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AMERICAN HERO OR  TURNCOAT?

                                                        

In the January 2011 and May 2011 issues of "BEYOND THE WIRE" the BACEPOW Journal, the Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War published the serialized story by Louis Lee Jurika of his father’s 1945 search in war torn Manila for his mother, Blanche Walker Jurika, Louis’s grandmother. (A special printable version is now available.) The search ended when Tom Jurika discovered a Japanese-American named Richard Sakakida being interrogated by Military Intelligence who admitted to being present at Blanche’s 1944 trial and execution by the Japanese. What happened to Sakakida after he pointed out the location of the mass grave in which she was buried? Louis personally interviewed Sakakida twice, once in 1991 and again in 1992, at Sakakida’s home in Fremont, CA., and spent the better part of the last year further researching his background, drawing on a large group of others in both the U.S. and the Philippines. He summarizes his research in this follow-up article, and points out fraudulent claims that leave the reader to question whether Sakakida was a hero as he claims, or an opportunist who embellished his own history, and betrayed his country in the process.

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

I N T R O D U C T I O N

It is an idiom, and with good reason, that "Discretion is the better part of Valor."  The original statement, by Shakespeare through the character of Falstaff in Henry the Forth, Part 1 Act 5, scene 4, 115-121 was "The better part of valor is discretion, in which better part I have sav'd my life."

Towards the end of his life, Richard Sakakida told his story to Wayne S. Kiyosaki, who published it in a book. There were two notable things about that book for our immediate purpose - the first was that it sought to make Sakakida  a WWII hero, and the second was that Mr. Kiyosaki was not an author at  arms length to his subject.

How was it that an American spent his war working with the Japanese political police? Was he a double agent, or just an opportunist?  The number of questions which reasonably arose from such a book started to multiply, not the least of which was why sakakida had left it for so many years to make such claims. What precicely had Sakakida done with his opportunity? And to the benefit of which side?  Why did he not call upon any of the Filipino Guerillas to vouch for him, for after all, there were many of them who had survived?

There were many extraordinary claims contained in Sakakida's tale, and doubts began to arise when,  unexpectedly,  someone capable of following up on many of those claims came into the picture.

Louis Jurika never set out to become an amateur spycatcher, but he too had an interesting history. In 1945, his father, then a Major, had pulled a gun on Sakakida, then a prisoner under hostile interrogation, and had threatened to shoot him on the spot - and Jurika would have done so too, but for Sakakida's memory suddenly improving.

Of American birth, but raised in the Philippines, Lou Jurika can speak fluent Tagalog, and can navigate within a society largely unknown to most U.S. historians, that of the Philippine Underground, the Guerillas. Concerned about Sakakida's claims, he set out to establish the facts behind Sakakida's reported  heroism - a valor so great that, at one stage, Sakakida had been proposed for the Medal of Honor.

Jurika would find that there were still people alive who considered Sakakida a traitor, though  Jurika nowhere uses that word.

What Jurika found would have confused even that braggart Falstaff.   It may well have been better for Sakakida's repute that he should never have aspired to claim such valor whilst there were still people alive capable of casting such doubts upon his claim.

___________________

 

Mr. Milligan, given an opportunity to reply to Mr. Jurika's article, has submitted "SGT. RICHARD SAKAKIDA - AN ANALYSIS OF HIS UNDERCOVER EXPLOITS IN WWII PHILIPPINES."

This website declines to publish the reply, in its current form, on legal grounds.

 

 

 

AMERICAN HERO OR TURNCOAT?

by

LOUIS JURIKA

                                                        

Sakakida returned to the U.S. Army after the Japanese surrender in the Philippines.  He was intensely interrogated by Army Intelligence, which was suspicious of his wartime role with the Japanese Army.  The claims in his 1995 book reopened the issue of what he did for the Japanese.

 

Richard Sakakida, 75; U.S. spy in WWII

“Associated Press, PALO ALTO, Calif. – Richard Sakakida, whose controversial role as a spy in the Philippines during World War II made him a hero to some but a collaborator to others, died Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 75.

