Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I want to take the floor of the U.S. Senate to tell my colleagues and the people of Hawaii and the country about a Hawaii-born unsung hero of World War II. His extraordinary story has never been fully told.
In a description of Colonel Sakakida's wartime activities, it is written that today Richard Sakakida is alive and well and living in California.
I was deeply saddened by the death last week of Lt. Col. Richard Sakakida near his home in Fremont, CA, after a lengthy illness. Colonel Sakakida, one of America's genuine war heroes, faced death with the same stoicism and dignity as he displayed in facing the dangers of war and the constant pain of his war injuries.
Colonel Sakakida will be mourned by the many who knew him personally or by reputation, including the thousands of Japanese-Americans who followed his footsteps to serve in their country during the Second World War.
He is survived by his beloved wife of many years, Cherry, to whom I offer my deepest condolences.
Colonel Sakakida was a true hero, one whose contributions, tragically, have never fully been recognized by his own Government. His was one of the most amazing stories to come out of World War II.
As a United States Army undercover agent and prisoner of war of the Japanese in the Philippines 50 years ago, he endured isolation, privation, disease, shrapnel wounds, the constant threat of discovery, and unspeakable physical torture in carrying out daring intelligence missions for his country. His sacrifices not only resulted in the advancement of the Allied cause during the Second World War, they reflected a great sense of duty and personal courage rarely seen even in that great conflict.
As one of the very first Nisei recruited to the United States military service, Colonel Sakakida also helped to pave the way for the thousands of other Japanese-Americans who would make their own contributions to the war effort as members of the famed 100th/442d Regimental Combat Team and the lesser known Military Intelligence Service. Later, though he modestly would have denied this, Colonel Sakakida's achievements opened doors of opportunity in the military and society at large for subsequent generations of Japanese-Americans and other minorities.
In death, as they never were in life, Colonel Sakakida's accomplishments deserve to be remembered and honored. To this end, I hope that Members of Congress will actively support efforts to ensure that his military valor is one day recognized by his Government.
For the benefit of those who do not know this remarkable solder's story, I ask unanimous consent that a description of Colonel Sakakida's wartime activities as excerpted from `America's Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps' be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
Of all the unsung heroes of World War Two, Richard Sakakida must rank as one of the most remarkable. For courage, fortitude and loyalty to his adopted homeland there were few to rival him. Yet outside a small circle of veteran CIC agents Sakakida's name is almost unknown, and his extraordinary story has never been fully told.
Richard Sakakida was a native of Hawaii, the son of Japanese parents who had emigrated there from Hiroshima at the beginning of the century. Most Americans would have described him as a Japanese-American, but the Japanese had a special word for such expatriates--Nisei, meaning the firstborn away from the homeland. Educated at a American high school in Honolulu and brought up as an American citizen in a Japanese family, Sakakida was a man of two cultures and two languages. The outbreak of war between America and Japan might easily have led to a hopeless confusion of loyalties in a person of his dual background, but it did not.
Like the great majority of Nisei, many of whom were later to distinguish themselves in action against the Germans in Europe, Sakakida firmly considered himself to be an American first and last. In March 1941, nine months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this resolute, soft-voiced, earnest-mannered young man was invited to put his unusual linguistic and cultural qualifications to practical use by joining the specialist branch of the U.S. Army best able to take advantage of them--the CIC. Along with another young Nisei, Arthur Komori, he was sworn in as a CIC agent in Hawaii with the rank of sergeant. These were the first Japanese-Americans ever to be recruited into the CIC, and they were to be among the handful of their detachment to survive the war against Japan.
After an intensive training course in the use of codes and ciphers and the recognition of prime targets, Sakakida and Komori were told to prepare to embark on a secret mission, the nature of which would be revealed to them later. They were told that their destination was Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, an American possession on the point of independence, where the United States still maintained a substantial military presence. They were warned that their assignment would certainly be a source of inconvenience and probably of danger. They were to say nothing except to their immediate family--in Sakakida's case his widowed mother.
Less than a month later the two agents set sail for Manila on board a U.S. Army transport, traveling as deck hands in order to conceal their identity as members of the armed forces. In Manila, a city of tropical languor and almost colonial ease, they were met by the Commanding Officer of the CIC Detachment in the Philippines and briefed for the first time about the nature of their mission. The magnitude of their task took their breath away. It involved nothing less than the counter intelligence investigation of the entire Japanese community in Manila, into which they were required to infiltrate themselves as undercover miles in order to target those individuals who had connections with the Japanese military and posed a threat to the security of the United States Army. As a cover story they were to claim that they were crew members of a freighter and had jumped ship after tiring of life at sea--a story Komori enhanced by adding that he was also a draft dodger, a state of affairs which he reported later `was favourably received by the pro-Emperor sons of Japan.'
Sakakida was instructed to register at a small hotel called the Nishikawa, while Komori checked in at the Toyo Hotel. From these two bases the tyro agents were to start looking around for ro˙AE3les in keeping with their assumed identities. Their case officers, Major Raymond and Agent Grenfell D. Drisko, were the only members of the CIC Detachment who knew that they were Nisei agents. In order to stay in contact they were given keys to a mailbox at the Central Post Office in Manila under the name of Sixto Borja and told to check the box twice daily for instructions about rendezvous places. Major Raymond or Agent Drisko would then pick them up at a prearranged spot and drive them by a roundabout route to the Military Intelligence section in Forth Santiago, where they could submit their report in safety and receive new briefings. For Major Raymond, a long-time Agent, Sakakida and Komori developed tremendous admiration and affection. `He gradually instilled in us the techniques of subtle investigations and subterfuges in the best traditions of the CIC,' Komori recalled later. To him they owed everything they knew about working as undercover agents amongst the impendingly hostile Japanese.
