It was late in the evening and the Japanese Consulate at Honolulu was deserted except for myself at my desk in the Vice-Consul's office and a bored code clerk waiting down the hall in the radio room to send to Tokyo the message I was working on.
It was a clear tropical night and the taro fronds stirred gently in the breeze outside my window. As I laid down my pencil to glance outside, I could see the coral rock of the consulate drive glimmering faintly in the moonlight down by the gateposts on the palm-lined avenue. And not very far away, I knew, the avenue would be lighted much more strongly by the reflected glare of the spotlights and the overhead are lights that would be illuminating the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on this busy night—the first weekend since the Fourth of July that all nine battleships were in port together. From my office window I could not see the lights of the Navy Yard, but I could picture them in my mind's eye as I could the varied gleams of light across the waters of Pearl Harbor, gleams which meant that 39 U. S. warships were assembled there—only the carriers and a small escort force under Halsey were at sea that night. I knew all this with certainty since my whole being had been dedicated to a concentrated study of the U. S. Pacific Fleet for the last seven years, and since I alone had been in sale charge of espionage for the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor for the last eight months.
It had been a heavy charge and I was conscious of a deep weariness as I turned from the window and resumed work on this message, which was to be the last of a long series I had sent to Tokyo in our diplomatic code. Underneath my desk calendar pad was the radio room's return copy of another message which I had sent earlier in the evening after returning to the consulate from my last visit to Pearl Harbor. I glanced again at this radiogram:
"No barrage balloons sighted. Battleships are without crinolines. No indications of air or sea alert wired to nearby islands."
Picking up my pencil again, I finished the last message:
"Enterprise and Lexington have sailed from Pearl Harbor."
Pressing my desk buzzer for the radio room code clerk, my eye caught the desk calendar and I read 6 December 1941.
In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry immediately passed my final message to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Combined Fleet in his flagship Nagato at Kure Naval Base, whose intelligence staff quickly surveyed my previous reports and radioed an intelligence summary to the Japanese attack force even then closing on Pearl Harbor:
"December 6 [local time] Vessels moored in harbor: nine battleships; three Class-B cruisers; three seaplane tenders; seventeen destroyers. Entering harbor are four Class-B cruisers; three destroyers. All aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers have departed Harbor…no indication of any changes in U. S. Fleet or anything unusual."
Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, commanding the Japanese task force racing toward Pearl Harbor through the moonlit night, received this message on the darkened bridge of his flagship, the carrier Akagi, at 0120 on 7 December. The admiral immediately stepped over to the navigator's plotting table and checked his fix at 400 miles due north of Honolulu. Admiral Nagumo bore a heavy burden. An old man now, and alone with his worries, he had misgivings about this desperate plan from the first. As late as 28 November, two days out of Kure and bound for Pearl, Admiral Nagumo had told his Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, that he feared for the success of the expedition and wished that he had refused the assignment. He must have thought of those earlier doubts then, as he stood on his darkened quarterdeck and looked somberly out over the 31 ships of his command—very heavy in carriers with six of the best, but lightly protected by only two battleships; three cruisers; nine destroyers; and three submarines; with a marginal force of eight tankers to refuel the fleet after the attack.
Since 2 December, Admiral Nagumo had been especially anxious. On that day, six days out of Kure on this great gamble, he had received a coded message from Admiral Yamamoto: "Climb Mount Niitaka."
This was the signal that the Imperial Council had finally decided on war, and the alert that the attack on Pearl Harbor, over a year now in the detailed planning stage, was at last to be executed.
Later on that same day of 2 December, another message from Kure designated the date of the attack: "X-Day will be 8 December" (7 December Hawaii time).
So it was that the last, brief message I was working on alone in my silent office on that far-off night of 6 December 1941 became the final intelligence report on which the Japanese task force commander based the attack on Pearl Harbor. I am a common man and my triumphs in life have been small, but for a moment, at least, I held history in the palm of my hand.
How was it then that I came to Honolulu in the Spring of 1941 as a covert intelligence agent of the Imperial Navy General Staff—the only such agent assigned by our Navy to Hawaii in order to provide the intelligence necessary for the Pearl Harbor attack? It is a long story and one that I have never told before, but I am older now and most of my comrades from those days are dead and the desire is strong within me to add my own story at last to the naval history of that long-ago war.
How does a man begin on a career of espionage, a hard and tortuous path indeed with small reward at the end? For myself, this path led through four years of unremitting, concentrated study of the U. S. Navy in Tokyo before the war, followed by a half-year in Honolulu spying day and night on the American fleet and installations—a half-year of furtive existence in the twilight world of the spy in which all men are enemies and fear walks always beside one. For me the beginning was 7 March 1914, when I was born in the countryside of Onsen County, Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, which lies southeast of Tokyo and is one of the four main islands of Japan.
Let me say that it was something special, in the days of the Empire when the Yamato Race walked tall across Asia, to be born a boy and in Shikoku. The manly virtues were much prized then in Japan, and Shikoku was famed as the birthplace of many famous sea fighters. There was Kono, a great leader in battle against the invading Mongols who gained undying fame in the final Japanese invasions of Korea; Akiyama, staff officer to the peerless Admiral Heihachira Togo in his historic defeat of the Russians at Tsushima; and many others. And I was a boy and born in Shikoku at a time when the Empire was on the march and the death of a young man in battle was still likened to the fall of the cherry blossom, which alone among the flowers drops to its death at the height of its vigor and beauty before age and the passing seasons wither the blossom on the stem.
This was the way it was in the beginning for me. And my father was a policeman then in the days when the police were the imperial law and a proud and respected band. It was thus that as I grew up in the mild and balmy climate of Shikoku, I learned from my father and my teachers the military arts. As a youth, I became a champion at kendo, the rugged stick fencing which was at the time the favorite sport in the armed forces, and before I left high school I could swim eight miles in the choppy sea off our rugged coastline. These things I learned at home, together with a firm and abiding belief in bushido—theunquestioning and absolute loyalty of the samurai—whichwas our Spartan code. Also, then as now, I was a Zen Buddhist. The Zen sect's teachings center around the single concept of self-discipline evolving into loyalty and devotion beyond self; no bad philosophy for a soldier.
So it was that after graduating from the Matsuyama Middle School in Ehime I took the examinations for the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Eta Jima—not far from my home—and entered the academy as a cadet in 1929. At Eta Jima, where I was very happy, my education in bushido was completed. The spiritual center of the Naval Academy—which was patterned after the British Dartmouth Naval School and even built of bricks imported from England—was the academy shrine in which reposed a lock of Lord Nelson's hair and relics of our own Admiral Togo.
I graduated with my classmates in 1933 and we went to sea on a training cruise in the old battleship Asama to several European ports. During the following year, I served in the light cruiser Ura, then flagship of the submarine fleet, and learned something of submarine tactics before transferring to flight training at Kasumi ga Ura in Ibaragi Prefecture late in 1934. It seemed then that qualification as a naval aviator would surely put me squarely on the road to professional advancement. Service in a battleship, with the submarine fleet, and now with the naval air arm had made me the envy of my classmates, but disaster struck a few months after my assignment to flight training.
Coming back from the flight line one day, I was struck with severe abdominal pains and ordered to the hospital with a stomach ailment which was to keep me from active duty from the end of 1934 until 1936, when I was finally retired from the Imperial Japanese Navy as an ensign. My retirement was a great shock, since all my plans and hopes were bound up with the Navy. Even during my long illness, I had occupied myself to the limit of my strength in studies of sea power and naval strategy—I can still quote much of Mahan from those days.
Let me interject at this point that all L Japanese naval officers knew in 1936 that we would someday fight the United States in what would be essentially a naval war. Since the Washington Conference of 1921 had forced on Japan an inferior permissible naval armament ratio of three capital ships to America's five, we had considered the United States an aggressive menace to Japan. In the 1930 London Conference, this inferior Japanese position was again insisted upon by the Americans and British. In 1935, Admiral Sankichi Takahashi remarked in a public speech:
"The American Navy is built with a view to expanding trade. This is America's objective. Japan will do whatever is necessary to make preparations. It is imperative that Japan's trade development be protected by the Japanese Navy. I forecast that Japan's commercial expansion will reach southward to possibly include the Philippines, Dutch East Indies and Australia. The London Conference agreement will break down. This demands that Japan strengthen her commercial and naval sea lanes."
And in 1936, the year the limitations on naval armament had expired, Japan served notice that she would not sign future such treaties and would engage instead in immediate naval expansion.
These developments were, of course, apparent to professional naval officers in the years before 1936. I can recall from my own days at the Naval Academy at Eta Jima and later at sea with the fleet, that we young officers often debated the war with America which we looked upon even then as inevitable. At the Academy, we had been instructed that the Navy stood for southward advance and war against the United States; while the Army stood for northward expansion and war with Russia. For this reason, during the years between World Wars I and II, the Army always sent its most promising officers as military attaches to Moscow; and the Navy its brightest hopes as naval attaches to Washington. Equally, the most important second language in the Army was Russian; in the Navy, English.
This was the intellectual atmosphere of the Japanese Navy at the time I was forced into two years of unwonted physical inactivity as a result of my lingering illness. It was natural then, that I should continue to study my profession—and to concentrate particularly on U. S. naval thought and doctrine. And that was how I came to read Mahan—all of his works, I would suppose—and much else besides on the great fleet across the Eastern Sea which had long engaged our single-minded attention.
As I have said, my retirement was a great blow to all my hopes and aspirations. Since childhood I had been trained to serve my country, and for seven long years I had concentrated all my efforts on mastery of naval subjects and study in depth of our foremost naval enemy.
However, there is always in life the requirement to go on, and so I returned with my shattered hopes to Ehime at the end of 1936 to take up some civilian occupation and rebuild my broken health.
I had not been home for many weeks, however, before I was visited by the staff captain who was personnel officer at the Navy's Regional Headquarters in Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku. As a retired ensign with no prospects, I was of course highly flattered to be visited by this dignitary, who soon came to the point. There was still a place for me in the Navy, he said, if I was able to forego hope of further advancement and return to active duty as an agent in naval intelligence. Shikoku had few attractions for me then, and the naval service drew me still, so I readily agreed to the proposition.
And so I entered the Imperial Navy's intelligence service. I have seen since the end of the war much writing on the subject of our covert operations leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack, and some of this was fanciful in the extreme. Espionage, as I knew it then and as I suppose it still exists, has little to do with mysterious methods of communication, lush lady spies, or single, brilliant coups by individual agents—these peripheral parts of the apparatus exist in fact, but they are far from the heart of the matter. The business itself is a hard and thankless one, based solidly on scholarly research, meticulous observation, and painstaking attention to detail in such an unromantic field as statistical analysis, for example. But let me tell you the way it was in Tokyo in late 1936, the year when extreme expansionists of the Imperial Army murdered the Foreign Minister, Admiral Viscount Makoto Saito; the Army's General Jotaro Watanabe; the Finance Minister, Korekiyo Takahashi; and attempted to assassinate many others in high places, including senior army officers considered by their juniors to be impeding Japan's Manifest Destiny as overlord of Asia. There were dark war clouds gathering then over China, where our troops were in action, and the holocaust was spreading surely into the Pacific where we of the Imperial Japanese Navy would finally meet the U. S. Pacific Fleet.
In Tokyo, I was assigned to the 3rd Division (Intelligence, with a strength of only 29 officers then and throughout most of the war) of the Navy General Staff. This division had four sections, of which the one to which I was assigned dealt exclusively with the U. S. and British Navies and their bases in the Pacific and the Orient. My own work from the start was concentrated on the U. S. Pacific Fleet and its bases at Guam, Manila, and Pearl Harbor. My sole instructions were to study those areas and to become expert on them, meanwhile continuing my study of English which I had started at Eta Jima.
From my initial assignment to the General Staff in 1936, until 1941, when I was finally ordered to Honolulu to conduct the espionage on which the Pearl Harbor attack would be based, I continued my studies with single-minded determination. During the next four years, I alone stayed on the American Desk of the 3rd Division, since my compatriots were active duty officers and came and went on normal tours of sea and shore duty.