“A native of Hawaii, Mr. Sakakida was sent to the Philippines by the Army six months before Pearl Harbor to spy on Japanese nationals. He was captured shortly after the fall of Bataan.

“An Army sergeant, he eventually won the confidence of his captors and served as an interpreter. While posing as a friend of the Japanese, he passed on information to U.S. forces and once helped free 500 Filipino guerrillas from prison. “However, last year three former guerrillas, including a Roman Catholic priest, charged that he wore a Japanese uniform and sword and fabricated his role in the escape.”

Chicago Tribune
January 26, 1996.

 

The three were Father Jaime S. Neri, Gustavo C. Ingles and Frisco San Juan. Their counterclaims should begin with a review of the events as described in A Spy In Their Midst – The World War II Struggle Of A Japanese-American Hero. The Story of Richard Sakakida as Told to Wayne S. Kiyosaki. (Madison Books, 1995. Lanham-New York-London). Published six months before Sakakida died, it is dedicated, “To the members of the Corps of Intelligence Police, Manila Detachment G2, Headquarters Philippine Department, U.S. Army”. The preface by Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Akaka says, “… the work that follows is the most detailed and accurate account to date of his (Sakakida’s) wartime service.”

What is not mentioned anywhere in the book is that author Wayne S. Kiyosaki is Sakakida’s brother-in-law.

That Sakakida “…once helped free 500 Filipino guerrillas from prison” is the topic on pages 155-156. Sakakida tells how he was involved in the planning and execution of a raid/assault on Muntinlupa Prison outside Manila, which was used by the Japanese during WWII to hold ordinary criminals, plus captured guerrillas and many civilians suspected of various offenses against the Japanese. At the time, Sakakida was employed in Japanese Army Headquarters as an interpreter and billeted with Japanese officers in the old Manila Club founded by the pre-war British community in the Emita district.

Sakakida writes, “We scheduled the breakout in August 1944”, and that he posed as a Japanese officer in full uniform and met at “…a designated time and place” with four Filipino guerrillas who he then had change into four stolen Japanese Army uniforms. “Just before midnight, we moved silently toward the prison gate. We were blessed that night because there was no inspection by the duty officer. We began marching to the gate. As soon as the guard spotted the red sash of the officer of the day, which I was wearing, he and the other guards bowed deeply. Without a word, we disarmed the guards who were taken completely by surprise. Within five minutes we had the prison office under our control. This allowed the other guerrillas who were in hiding outside the gates to rush in and secure the prison armory. Simultaneously, Tupas, who positioned himself in the power plant, short-circuited the entire prison network. All of the ROTC guerrillas and anyone else wishing to be free were released from their cells. Within half an hour we were able to clear out of the prison. I immediately returned to my billet in Manila while the liberated prisoners raced toward Mount Rizal.”

Both the Raid/Assault on Muntinlupa from outside and the prison Breakout/Mass Escape from inside are important, well documented events in WWII. Both were celebrated on a Philippine postage stamp issued on the 50th anniversary of the events, with a centerline perforation dividing the Raid from outside Muntinlupa, on the left side of the stamp, while the Breakout from the inside of the prison is depicted on the right side of the stamp.

 

This is a fantastic account except for two critical points. The prison raid/assault he describes happened in June , not August, and Sakakida wasn’t there. He wasn’t involved in any way. It is a complete invention on Sakakida’s part. Not one of the attacking guerrillas or escapees even saw him around or knew him to be involved. He has never been mentioned in any of the eyewitness accounts of the assault/raid, he appears in no memoirs as having anything to do with it, and he and Kiyosaki get events confused as well. The raid/assault on Muntinlupa Prison, an assault by guerrillas from outside the prison, occurred on June 25, 1944, with the objective of liberating about20 captured guerrilla prisoners, including Gustavo Ingles. The breakout/mass escape from inside Muntinlupa occurred August 25th, two months later with around 80 prisoners escaping, among them Father Neri, one of the ringleaders. No one saw Sakakida there, either.