And so, in the months preceding the outbreak of war, the two young and apprehensive Nisei began the delicate task of burrowing into the warren of the main Japanese community in the Philippines, numbering more than 2,000 in all. Sakakida posed as a sales representative of Sears, Roebuck, whose sales brochures he had learnt by heart, and spent most of his evenings in the Japanese Club, where he assiduously ingratiated himself with the Japanese businessmen who frequented this hotbed of Nippon orthodoxy.
Meanwhile Komori obtained a post as a teacher of English at the Japanese Cultural Hall in Manila and made use of this respectable position to win the confidence and even the friendship of some of the leading Japanese residents of the city--the Japanese Consul General, the Chief of the Japanese News Agency, the Chief of the Japanese Tourist Bureau, the Chief of the Japanese Cultural Hall and many others. With few exceptions he found the Japanese `arrogant and expansionist-minded,' openly sympathetic to the militaristic ambitions of the Japanese Army generals and increasingly dismissive of the more peaceable and compromising civil government in Tokyo. War fever had developed to such an extent, Komori reported, that one of his students in his English class, a journalist who wrote for a newspaper in Osaka, even reported the likely route of advance of the Japanese forces once they had launched their attack against the British in Singapore.
Komori had to go along with all this, of course, in order to keep up his cover. He even had to seem to join in the jinjoistic euphoria when Japanese planes bombed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December and drink toasts to the Emperor when America declared war on Japan the following day. The outbreak of war now put him in grave danger, for it meant that henceforth he would be spying on an enemy people, and would have to face the consequences if he put a foot wrong. The war was only a few hours old when the complexities of Komori's new situation were brutally brought home to him. He was in the Japanese News Agency in Manila, downing yet another sake in yet another toast to the Emperor, when the door burst open and he found himself ringed by a group of Filipino Constabulary with bayonets fixed. To the Filipinos he was just another Japanese. Along with officials of the News Agency, Komori was herded down the stairs and into a waiting bus. He was then driven to the stinking old Bilibid Prison--`the hell hole' as he recalled, `of Manila'--and here he languished, an American agent amidst a gaggle of enemy subjects, completely confident that Major Raymond would eventually learn his whereabouts and rescue him.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the rising tide of anti-Japanese feeling in the Philippines that followed the outbreak of hostilities, Sakakida too had been thrown into the Bilibid Prison, though via a much more circuitous chain of events. In the preceding months he had found employment as a clerk in the Nishikawa Hotel in return for his room and board, a job which had given him an ideal opportunity to inspect the passports and other credentials of Japanese visitors to Manila. With the coming of the war Sakakida's information-gathering operation gained much greater momentum. The United States now required all Japanese nationals to file declarations of their bank accounts and assets, and many of them came to Sakakida to seek his help in filling out all the various forms. In this way he was able to interview a considerable portion of the Japanese community in the Philippine capital and obtain a large volume of information which did not go on the forms, particularly about the military background of the people concerned, all of which he passed on to U.S. Military Intelligence .
Sakakida did not, of course, reveal to anyone that he was an American citizen. Since to all outward appearances he was completely Japanese, he was treated as such by the hostile Filipinos, and before long he found himself in such physical danger that he was forced to look to his own survival. When the Manila radio station announced that all aliens should report to their local police station for internment, Sakakida was happy to oblige. Along with three other Japanese he was flung in the back of an open police truck and driven off through the narrow streets of Manila, where crowds of angry, anti-Japanese Filipinos aimed blows and missiles at them, so that they were bruised, bloody and exhausted by the time they reached the sanctuary of the Japanese Club, now an internment centre for Japanese, German and Italian aliens.
A few days later he was sent into Manila city to obtain food for the children in the centre, and while he was there he took the opportunity to return to his hotel to pick up his belongings. But he had barely begun to pack his bags when he was seized by three Filipino Secret Service agents on suspicion of being a spy and thrown into Bilibid Prison, where like his fellow agent Komori he languished in hope of rescue by his CIC commander, Major Raymond.
By now the situation on the war front had begun to deteriorate catastrophically. In the first phase of their plans for the military conquest of the Far East, the Japanese had launched an almost simultaneous assault on Hong Kong, Malaya and the Philippines. On the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, over half the bomber of the American air force in the Far Eastern Theatre and one-third of the fighters were destroyed in Japanese air attacks on the American air base at Clark Field in the Philippines, and the naval base in Manila Bay was effectively devastated. Without naval support or command in the air, the commander of the Filipino and American forces in the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur (Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces, Far East), had no real prospect of holding Manila when the Japanese began landing ground forces in strength on the island of Luzon on 20 December, and he ordered a withdrawal southward to the natural stronghold of the Bataan Peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor, where he would hold out as best he could till relief arrived from Hawaii, perhaps in six months' time.
