DICK SHIGEMI HAMADA / 1922-2014CIA forerunner picked 442nd member for service
William Cole / email@example.com
Dick Shigemi Hamada had four major fears serving as a Japanese-American in Burma during World War II.
First was being mistakenly shot by fellow Americans. Second was a mistaken attack by the Burmese Kachin Rangers who he was fighting alongside.
The third fear was tigers, and the fourth was the Japanese enemy.
"Being in a jungle, being that we possess the face of an enemy, I was very much afraid of people that I didn't know," Hamada said in an oral history that's part of the Hawaii Nisei Project at the University of Hawaii.
"I was safe with my people, Americans ... but there are other people that you would run (with) during your campaign that didn't know who you were," Hamada said. "And that was what I was afraid of. I was afraid of being shot by them. So an American always (accompanied) me wherever I went."
Born on Hawaii island to a carpenter father and picture bride mother, Hamada later watched as Japanese planes raced over Moiliili on Dec. 7, 1941.
"I felt betrayed and now feared for the worst to come to all American Japanese," he said in another firsthand account.
Volunteering for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943, Hamada was one of a relatively small number of nisei to be picked for duty with the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He deciphered messages and reported casualty figures to higher headquarters as part of Detachment 101 in Burma, and in 1945 parachuted into Peiping (now Beijing), China, to rescue prisoners of war, including four Doolittle Raiders.
Hamada died at age 92 on May 27. He was a retired planner and estimator supervisor for the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard -- where he had also worked at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks.
Services will be held Sunday at Hosoi Garden Mortuary at 4:30 p.m. Visitation is at 3:30 p.m. He will be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
Hamada's son, Luke, recalled as a child wearing military hats, pinning medals on his shirt and playing with parts of a parachute from his father's service days.
"At that time, I had no idea these childhood 'toys' represented my father's role in U.S. history and his painful memories of World War II," Luke Hamada wrote in a 2001 piece.
Hamada said Wednesday his father never talked much about his service.
"He is a very humble man," and that was part of his Japanese culture, Hamada said.
Hamada's service took a detour into the unconventional world of intelligence gathering and guerrilla tactics when an OSS recruiter looking for Japanese language skills came through Camp Shelby, Miss., where the 442nd was training.
Hamada was among a handful of nisei selected for the program.
According to the CIA, five nisei were sent to China, two to India and seven to Burma.
In Burma, Hamada was instructed to keep a bullet to use on himself if capture was imminent, because "the ultimate torture would be so great, and I'd probably end up dead," Dick Hamada said in the oral history account.
He also learned there was a $20,000 reward for the capture of one of the Japanese-Americans. The OSS promised to provide whatever was requested, within reason, and Hamada asked for and received a .22-caliber pistol with a silencer.
On his first mission he went behind enemy lines in a single-engine aircraft to interrogate prisoners but found there weren't any because the Japanese would shoot themselves, or each other, rather than be captured.
With the help of the Burmese Kachin Rangers, who knew the jungle, the kill ratio was 30-to-1. Hamada estimated there were a handful of Americans among the 200 to 300 Kachin soldiers.
In June 1945 Hamada was sent to China for parachute training and was assigned to Operation Magpie to rescue POWs.
Japan surrendered in mid-August, and although the rescue was a mercy mission, 12 Japanese soldiers with bayonets surrounded the parachuting troops when they landed Aug. 17.
A debate ensued as to whether the war was in fact over, but about 50 POWs eventually were secured, including four Doolittle Raiders who had taken the fight to Japan in bombing raids in 1942.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased