Ultimately I was at the headquarters of the occupation located in Zama, Japan, for assignment. I was interrogated by officers of the 8th Army and the 1st Cavalry division. I told them: educated as an interpreter, I wanted to be an interpreter. Neither they nor anyone else knew regardless of whether I would be going back to the States for discharge in a couple of months, like the instant discharge of all soldiers serving twenty-one particular months that occurred only a month ago or to stay on till my twenty-4 months have been up. Longer than twenty-four months was also a possibility. They were dubious about my becoming an interpreter. For that want, they utilized Nisei and nearby Japanese who understood English and that was enough for them. Would I like to take on a clerk/typist job? No. Well, all proper, we’ll authorize you to go to the 7th Cavalry regiment, responsible for half of Tokyo, and see if they require an interpreter.
When I got there, the response was, “Confident, I could use you.” Lieutenant Chester Sargent, who was accountable for regiment intelligence, interviewed me and explained that he could use a Caucasian interpreter. He had to spend for local upkeep individuals and buy stuff from local vendors. His Nisei interpreter either might not have negotiated as properly as he may well and/or his language ability was not so wonderful. Lieutenant Sargent would not know that for certain either way, but if I came along and kept my mouth shut, it would not embarrass any person. Then later I would apprise him of what I believed. That was a use of an interpreter that the larger-ups hadn’t even believed of. In addition I took on an completely diverse assignment also. I borrowed his copy of a Tokyo city map, which showed the boundaries of the regiment, and I produced copies of it and of overlays that showed the place of the Japanese police stations and kiosks, and other prominent buildings. He seemed extremely pleased. I liked the job, but both his jobs had been frustrating my need to be an interpreter. I wanted conversations back and forth and neither activity allowed me to do that.
Six months following the beginning of the occupation, some of my Minnesota buddies have been operating for 3 days around Election Day beneath the new Japanese constitution, and I was missing out on that. An fascinating improvement was brewing: I was going on a secret mission. I had no concept of when or what to expect. It came quickly adequate.
In my bunk sound asleep, I was shaken awake at midnight and told to get dressed and come down to the regiment conference space. I did. A military intelligence colonel was explaining there was proof implying an try to take the life of the newly elected prime minister, Shigera Yoshida. The colonel was there to authorize a prime-secret jeep patrol that would leave quickly and uncover exactly where the prime minister, or PM, was sleeping, stay near it, circle about it, and “maintain your eyes open.” The patrol would be kept modest to draw the least interest. Also the patrol would operate until noon the subsequent day–about twelve hours of continuous duty–and was just three guys: (1) me, the interpreter who was to find out where the PM was staying from the Japanese police who had been close to him and also may well be guarding him, or if and when the PM was about to leave, find out exactly where he was going and when I was also to drive the jeep (two) the radio operator, who would advise command headquarters (CHQ) of any developments and receive new orders and (3) a lieutenant who was in charge of the patrol.
The three of us heard the colonel’s briefing, which emphasized two crucial issues: (1) Intelligence did not know if the attackers would be a lone gunner, a mob, or something in among. The patrol had to be alert to all these possibilities and fire if and only if needed to protect the PM. (2) No 1 (study, the media, I suppose) must know that the U.S. army had to shield the new prime minister. It would make the occupation appear much shakier than it was.
Completely apprised and carrying our weapons, we went out to pick up the jeep. The lieutenant handed me the keys. Obtaining in no way driven a jeep, I fumbled about unable to start off. The lieutenant, annoyed, had me modify areas with him and he drove us off. I was carrying a rifle. The lieutenant asked if I had a pistol. I said that I’d never received instruction with a pistol. This time he was disgusted. But there was no decision. We all had to obey these orders as best we could.
We circled around the prime minister’s residence with somewhat varying routes more than largely a wooded location for twelve hours. The PM never ever left his residence, and my speak to with the Japanese police was minimal but sufficient.
