short while of walking, then we came to the point where action had taken place, and saw the bodies. And, of course, I and my buddy were there to take care of what we call the military intelligence. In that sense, it was our jobs to find or search for any kind of intelligence materials. And when we came across bodies, then work -- not work, but what we should be doing would be to see whether we can find any kind of paper or some identification on the dead soldiers for, to give us war intelligence on what would be in front of us. However, the fellows that we were with, the regular white soldiers, the ones that we had become very close with, didn't want, they felt that it would be very, very difficult, very hard for us as Niseis to be searching Japanese soldiers, bodies of Japanese dead soldiers. And so they, when we arrived at the point where the bodies were, they told us, "Keep going, we'll get the things for you." So they wouldn't let us stop there to take a look. So we kept on going, and later on, they brought things back to us something. Of course, I would say my buddy was a damn good linguist, so at least we sort of verified what would be ahead of us and all that.

LD: You're saying they searched for things like diaries and papers?

EM: Anything, yes.

LD: Anything like that.

EM: And sometimes there were things that are attached to the clothing, you can see what units they belong to or things like that.

LD: So three things they did for you. They tried to spare you the feeling of looking at another Japanese dead person. They were trying to spare you the danger of being, lifting a booby trapped body, maybe, and they were trying to spare you the unpleasantness of any dead body. They did all that for you.

EM: Yes.

LD: Why did they do that for you? You must have developed a good relationship with them.

EM: Yes. The relations were such that I would say we were really close buddies with the fellows that we were working with in the jungles. Of course, this all started from the time that we got on the same ship with them from San Francisco to go over to, get over to India, where we were supposed to train for our general warfare, for our jungle invasion.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1986 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.