Background of the Presidential Unit Citation for MIS
Submitted by Wesley Sakaguchi
The U.S Army's secret Japanese-language school began on November 1, 1941, six weeks before Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It was hidden away in an abandoned airplane hanger on old Crissy Field, Presidio of San Francisco, California. The first class was composed of 60 Americans; 58 were Japanese Americans and two were Caucasians. 45 Japanese Americans and the two Caucasians graduated this school in May 1942. Due to U.S. Army orders forced removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry, irrespective of their citizenship, the Fourth Army Intelligence School was moved in May 1942 to Camp Savage, Minnesota and renamed Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). Many of the 45 Japanese Americans in the first graduating class were retained as instructors for the MISLS. Others were deployed to the Aleutians, the South Pacific,the Southwest Pacific, and the Central Pacific in early May 1942, the day after Gen Jonathan M. Wainwright surrendered our forces to Gen Masaharu Homma of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the Philippines. The first Nisei linguists were tested when the Marines invaded Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and flew POWs and documents a short distance away to New Caledonia for processing by the Nisei language team attached to Task Force 6814. In a "Secret" document from T.E. Boderick, Colonel, General Staff, dated August 25, 1942, extract of a radiogram from New Caledonia extol the importance and value of Nisei language graduates from MISLS. Their strong performance without support or backup produced valuable information which resulted in a request to seek more Nisei linguists.
On August 31, 1942, Gen George V. Strong, Ass't Chief of Staff, G-2, War Dept sent a Memorandum to the Chief of Staff stating "Americans of Japanese Ancestry must be used because no non-Japanese with the necessary qualifications are available..." However, all Japanese Americans of draft age were reclassified "4C" (alien unfit for service, meaning enemy aliens). To meet urgent requests for linguists from headquarters and from battlefield commanders, initially the "4C" classification was ignored in recruiting Japanese Americans from internment camps. The November 1942 class at Camp Savage included many volunteers from all the internment camps, including Colonel Harry Fukuhara, who volunteered from Gila River internment camp, Akune brothers and others, as a privates. The MISLS, which later moved to Fort Snelling, Minnesota when it outgrew Camp Savage, graduated approximately 5,300 linguists.
The Nisei language specialists were with every major unit in every engagement from 1942 at Guadalcanal and Attu through the 1945 march into Tokyo. "To mention all units with which they served would be to list every major unit that has engaged in combat in the Pacific," so wrote Colonel (later Brig General) John Weckerling in 1946, then the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department. MISLS graduates served with 128 units, including Allied units such as Australian, British, Indian, New Zealand and Chinese units and other specialized units operating behind enemy lines such as Merrill's Marauders and OSS Detachments.
The Japanese felt secure in using their military language without using code, assuming that U.S. Forces did not have sufficient knowledge of the Japanese language to intercept and understand their messages. It was therefore imperative that the presence of Japanese Americans with Allied combat troops in the Pacific Theater be kept a secret. Therefore, contrary to the publicity given to the brave exploits of the Japanese American soldiers fighting in Europe, the exploits of Japanese American soldiers in the Pacific Theater received no publicity despite the high praises given to them in classified communication.
Maj Gen C.A. Willoughby, Ass't Chief of Staff, G-2, GHQ, Far East Command, stated the Nisei "saved over 1,000,000 American lives and shortened the war by two years... they collected information on the battlefield, they shared death in battle... in all they handled between two and three million (Japanese) documents. The information received through their special skills proved invaluable to our battle forces." Colonel Sydney F. Mashbir, who headed General MacArthur's Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS), GHQ said in praise of Nisei, "The United States of America owes a debt to these men and to their families which it can never fully repay... They were worthy, as individuals and as a group, of the highest praise for their invaluable contributions to the success of Allied arms."
"The most significant enemy document" captured during the war as military historians termed it was translated by a team of two Nisei and three Caucasian officers at Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (ATIS) in April 1944. This was the so-called "Z Operation" document which gave the Japanese air and naval plans of defense against Allied attacks on their South Pacific possessions. This translation aided materially in speeding up the U.S. Navy's subsequent attack on Saipan and other Japanese bases in June 1944. Japan lost most of its carrier planes there and this became known in US Naval history as "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".
The ambush of Japan's Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who conceived and planned the Pearl Harbor attack, occurred after a Nisei radio interceptor at a US Airbase in Port Moresby, New Guinea, and Nisei in Hawaii and Attu, Aleutian Islands, picked up radio messages in the clear disclosing Yamamoto's arrival time over Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands. Armed with this information, U.S. fighter planes took off from Guadalcanal and shot down Admiral Yamamoto's plane and six escorting Zeros on April 18, 1943; there were no survivors.