Inevitably Sakakida and Komori were swept up in the turmoil of the last few desperate days before the Japanese entry into Manila. Events moved swiftly. First they were snatched from prison by Agent Drisko; then on Christmas Eve, with bombs falling on manila and the sky over the city a lurid red from the fires of burning buildings and oil tanks, they were bundled on to a tiny steamer bound for Bataan, along with the entire staff of the CIC Detachment and Military Intelligence section and all their documents. Sakakida and Komori were seconded to Corregidor, the tiny overgrown island fortress off the tip of Bataan, popularly known as The Rock, where General MacArthur had established his headquarters after the retreat from Manila. Here Sakakida was assigned as General MacArthur's personal interpreter and translator. So desperate was the general need for Japanese linguists, however, that both Sakakida and Komori were sent to work near the front lines in Bataan in alternating three-day shifts, so that while one was on The Rock the other would be in Bataan until they changed places. In Bataan they operated from makeshift headquarters of bamboo sticks and banana leaves in a clearing in the jungle, where amid the screeching birds and clacking palms they plunged into a frenzy of activity. They went on patrols and scouting expeditions through the lines, interrogated prisoners-of-war, interned collaborators, collected enemy documents and translated them, amassed information of all kinds about Japanese movements and intentions.
On occasion Sakakida traveled to the front to collect personal papers from the bodies of the Japanese dead, for Japanese soldiers kept highly detailed diaries which provided not only useful tactical information but illuminating insights into the morale and outlook of the Japanese soldiery. Once he was summoned from army headquarters to broadcast a surrender appeal in Japanese to diehard Japanese troops fighting a last-ditch battle in the cliff caves at Longoskawayan Point, where the Japanese Army had been trying to build up a pocket to outflank the American defences at the Bataan front. The Japanese responded to Sakakida's appeal with a fusillade of fire and had to be wiped out to a man by pointblank gunnery. Sakakida was not very popular with American and Filipino front-line troops, because wherever he went he drew a lot of fire from the enraged Japanese.
Sitting in his fox hole with his microphone and loudspeaker and an escort of Filipino Scouts, he would broadcast his surrender message across to the Japanese front line, and the Japanese would listen in silence with exquisite politeness until he had finished, and then blast the area to bits with mortars and grenades and anything else they could lay their hands on. At one time Sakakida tried firing little messages at them with a home-made catapult. The messages, which were rolled up in 2-inch lengths of piping, read: `It is cherry blossom time back in your homeland, and the military have sent you here to the jungles of Bataan. You ought to be at home with your families and loved ones enjoying the cherry blossom. So why continue this futile battle? Come and surrender with this leaflet and your shipment back home will be guaranteed.'
After this bombardment of the Japanese positions with this touching homily, a voice with a strong Japanese accent called out in English from the jungle: `What the hell are you firing now, Americans? Are you out of ammunition?'
By now many agents found themselves in the thick of intensive and desperate fighting. When Special Agent Lorenzo Alvarado's unit lost all its officers, Alvarado assumed command during a fire fight with the enemy, and for his courage and initiative was subsequently decorated with a gallantry award. Early in March one of Sakakida's colleagues, Special Agent Harry Glass, made history by becoming the first CIC agent to be wounded in World War Two. He was struck in the neck by a .25 calibre rifle bullet fired by a Japanese sniper hidden in a tree along a jungle trail. By a miracle, the bullet entered one side of his neck and exited the other side without piercing the oesophagus or severing any blood vessels, and Glass was back on duty in a couple of days, with only two small plasters, one on each side of his neck, to mark the historic spots.
Back on Corregidor they found The Rock was not a nice place to be. It was now raked daily from dawn to dusk by Japanese air and artillery bombardment, so that the garrison was forced to seek permanent shelter in the tunnel system bored deep inside the hills, where they eked out an acutely uncomfortable troglodytic existence on half rations. Under the hail of Japanese high explosives the two Nisei on Corregidor worked 16 to 20 hours a day helping to decipher Japanese signal codes and monitoring Japanese air force communications, which were broadcast in clear, thus enabling the Americans to warn target areas on the island that a raid was coming. Later they were joined by another Hawaiian-born Nisei, Clarence Yamagata, a civilian who had practised law in Manila and acted as part-time legal advisor to the Japanese Consulate until the American withdrawal from the city.
As time passed the American position became more and more hopeless and untenable, even on fortress Corregidor. By the beginning of April it was clear that the end was near for the hard-pressed soldiers on Bataan. After three months of bitter and intensive combat, malnutrition and disease the men were exhausted. By now the average daily food intake was down to 800 calories per man; and 90 per cent of the Filipino Army had no shoes. Hope of relief had faded and most were resigned to the prospect of imminent surrender to an overwhelming enemy. Few could now escape the tragic fate that was about to overtake them.
On 9 April Bataan fell in the greatest capitulation in American history and some 76,000 shattered American and Filipino survivors were led north into captivity on a notorious death march that killed over half their number. Many of Sakakida's CIC comrades took part in this march. Others were transported to the prison camps in crowded, insufferably hot freight cars, without water or food. Most were to die at the hands of the Japanese, succumbing to the privation and brutality of the camps, or drowning in torpedoed prison ships, or simply disappearing without trace. One agent did manage to escape after the surrender on Bataan. This was Grenfell D. Drisko, who had been one of the first CIC contacts that Sakakida and Komori had made on their arrival in the Philippines. Fleeing to the hills, Drisko had joined up with a guerrilla group, but unconfirmed reports indicate that shortly before the Americans recaptured the Philippines, Drisko's location had been betrayed to the Japanese in return for a bounty and he was subsequently captured and killed.