I read a vast amount of material in that period, from obscure American newspapers to military and scientific journals devoted to my area of interest. And that was when I first learned that naval intelligence certainly, and espionage essentially, is at bottom an unromantic exercise in research methodology. It is all there if you will only take the trouble to dig for it.
During this period in Tokyo, I studied Jane's Fighting Ships and Aircraft (then as now the bible on naval armaments); devoured the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings and other U. S. books, newspapers, and magazines; and frequently visited the offices of the foreign naval attaches to pick up whatever unclassified brochures or other information on the U. S. Navy might be available. In addition to this mass of seemingly innocuous information on the U. S. Navy and its bases, I had access to the periodic reports of Japanese agents in foreign ports, particularly Singapore and Manila, who regularly photographed U.S. naval ships and boarded them if possible on ostensibly commercial duties to ascertain up-to-date details about changes in armament, configuration, equipment, etc. Finally, I had available the diplomatic reports from our embassies and consulates abroad. In those days, each of our embassies had a naval attaché and in addition, most Japanese consulates in America had language students attached who were actually Japanese naval officers reporting to the 3rd Division through diplomatic channels as did the naval attaches. During the four years in which I collected and analyzed this data on the U. S. Navy and its bases, the 3rd Division also tried to employ both merchant marine crews and shipping agents in American territory to supplement our intelligence, but these projects were never of much value. It appeared that only professional naval officers, or trained espionage agents, could be relied upon for accurate reports in the highly technical field of naval intelligence.
In any event, by 1940 I was the Naval General Staff's acknowledged American expert—I knew by then every U. S. man-of-war and aircraft type by name, hull number: configuration, and technical characteristics; and I knew, too, a great deal of general information about the U. S. naval bases at Manila, Guam, and Pearl Harbor. My previous detailed studies of Mahan's theories of sea power and more recent publications on American naval tactics and strategy served to pull together in usable form my broad knowledge of the U. S. Navy. And so it was that, on a gray, cold winter day at the end of 1939, my chief called me into his office. "Yoshikawa," he said, "you are ready now."
I bowed silently, but I knew that the Captain would before long send me into the field as an espionage agent—and in my heart I rejoiced. This would be the culmination of long years of study and self-sacrifice. Although I was by then 25 years old and had ten years' service in the Navy, I had given no thought to marriage and little to social life since I had first left Ehime so long ago. My whole being was dedicated to the mission on which I would shortly be sent.
During the winter of 1940, I was ordered to take the Foreign Ministry's English language examinations and a few weeks later was appointed as a junior diplomat in the Foreign Ministry. This was my cover, and I worked in the mornings at the Ministry and during the afternoons continued my studies of the U. S. Navy at my home. In August 1940, my chief sent for me again. "Yoshikawa," he said, "you are going to Honolulu as vice-consul. Tension is building up in Hawaii, as you know, and short-wave transmitters can be too easily spotted by radio direction finders. So you will go as a diplomat and report on the daily readiness of the American fleet and bases by diplomatic code. This is the only secure channel of communication left and you will be our only agent. I do not have to tell you the importance of the mission."
"Hai," I replied, in the unquestioning assent of the Imperial Navy.
"We have arranged," the Captain went on, "for a new consul-general to be your chief for this operation. Nagao Kita, a diplomat now at Canton, has been dealing closely with the Imperial Navy on intelligence and other matters incident to our occupation of China. He can be trusted to co-operate with you fully. Kita goes to Honolulu first and you follow. Prepare yourself." I bowed and left the room.
Finally, in April of 1941 all was at last ready, and I left Tokyo for Honolulu with a diplomatic passport under the cover name of Morimura and the courtesy title of Vice-Consul of the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu. I did not at that time expect to return alive and it was with some emotion that I saw Mt. Fuji and the neat, checkered pattern of the Japanese countryside fade under our wing in to the misty distance.
Arriving at Honolulu, my first act was to confer with Consul-General Kita—a bluff, likeable man, a great drinker, and a bachelor with many friends in the Imperial Navy—and assure myself that the Consul-General was a ware of my mission and would not interfere in my use of the Consulate code room for transmission of my messages to Tokyo. I need have had no fears—Kita, although frequently nervous about my presence, was always co-operative.
