Friday, September 23, 2005

February 4, 1946 archives

The Unknown Ally

On one of Manila's main streets, a serious, spectacled G.I. politely asked a Filipino for directions. His only answer: "Shut up! We don't talk to Japs. We don't like you around here." Staff Sergeant Masami Hayashi, of the Army of the United States, shrugged and walked on. Like a hundred other Nisei in the Philippines, he Was rubbed raw almost daily by Filipinos' hostility. All he could do was to wish desperately that somebody in authority would tell the Filipinos what Americans of Japanese ancestry had achieved in the war, how they had proved their once-questioned loyalty.

The Nisei could well be proud of their record. Many had distinguished themselves in combat—most notably in Italy.* But more important to victory in the Pacific had been the work of Japanese-Americans who had translated and analyzed thousands of captured Jap documents, crossed no man's land to talk Japs out of their caves, interviewed prisoners to get information. As their worth was proved, they had gradually advanced from rear-area assignments to the front lines, where they were in double jeopardy—from the enemy, and from fellow G.I.s who mistook them for the enemy. The Army Command is convinced that Japan could not have been defeated so quickly without the Nisei.

Most of the combat veterans were back in the U.S. or had gone to Tokyo. But those with fewer points were still needed in Manila, especially as interpreters at the war-crimes trials. Ironically, they had brought this on themselves—they had dug up a great part of the evidence. Said their sympathetic commanding officer, Marine Major Harly D. Pratt: "If it were not for the Nisei interpreters, there would be no war-crimes trials." Pratt was now doing his best to let the Filipinos know how much they owed their Nisei friends.

Until the word got around, the Nisei soldiers would live like Masami Hayashi, 22, Denver-born former student at the Colorado School of Mines, who spends his working day at the War Crimes Commission, his evenings at his barracks, studying. He and his buddies had been refused service at a post exchange, ordered out of movies by usherettes, insulted, threatened with knives. Said Staff Sergeant Hayashi: "I just don't try to mix any more. I guess these people don't know who we are."

*The 100th Infantry Battalion won more awards than any other unit of its size: two presidential unit citations, three Legion of Merit awards, 9 D.S.C.s, 44 Silver Stars, 31 Bronze Stars, more than 1,000 Purple Hearts. This battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment, also a Nisei outfit, had more than 9,000 casualties, no AWOLs but six men who jumped hospital to return to the front.

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