By the time of the Bataan surrender General MacArthur had already removed himself and his headquarters to the security of distant Australia, leaving his deputy, General Wainwright, to hold the fort--in a completely literal sense--on doomed Corregidor. Both generals expressed deep concern over Komori and Sakakida. Since the Japanese refused to recognize the right of anyone of Japanese blood to bear loyalty to another country, they would doubtless treat the two Nisei with even greater harshness in captivity than they would their Caucasian comrades--especially if they discovered that the Nisei in question had been undercover agents of American military intelligence . General MacArthur therefore ordered Komori and Sakakida to leave the Philippines on the makeshift evacuation flotilla known as the `bamboo feet.' This presented Sakakida with the most difficult and momentous decision in his life and marked his transition from an agent of ability to a man of heroic stature--and a master spy.
Sakakida contended that the evacuation plans as they stood entailed leaving Yamagata behind to face his fate as a prisoner of the Japanese. In his view this was unthinkable. Yamagata had openly occupied a position of trust among the Japanese and then voluntarily come over to the American side. Clearly he would be marked out for special treatment by his captors--a fate too dreadful to contemplate. Sakakida was also aware that Yamagata's wife and children were then living in Japan, a situation which made Yamagata even more vulnerable to any pressure the Japanese chose to put on him. Sakakida himself was not in such a vulnerable position. He had never worked openly for the Japanese, he had no wife or family. It was therefore only right and just, he felt, that Yamagata should take his place on the ride to freedom. He put this proposal to his commanding officer, who in turn put it to General Wainwright, who put it to General MacArthur, who agreed. Sakakida would have to survive the Japanese occupation as best he could.
So, early on the morning of 13 April 1942, Sakakida bade Yamagata and fellow agent Komori farewell as they set off on their breakout bid from the beleaguered island of Corregidor. They went not by sea but by air, taking off from the island's tiny airstrip on what was considered a `50-50 attempt' to get out in an army training plane that had been patched up after a previous crash landing, with an American newsman and an emissary from the Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek, also on board. The plane flew through the Japanese blockade without incident and landed on the more southerly Philippine island of Panay. Here they were rescued by a B-25 bomber flown, in Komori's recollection, by a legendary pilot by the name of Captain Paul I. (`Pappy') Gunn, an expert in dare-devil low-level flying, who flew them out, Komori later recalled, `in a flight in broad daylight through enemy territory in a hedge-hopping, canyon-shooting, wave-skipping trip, during which the pilot kept telling us that enemy planes could not see us as we were flying only a few feet above our own shadow.' The B-25 landed on Mindanao, the most southerly of the main Philippine islands, where it took on a maximum fuel load and then took off again on an historic flight of 17 hours to Australia, the longest flight ever made by an aircraft of that type. Komori was later to state that in his view this flight had been a `test hop' which proved that a B-25 could be flown much farther than had hitherto been believed, and that it set a precedent for the bombing raid on Japan made a few days later by B-25's from the aircraft carrier Hornet.
Komori's first task in Australia was to write what turned out to be the definitive American guideline for the handling and interrogation of Japanese POWs, based on the experience that he and Sakakida had had in Bataan. The two CIC Nisei had found that if a Japanese captive was given a drink of water, an American cigarette and immediate medical care if needed, his fear of summary execution evaporated and he was happy to disclose everything he knew or was asked. This `kindness and understanding' approach was to pay off in huge tactical and strategical intelligence gains throughout the rest of the war in the Pacific area.
Because of his language capability, Komori was next assigned to the newly formed Allied Translation and Interrogation Section under Colonel Sidney Mashbir. ATIS performed an increasingly valuable task in translating captured enemy documents and interrogating captured Japanese soldiers. But Komori was a CIC agent and was in due course assigned to the chief of counter intelligence in MacArthur's South West Pacific command, General Elliott Thorpe. When the tilt of war clearly swung against the Japanese, Komori rejoined the CIC in the field as the agent, first in the Philippines during the American re-conquest, then in Japan, where he was one of the first CIC agents to set foot after the surrender. Komori was to make a career in the CIC after the war, retiring as a colonel to practise law in his native Hawaii.
Sakakida's experience was to prove very different. There was little for him to do except wait. He jointed up with the other members of the CIC detachment on Corregidor preparing for the inevitable surrender and helped them destroy intelligence files and other records. He was then instructed to revert to his former role as an undercover agent and officially listed as a civilian by the American command. It was understood that if the opportunity ever arose he would try to enter the Japanese forces with the object of channelling intelligence material to the guerrilla formations that were already gathering in the hills.
On 6 May the ravaged defenders of Corregidor were overwhelmed by the greatly superior Japanese forces that had fought their way ashore. After sustaining heavy U.S. losses, General Wainright and several of his aides, carrying a while flag, went out of the tunnels in the direction of the enemy lines in order to arrange a surrender. Some four hours later Wainright had not returned--and the Japanese had not ceased their onslaught. Fearing the worst for Wainright's fate, his deputy, General Beebe, decided to take a small leaking harbour craft and try and reach Bataan to contact some higher ranking Japanese. Sakakida went with Beebe to interpret; Special Agent James Rubard and several others of the headquarters staff volunteered to man the boat for the voyage across.