If Sakakida was involved as he claims, he would be in the published eyewitness accounts. History Professor Dr. Violeta S. Ignacio of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) - Pampangais a recognized authority on the WWII guerrilla movement. She submits in order the books published about the events:

1 Forbes J. Monaghan: Under The Red Sun, A Letter From Manila. New York, The Declan X McMullen Co., 1946(pg. 194-195)
2. Proculo L. Mojica: Terry’s Hunters. Manila, Benipayo Press, 1965.
3. Conrado Gar Agustin: Men and Memories In Confinement. Manila, MCS Enterprises, Inc., 1972.
4. Vidal Brigoli Armamento: The Indomitable. Pasay City. The Viking, 1972
5. Gustavo C. Ingles: Memories of Pain, Kempei-Tai Torture In The Airport Studio, Fort Santiago And The Old Bilibid Prison, To Redemption In Muntinlupa. San Juan, Metro Manila, Mauban Heritage Foundation, 1992.
6. Jesselyn Garcia de la Cruz (ed.): Civilians In World War II, One Brief Shining Moment, An Eyewitness History. Manila, The James B. Reuter, S.J. Foundation, 1994. This book contains the eyewitness accounts of Conrado Gar Agustin, Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, Gustavo C. Ingles, Clodualdo Manas, Eriberto B. Misa, Jr., Fr. Jaime Neri, S.J., Raul S. Manglapus, and Earl Hornbostel.

 

In none of these books is Sakakida connected to the Muntinlupa events. However, Ingles’s book mentions Sakakida in a wartime eyewitness account by a civilian Filipino named Jimmy Mauricio, hauled into court as a suspected subversive. When Mauricio complained to the Japanese military judge about his detention and lack of rights, English-translator Sakakida told him to shut-up. Continuing to complain, Mauricio was then struck a blow by Sakakida.

Dr. Ignacio has never come across anything elsewhere to substantiate or hint of Sakakida’s claims. To the list above, WWII historian Dr. Ricardo Jose at U.P in Manila adds Maximo Fabella’s seminal 1961 masters thesis, The Hunters ROTC Guerrillas, Quezon City: University of The Philippines. An edited version appeared in The Philippine Journal of History, June, 1962. Again, there is no mention of Sakakida. In the U.S., author and historian Chris Schaefer has researched the WWII Philippine guerrilla movement. He has dissected Mojica’s account of the events and concluded that if Sakakida was going to be anywhere, he would be in that book because “Terry’s Hunters” was the guerrilla group that assaulted Muntinlupa, the group with whom Sakakida claimed to have been working. Except that no one in that group, or any guerrilla group in the Philippines, has confirmed they ever communicated with or encountered Sakakida as claimed in A Spy In Their Midst.

Sakakida has no verifiable record of passing intelligence to guerrilla groups as he claims. And all the guerrilla groups around Manila have no record of contact with him. He claims to have sent out radio messages to Australia, but through a guerrilla group that did not even have a radio at the time. Archivist James Zobel at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA, wherein reside the files of all wartime messages between the Philippines and MacArthur, has tracked this controversy for years and has never come across any evidence to support Sakakida’s claims that he had any contact with any guerrilla groups or ever passed along any intelligence to MacArthur or Australia. If so, Zobel would know about it. And in Manila, Frisco San Juan, former guerrilla intelligence chief, is on record that Sakakida never collected anything, no intelligence ever, for anyone.