My second act was to plan my intelligence collection. As a basis for my efforts, I knew that a pan would attack the United States. I knew also that a plan for the attack of Pearl Harbor had been developed by the Imperial Navy about ten years before, and I assumed that my assignment to Honolulu presaged this attack. I did not know that the plan had been formulated in detail in early 1941 by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Combined Fleet and beau ideal of the Imperial Navy; nor that the plan was to be presented to the Naval General Staff in the form of a completed operation plan in August 1941, and tested on the game board at the Naval War College in September. Until 7 December, indeed, I was not to know surely that the attack had been ordered. To entrust knowledge of such a vital decision to an expendable espionage agent would have been foolish. However, my naval training and experience on the Naval General Staff led me to believe that the attack would come off—and probably during the winter of 1941-1942. Accordingly, I decided to concentrate on the operational intelligence which would be of immediate value to the attack force. Of most importance would be the number of ships present at Pearl Harbor at any given time; the number of aircraft present at the airports in the main Hawaiian islands and their dispersal patterns; naval sortie and movement patterns from Pearl; air defense readiness; and reconnaissance activities and security measures mounted against attack.
Another basic decision which I made at this time was to operate strictly alone. As will be seen, I held to this procedure almost entirely throughout the espionage operation. My superiors in Tokyo had cautioned me severely as to the vital nature of the mission, and I was never to find anyone whom I could trust sufficiently to assist me in its accomplishment.
Finally, I had to consider ways and means of collecting the information I required. I was to find, however, that my diplomatic status together with the very large Japanese population of the islands permitted me to move about with remarkable freedom. For instance, I habitually rented aircraft at the John Rodgers airport in Honolulu for my surveillance of the military air fields, and walked nearly every day through Pearl City to the end of the peninsula where I could readily survey the airstrip on Ford Island and battleship row in Pearl Harbor.
Another excellent collection aid I developed stemmed from my boyhood prowess in swimming. I made many observations on underwater obstructions: tides, beach gradients, and so forth while on swimming expeditions along the fine beaches of the Islands.
I also used to stroll through the hills of Aiea beyond Pearl Harbor and on Tantalus Mountain above Honolulu, magnificent vantage points to observe the sorties of the fleet's units. But perhaps my most successful vantage point, and certainly the most pleasant, was the Japanese restaurant known as the Shuncho-ro, which used to be in theheights of Alewa below Aiea. I wonder if it is still there now? On many nights, after I had made my preliminary observations, I would wind up at the Shuncho-ro in a little Japanese-style room, grateful to be sitting on the rice-straw tatmi mats again and talking once more with a geisha. I never disclosed my identity or purpose to the functionaries at the restaurant, but always insisted on a room with a view of the harbor. At nights, with the lights blazing, it was a magnificent sight indeed, and at first light and dawn when the sorties usually began, I gained much useful information on ships present and deployment patterns. From the geisha, too, who would have been entertaining U. S. personnel earlier in the evening, I occasionally gleaned small bits of information—never with their connivance, however. It would have been too risky to confide in a woman, and, besides, the Japanese population of Hawaii we found essentially loyal to the United States.
This last was an interesting point, I think. When I arrived at Honolulu, the very numerous Japanese residents (in 1941,83,000 persons of Japanese ancestry lived on Oahu alone, within an hour or two by automobile of Pearl Harbor or Schofield Barracks, and another 77,000 were scattered throughout the outer islands; of this total, some 35,000 were still Japanese subjects on 7 December 1941) had dual nationality under Japanese law and many of them were coming to the consulate to renounce their Japanese nationality. I made it a point to handle these cases in order to study the Hawaiian Japanese, and in addition attended numerous Buddhist religious meetings at which I was able to meet many of their community leaders. However, those men of influence and character who might have assisted me in my secret mission were unanimously uncooperative, and the few prospects of lesser attainments I uncovered all appeared too unreliable for a mission which was a matter of life and death. If not untrustworthy, the possible recruits were of no more potential value than a Nisei girl who once told me, in a desire to be helpful, information concerning the Diamond Head batteries. But this was all known to me before leaving Tokyo and merely served to underline my conviction that I would have to go it alone in order to uncover usable operational naval intelligence in Hawaii. Another factor preventing my use of Hawaiian Japanese as agents was, of course, the possibility of their close surveillance by the U. S. military.
