The Last Samurai

(This story is reposted from this page.)

By Ron Laytner
World Copyright 2007
Edit International

BECAUSE OF THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA JAPAN IS CHANGING ITS CONSTITUTION SO IT CAN WAGE WAR. THIS IS THE STORY OF THE MAN WHO CHANGED THE HISTORY OF JAPAN, THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD – THE PEARL HARBOR SPY.

SHIKOKU ISLAND, JAPAN – Takeo Yoshikawa was World War Two’s most famous Super Spy – so successful it ruined his life forever.

For years thousands of Americans who didn’t know his name cursed him. Many Japanese hated him for getting their nation involved in a lost war. Some even blamed him for the atomic bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Yoshikawa, one of the most successful spies in recorded history, has received no awards, no honors, not even a pension from the Japanese government he served so well. When I met him he had no job and lived as a down-and-out on the island of Shikoku south of Tokyo.

The famed spy died in a nursing home in Tokyo, alone and without honors except for his old wife Etsuko who had supported him for years by selling insurance.

He had just turned 70 when I tracked him down through US Naval Intelligence.

“I have been wiped clean from Japanese history,” he complained. “Five years ago when I applied for a pension, they said, “We never heard of you.

“When I told them of my espionage assignment, of the long years working to become an expert on the American Navy and of my dangerous mission in Honolulu they had no sympathy. They told me Japan never spied on anyone.”

No matter how modern Japanese or anyone else feel about it, the Pearl Harbor attack stands forever on the amazing results it obtained.

It was a military feat so daring, so brilliant, so audaciously planned and so successfully carried out that it has been worth a special volume in the annals of warfare.

And the little man sitting before me drinking Saki rice wine, the little man in poor peasant clothing, this broken, old and bitter man, was directly responsible for much of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“Today war is bad,” declared the Master Spy, “War is wrong. But in my day it was good. It was right. I was a true hero of Japan. But look what it has brought me in m old age.”

Hands shaking, he said, “It is so different now. All they do is think about money and winning new markets for Japanese products. There is no honor as before. They do not respect their elders.”

When Yoshikawa was a boy the Japanese Empire was on the march and the death of a young man in battle was in Japanese thinking like the fall of a cherry blossom – which drops to its death at the height of its virility and beauty.

The future spy enrolled at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Eta Jima as a 1929 cadet. It was a brutal school. If anyone made a mistake, their entire class was beaten with bamboo staves. But four years later Takeo Yoshikawa graduated at the top of his class.

Japan expected greatness from him. He served outstandingly on the battleship Asama. He later served in submarines and trained as a top naval pilot. Someday he’d be a captain or an admiral of the Imperial fleet.

But a bad stomach ailment forced Yoshikawa to retire after two years. He was thinking of killing himself when a high-ranking officer offered him a job in Japanese Naval intelligence.

Yoshikawa became an expert on the America Navy. For four years he worked on the America Desk studying Janes Fighting Ships and Aircraft and almost every newspaper, book and magazine about US forces published in the United States.

In 1940 he passed the Foreign Ministry English examinations. Soon he was a junior diplomat. It would be his cover.

While in encryption school, he intercepted an English language radio transmission from Australia advising that 17 troopships were clearing Freetown bound for England. The Japanese passed the information on to Nazi Germany and many ships were wiped out.

Later Adolph Hitler sent Yoshikawa a personal letter of thanks. “It was the only official recognition I have ever received for my war services,” he told me.

In 1941 Yoshikawa received a diplomatic passport and went to Honolulu using the cover name of Tadashi Morimura as a vice consul at the Japanese Consulate.

He found out later that Admiral Tsoroko Yamamoto had prepared a detailed Pearl Harbor attack plan in 1941. “I was a spy in the field without secret inside information,” he said. “But I assumed my job was to help prepare for an attack on Pearl Harbor and I worked night and day getting information.

