One of my most memorable experiences occurred in May of 1955 while serving as interpreter-aide to General Maxwell D. Taylor.* He instructed me to accompany him to the Japanese Foreign Ministry to finalize the transfer of F-86 and T-33 aircraft parts to Japan for fabrication of planes to be used by the fledgling Japan Air Self Defense Force. The United States and Japan had been negotiating the terms of his agreement for several months. Only one contentious point (Number 10) remained to be resolved. – which country's ships would transport the parts and who would pay for it. Our respective stands were diametrically opposed.
On the morning preceding the meeting it was noted that a State Department cable advised us that, if the Japanese persisted on their position, we should accede to their wishes. This came as a surprise to us because we were providing the aircraft parts.
Representing the United States at the Foreign Ministry meeting were General Maxwell D. Taylor; the Commanding General, Far East Air Force; Ambassador John Allison; three State Department representatives and the rest of we "strap hangars". For the Japanese were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, Defense Minister Keikichi Masuhara, the Finance Minister, several other Ministers and their "strap hangers". Foreign Minister Shigemitsu, who was expected to be their principal spokesman, spoke English fluently, so I was not sure why I had been asked to attend this meeting.
The negotiations on the first 9 of 10 points proceeded smoothly. Then Foreign Minister Shigemitsu, known for his horse trading tactics, startled both sides by stating, "The Japanese Government greatly appreciates the United States Government's generous assistance in this matter but Japan regrets she cannot afford to accept the US position on point number 10." What ensued sounded as though all hell had broken loose behind the Foreign Minister. I clearly heard his advisors shouting in Japanese, "We cannot afford not to accept the US position!" I immediately took out my notepad and wrote, "We have them on the run. Recommend silence" and passed the note to Ambassador Allison. He nodded in assent and passed the note along the table. Both sides remained silent for what seemed an eternity. Finally, much to my relief, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu said, "I do not know how we can pay for the transportation costs but we accept the US position on point number 10." In retrospect, I realized my brash behavior was presumptuous but I was just doing my job and was gratified by the results.
Later, some of my colleagues were critical of my part in Japan's having to accept the US position on point number 10. From their perspective, I should have been more empathetic to the Japanese since I was of Japanese descent. I told them, in the first place, I am an American wearing the US Army uniform. I believe that what I did provided the Japanese a sense of pride and dignity by sharing part of the burden and not feeling totally indebted to the US in this endeavor. At that point in time, post-war Japanese economy was greatly improved as a result of US offshore procurement in Japan due to the war in Korea.
*General Maxwell D. Taylor, Supreme Commander Allied Powers, Commander-in-Chief, Far East; Commanding General, United Nations Command; Commanding General, United States Army, Japan; and Governor General Ryukyu Islands.