All of this was the more disappointing to me since there was at the time a very distinct residue of Japanese culture among Hawaii's Japanese and certain loyalties still remained. For example, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines still flourished and there were influential Japanese language press organs and schools in the Islands. Also, considerable funds were still being raised in Hawaii for the assistance of the Japanese forces in China and the Imperial Army's relief fund. With this background, and a predominantly Japanese-manned fishing fleet operating up to 500 miles offshore from Honolulu, I had held high hopes of Nisei cooperation when I was first assigned to Hawaii, but these hopes never came to fruition.
However, with all of my various sources of information, plus the local newspapers and radio—both of which habitually carried a very large volume of news concerning the U. S. forces in garrison—I was able to send a constant series of messages to Tokyo from April to December, 1941. The key information was always the number and type of ships present at Pearl Harbor and the number and type of aircraft present at the various Island airfields, but other factors also received considerable attention. For one thing, I was always concerned about the possible efficacy of barrage balloon defense of the Harbor and approaches and reported on various stages of the preparation of such defenses—which were begun but not completed before the attack.
Other items of major interest to me at the time, all of which I reported on as a matter of routine, were: the use of the Lahaina anchorage, the location of the Islands' fuel and ammunition depots, and fleet dispositions within Pearl Harbor. As an instance of the last category of intelligence, I was able to ascertain from my Pearl City strolls that the battleships were often moored in pairs-making torpedo attacks against the inboard ships ineffectual. This report caused a strong emphasis on dive-bombing with specially built bombs evolved from 16-inch armor-piercing shells during the attack.
And so it was that as I sat in my office in the consulate late on the still evening of 6 December writing the message which was to be the last intelligence report received by Vice Admiral Nagumo before the attack early the next morning, I did not know the precise date of X-Day. And yet, I knew that the date was rapidly approaching. Consul-General Kita and I had been informed on 24 September by a message in diplomatic code from Tokyo that the emphasis on my reporting must be placed henceforth on items of immediate tactical significance. I recall that from this point on, I was required to break down reports of ships present into certain area location categories (Area A being the locality between Ford Island and the arsenal; Area B, the waters south and east of Ford Island; Area C, East Loch; Area D, Middle Loch; and Area E, West Loch and the routes of communication thereto).
Ten days before the attack, Kita and I received a certain indication that the moment of X-Day was not far off. On that day, Lieutenant Commander Suguru Suzukinow Rear Admiral, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and then the youngest lieutenant commander in the Imperial Japanese Navy arrived in Honolulu in the Japanese liner TaiyoMaru. Disguised as a ship's steward, Suzuki called on Consul-General Kita and, in the course of their conversation, slipped a tiny ball of crumpled rice paper into Kita's hand. After Suzuki's departure, Kita passed the paper to me and I was confronted with a list of 97 detailed questions. Among them I recall even now the following questions and answers:
Q—This is the most important question—On what day of the week would the most ships be in Pearl Harbor on normal occasions?
Q—How many large seaplanes patrol from Pearl at dawn and sunset?
A—About ten both times. (I had prepared to answer this question through many nights of lying on the Consulate lawn at dawn and sunset, the usual patrol launch and return times, and observing the numbers and directions of the patrolling aircraft.)
Q—Where are the airports?
A—(For this question, I was able to provide a map with every detail, plus aerial photographs which I had taken from commercial aircraft as late as 21 October, and considerable structural detail on the hangars at Hickam and Wheeler Fields.)
Q—Are there antisubmarine nets at the entrance of Pearl Harbor?
A—Probably—not known and probable type not known. (For this question, I had taken many risks, disguising myself as a Filipino laborer—unshaven, barefoot and in an aloha shirt—and attempting on several occasions to walk to the harbor entrance. I was always challenged, and once nearly shot, by a sentry. There were also electrified fences and barricades which made reconnaissance of the harbor entrance very difficult.)