“The Americans were very foolish. As a diplomat I could move about the islands freely. I often rented small planes at John Rodgers Airport in Honolulu and flew around observing U.S. installations. I never took notes or drew maps. I kept everything in my head.”

As a long distance swimmer he completely covered the harbor installations. Sometimes he stayed underwater for a long time breathing through a hollow reed.

“My favorite viewing place,” recalled Yoshikawa, “was a lovely Japanese teahouse overlooking the harbor called the ‘Shunchoro’. I knew what ships were in, how heavily they were loaded, who their officers were, and what supplies were on board. The trusting young officers who visited the teahouse told the girls there everything. Anything they didn’t reveal I found out by giving rides to hitch-hiking American soldiers and pumping them for information.”

For a while diplomat Yoshikawa posed as a Filipino and washed dishes in the American Naval Officers’ Mess – listening, always alert.

Between his aerial spy flights, harbor swims and dish-washing duties, the geisha girl interrogations and actual vice-consul’s work at the Consulate, he was in a state of continual exhaustion. On top of this he stayed up late every night sending coded messages to Tokyo.

The big day grew closer. Yoshikawa handed a secret Japanese courier who arrived by ship 97 answers to intelligence questions asked by Admiral Yamamoto concerning ships, planes and personnel at Pearl Harbor during the fall of 1941. The Admiral learned, for example, that most ships were at anchor in Pearl Harbor on Sunday – so he planned the attack for that day.

On December 6 the Pearl Harbor Spy sent out his final message: “No barrage balloons sighted, Battleships are without crinolines. No indications of air or sea alert wired to nearby islands. Enterprise and Lexington (aircraft carriers) have sailed from Pearl Harbor.

In Tokyo the message was passed to Admiral Yamamoto who radioed his fleet ‘Vessels moored in harbor – 9 battleships, 3 Class B cruisers, 3 sea-plane tenders, 17 destroyers: entering harbor are 4 class B cruisers, 3 destroyers. All aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers have departed harbor… no indication of any change in U.S. fleet or anything unusual.’

In the darkness 400 miles north of Honolulu Vice Admiral Chichi Agumo received his order to attack – ‘Climb Mount Nitaka.’

Around him 31 ships, six aircraft carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers, several tankers, and nine submarines carrying among them 5 midget subs, surged to full speed. Agumo’s 350 carrier planes would soon be a part of history.

At 7:40 a.am. Yoshikawa was eating breakfast at the Japanese Consulate and still sleepy when, the first bombs began to fall.

“The Consul and I listened to the short wave radio bringing the news from Tokyo,” he said.

They heard a Japanese announcer utter the secret attack code ‘East Wind, Rain’, during the broadcast. This meant Japan had decided on war with the United States revealed the old spy. Not used were other pre-arranged signals which would have called for attacks on England or Russia.

Yoshikawa and the Consul shook hands. The attack was on. They ran into their offices and began burning code books and secret diplomatic intelligence instructions.

“I heard new sounds and rushed outside,” recalled a suddenly reinvigorated Yoshikawa. He put down his wine glass in excitement. “I looked up at the sky and saw a most wonderful sight. Through the clouds a fighter-bomber streaked towards Pearl Harbor and disappeared into black clouds of smoke rising above the base. On its wings were painted the Rising Sun of Japan. Soon the sky was filled with our planes. It was a brilliant attack. We lost just 30 men that day – the Americans almost 3,000.”

Quickly the Consulate was surrounded by hostile crowds and Yoshikawa and the other Japanese employees remained locked inside for safety. At 8:30 a.m. police showed up to protect them until the arrival of arresting FBI agents.

“For ten days we were held prisoner at the Consulate. Then they took us under heavy guard to a U.S. Coat Guard vessel which took us to San Diego, California. In March we were taken to an Arizona relocation camp full of innocent American Japanese. They had done nothing. It was a cruel joke. You see I couldn’t trust them to help me in Honolulu. They were loyal to the United States.”

