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Yoshito Fujimoto

"Occupation"

While serving with the Filipino Guererra unit, I received the Army's restricted order under the title "Accomplishment of an Emergency Mission" to Japan. This order was directed to 42 of us officers and men headed by the Allied Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur. The other high-ranking officers included the Chief of Staff; General Richard Sutherland, and Deputy Chief of Staff, General Richard J. Marshall, to whom I had been assigned as personal interpreter. General Marshall assumed the office of the Chief of Staff after the signing of the Termination of War on the Missouri by the Japanese and the Allied Powers. In addition, there were two other generals, five colonels, and four majors.

We left Manila on 27 August 1945 in two planes--one of which was General MacArthur's personal plane, the Bataan. I was on a C-54, which developed a minor engine problem. However, the problem was able to be corrected at Okinawa and the plane arrived safely at Atsugi Airfield in Japan on 28 August. It is needless to say we were all armed with carbines and pistols just in case of meeting any emergency. At Atsugi we were met by several Japanese officials and after a brief exchange of words, we were ushered into several charcoal-burning automobiles and headed down the airfield. Along the way I noticed that we were guarded by Japanese Kempeis and policemen standing back to back every 50 yards or so along the war torn streets toward Yokohama. At Yokohama, we were taken to the New Grand Hotel, one of the few buildings standing around the Yokohama Harbor. At the hotel, we were ushered in by a Caucasian man later identified as the husband of the famed Tokyo Rose. He happened to be a Portuguese national who was employed by the Japanese Government due to his English speaking ability. At this hotel three of us American officers were to share the same room with three Soviet officers.

We decided to be friendly with them and offered to shake hands, but surprisingly they turned their backs on us. Yes, you can bet that the cold war between the Soviets and us started this day.

Because we did not have rations with us, we had to rely on the Japanese for food for the first three days before our ship got in. We were offered two baked trout, biscuits, coffee, and a couple bottles of Asahi beer for every meal, and we certainly enjoyed that.

We immediately began the task of the preparations for the terms of surrender to be signed on our ship, the Missouri. At that time, there were four of us Nisei officers to do all the necessary translations and interpreting work, and at times it got to be very tense and strenuous. So much so that one officer actually passed out. As a result, I was asked to take over his part also. We worked day and night for four days and it was a great relief for us when the historical signing of the terms of surrender was completed on September 2, 1945.

After the signing of the above treaty, we marched on to Tokyo and established our Allied Supreme Headquarters at the Dai Ichi Building situated directly across from the Imperial Palace. This area is also known as the Marunouchi District, which was purposefully left undamaged by our air attacks. General Douglas MacArthur set up his office on the sixth floor facing directly across from the Imperial Palace, and my boss, General Marshall, occupied his office next to General MacArthur's.

The first item of business that was taken up with the Japanese officials was the matter of food because the entire nation of Japan was on the verge of starvation. So, it was decided that the United States Government would immediately make a shipment of foodstuffs, mainly rice and other grains, to Japan. I can still remember the time when our mess hall was first opened at the N.Y.K. Building where I stayed. After finishing our meal, we would walk out to dump our leftovers. We were taken aback by the sight of long lines of Japanese people, old and young, standing and waiting to pick up our leftovers. After that most of us tried to leave some of our food set aside and would offer them untouched.

Aside from being a personal interpreter to General Marshall, I was lent out to assist in other sections of the General Headquarters, such as the Economic and Scientific Section headed by Colonel Kramer, and once I was to monitor the interpreting by the Japanese on the liquidation process of Japan's Zaibatsu, or cartels, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo. It was rather a tedious and time-consuming operation. Our officials were irritated at the behaviors of the Japanese financiers. I sort of mentioned to our officials that their behaviors are the typical Japanese custom. The end result was that all three financiers' assets and holdings even outside of Japan were frozen and liquidated.

On another occasion, I was to interpret the mediation work by the Allied Headquarters for Japan's two top Diet members, Kato Kanju and Matsuoka Komakichi. These men were also the leaders of the right and left wings of the Socialist party. I was given an opportunity to talk to both of them and felt that Matsuoka Komakichi seemed more friendly and open minded person than Kato Kanju. We succeeded in our mediation work. Consequently, in October of that year when Japan's first National Labor Conference was held at Tokyo's Hibiya Park Auditorium, I was ordered by the General Headquarters to go and observe the conference. I took Sgt. Murakami with me and attended and observed from the balcony without being conspicuous. The conference was successfully concluded in the democratic fashion and I reported back to the General Headquarters as such.

During the early days of the General Headquarters, we had a couple of rather interesting incidents. One was when our boss, General MacArthur got stranded in the elevator between the floors, and my roommate Chief Warrant Officer Bill Collins, who happened to be there and was able to help the General out. Another time was when an unexpected guest appeared at our front desk claiming to be the true emperor of Japan. His name was Kumazawa who was a descendent of another line of the Imperial Family who ruled Japan way back in the fourteenth century. At one time there were two emperors ruling in Japan, one in the North and the other in the South. However, according to Japanese history, they were peacefully reunited.

Because I was assigned to the top officials of the Allied General Headquarters, I did not have many opportunities to mingle with the general public in Tokyo. However, occasionally I did find time to visit various interesting parts of Tokyo, such as the Meiji Shrine, Uyno Park, the Ginza Nihonbashi areas, Asakusa and the Tokyo Railway Station. Many times I was looked over twice by the Japanese people because of my having a Japanese face and wearing the U.S. Army uniform. The Japanese citizens had thought that Niseis never served in the U.S. Army, and they were impressed by the U.S. Army's democratic system or policy in dealing with its own soldiers. I behaved like an officer should by being polite and helpful in public and I got along well with my fellow officers. Once I was invited over to the American Embassy Building in Akasaka to spend the night by an old friend, Major Faubion Bowers, who as the aid de camp to our boss, General MacArthur, at that time. The American Embassy Building was utilized by General MacArthur's family as their residence throughout their stay in Japan.

I left Japan on Christmas Eve, 1945, with the thought that I had accomplished something worthwhile. Having spent my early years in Japan, I was able to use my knowledge of the Japanese language, culture and behaviors in assisting in the translation of the most important document of the war, the one that ended the war: the terms of surrender. There were not many in a position such as mine and it was an honor to have been a part of this event. Truly, I was one of the luckiest, most fortunate individuals who was given the opportunity to serve under the most brilliant General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.


 
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