Q—Are the ships fully provided with supplies and ready for sea?
A—They are not ready for combat; loaded with normal supplies and provisions only. (This I could answer from my daily walks about Pearl City, from which peninsula I could readily identify any unusual movement of lighters or other activity which would indicate provisioning for combat.)
Q—Each week, the fleet goes to sea. Where do they go; what do they do; particularly aircraft carriers?
A—Mostly unknown. (I had often picked up sailors in my car, and talked with personnel of all services in the bars of Waikiki to investigate this matter, but never succeeded to any extent. However, I was able to provide part of this information from my many conversations with American servicemen, and a larger part from spending the nights at the Shuncho-ro restaurant beyond Pearl in the heights of Alewa. The ships were lighted at night and visible in the dawn and I could determine the directions of the sorties, at least. Also, from watching the harbor so closely, I could identify arrivals and departures, new tactical groupings, etc., and was able to give some of the background information necessary to answer this question partially.)
Well, as I said, I received the 97 questions from Kita. That same day, I delivered the answers to most of them, and also maps, sketches, and photographs on which to base the attack to Kita who passed them on to Suzuki on board Taiyo Maru. We knew then that things were building to a climax and that my work was almost done.
The final indication of the imminence of the attack came when I was ordered by Tokyo to report on the ships present in Pearl every three days instead of at least once a weeks and now, at the last, every day. so it was that as I sat at my desk in the darkened Consulate building in Honolulu late in the evening on 6 December, I knew that the message I was working on might well be the last which the Japanese attack force commander would receive before the attack. And so it proved to be.
After giving the message, " Enterprise and Lexington have sailed from Pearl Harbor," to the waiting code clerk for encryption into the diplomatic code and transmission to Tokyo, I strolled about the Consulate grounds before turning in as was my custom. The bright haze in the distance indicated that the lights were on at the Pearl Harbor naval base, and I could hear no pa trolling aircraft aloft. It was a quiet Saturday night and all seemed normal, so I finally turned in and slept restlessly until morning.
And that morning, of course, was 7 December. I was at breakfast at 0755 when the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor. Still somewhat befuddled by my late work on the previous night, I thought it probably a maneuver, but rose and switched on the shortwave radio. By then, more bombs were falling and black smoke was clearly visible, hanging in a pall over the harbor. Consul-General Kita hurried in and we silently listened to the 8 o'clock news on Radio Tokyo. It was a broadcast of routine news, except that inserted in the narration was a single phrase, twice repeated, which told us that the Imperial Japanese Navy had attacked Pearl Harbor.
"East wind, rain," the announcer had carefully enunciated during the weather forecast. That meant that the imperial council in Tokyo had decided for war with the United States—"North wind , cloudy," would have meant war with Russia; and "West wind, clear," war with Britain. Kita and I stood up immediately, walked to the Consul-General's offices and began burning our code books and secret diplomatic and intelligence instructions.
The increasing crescendo of explosions and the occasional wail of a passing siren in the distance told us that we had little time and we worked feverishly as we finished our task. The only interruption a t first was the arrival of a Nisei acquaintance of ours, a reporter on a Honolulu newspaper, seeking a story on the outbreak of war. I sent him away, and as I accompanied him to the gate I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Japanese Navy dive bomber with its red Rising Sun insignia streaking into the dense smoke clouds now rolling towards the city from the harbor. And I noted also that the Consulate was surrounded by volunteer soldiers.
It was about 0830 when the police came and herded us all into the Consulate's offices under guard, and the FBI arrived to search our offices and living spaces for evidences of espionage. Except for a half-finished sketch of Pearl Harbor, forgotten in my waste basket, nothing incriminating was found and this one item of evidence was doubtless disregarded as a result of my diplomatic status.
After about ten days of confinement in the consulate, the staff was taken to a U. S. Coast Guard vessel at the Honolulu docks and thence to San Diego for eventual repatriation via Gripsholm in August, 1942.