Later the FBI took Yoshikawa and other diplomats to New York City where they stayed in the Astoria Hotel. Soon they were sent back to Japan in a diplomat prisoner exchange, the Americans not realizing they’d lost the Pearl Harbor Spy.

Yoshikawa had no hero’s welcome back home – nothing official then or ever after. He married and continued to serve in Japanese intelligence.

When the war ended and U.S. troops occupied Japan, Yoshikawa fearing he would be hanged, went into hiding and lived in the country posing as a Buddhist monk. When the Americans left he returned to his wife.

In 1955 Yoshikawa opened a candy business. But the local people knew who he was. They wouldn’t buy from a spy – a spy they believed had caused Japan to lose the war. “They even blamed me for the atomic bomb.” He declared with tears in his eyes.

He might have starved over the years if his loyal wife hadn’t supported him by selling insurance.

“My wife alone shows me great respect,” said the old spy. “Every day she bows to me. She knows I am a man of history.”

Then my last memory of the Pearl Harbor Spy: “I am drinking to forget. I have so many thoughts now so many years after the war… I did my duty. I was a true Samurai. Why has history cheated me?”

– The End –
By Ron Laytner
World Copyright 2007
Edit International

SITTING ON HIS HORSE ‘JONNY’ THE LEGENDARY PEARL HARBOR SPY, TAKEO YOSHIKAWA, SAID “I WAS BORN IN THE DAYS OF THE GREAT JAPANESE EMPIRE WHEN THE YAMATO RACE WALKED TALL ACROSS ASIA AND BOYS WERE DESTINED FOR GREATNESS.” EXCLUSIVE PHOTO COPYRIGHT BY RON LAYTNER, EDIT INTERNATIONAL.

 

SPY, WIFE, HERO – TAKEO YOSHIKAWA, HIS WIFE, ETSUKO, AND HIS LIFETIME HERO, THE BRILLIANT ADMIRAL TSOROKU YAMAMOTO, SUPREME COMMANDER AND PLANNER OF THE PEARL HARBOR ATTACK. EXCLUSIVE PHOTO BY RON LAYTNER FOR EDIT INTERNATIONAL.

 

WATCHING THE NEW JAPAN THROUGH HIS WINDOW, THE OLD SPY SAID: “I AM NOT SORRY ABOUT PEARL HARBOR – ONLY THAT JAPAN HAS NOT HONORED ME. ALL THOSE WHO DIED IN THE ATTACK – ALL THE AMERICANS AND THE FEW JAPANESE TOO – THEY DIED FOR THE GLORY OF HISTORY,” SAID UNREPENTENT JAPANESE SUPER SPY TAKEO YOSHIKAWA, WHO WAS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING JAPANESE FORCES WITH INTELLIGENCE FROM PEARL HARBOR. EXCLUSIVE PHOTO COPYRIGHT BY RON LAYTNER FOR EDIT INTERNATIONAL.

 

“IN MY YOUTH I WAS A SAMURAI. I BELIEVED IN WAR AND DEATH IN BATTLE. I SHAPED HISTORY. NOW I AM OLD AND BELIEVE IN PEACE AND LOVE.” SAID TAKO YOSHIKAWA, THE PEARL HARBOR SPY, BEFORE HIS DEATH. WORLD EXCLUSIVE PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT BY RON LAYTNER AND EDIT INTERNATIONAL.

 

THE MOST EFFECTIVE SPY IN HISTORY TOLD ME HE DRINKS TO FORGET. “JAPAN NOW THINKS ONLY OF MONEY AND HOW TO WIN NEW MRKETS,” HE SAID SADLY. EXCLUSIVE PHOTO COPYRIGHT BY RON LAYTNER FOR EDIT INTERNATIONAL.

 

Japanese Consulate staff photographed few days before the attack. Takeo Yoshikawa is at center of front row. Edit International