As the boat came in to Cabcaben Port on the south-east tip of Bataan, a squad of Japanese soldiers appeared, forced the Americans to stand at attention and then proceeded to remove their dogtags, watches and other valuables. The Japanese NCO in charge then spoke to Sakakida in Japanese, and when Sakakida replied the NCO struck him a number of times, breaking his glasses, cutting his face and knocking him to the ground. `Hold your temper, Kelly,' General Beebe admonished Sakakida, deliberately addressing him by a false name in order to conceal his Nisei identity. Rubard feared they were going to kill Sakakida on the spot, but instead they refused to allow him to accompany General Beebe as an interpreter and returned all but General Beebe and his aides by Japanese landing craft to the area of Corregidor where American forces were being held captive.
For CIC men like Rubard and Sakakida this was a highly volatile and dangerous time, especially when the Japanese began calling members of Wainright's headquarters staff to Malinta Tunnel for interrogation. Along with other members of G-2 staff, Agent Rubard had been engaged in despatching Filipino natives in small boats to Bataan and to the mainland to observe and report on Japanese military dispositions and movements. Being aware of the identity of these Filipinos, he feared that under intense physical abuse and torture he might be compelled to reveal their names. For that reason he intended concealing his identity from his captors, at least until the interrogations had ceased and prisoners had been transferred to other locations.
But Rubard's plan was foiled, and his life and that of his CIC colleague Sakakida put in jeopardy, by the activities of a certain John David Provoo, a former G-2 clerk from army headquarters in Manila, who as a Japanese linguist had at one time been considered as a potential recruit for the CIC Philippines Detachment.
Provoo had never been accepted into CIC because his background investigation revealed that he was a suspected homosexual and Japanese sympathizer who had spent several years in Japan learning the Japanese language and studying to be a Buddhist monk. Immediately after the surrender of Corregidor, Provoo began acting as an interpreter for the Japanese occupiers. He went with Japanese troops to the hospital wing of Malinta Tunnel and relayed their orders that all sick and wounded Americans should be moved out at once so that Japanese wounded could be hospitalized there. When he heard this order Captain Thompson of the Medical Service Corps told Provoo: `Tell them to go to hell, the men are too sick to be moved.' When Provoo interpreted this response to the enemy, they immediately dragged Thompson out of the tunnel and executed him on the spot.
This same John David Provoo now brought a squad of Japanese soldiers down to the prisoner enclosure and pointed out Rubard and several other headquarters staff members. Three grueling, intensive days of ceaseless interrogation then befell the helpless Rubard as his captors demanded information on codes, Filipino agents and much else besides. At each interrogation the Japanese became increasingly angry and abusive. But they were not very skilled in the art of interrogation and were further hampered by their very limited knowledge of English. By the third day of questioning Rubard's interrogators were slapping him about and swinging their swords to demonstrate how they would behead him if he did not co-operate. But he was able to maintain a consistent story throughout his interrogation. He claimed that his only duty had been to keep the G-2 situation map up to date, that codes were kept by the Signal Crops (which was true), and that Filipino agents had been handled by two G-2 officers who had been evacuated to Australia by submarine shortly before the fall of the island. At the end of the third day Rubard was returned to the prisoner compound with his head still intact. The next day he joined the main body of American prisoners leaving Corregidor for a prison camp in Central Luzon. He was never interrogated again. (After his liberation, Rubard learned that Provoo had worked for Japanese propaganda radio in Tokyo during the war. He was never charged as a traitor, however, and his trial in a U.S. court on charges of complicity in the murder of Captain Thompson was dismissed on the grounds that he had been denied a right to a fair and speedy trial. So Provoo went unpunished for his actions against his fellow countrymen, though some years later he was reportedly imprisoned for different criminal offenses.)
Like the surrendered troops on Bataan, the American defenders of Corregidor were herded into captivity on a death march which left many dead or dying, and some of those who survived this grim ordeal then had to endure an even grimmer one in the hands of the Japanese military police--the dreaded Kempei Tai.
Sakakida was one of those in whom the Kempei Tai took a special interest. He did not take part in the death march but was kept on Corregidor for six months--the only American left on this tragic rock. He had originally come to the attention of the Japanese military on the very first day of the surrender, when he had accompanied General Wainwright to Bataan to act as interpreter at the surrender conference. From that day his life had followed a steep decline into hell. He told the Japanese that he had been taken by the Americans from internment camp and made to work for them under duress, but the Japanese did not believe this cover story and produced several liberated Japanese prisoners-of-war who testified that Sakakida had worked for the United States Army as an interrogator on a completely voluntary basis. He was kept in one of the side tunnels in Corregidor's honeycomb of tunnel installations and interrogated over a period of several months. As Sakakida was not very cooperative the method of interrogation grew daily more severe. Sakakida was tortured, often severely. Sometimes he was burned all over his body with lighted cigarettes, sometimes he was beaten. He was slung with his back over a wooden beam, his feet dangling free of the floor, and he had water pumped into his stomach and was then jumped on by his Japanese guards.