As for me, I returned to duty with the Third Division of the Naval General Staff in Tokyo and finished the war as a staff intelligence officer. When the war ended, I went home to Ehime—my years of naval service ended at last.
Looking back on my covert intelligence activities in Hawaii before the attack, I would like to set the record straight on one or two matters which have been misleadingly presented in other places since the war. First of all, let me re-emphasize that I worked alone on naval intelligence in view of the secrecy of the mission; and that my reports alone formed the basis of the Naval General Staff's intelligence estimates, for the excellent reason that the only reliable communications between Honolulu and Tokyo were provided by the Consulate's radio room with its diplomatic code facilities.
The rendezvous with Lieutenant Commander Suzuki from Taiyo Maru was one of only two deviations from my pattern of lone operation. The other was a contact with a German who lived on a large plantation on the windward side of Oahu—near Kaneoheand whose name, or cover name, was Karama as I recall it. On direct orders from Kita, I met with him a t his home on several occasions and discussed the development of a plan for continuing naval intelligence reports to Tokyo after the attack, when the Japanese would all have been repatriated to Japan. I gave Karama a considerable sum of consular funds and arranged with him a method by which he could signal to Japanese submarines off the windward coast by blinking his automobile headlights from various promontories on that then-deserted shoreline. Karama subsequently attempted to execute this plan, was trapped by American intelligence, and sent to prison for espionage.
I have read and heard since of various other individuals who were said to have conducted espionage for the Japanese government in Hawaii on single and diverse missions, but I knew nothing of their activities at the time. One such agent reportedly was Dr. Motokazu Mori, a Honolulu dentist and husband of the Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun's Hawaii correspondent, who reputedly provided intelligence during telephone calls to the Tokyo Yomiurz ostensibly concerned with news. I do not know a bout this, but I am sure that the rumor that after the attack a Japanese agent signaled the attack force from the mountains beyond Pearl was false. Once the attack was committed, there was no need for messages from the shore. I am also certain that there was never communication between Japanese agents ashore and the task force at sea before the attack—this would have necessitated the use of short-wave radio, which could have been readily detected by American radio direction-finders and given away the plan. As for the many rumors current in Hawaii after the attack to the general effect that the Nisei had assisted the Japanese task force by cutting arrows in the cane fields, signaling by flashing lights and so forth, these have all been disproved since the war during the many investigations of the attack by U. S. agencies.
Another point I would like to make in retrospect is that there was no co-ordination of intelligence collection between the German-Italian, and Japanese Consulates at Honolulu. The intelligence I was sending to Tokyo was of immediate operational interest and too sensitive to exchange with other nationals. Of course, there must have been some exchange of this information in Tokyo at the foreign ministry level, but I have no knowledge of it.
I did though, have occasion to receive a letter of appreciation from Adolf Hitler for a routine intelligence mission which I performed before going to Honolulu. While on the staff in Tokyo, I intercepted a shortwave radio broadcast in plain English from Australia which stated that 17 transports with Australian troops had cleared Freetown for England. I passed this message to the German Embassy and subsequently received the thanks of Der Fuhrer. But nothing of this nature occurred in Hawaii.
As I have said, my own covert intelligence activities owed little to mysterious techniques and much to the basic scientific methods of research, observation, and statistical analysis. Also, my modus operandi was to conduct my field trips without photographs or sketches whenever possible. I preferred to carry the details of installations I observed in my head until I returned to the Consulate, where they were transcribed directly into the diplomatic code for reporting to Tokyo. An unfortunate omission here was my retention of the Pearl Harbor sketch which might well have ended my mission unsuccessfully if discovered before the attack by the FBI.
And that is the story of my espionage activity in Honolulu before the Pearl Harbor attack. It is my hope that in telling it now I will harm no one still alive, and perhaps contribute something to the naval history of the war in the Pacific.
Well, I am older now, and dwelling more in the past as the years go by. Some things certainly are ordained. And so it was that I who was reared as a naval officer never came to serve in action but look back on my single top-secret assignment as the raison d’être of the long years of training in my youth and early manhood. In truth, if only for a moment in time, I held history in the palm of my hand.