The value of the Nisei linguist soldiers during WWII , from the highest to the lowest command echoes with great praise with the confine of military secrecy. The Marine Corps, Navy and Allies also used Nisei army linguists for translating enemy documents and interrogating prisoners of war, but did not acknowledge or recognize them for their services. Since they were not assigned to any units, they were not included in their morning reports and therefore many Niseis were ignored or forgotten, even by the U.S. Army. However, nine Nisei were inducted into-the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame at Ft Huachuca, Arizona, recognizing their extraordinary service.
The nine are: Sgt Hisashi "Johnny" Masuda (1988), CWO/IstLt Arthur S Komori (1988), LTC Richard Sakakida (1988), Col Harry K Fukuhara (1988), Col John F. Aiso (1991), LTC Gero Iwai (1995), Specialist Harry M.Akune (1996), Maj Kan Tagami (1996) and M/Sgt Roy Matsumoto (1997).
Harry Fukuhara fretted over the fact that so many other Japanese American soldiers with MIS were not officially recognized for their invaluable input into the war effort. He must have thought " Why not a Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for those who served with Military Intelligence during WWII, although MIS is a service and not a unit. The degree of heroism required for a PUC would be the same as an award of a Distinguished Service Cross to an individual.
Harry Fukuhara spent approximately two years gathering the necessary data and putting the packet together. In gathering data, Roy Uyehata, Harry Akune and Don Oka provided most of the information. The most difficult part was how to prepare the request for recommendation for the PUC award, based on the Public Law initiated by Senator Akaka. Alexander Liosnoff and Skeets Oji of MIS NORCAL helped in this phase, especially Al Liosnoff's ideas and suggestions, were the main breakthroughs in the stalemated situation. The recommendation was rewritten many times. Without the support of Senator Akaka, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera and Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric Shinseki, who went out of their way to do something that has never been done before, it is believed that the approval of this award would not have been possible.
After many exchanges with Senator Akaka and John Tagami, then aide to Senator Akaka, a formal letter was sent by Harry Fukuhara to Senator Akaka, dated September 13, 1999:
Dear Senator Akaka
The legislation you authored, FY 98 National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 105-85, Section 576, stipulating "Eligibility of Certain World War II Military Organizations for Award of Unit Decoration", opened the door for Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the Army, to apply for this award.
Based on the above, enclosed is the recommendation of the award for the Presidential Unit Citation for MIS units during WWII.
On the same date, September 13, 1999, Marvin Uratsu, President of Military Intelligence Service Association of Northern California, sent a letter to Honorable Louis Caldera, Secretary of the Army:
Dear Mr Secretary:
The Military Intelligence Service Association, on behalf of MIS veterans in Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., submits for your approval a recommendation for award of a Presidential Unit Citation honoring the US Army's Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) and its graduates, in recognition of their important and courageous contributions to the United States and allies in the Pacific and surrounding areas in World War II.
We believe this recommendation meets the requirement of the public law. Neither MIS as an organization, nor many of its graduates who served as expert Japanese linguistic-intelligence specialists have ever been cited because MIS was never deployed as a unit and specialists were often "attached" to operating units on an individual basis for highly specialized, classified duties — as opposed to being "assigned"...
The operating units themselves received appropriate decorations but the specialists generally were precluded from receiving such awards as they were not on the operating unit's rolls. Often the specialists were not recognized despite the fact that their front- and behind-the lines intelligence contributions, prisoner-of-war interrogations, translations of vast amounts of Japanese military documents and interception of Japanese radio transmissions, materially aided in, or were instrumental to the success of the operating units' missions. To remedy this inequity, we respectfully request that you approve this recommendation and initiate the necessary steps to put it into effect.
On April 3, 2000, Secretary of the Army , Louis Caldera, awarded the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to the MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE for "EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM IN MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST AN ARMED ENEMY, 1 May 1942 to 2 September 1945."
Sources: Correspondence by Harry Fukuhara and Marvin Uratsu, summary by Harry Akune, research by Roy Uyehata and Don Oka.
