MIS in the Central Pacific Campaigns by Donald S Okubo M/Sgt
My MIS story parallels that of the JICPOA Annex Story since shipped out of Camp Savage in mid1944 together with the first JICPOA group to be headquartered in Hawaii. The supreme irony of my story is that the JICPOA Annex Headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard was situated only a few blocks away from my home but I was drawing overseas pay for my duty.
From May to August 1944, the JICPOA Linguists translated captured documents and field orders. Then in September 1944, Hisashi Kubota, Tony Sunamoto, and I departed for Bougainville. There we got assigned to the First Marine Division for the invasion of Palau, Caroline Islands. On September 15, we landed with the third wave on
Peleliu after the marines secured the beachhead. For the next six weeks, we interrogated POWs to gain information on the location and movement of enemy troops, unit strength, commanders, and other vital information. Some of the POWs surrendered out of their foxholes or were wounded and easily captured. They usually expressed surprise and elation to be questioned by a 'Buddha head' in their own language. We prevented many from committing suicide by counseling them not to be ashamed of being captured and assuring them of their eventual return to Japan. The information gleaned from POW interrogations shortened the battle and saved many American lives.
Don Okubo receives Bronze Star
from Admiral Spruance. Photo
taken Jan 19, 1946.
After the Palau invasion we returned to JICPOA in Hawaii. In May 1945, I proceeded to Navy Headquarters and then to Ebeye on Kwajalein, Marshall Islands where a large prisoner compound had been established. I interrogated captured Japanese soldiers and Korean laborers and extracted information on unit identification and size troop movements defenses and other valuable details. Toward the end of the War, I set out for psychological warfare assignments on the various Marshall Islands such as Taroa, Bikini, Wotje, Majuro, Jaluit, Mille, Rongelap and Airik. I called out to the stragglers and bypassed Japanese soldiers to surrender on assurances of safety, food and medical care.
We broadcast surrender appeals, using a loudspeaker from a destroyer escort sailing offshore. But we achieved only minor success. Only a few surrendered because they attributed our appeals as mere propaganda. Even when we used the Japanese POWs to broadcast appeals to their former comrades only a half dozen surrendered.
I landed on Airik island after Japan surrendered, and I learned that the area commander was an admiral, headquartered on Taroa island which had been bypassed by the American advance. I rode a whaleboat and landed at Taroa late at night. Although the Japanese troops heavily guarded the dock area, I don't know why they didn't shoot me since they knew our boat was American. I must have been the only American on that beach in Tarea in 10 years. I went ashore alone and demanded to see the Admiral. This demand led to an argument with a Japanese Lieutenant, who thought 11:00 p.m. was much too late to awaken a rear admiral in the Japanese navy. But I finally gained audience with Rear Admiral Kamada and conferred with him for two hours. I confirmed with him Japan's surrender and urged him to surrender along with his Taroa garrison of 1,000 troops which he promised he would. Later he did surrender. Only after I returned to the destroyer escort after 12 hours of a most hair-raising experience did I realize what a big risk I had taken in going in to Taroa alone that night to convince Admiral Kamada to surrender.
Surrender ceremony, Jaluit Atoll, Surrender of Marshall Islands by Rear Admiral Kamada,
Sep 5, 1945. L-R: Capt H.B. Grow, Japanese Imperial Navy, Sep 10, 1945. Don Okubo served
Commander of Majuro, Tech Sgt, as interpreter.
Don S. Okubo & Admiral Kamada.
From September through November 1945, I was the only Nisei linguist in the
Marshall Islands. I first served as interpreter at preliminary interrogations of
Japanese officers at Majuro and then as court interpreter at War Crimes trials
held at Kwajalein in November 1945. One of the most memorable was the trial of
accused war criminal Warrant Officer Manako of the Japanese Imperial Navy, who
testified and demonstrated how he had made an American prisoner kneel before him
and how he had swung his sword to behead the American! (Officer Manako's
demonstrated testimony of the execution is captured in a Navy G-2 photo. See
War Crimes Trial at Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Island, Nov 21, 1945.
Japanese Warrant Officer Monako explained that an American prisoner
sat calmly before he was beheaded by Monako. L-R: Japanese prisoner
Warrant Officer Monako and Tech Sgt Don S. Okubo
(Courtesy of "Secret Valor" by Military Intelligence Service Veterans Club of Hawaii.)