It was never entirely clear whether the torture was meted out as a punishment for being a Nisei, as a means of extracting information, or both. The Kempi Tai not unreasonably believed that any Japanese who had suddenly appeared in their midst at the side of the American C-in-C in the Philippines, as Sakakida had done, ought to have something interesting to divulge to them, though they were not sure what. So every so often they beat him and burned him some more, but he still would not talk. He was taken to the former School of Artillery at Fort Stotsenberg and tortured, and sometimes he was hauled off to the Judge Advocate General's section at Fourteenth Army Headquarters in Manila, where the view and the faces were different but the general ambience much the same as before. Throughout all this unpleasantness Sakakida held out and stuck to his original story. He claimed that he was a victim of circumstances and that the Americans had taken him to Corregidor and Bataan as an interpreter and nothing more. He maintained that he was an American citizen (which was true) and a civilian (which was not). Never once, burnt and bloody though he was, did he so much as breathe a hint that he was an agent of enemy intelligence .
In December 1942 Sakakida was removed to Bilibid Prison. Here he shared the same cell block as Japanese soldiers serving life sentences for surrendering to the Americans during the battle for Bataan. Some of these soldiers had been interrogated by Sakakida after their surrender and they now relished the opportunity of getting their own back. Sakakida was not informed that he was to stand trial for treason, since anyone of Japanese ancestry was of necessity a Japanese citizen, and it was therefore as a Japanese citizen that he had given his services to his country's enemies, the Americans. If this charge was continued with, Sakakida faced the death sentence. But towards the end of the year Fourteenth Army Headquarters received word from the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo that, although Sakakida had indeed been registered with the Japanese Consul in Hawaii at birth, his Japanese citizenship had been officially made void in August 1941 by his mother. She had the foresight to take this action after her son had left for the Philippines--an action which even the Japanese recognized made the charge of treason illegal. The charge against Sakakida was therefore reduced to one of disturbing the peace and order of the Japanese Imperial Forces in Japan, and the interrogation continued, and the torture too, though on an appropriately reduced scale. Then this luckless Nisei was put in solitary confinement and left to rot.
Altogether Sakakida spent nearly a year in the hands of the Kempei Tai. Finally, in February 1943, he was taken from Bilibid Prison to the office of Colonel Nishiharu, Chief Judge Advocate of Fourteenth Army Headquarters, who had evidently reviewed the case and come to the conclusion the story which Sakakida had continued to tell without a single variation was in all probability genuine. The Colonel told Sakakida that he would now be released from custody and taken into his, the Colonel's, employ. He was to work in the office as an English translator, run a mimeograph machine, make tea and help out generally, and in his off-duty time he would serve as a houseboy at the Colonel's home. Sakakida was soon to discover that security was not the Japanese military's strongest virtue. Ofter he found himself alone in the office with countless sensitive documents lying untended in unlocked filing cases. Some of these documents he proceeded to memorize or purloin, though as yet he had no means of communicating their contents to the Allied cause.
Sakadida's rehabilitation was only probationary, however. At various times and in devious ways the Japanese tried to trap him into an admission that he was a serving member of the United States Army. One day someone threw him a .45 pistol to clean, just to see how he handled it.
Sakakida realized that to disassemble the weapon properly would demonstrate an embarrassing military expertise on his part, so he merely wiped it with an oily rag and handed it back. On another occasion a Japanese officer, a graduate of Harvard with a disarmingly sympathetic manner, quietly asked him how much the U.S. Army paid him as an interpreter. Sakakida saw through this ruse at once, of course--it was a common method of finding out a prisoner's rank--and replied that he had received no pay at all, only food and accomodation. Once he was alarmed to hear the counterespionage chief at Fourteenth Army suddenly accuse him out of the blue of being a sergeant in the American Army, a charge he denied with sufficient vehemence for the officer to turn to other things. All these ruses he survived, only to be caught dipping into Colonel Nishiharu's precious stock of American cigarettes, an outrage which earned him the sack as houseboy at the Colonel's house (though he was kept on in his job at the Colonel's office).
As it turned out, this was the best thing that could have happened to him. He was now sent to live in the civilian barracks in the former English Club in Manila city. Even under its new managers, the English Club could hardly be described as a penitentiary. Though the Japanese warrant officer in charge kept strict discipline--roll call at six in the morning and 11:30 at night, bed check at midnight--he overlooked the hours between midnight and the morning roll call. Sakakida thus found that he had several hours of the night at his disposal to resume his role as a CIC agent deep behind enemy lines. During those hours of darkness he had the opportunity to pass on valuable intelligence information gained at Fourteenth Army Headquarters during the day. He knew that by this time the Filipino resistance had built up a well-organized guerrilla movement in the mountains and possibly had established radio contact with General MacArthur's headquarters in Australia. If Sakakida could find a suitable go-between he might be in a position to make an important contribution to the intelligence war against Japan. The risks he ran were appalling, but at no time did he see himself as heroic--it was simply something he felt he had to do, and was glad to do.
Sakakida's lucky break came not long afterwards, when the wife of an imprisoned guerrilla leader, Ernest Tupas, who was serving a 15-year sentence for anti-Japanese activities, walked into the Judge Advocate General's office to apply for a pass to visit her husband in Muntinglupa prison. Sakakida was required to translate her request into Japanese and during this initial contact he not only revealed his identity as a U.S. Army Nisei to her, but was able to fill out a number of bogus passes for her and other guerrillas' wives, and also hand over several intelligence documents concerning Japanese military plans. In return, Mrs. Tupas was able to arrange meetings between Sakakida and many of her husband's guerrilla comrades who were still at large in the Filipino resistance. In his free hours Sakakida was able to pass on tactical information to them and to hatch a daring plan to spring Tupas and as many as 500 of his fellow guerrillas from prison.
