From a university student in Hawaii to a Military Intelligence Service secret agent in the clutches of the Japanese in the Philippines, Sgt. Arthur Komori’s story of intrigue, captivity, escape and espionage is told in a new book, “For Love of Country.”
Rosemary Anzai skillfully weaves her father’s wartime diaries, journals, documents, poetry and newspaper articles into the book. The process was a discovery of a side of her father she never knew. Komori had been sworn to silence until the U.S. government declassified his mission three decades later.
His wartime exploits began about nine months before the U.S. declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. He was recruited with another Hawaii Nisei, Richard Sakakida, on March 3, 1941 to investigate espionage and subversive activities of the Japanese in Manila. They were both selected by the Army over a number of other candidates for the CIP (Counter-Intelligence Police) undercover mission.
Could the War Department trust these young, American-born Nisei soldiers with such a sensitive assignment? Would they prove their loyalty and lay their lives on the line? This was the scrutiny that Komori and Sakakida faced.
Komori’s assignment took him to the Philippines on the U.S. transport Republic without papers, without passport. On April 7, 1941, the ship docked in Manila, where Komori was smuggled over the side, given some money and sent into the city alone.
He could tell no one where he was going or why. His family would not know of his whereabouts until they received a letter from the War Department in December 1943 stating that he was “missing in action.”
In Manila, he was able to infiltrate the Japanese community and secure employment with the leading Japanese newspaper, where he worked as an interpreter. A graduate of the University of Hawaii with a degree in English, writing came naturally to him and provided relief from the secret underworld into which he had entered. He wrote diaries and poems of his thoughts, feelings and encounters.
Komori had to be smuggled out once a month to report to his American superiors. Fear followed him through the streets of Manila; certain death awaited him if his covert activities were revealed.
“I was never detected as a spy by the Japanese,” he wrote in 1949 in a report to the commanding general of the CIC Center. “When war broke out, I … had myself placed in internment together with the Japanese people in order to seek information concerning the war capability and plans of the enemy. That placed me at the mercy of the Philippine constabulary guards, since I was considered no different than the other Japanese… In spite of the danger, I stuck to my undercover role until I was relieved of that assignment and delivered from internment about a week after the outbreak of war.
“I participated in the evacuation of Manila, battle of Bataan, and battle of Corregidor… Until I escaped from Corregidor on orders of General Jonathan Wainwright on 13 April 1942, I participated in front-line interrogation and translation of Japanese information or prisoners of war. I was the only CIC agent authorized to escape to Australia upon the fall of Bataan.”
In September 1942, Komori led the first MIS Language School graduates in translating documents and interrogating POWs captured in Guadalcanal. He wrote the MIS manual for treatment and interrogation of POWs that was used throughout the Pacific War. He also had assignments teaching at the MIS Language School at Camp Savage in Minnesota and working with Australian radio to intercept Japanese communications.
Komori settled down in Hawaii with his family to life as a lawyer and judge on the tranquil island of Kauai. He felt it a great honor that he was chosen for such a secret mission and was determined to prove himself worthy for love of country, Hawaii, his fellow Japanese Americans and his beloved parents.
He was inducted in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1988 and passed away in 2000 at the age of 85.
In his book “Spy Catchers of the U.S. Army,” author Duval A. Edwards, a retired Texas lawyer and former CIC special agent who served with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, calls Komori “a CIC Hero.”
“For Love of Country” sells for $15, including tax and shipping. To order, email [email protected] or call (949) 228-2780.