Also, if Sakakida had been involved with the raid/assault in June, he would not have mentioned prisoner Ernesto Tupas dimming the lights, as Tupas was not involved with the June Raid. Tupas dimmed the lights for the August breakout/mass escape. Sakakida says that his “attack” took place in August, in which case he could not have been leading the raid/assault of June 25th. The events of the August breakout/mass escape sprang to life from within the prison when a crowd of some 80 prisoners coalesced around Jaime Neri’s excuse of meeting for choir practice. Then Tupas dimmed the lights and they escaped through a prison door into the night. Sakakida is completely confused. He has merged two events into one, and for good reason – he wasn’t involved with either event. In Manila, attorney James Litton, a survivor of the Battle of Manila familiar with local distances and pre-war geography, notes the logistical improbability of Sakakida slipping out unseen from the old Manila Club on San Marcelino Street before midnight, getting all the way out through the countryside on various roads roundabout to Muntinlupa (a straight-line distance of 15 miles), linking up with the attacking guerrillas in the darkness, personally leading the effort to disarm the prison guards, freeing the prisoners, and then getting back to Manila past checkpoints and sentries and into bed before sunrise and rollcall. Not a single author perpetuating Sakakida’s claims has ever thought to question this time-and-distance impossibility. A last sighting of Sakakida, a day or two after the May 6,1942, surrender on Corregidor, is from Col. Carl Englehardt who writes in 1989 in The QUAN, official publication of The American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, that, “A day or two later, I ran into Staff Sergeant Sakakida near the West Entrance to Malinta Tunnel. Sure enough, he was wearing a Japanese uniform. He hurriedly told me that he had been impressed into the Japanese army because he was obviously of Japanes (sic) descent.” From that moment on, Sakakida is alone in his version of events until wandering back into American hands in September, 1945. However, wartime prisoners like Father Neri encountered Sakakida in courtroom appearances wearing the uniform and sword of a Japanese officer in his role as translator.

Sakakida’s unverified claims were first documented in March, 1955, when he was interviewed by Major Ann Bray for an official history of the Counter Intelligence Corps. That document then became the basis for even wilder claims not described in A Spy In Their Midst as various authors accepted the story without anyone ever checking the facts. Even before publication of Sakakida and Kiyosaki’s book there began an effort within the Hawaii Japanese-American community, with both Senators Akaka and Inouye involved, to award Sakakida the Congressional Medal of Honor for his claims. Lobbying of the U.S. Army and American and Philippine governments began in earnest. Japanese-American newspaper writers and communities elsewhere climbed aboard the bandwagon. On March 15th,1995, Sakakida’s claims were read into the Congressional Record with many submissions of support signed by prominent members of the Japanese-American community in the U.S. All parroted the same fraudulent claims.

Then the U.S. Army turned down the effort with a terse statement in January 1996, ostensibly that time had run out for awarding the Medal of Honor. No further explanation was offered. Instead, Sakakida was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Bronze Star from the U.S. based on the same untruths, and several medals from the Philippine government, including the Philippine Legion of Honor, bestowed in Washington, DC by the Philippine Ambassador in 1994. Although Father Jaime Neri and his ex-guerrilla colleagues had done their part to expose the claims, to date no one has yet published a definitive history of the case and how the fraud was enabled and perpetuated by military intelligence alumni and various writers, authors and politicians. Father Jaime Neri passed away in 1998, ending a singular effort to combat the fraud, but Gustavo Ingles and Frisco San Juan are still alive in the Philippines.

 

Louis Jurika

 

 
"declassified corregidor
 

FOOTNOTES

"Reprinted from the BACEPOW Journal, Beyond the Wire, January 2012 and www.bacepow.net."

The author wishes to acknowledge the research assistance of those mentioned in this article as well as Federico Baldassare and Bonnie Rowan in the U.S., and Dulce Festin Baybay, Waldette Cueto, Leslie Murray, Edgar Krohn, Marisse Ochenada, Ernie de Pedro, Myleen Abrigo, Patrick Parsons, and Peter Parsons in the Philippines.

Stamp image courtesy of Mario Feir/Asian Rare Books, Ricardo Trota Jose, and MacArthur Memorial

The Official Story of Sakakida is contained in the History of the Counter Intelligence Corps Volume XXIII, by Maj. Ann Bray, published in October 1959.  (Web Version | Adobe pdf Version) The contents in as much as they relate to Sakakida only, are based upon an interview of Sakakida by Maj. Bray 18 March 1955.  Maj. Bray appears not to have had prior access to earlier reports upon which a later report was written by James C. McNaughton, Command Historian, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, December 1996. The latter report, a copy of which we have in draft form only,  is not released to the general public in a final form. It notes that Historians and interested persons should treat the 1959 Official version with caution in relation to Sakakida's post-interrogation claims of connections with the Philippine Guerillas, radio messages to MacArthur, and the claims of involvement in the mass jail break. 

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