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Nine months before the start of World War Two, a second generation Japanese American, or Nisei, from Hawaiʻi was recruited by the United States military to go undercover and gather information on Imperial Japan.
Reflections of Honor: The Untold Story of a Nisei Spy is about that man, Maui born Arthur Satoshi Komori, a McKinley High School and University of Hawaiʻi graduate.
“It’s the story about how one man, could do so much, despite the very trying circumstances,” said Morris Lai, principal investigator for the book, published by the Curriculum Research and Development Group of the UH Mānoa College of Education. Reflections of Honor is based on Komori’s hand written journal, an oral history interview and declassified army documents.
Shortly after his career as a spy started in the Philippines, Komori found himself in the notorious Bilibid prison after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor and Manila.
“He was caught by the Filipino constabulary men raising a toast to the emperor in the Domei Newspaper Agency office and put in prison with all the other Japanese nationals,” said co-author Lorraine Ward.
“He was serving in an undercover capacity well before the 442nd and the 100th Battalion were formed,” said Lai.
Komori was not exactly welcomed back by all of his fellow American soldiers after he was rescued four days later.
“He said, a lot of them, he knew would not trust him for anything,” said Lai.
He was soon fighting in the battles of Corregidor and Bataan in the Philippines.
“He would routinely go across the front lines to collect documents from dead bodies on the battlefield and to capture prisoners of war and bring them back to interrogate them for information,” said Ward. “He was very much in the thick of battle.”
And Komori was always surrounded by danger.
“If he was captured by the Japanese, he was considered a treasonous Japanese citizen, and there was a danger of him being mistaken for a Japanese spy by his own American soldiers,” Ward said.
While risking his life for his country, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps, their loyalty to the United States in question.
“He was very much aware of what was going on and he considered what he was doing a way that he had to prove, not only himself, but all his fellow Japanese Americans,” said Ward.
Reflections of Honor tells these stories and more, like how Komori forged a close relationship with General Douglas MacArthur, who presented him with a samurai sword for his service. How he trained Aborigines in Australia to rescue downed allied pilots and helped create the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, where thousands of Nisei interpreters worked as part of the Military Intelligence Service.
“It was probably the most important intelligence center in World War Two at the that time,” said Lai.
The Military Intelligence Service is credited with shortening the war by two years and received a Presidential Unit Citation by President Bill Clinton in 2000, two months after Komori’s death.
The book is just one man’s story but Ward said, “If we don’t capture them while we can, they’ll be gone and we will lose them and we’ll lose all of this history.”
For more on “Reflections of Honor” go to the Curriculum Research and Development Group’s website.