Initially I was thrilled with the assignment. This was truly big stuff! I could be a hero. In the first handful of hours I peered into the shrubbery as we passed at a relatively low speed, possibly twenty miles per hour. I looked for motion anyplace. There had been no cars parked along our route or anyplace that permitted humans to hide except the shrubbery or the deeper woods.
There came a point sometime inside the patrol’s twelve duty hours when I was really tired and somehow did not really feel there was going to be any attack by anyone on anybody. What had started as enormous enthusiasm and alertness faded into indifference and sleep deprivation. Anyway, we had accomplished our mission. When we returned to regimental headquarters, another group was sent out to continue the exact same patrol for protecting the prime minister.
Years later it occurred to me that the explanation I was chosen as interpreter was that I was white. The colonel did not want the smallest thing to turn out to be a political reason for a feasible failure. When operating out the patrol information, he most likely thought, “Yeah, let’s place a white guy in as interpreter!”
It seemed to me that protection of the prime minister by us Yanks was strategically aimed at thwarting the Russians. I was personally possessing a small dilemma in understanding why we have been fearful of the Russians. In fundamental education we saw a quantity of coaching films, in certain on two occasions there have been films to make anticommunists a lot more comfy with the Soviets. Winston Churchill had stated in regard to becoming an ally of the Soviets that he would make a deal with the devil himself if it helped to defeat Hitler. The films showed charming footage of the salt-of-the-earth peasants becoming mowed down by Nazi machine gunners and depicted “Uncle Joe” Stalin as a “tough but fair” leader. The two films had been various but conveyed the exact same message.
However, in the 1st week of the PM patrols, I was obsessed by the pro-Soviet coaching films and a new aspect. I had been following the Nuremberg trials for war crimes, exactly where this point was created. If a soldier was presented with an order by his superior, he need to have not obey it, supplied that he was prepared to take the consequences if later he finds out that he need to have obeyed it. A single consequence could be conviction for treason. It meant to me that I, a lowly private, ought to think about disobeying an order if it were clear to me that the order was wrong, but I had to be very positive. I was neither pro nor anti Soviet. I just thought a very good venting of the concern by a respected news supply would support everyone understand what was going on, such as me and other folks who wanted to discover much more. I knew from the coaching films that the U.S. was pro-Soviet in 1945 and as far as I knew nothing at all had changed.
I had been offered an A pass, so when I was off duty I could leave the regiment compound and go wherever I chose. In a day or so I went to the workplace of Time magazine. The office was a small space with a desk and telephone for 1 reporter. I gave him the scoop on the prime minister protection patrol that I thought he would gobble up for a front page story. Instead he gave me a frowning look and produced clear that he would do no such point. I left discouraged and resigned.
Amazingly these patrols continued on and on, 24/7, and have been by no means canceled the whole time I was in Japan. No shot was fired in anger. There was never ever an attempt on the life of the PM. Although I was in Japan, I myself had to do a share of the patrols, about when a week, eight hours of duty. An enormous number of occasions I had to ask the Japanese police where the prime minister was. On one particular occasion I could not really get the answer. A single of the policemen, pulling out a piece of paper, was about to create anything. I knew what he was up to and I began shaking my head. He was going to write out the name of the place the prime minister was going and I knew as well little of the written language to find this valuable. He wrote anyway and, surprise, I was capable to decipher two words meaning move and forward out of the hundred Kanji words I had learned in Minnesota. I place that collectively with what I knew of the politics and habits of the prime minister and figured that he was going to the Progressive Party’s workplace. The police verified my guess. With my detective function confirmed, I was pleased and on my way.
Later Yoshida, known as “Cherry Blossom,” was succeeded as prime minister by Shidehara, identified as “Wisteria.” The codes were utilized in the squadron and for discussion in between interpreters on the patrol and the Japanese police. Now you know them too. To give you a degree of comfort, sixty-plus years later, you are in no danger of getting top-secret information. De facto declassification started practically instantly.
(This is an excerpt from MILITARIST MILLIONAIRE PEACENIK: Memoir of a Serial Entrepreneur by Alan F. Kay and reprinted with the permission of the author)