LIST OF UNITS WHERE MIS SPECIALISTS SERVED DURING WWII*
- Hq 1st Army
- Hq 6th Army
- Hq 8th Army
- Hq 10th Army
- 10th Army Psychological Warfare
- Hq 5th Air Force
- Hq 6th Air Force
- Hq 7th Air Force
- Hq 10th Air Force
- Hq 13th Air Force
- Hq 14th Air Force
- Hq 20th Air Force
- Hq Far East Air Force
- Hq Alaska Defense Command
- Hq USAFISPA**
- Hq I Corps
- Hq IX Corps
- Hq X Corps
- Hq XIV Corps
- Hq XXIV Corps
- 1st Cavalry Div
- 6th Cavalry Div
- 7th Infantry Div
- 11th Airborne Div
- 24th Infantry Div
- 25th Infantry Div
- 27th Infantry Div
- 31st Infantry Div
- 32nd Infantry Div
- 33rd Infantry Div
- 37th Infantry Div
- 38th Infantry Div
- 40th Infantry Div
- 41st Infantry Div
- 43rd Infantry Div
- 77th Infantry Div
- 81st Infantry Div
- 93rd Infantry Div
- 98th Infantry Div
- Americal Div
- 1st Marine Div
- 2nd Marine Div
- 3rd Marine Div
- 4th Marine Div
- 5th Marine Div
- 6th Marine Div
- 1st Radio Squadron
- 138th Signal Corps
- 5th Airforce
- 1st Radio Squadron Mobile
- 7th Radio Squadron
- 8th Radio Squadron Mobile
- 6th AAF Radio Squadron Mobile
- 1st Air Commando Unit
- 1st Marine Provisional Brigade
- 3rd Marine Amphibious Signal Corps
- II Armored Corps Training Center
- Hq 5th Amphibious Corps
- 5th Fighter Command
- 112th Calvary Regimental Combat Team
- 124th Calvary Regiment
- 158th Regimental Combat Team
- 401st CIC Detach, Ft Shafter
- 441st CIC Detachment
- 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
- 3024th Special Hq Intelligence Detach
- 3795th Signal Intelligence Detach
- 4029th Signal Intel Service Detach
- 5332nd Brigade (Mars Task Force)
- Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit)
- 124th Calvary Regiment
- 475th Infantry Regiment Alamo Scouts
- ATIS (Allied Interpreter Translator Service)
- Army Map Service
- Byron Hot Springs Interrogation Center
- Central Intelligence Group
- US Army Far Eastern Intelligence Section
- Manhattan Project
- Military Intelligence Training Center
- Mobile Intelligence Training Unit
- OSS Detach 101 (Kachin Rangers)
- OSS Detachment 202
- OSS Detachment 505
- OSS Far East Section
- OSS Morale Operations
- OSS Research and Analysis Section
- Technical Intel Team, 5th AF
- Technical Intel Team, 13th AF
- US Army MP Detachment
- US Army Forces, China Theater
- US Observer Group
- Dixie Mission
- Vint Hill Farms Station
- War Dept G-2 Section
- Washington Document Center
- 1st Fijian Regiment
- 3rd New Zealand Battalion
- 33rd Indian Corps
- XIV British Army
- 34th Indian Corp
- British Army
- Hq 19th Indian Division
- Hq 20th Indian Division
- Hq 26th Indian Division
- British Chindits
- British SE Asian Interrogation Center
- British XIX Army Hq
- British 16th Infantry Div
- Australian II Corps H
- Australian 3rd Infantry Div
- Australian 5th Infantry Div
- Australian 7th Infantry Div
- Australian 9th Infantry Div
- Hq New Guinea Forces (Australian)
- Chinese Combat Command
- Chinese 22nd Infantry Division
- Chinese 30th Infantry Division
- Chinese 38th Infantry Division
- S-20 Japanese Language School, Canadian Forces
- Pacific Military Intelligence Research Section (PACMIRS)
- Pacific Order of Battle, Military Intelligence, War Dept
- Psychological Warfare Branch, GHQ, Manila
- Sino Translations and Interrogation Center (SINTIC)
- Island Command, Okinawa, 308th Hq Intelligence Detachment
- Army Air Forces Technical Air Intelligence Division, Bolling Field
- Army Air Forces Western Signal Aviation Unit Training Center, Camp Pinedale Civil Affairs Holding and Staging Area, Ft Ord
- Hq Commander South Pacific (COMSOPAC) Combat Intelligence Center
- Supreme Hq Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) Far Eastern Intelligence Section
- Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA)
- Office of War Information (OWI) Psychological Warfare Team
* Listing is the result of 8 years of research by Roy Uyehata, a 1942 graduate of MISLS at Camp Savage.
**U.S. Army Forces in South Pacific Area (USAFISPA)