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Master Sergeant Tadashi Kishishita

Interrogation Team, Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Cavalry Division

The sun beats down on the sweltering Korean peninsula as four men squat down low near the Naktong River in a cotton field. Three Americans and one North Korean; three soldiers and one reporter. United Press reporter Horace Dasher "Doc" Quigg, Jr., assigned to cover the unfolding war in Korea, was accompanied by Captain William J. Cochrane and Sergeant Tadashi "Ted" Kishishita as well as a North Korean regular, freshly captured. Looking off into the distance, one could see the dip of the shore towards the wide, muddy waters of the Naktong and beyond that the far shore, surely flooded with the North Korean 'Reds.' 

Kishishita's prisoner was a sorry-looking man of twenty years, with a shot-up hand and maggots gnawing hungrily away at a sore on his arm. He had 'cropped black hair, was bare-waisted chested, and wore long white pants and black, semi-pointed oxfords.' Kishishita, a Nisei and US Army translator began his interrogation in Japanese but upon realizing the North Korean did not understand it, he called over an old, bearded South Korean man to act as an intermediary, gathering information in a daisy-chain of intelligence gathering. Supposedly, he had dumped his weapons and ammo before crossing the river, but Sergeant Kishishita had heard it all before.

"I've questioned about 60 prisoners, and practically all of them tell the same stories like that," he said, being quoted by Quiggs. "We picked up a well-educated North Korean guerrilla the other day and he said the youth of North Korea is practically cleaned out. Yesterday, we picked up nine prisoners. All had been shot. They said their platoon leader had shot them from the rear when they were scared to go into battle."

Tadashi "Ted" Kishishita was born on December 6th, 1919 to Yozo and Koshina Kishishita on Terminal Island, California. Kishishita was a Nisei, a term used to refer to ethnic Japanese born in countries outside of Japan and translates to 'second generation' as well as a Kebei, which refers to those who studied in Japan for three or more years. Terminal Island is located in Los Angeles and starting in 1906 housed a robust Japanese fishing community in the Snake Island section of Terminal Island. This community was relatively isolated from the rest of Los Angeles and developed its own dialect called "kii-shu ben” which merged English and the Japanese dialect used in parts of modern-day Wakayama Prefecture. His parents emigrated to the United States from Wabukayama in Wakayama Prefecture in 1929. They settled on Terminal Island where they established a father-and-son chicken-raising business to support the fishing industry. On Kishishita's WWII draft card, he listed his occupation as a chicken sexer, helping to grow his family's chicken stock. He registered for the draft on July 1st, 1941, months before World War II began and the Japanese population of Terminal Island would be forced to relocate to internment camps. Between July 1941 and 1944, he relocated to Cullman, Alabama, and married a woman, one Melba Phillips, on June 26th, 1943. At the time, he was working as a chicken sexer but by 1944, he'd be inducted into the US Army.

Kishishita was assigned to Fort Snelling, MI as an intelligence analyst, helping to break Japanese encryption with the Military Intelligence Service Language School. The school produced trained, educated, and ready translators and analysts for the war effort, including Kishishita. By the end of WWII, Kishishita had risen to the rank of Technical Sergeant and was an instructor at the school, likely as a language instructor. The role of the Fort Snelling Japanese-American language analysts and instructors helped America break Japanese codes and allowed for a quicker end to the war. In 1946, he reenlisted in the army, eventually being sent to Japan prior to the breakout of the Korean War where he served as the chief of the interrogation team of 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters, providing vital language and interrogation skills.

The Banks of the Naktong

In the early morning hours of June 25th, 1950, the North Korean People's Army invaded South Korea, smashing through the 38th Parallel with armored columns, driving hard for Seoul. The 1st Cavalry Division, operating as an infantry division since World War II, was the third American division deployed to support South Korea. Prior to their deployment, they transferred roughly one-third of their total strength to the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, which went to Korea first. 

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