Sakakida's plan was simple in concept. All that was required was for Sakakida himself and a small group of guerrillas disguised as Japanese officers to overcome the prison guards and release the inmates. In practice, of course, it was a rather more complex business. There were three essential components to Sakakida's plan. The first was that Tupas himself should somehow wangle himself a job in the prison's electrical department, so that at an appropriate moment he would be in a position to short-circuit the prison electrical facilities. The second was that the guerrillas should keep a meticulous watch on the prison in order to determine the precise movements and time-keeping of the prison guards. The third was that somehow they should get hold of five or six Japanese officers' uniforms, preferably without knife-holes in the back of the tunics.
All this was done and by October 1943 everything was arranged. Immediately after the midnight bed check in the barracks at the English Club, Sakakida stole out into the darkened, deserted streets of Manila and made his way to his rendezvous with the guerrilla raiding party. Along with four of the guerrillas he changed into Japanese officer's uniform, complete with medal ribbons and a clanking sword at his side, and spent a few moments rehearsing army salutes and formal Japanese bows. Then, with military precision and a haughty imperial swagger to their stride, the group strutted off down the road to the Muntinglupa prison, backs straight, chests puffed out, faces grim and set, polished boots echoing click clack on the paving stones. Sakakida, as the only ethnic Japanese and linguist in the group, marched at their head as they approached the main gate of the prison. It was he who addressed the soldiers of the guard at the prison entrance, barking at them in harsh, guttural commands which compelled their confidence and respect. Thinking that the guerrillas were officers from the Japanese garrison making their nightly security inspection of the prison--which the guerrillas had already established took place regularly between midnight and 2 a.m: the guards bowed low in respect for their superiors, in accordance with Japanese custom. And as they bowed, eyes firmly fixed on the ground at their feet, Sakakida and his partisan comrades tapped each one on the back of the head with the weighted butt of a .45 revolver.
With precision timing the lights in the prison were suddenly extinguished--Tupas had done his job well. Sakakida was now joined by a second, much larger guerrilla group of some 25 men, and under cover of the darkness and confusion the reinforced guerrilla force broke into the prison, rapidly overpowered the guards inside and began opening the cell doors. Altogether nearly 500 Filipino prisoners escaped from Japanese captivity that night in one of the biggest gaol-breaks of the war. Most of them got clean away, scampering as fast as their legs would carry them out to the city outskirts and the friendlier countryside before dawn could reveal their whereabouts to the enemy. By then Sakakida was safely back in the English Club in time for morning roll call, and later in the morning he had the gratification of witnessing the hysterical Prison Superintendent
report to the barely less hysterical Judge Advocate General the inexplicable loss of his entire contingent of prisoners--only to be dismissed on the spot for his pains.
Among those who get away was the biggest prize of them all, the guerrilla leader Tupas. With the other escapees, Tupas made for the mountains of Rizal, where he set up new partisan headquarters and--most crucially--established radio communications with the Australian headquarters of General MacArthur, who was now C-in-C of United States land and air forces in the Pacific Theatre. At last Sakakida had a means of relaying to the Americans the vast amount of information he had acquired while he was working in Colonel Nishiharu's office at Fourteenth Army Headquarters. In effect, Sakakida had become one of that exotic band of makeshift intelligence agents known as the `coast watchers of the islands', a fifth column of traders, telegraphists, anthropologists, civil servants and others who were left behind when the islands were overrrun by the Japanese but managed to evade captivity and to communicate information about Japanese movements and forces by radio to MacArthur's headquarters throughout the course of the war.
Sakakida's position was almost unique, however, for it was a rare event in the history of World War Two for the Army headquarters of one belligerent nation to have one of their serving soldiers and intelligence agents reporting back from the very heart of the Army headquarters of an enemy belligerent nation. But this was the case with CIC Agent Richard Sakakida. Moreover, much of the information he now transmitted was priceless.
Much of it concerned Japanese troop movements and shipping activities, all of which was of vital significance in the day-to-day conduct of the campaigns in the Pacific Theatre. But probably his single most devastating contribution to the American military cause was a portion of the invasion plans of a Japanese Expeditionary Force of the Thirty-Fifth Army which was to be sent to Australia. Just how important these plans were Sakakida was able to glean a few months later from a Japanese officer in the Judge Advocate General's office who had taken part in the ill-fated mission. The officer in question had been on board one of the navy ships that had left the Philippines, ostensibly with plans to land invasion forces at Port Darwin in Northern Australia. The officer returned to the Philippines on the only ship that got back. American submarines had taken care of the rest.
Since there is no record of any Japanese invasion of Australia, it must be assumed that what Sakakida had in mind here was the engagement known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.
With the tide of war now beginning to run against the Japanese, and the dream of imperial conquest cracking and crumbling away, Sakakida's position at Fourteenth Army Headquarters grew steadily more precarious. It was not that he was under any direct suspicion, only that as a Nisei he was viewed with increasing opprobrium by any member of the Japanese military who came into contact with him. Once Japanese headquarters came under direct American attack the mutterings against him deteriorated into outright hostility. In December 1944, because of heavy air raids on Manila, the Japanese commander in the Philippines, General Yamashita, the legendary conqueror of Singapore, was forced to move his headquarters to Baguio in the mountainous north of Luzon, and then even farther into the mountains, to Bontoc, a few months later. The time had come, Sakakida reckoned, to make a break for it and hide out through the final phase of the war in the security of the hills.
It was not the first time he had considered escape. More than a year previously General MacArthur's headquarters had ordered Anderson's Guerrillas--a guerrilla unit led by an American officer who had escaped from Battaan--to try and extricate Sakakida from the Philippines, but Sakakida had feared a trap, Anderson's messages to headquarters had got garbled, and the whole operation had broken up in confusion. This time he would make no mistake. Early in June 1945 he escaped into the mountains and a week later joined up with a small band of guerrillas in the vicinity of Farmschol. Ten days later they came under heavy Japanese shelling during which Sakakida was so badly wounded that he had to be left behind when the guerrillas made good their escape. He was now on his own and would remain so to the finish, wandering between the lines for weeks and months on end.
In the remotest reaches of the jungle Sakakida lived more like an animal than a man. Though the jungle was luxuriant it offered little enough to eat beyond grass and wild fruits. With a razor blade he removed shrapnel fragments embedded in his abdomen, but his wounds festered and he was drenched by tropical cloudbursts, for it was into the rainy season, and bitten to within an inch of his life by the hordes of tropical insects. For months he endured semistarvation and the ravages of malaria, dysentery and beriberi. His hair and beard grew long and wild, his skin was covered in sores and scratches, his voice grew cracked and feeble, his eyes burned fever-bright his clothes hung in tatters. He had no means of knowing what was happening in the outside world, no knowledge of the course of the war, of the liberation of the Philippines, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American landings in Japan, the Japanese surrender to General MacArthur on board the battleship Missouri. But he did notice that no more American P-38 fighter-bomber planes were coming over dropping napalm, and that there seemed to be a lot of trigger-happy Filipinos about, whom he was careful to avoid.
World War Two had been over for weeks when Sakakida decided his condition was so desperate that he ought to attempt to reach help. Finding himself close to the Asing River, he resolved to follow it downstream, hoping to reach the sea, but he was so ill he could only make painfully slow progress, and sometimes he blacked out. Then one day he spotted some movement among the trees ahead, a group of soldiers coming up the hill, and he drew as close to them as he dared. The soldiers carried equipment and wore helmets and uniforms which were strange to him. They were clearly not Japanese, nor obviously American, and his first thought was: `God! Now they've got Germans out here!' Not until he was within earshot of the men and could hear snatches of their conversation did he suddenly, ecstatically, realize that they were Americans after all. At first he was afraid to come out of hiding for fear they would take one look at his wild Japanese appearance and shoot first and ask questions later. But eventually euphoria overcame his caution, and madly waving his arms and yelling as loudly as he could, he stepped out of the jungle for the first time in months.
`Don't shoot!' he yelled. `I'm an American! Can't you see? An American!'
The soldiers were extremely skeptical. Sakakida hardly looked human, and certainly not American. They took him to their battalion headquarters, an outfit which turned out to be a medical evacuation unit posted in the forward areas to collect stragglers. To the CO of this unit Sakakida identified himself as an intelligence agent captured by the Japanese at the outbreak of the war, and he gave his serial number (10100022) and other pertinent data to back up his claim. The officer was also extremely doubtful about all this but agreed to put through a telephone call to the CIC Field Office, and two hours later two CIC lieutenants drove up in a jeep, leapt out and identified the weary agent as one of the men they had been ordered by General McArthur's headquarters to look for. Then they bundled Richard Sakakida into the jeep and drove him to the Bagadec Field Office of the First CIC Region of the 441st CIC Detachment. He had come home at last. An uproarious welcome engulfed this lone survivor and a festive banquet was laid out in his honour, with fried chicken and beer and white bread and fresh butter and other good things. Having lived for months on nothing but herbs and grasses, such sumptuous fare proved too rich for him and it took him a week to recover from the effects of the most memorable binge in his life.
Sakakida was hospitalized for a week, then sent to Manila for de-briefing. His story was so extraordinary that he found people needed a lot of convincing he had not been a collaborator with the Japanese. At Christmas 1945 he was at last sent home to Hawaii for two weeks' leave, one of which he spent in hospital with malaria and a high white corpuscle blood count. Then it was back to Manila, where he was assigned to the War Crime Investigation team, locating and identifying guilty parties, aided by the Japanese predilection for keeping records and diaries. He testified in the trial of General Yamashita and later in the trial of the American traitor of Corregidor, Sergeant John David Provoo. Commissioned in 1947, he sought a transfer to the air force and was subsequently posted to Japan, finally retiring in 1975 as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Today Richard Sakakida is alive and well and living in California--and happy to avoid the ballyhoo that attends most national heroes.
Richard Sakakida and Arthur Komori were among the only members of the CIC Detachment in the Philippines--the `Lost Detachment': to survive the war. Others known to have survived included Special Agents Lorenzo Alvardo, John Lynch, Ralph Montgomery, James Rubard and Clyde Teske. Most of the rest died in Japanese hands. Both these brave Nisei were awarded Bronze Stars for their work which, in the words of their commendation, `they performed with complete disregard to the danger in which they found themselves.' These two Nisei, the citation continued, `are a credit to their people and to the United States Army.' Of Sakakida's exploits over and above the call of duty, his friend Komori had this to say: `His successful duping of the Japs is the finest story of counter intelligence within enemy lines.
His recovery was considered even more important than the capture of General Yamashita, the conqueror of Singapore.'