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Captured wounded, dressed in a Japanese uniform, and wandering alone in the mountains beyond Baguio, American Nisei Richard Sakakida never stood trial for his war services rendered to his Japanese Kempei Tai masters.  Military Intelligence (CIC) imprisoned him at Old Bilibid Prison, and interviewed him, not in a friendly manner, but as an enemy. During the conduct of these hostile interrogations, he entirely failed to point out a number of claims he would  make later in his life - claims of his remarkable works against the Japanese, of his messages sent directly to MacArthur's HQ in Australia, of his role in organizing the mass prison break at Muntinlupa. Things weren't going too well for Sakakida at GHQ.  He was, as they say, "under the gun" for treason.

But GHQ was in a real bind. There were pressures to get the War Crimes Trials going, cells full of Japanese suspects, and a lack of Japanese translators.

The arrival of Sakakida's old pre-war buddy, Art Komori,  would change all this.  Although they hadn't seen each other since before the surrender on Corregidor, and despite Kamori having nothing but Sakakida's own story to go on as to what his friend had been doing since 1942, Komori assured GHQ that Sakakida was loyal and trustworthy.

There were formal reports written, of course, and they remain classified. In 1996, Jim McNaughon, Command Historian at the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center,  viewed them, and wrote a paper which cautions historians against relying on Sakakida's later claims of derring-do, most particularly the sending of messages through the guerilla networks and the prison break at Mintinlupa. He believes that Sakakida remained loyal.     






D E C O N S T R U C T I N G    A    L E G E N D

How is it that one can accuse Lt. Colonel Richard M. Sakakida, wearer of the Japanese uniform 1942-45, an inductee into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame (1988), and nominee for the Medal of Honor, of treason?

A legend is tradecraft term describing the complete cover story developed by an intelligence operative. Sakakida spun a legend to the Japanese, not because he was on an active operation, but to keep himself alive.  Captured by US forces in 1945, he spun another legend to the CIC, telling them that he was working for military intelligence all along.  He built the remainder of his life and professional career around this second legend. But was there any basis in truth for the second legend?

"No," says Parsons, "his work for the Japanese was not a part of any deep or supervised operation. He was operating skin of the teeth freelance, simply keeping himself alive. He did nothing to the benefit of the United States during those intervening years. He participated in trials run by the Kempei Tai, going so far as to heavily strike witnesses. He attended mass executions, the result of trials in which he had played a role. He was  unable to point out the mass grave of a dozen people at a war crime site at which he was a witness, personally present. His memory needed to be jogged by an officer pulling a gun on him and threatening to shoot him on the spot. Is that a man who was bearing true faith and allegiance?"

 "I went back to what he did during WWII and eliminated the clutter by excising everything he said about himself  that wasn't verified by an independent document or arms-length participant. This eliminated from consideration a great deal of what is said in the later books about him. These books rely for their authority upon earlier books, which themselves have only paraphrased what Sakakida had published of himself. It was like popping a balloon," says Parsons, "the only thing left were the shriveled traces of stories. "

"Sakakida was clearly a very persuasive person," says Parsons, "but in the end he was brought undone by his own braggadocio. In embroidering the details of his legend for his brother in law's book, he assumed that no one was left alive who could cast doubts upon him, or who might be motivated to check his facts to the ultimate degree. He was wrong on both counts."  












I had an affidavit signed by Richard Sakakida saying that he was a witness to the execution of my grandmother, Blanche Walker Jurika. This small document was written in Japanese and was amongst my father’s (Chick Parsons’) archival stash. Some time in the early 1980s I had asked Dulce Festin Baybay to research for me whatever she could find about this execution, and to find out where this Sakakida had vanished to.

In the course of her searches she found his California address and wrote him twice asking for any information about what took place in North Cemetery at the end of August, 1944, or even in the earlier “trials.” He never responded to her.

I then wrote a letter to which he replied essentially that, yes, he had witnessed said execution and further that he would have gladly changed places with those prisoners—which apparently he did not do. I wrote him again for more details, but he stonewalled all my efforts to draw further comment from him.

I left this project behind me and went onto research in the mid 1990s the life and work of my own father. This took me to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. While browsing through various files, I decided to see what I could find from the Sakakida material. I put in my request. And waited. Eventually the cart person returned with other items but he told me there was nothing on Sakakida. I squawked, because the stuff was listed; so I was taken to the head archivist.

This person took me into the archives to prove to me that an obvious error had been made. We got to the right section. This was deep in the heart of the holiest of holy places. The man looked up a few shelves, down several, to the left and to the right. He scratched his head.

“Someone wants this file not to be here,” he pronounced solemnly. “It’s definitely not here.”

Fast forward to 2011. I am now part of a fairly large number of people engaged in assisting my cousin Lou Jurika in researching the subject of Richard Sakakida. Lou’s article for the BACEPOW journal, Beyond the Wire, follows. I asked a friendly researcher at NARA, Bonnie Rowan, if she would look for the Sakakida papers—to see if they were still missing.

She replied that they were back in the archives, but it looked like our target did not exist before 1947. Everything earlier was gone. To use my own expression, the papers had been “sanitized.” It seemed to me that someone of immense political power or “pull” had removed the papers for this purpose.

Meanwhile, Sakakida and his brother in law had written/published a biography in which Sakakida claimed to have performed brave, invaluable feats of derring do in Manila.

On the other side of the Pacific I interviewed, once again, for different purposes, several guerrillas, Gustavo Ingles, Frisco San Juan, Manuel de Ocampo—all of them of the Hunters group. To a man they told me that Sakakida had nothing to do with the guerrillas, he did not assist in any way whatever in the planning of the famous escape from New Bilibid (in Muntinlupa) Prison, that he had never passed any information to them for MacArthur’s GHQ. In fact, their only knowledge of Sakakida was that he was a rough “interpreter” for the Kempei Tai, and was known for beating prisoner witnesses if they did not remain quiet and accept the Japanese judicial process.

Cousin Lou very ably puts together a case against the bogus claims of Mr. Sakakida, and I hope you enjoy reading his article as much as I have. I do not want to step on his punch lines or any of his story, so I will end with a parting shot at Sakaida:

To date, I am not aware of other researchers or published authors who have been prepared to leave behind the legalistic weasel-word 'turncoat' and to call Sakakida out for the traitor he was. One could understand this during the time Sakakida was alive, which is one of the valid reasons why the most accurate histories are written after the death of everyone relevant. As a turncoat, Sakakida might have passively conducted his self-serving pro-Japanese activities. A traitor, on the other hand, is a "pro-active" participant for the enemy. Given that the Japanese Army regularly taught brutality to its lower ranks by forcing them to be brutal to lesser mortals, so as to harden them, I cannot accept that Sakakida was not similarly tested and hardened during his unexamined years. The Kempei Tai were Gestapo-like in their ruthlessness, and became all the more so as time progressed, and Sakakida spent his war within that perverted culture.

He was captured by US forces at the end of the war, wandering around north central Luzon with a bullet wound festering in his own gut. He was not “rescued” as he and others would like us to believe. He was captured as an enemy soldier. When he was being “debriefed” (read: “grilled”) in the earliest of CIC interviews with him, he was being questioned as an unreliable, dubious witness. It is interesting that during these sessions he went so far as to say he did not have guerrilla contacts. No mention was made of his having masterminded the Muntinlupa breakout.

I am sure he made these stories up much later to cover up a much more toxic reality, and to further distract interested parties away from the truth.

I am sure that he, while on Bataan and Corregidor as an American soldier, witnessed the mighty Imperial Japanese Army at its best. He experienced perhaps the most punishing artillery and aerial bombardments ever in history! The American side had lied to its troops about assistance being on its way. It’s General had “abandoned” his men. By the time Corregidor surrendered, Sakakida had made up his mind: I look like them; I speak their language; I have been educated like them. I am them. Before the American POWs had been marched to Old Bilibid [which I witnessed, by the way], Richard Sakakida was already in a Japanese uniform. He was already a Japanese soldier, i.e. “one of them.”

He had been content, in his retirement, to lie low in California, but when Dulce Baybay, then I, and then Lou Jurika discovered his existence and his whereabouts—and with Lou actually visiting him in his own home—heaven forbid—he felt it was time to come out with his distracting and highly entertaining as well as self-serving claims to heroism, all of which claims have turned out to be false. The hot breath of researchers was getting close to his neck.

This man’s whole new life as a “hero” was made possible by the single, unsubstantiated statement of approval made by his prewar friend and cohort, Art Komori, who had not seen or known anything of Sakakida since Corregidor days and knew nothing of his activities in occupied Manila. I’m sure he’s OK, says Komori to GHQ. And thus begins the whole new life, the past immediately erased, just as was done years later, literally, at the National Archives.

Richard Sakakida, I name you not only a heartless liar, one who never talked to the survivors of the thousands of executed victims you saw to their graves, but I also call you a traitor; and I only wish you were alive to face these comments in person. You were a traitor to the USA, to the Philippines and even, in the end oddly enough, to Japan.





Sakakida returned to the U.S. Army after the Japanese surrender in the Philippines.  The claims in his 1995 book reopened the issue of what he did for the Japanese.






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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