The Commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center was presented with a symbolic Japanese gift on Dec. 17, a samurai sword, donated to the Institute by the family of Lt. Col. Richard Sakakida, a Military Intelligence Service officer who served in the Philippines and Japan during and after WWII.
“He was the right person at the right time in Japan. He accomplished so much not only for U.S. forces, but also the Japanese government which didn’t know whom to trust during the rebuilding of their country,” said Brian Shiroyama, a friend of the Sakakida family, who presented the sword to DLIFLC Commandant Col. Danial D. Pick.
“It is a great honor to receive this gift,” said Pick, who explained to Shiroyama that the sword would be mounted above the doorway in the foyer of the headquarters building. ”We are very honored that the family of Mr. Sakakida decided they wanted to donate the sword to our Institute, which is only fitting, because he was a MIS officer and an interpreter.”
Sakakida, who passed away 15 years ago, began his career in military intelligence in March of 1941 when he enlisted in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion in Hawaii as a young high school graduate and heritage speaker of Japanese.
“Sakakida was the first American spy in Manila before the war began,” explained Shiroyama. Sakakida arrived in the Philippines in April of 1941, posing as a young restless man wanting to travel the world by working as a crew member on ships. Manila was just a stopover for him, according to his cover story.
Despite the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December of 1941, Sakakida did not withdraw with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops but stayed on to complete his work and was eventually captured and tortured by the Japanese. He never confessed to being an American spy and was put to work to translate English documents where he continued to collect information for MacArthur as well as organize a prison break that freed some 500 Filipino rebels.
Sakakida continued working in the Pacific after the war as a part of U.S. Forces Japan. His language and culture skills were invaluable to MacArthur’s mission and the Japanese government during a time of sweeping economic, political and social changes. Sakakida received three swords from Japanese families for his service, a gesture of extreme gratitude in Japanese culture.
The details of Sakakida’s story and the secret life he did not reveal until the 1990s, can be found in the book A Spy in their Midst, the World War II Struggle of a Japanese-American Hero, by Wayne S. Kyosaki, Sakakida’s brother-in-law.
Story and Photo Credits:
Story and photo by Natela Cutte, Strategic Communication
Photo Caption: Brian Shiroyama presents a Samurai sword to Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Commandant, Col. Danial D. Pick, from the (Richard) Sakakida family Dec. 17. Shiroyama also presented a book about Sakakida entitled A Spy in their Midst, the World War II Struggle of a Japanese-American Hero. Sakakida was a member of the Military Intelligence Service and served in the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment in the Philippines and Japan during and after WWII.