The Japanese national who undoubtedly contributed most in the war against Japanese militarism is Sanzo Nosaka. Even before I met him in the late fall of 1944 in Yenan, I had heard American officials say that the Japanese militarists would sacrifice a division merely to get him.
Time and again the Japanese military intelligence in China used spies in attempts to destroy this man, who then went under the name of Susurmu Okano, but they never succeeded.
On the day I was supposed to meet him, I crossed a narrow footbridge over the Yen River from our side of the valley and headed toward the hill on the other side where the Chinese Communist-led 18th Group Army headquarters was located. Accompanying me was a State Department official who was interested in finding out from Nosaka the extent of anti-militarist resistance in Japan and in China.
Our first meeting with Nosaka took place in the 18th Army. Group headquarters. It was late fall and the ground was frozen and in the cave the Chinese used charcoal braziers for heating purposes. We waited a while and on the hard ground we heard footsteps. Nosaka came in alone. He had a firm face with soft eyes, and as we shook hands, I felt an air of reserve about him, but definite warmth in him. He stood about five feet three inches and was of medium build.
Nosaka Had a Habit of Preparing In Detail
With our brief exchange of greetings over, he asked us if wd had prepared a program for conducting our survey of his psychological warfare work and prisoner re-education. We handed him our schedule which Indicated that I was limited to one month's assignment in Yenan. He handed us his suggested outline, drawn up in much detail.
We were a little surprised by his thorough preparation for this meeting with us. In subsequent contacts with him we learned that this was a habit with him, and he always urged us to prepare for our discussions as thoroughly as we could so that our time would be spent more fruitfully.
Opposed Japanese Militarist Aggression
He was a soft-spoken man with an easy smile. He quickly impressed me as a strong, dedicated person. His fight against the Japanese militarists had involved deadly risks of underground work in and around Japan. He escaped from Japan in 1930 or 1931. Practically all his colleagues in the Communist Party leadership were in prison because of thought control and other repressive laws passed by the militarists and war financiers to silence the people in order to carry on aggression in Manchuria, China proper, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The Japanese Communists were the most militant foes of "Rising Sun" militarism and just as it happened in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, the Communists in Japan were the first to suffer repression.
As our ally we stood to benefit by our contact with him. A State Department expert on Japanese affairs once told me that Nosaka, more than anyone else, knew of occurrences in Japan and could interpret events and changing conditions in the enemy territory quite accurately.
The Underground Undertaking Required Careful Guidance
To orient himself, he had underground contacts with occupied territory in China, and through this source he acquired information about Japan. Furthermore, he had a so-called "publications buying chain" which gathered all kinds of Japanese periodicals and books issued in Japan. They were bought in occupied China by his agents from Japanese officials, businessmen and professionals.
Once or twice a month saddle-loads of publications were brought into Yenan and delivered to Nosaka by the Chinese. This was a risky undertaking all the way through. Japanese publications, particularly on economics and technical subjects, were sent to a few high-ranking civilians and officials and to buy or to acquire this material from them regularly week after week or month after month, required a great deal of planning. The Japanese officials themselves would become suspect if they were caught passing on some of their literature.
Then the transportation of the material out of Japanese-occupied cities and across heavily guarded railway lines and through checkpoints, involved further risks.
Agents Brought Enemy Material To Americans Also
I remember twice the Japanese crushed the buying chain and Nosaka and the Chinese Communists had to organize an entirely new channel. I knew this because we Americans had requested Nosaka and the Chinese to collect an extra set of Japanese publications for us so that we could send them to the translating and intelligence centers in Washington. This they did for us, although it involved dangers. When the agents were captured by the Japanese, Nosaka explained to me that we had to wait a while until he organized new contacts and underground connections.
At one time we set up a microfilming center in Yenan to photograph all Japanese publications in Nosaka's cave library.
We visited his library on the first day we met him. In one section he had his card files kept in small cabinet boxes made from stiff cardboard. These boxes were kept in rows in square holes dug in the walls of the cave.
Nosaka read and marked the Japanese publications that were brought to him in Yenan. His librarian cross-indexed the contents.
At Bedtime, a Review of the Day's Work
In this manner he followed events in Japan very closely and as my assignment in Yenan was extended, I was to interview him frequently on various questions pertaining to Japan. The Headquarters frequently wanted to know what Nosaka's interpretation was on certain happenings in Japan, or wanted him to give us background and new information on various subjects. I would contact him immediately and generally he made an extensive study in his library.
The interviews lasted from an hour to two hours and after that I returned to my cave to write my reports from the notes I had taken. Several times I received phone calls from him late at night on the day of an interview, or early the following morning. He would ask me to delete certain phrases he had used or to substitute a word or a clause for ones he had used. Once when he wanted to make several changes, I asked him to wait until I got a pencil and paper, and my notes. I did not think he had used a certain phrase. He told me over the field telephone the approximate page number of my notes on which I had written the phrase. I checked up and found that he was correct.
Once I asked him how he remembered these details.
"Every night before I fall asleep, I review everything I have done or said during the day," he explained. "This self-examination is very essential. It makes a person more responsible and develops him into a conscious and sincere worker."
The Prisoner Converts Were Well-Trained
There was a time when Nosaka was orienting a State Department official and me on a project he was then conducting in his anti-Japanese militarist psychological warfare. He gave his information to us in outline form, without benefit of notes. It was a typical outline, using "A," then "I," then "a," etc. He would pause and discuss the various points and continue from where ha had stopped. After dictating for about six pages, he would give us the guide when we lost track of our letters and numbers because of digressing discussions: "Now, we are on small 'a' under '2' of big 'G.'"
All of us were bi-lingual, speaking and writing both English and Japanese, thus we did not have difficulty in communicating with Nosaka. When his converted prisoners of war who were teachers at the Japanese Peasants' and Workers' School joined in our discussions, we carried on conversation in Japanese only.
The prisoner converts were well-trained. They published their own news bulletins and issued anti-militarist leaflets which were used on the front lines.
Criticism of U. S. Leaflets From Japanese Standpoint
We Americans wanted their criticism of our leaflets produced in Chungking and on the Burma front, because we wanted to improve our propaganda material. I took samples to them and sat with Nosaka's staff around a table and took notes as they gave their evaluation of our leaflets.
The criticisms and suggestions were well taken by our psychological warfare units in Chungking and Burma. They in turn, sent out copies of the evaluations to psychological warfare units in Honolulu, Saipan, Washington, and later, in the Philippines. The suggestions prepared by the prisoner converts proved helpful and from all of these places I began receiving samples of leaflets dropped over Japanese lines and in Japan, asking that they be evaluated and criticized by the prisoner converts.
Hope for a Common Ground For Nations To Live Together
I was also asked to have Nosaka's propagandists listen to OWI broadcasts beamed to Japan and to get their reaction. In the same manner that they criticized and made suggestions to improve! our leaflets, they listened to radio programs in a cave and then held long evaluation sessions.
On many occasions I asked the prisoner converts about their postwar outlook. They said they were returning to Japan to reconstruct the defeated nation along democratic lines. They said they hoped that the wartime cooperation of the major powers would continue and that we all would work together on a common ground and with a common purpose to make" Japan a peaceful nation.
I do not know what these men are doing today, nor what they think of us. Nosaka returned to Japan in 1945 after the surrender, and news accounts said that on his arrival, the welcome given him along the railway on which he travelled was unprecedented. He was a hero in a defeated Japan, where people wanted peace. He was later elected to the parliament along with some others of his party who had spent more than 18 years in prison. But with the resurgence of militarism in Japan, where war criminals are being freed to remilitarize the nation, he has again been driven underground.