MILITARY JOURNAL ONLINE ISSUE #1

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Japanese Officer Led a U.S. Air Strike Against His Own Troops

 

 

From The Star, 20 January 1976

 


 

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Turncoats have gone down in shame in every nation's history books.

 

Yet, few were as honorably motivated as Lt. Minoru Wada, a World War II Japanese POW who voluntarily led a U.S. air strike against his own troops for what he called "ultimately humane" reasons.

 

In mid-1944, Lt. Wada directed the lead bomber in a huge force of U.S. Marine Corps aircraft in an attack on the 100th Japanese Division headquarters, totally wiping out the target.

 

The raid effectively neutralized Japanese strength in Mindanao, the Philippine Islands, according to aerial warfare historian Martin C. Caidin.

 

Caidin, a dean among international air war historians, said:

 

"It was one of the war's strangest incidents, as this prisoner-officer voluntarily led a U.S. force of PBJ Mitchell bombers and F4U Corsair fighters directly to his divisional headquarters. The result of the raid all but wiped out Japanese effectiveness in the campaign.

 

"The U.S. Marine fliers pounded the headquarters and billet area with fragmentation bombs, napalm, rockets, and heavy machine gun fire. The area was devastated."

 

Details of Lt. Wada's involvement in this incident, plus information about the raid itself, are still smoothered in security, even today - more than 30 years later.

 

However, this much is known:

 

"Lieutenant Wada was apparently a highly-rated intelligence officer with the Japanese 100th Division, a crack unit activated in Mindanao early in 1944. Their mission was to stop the U.S. advance at all costs," according to William Flynn, now a university professor and formerly a Marine intelligence officer who served in the Pacific Theater.

 

Flynn continued: "Our people went right after the 100th, hitting it hard with artillery and air strikes, before they could get organized and into the ballgame.

 

"But we needed a knockout punch. We needed to locate their headquarters - their glass jaw, so to speak. That's where Minoru Wada came in like a gift from Heaven."

 

Wada was an idealistic young man. He was a sharp intelligence officer with the 100th Division.

 

Flynn interviewed Wada after he became a prisoner of war at the time and found that the Japanese officer was discouraged with the direction of the war.

 

"Several times, he told us he had never been convinced his country should have started the global conflict they did. He was sick about the prison camp situations both In Germany and in those countries controlled by his people.

 

"He told us he would do anything, even sacrifice his own life, to stop the war and bring ultimate peace to the people on the Japanese home islands."

 

According to Flynn, Wada said: "The generals and admirals, the old, tough military, forced this war on the people. The common Japanese person does not want war. What can I do to end it?"

 

The only thing Flynn was skeptical about was the way in which the Japanese officer had been captured.

 

"I wasn't sure if he'd actually been caught in a legit fashion or if he let himself be taken prisoner. He surely was anxious to get the war over. He really felt strongly about that.

 

The 'Mud Marine S-2' [a ground forces intelligence officer] didn't waste any minutes getting this Japanese officer up to us. The rest was easy, after we were sure he wasn't nuts or trying to lead us into a trap. We suggested the raid. It wasn't his idea.

 

"We got the idea of destroying their chain of command by crushing the 100th Division, making a helluva lot of troops homeless. We put the idea to him of being a pathfinder for a bomber raid.

 

"At first he was horrified at the idea of killing his own people. Then, he began to see the value of killing a few persons to save the lives of so many thousands of innocent soldiers - Japanese and American."

 

In a way, Flynn noted, Wada's decision was based on the same logic which later led President Harry Truman to order the atomic bombs to be used against two Japanese cities.

 

The Japanese POW agreed to direct the raid from the lead aircraft.

 

"As Lt. Wada didn't speak English, we obtained a flier with Japanese language capability, then mounted the mission. USMC Gunnery Sgt. C. T. Imai acted as interpreter for Minoru Wada, who directed the pilot of the lead bomber to the specific target area. The lead B-25 was flown by Maj. M. H. Jordan."

 

The mission involved the famed Mitchell B-25 bombers which had been recently commissioned in the USMC as the PBJ, accompanied by four squadrons of F4U Corsair fighters, at the time the fastest fighter aircraft in the Pacific.

 

According to intelligence estimates, the headquarters units of the 100th Division were squeezed into the mountains near the Kibaw-Talomo Trail, in Mindanao's Davao area. Only Lt. Wada, however, knew the exact location of his unit among the rugged hills and tangled jungles below.

 

He led the way without error - and right on target.

 

"Major Jordan is supposed to have told the debriefing officers after the raid: 'The Japanese officer put us zero on the target and we did the rest ... maybe overdid it.' The after action recon photos showed the raid destroyed their command capability," Flynn noted.

 

"What was left of the Japanese divisional headquarters became stragglers, which meant the end of that unit as a fighting element. That surely shortened the war in our area."

 

A hero in one camp and a traitor in the other, Minoru Wada became an outcast, a man without a country.

 

Yet, he was happy, according to Flynn, because he had accomplished what he counted as important in his life - a major contribution to the end of the war.

 

From that point on, Minoru Wada became a new person, with a new identity and appearance to protect him from his past.

 

Where he is today, if he is alive, and any other facts about Minoru Wada are not known.

 

Today, more than 30 years after it happened, the saga of Minoru Wada remains tightly classified and the entire incident simply does not exist in the war records of the U.S. Marine Corps—officially, that is.

 

* * *

 

After receiving the above article from a contact not long after it was originally published, I contacted the U.S. Marine Corps about this incident and they provided the following seven official U.S. Marine Corps photos. The captions are those provided with each photo.

—Ray Merriam

 

001_040505.jpg (205577 bytes)

The prisoner of war, Second Lieutenant Minoru Wada, is taken into custody of Lt.Col. L. F. Maybach prior to being turned over to Marine officers. Lieutenant Wada had voluntarily offered to lead Marine fighters and bombers to the long-sought headquarters of the 100th Japanese Division still operating on Mindanao. He is a graduate of the University of Tokyo and the Military Academy of Kyushu, and in his experience as transport officer knew the target area well. 1st Marine Air Wing, Mindanao, Philippine Islands, 10 August 1945. Photographer: Lt. D. D. Duncan. Marine Corps photo #130966.

 

002_040505.jpg (191346 bytes)

Sergeant Charles T. Imai, right, interpreter, explains to the 1st Marine Air Wing fighter and bomber pilots the nature of the target as described by the Japanese prisoner of war, Second Lieutenant Minoru Wada. Major Mortimer H. Jordan, the air strike coordinator, stands on the left, checking the information which Wada has already given him. Marine Corps photo # 130971.

 

003_040505.jpg (208812 bytes)

Japanese prisoner of war, Second Lieutenant Minoru Wada, describes in detail the nature of the country surrounding the target for pilots of the 1st Marine Air Wing. Major Mortimer H. Jordan, left, air strike coordinator, and Sergeant Charles T. Imai, right, interrogator, look on. Marine Corps photo #130972.

 

004_040505.jpg (227497 bytes)

Added to the Manifest: Major Sidney Groff, right, B-25 pilot, adds the name of the Japanese prisoner to the manifest for that day's bombing mission against the headquarters of the 100th Japanese Division. Marine Corps photo #130973.

 

005_040505.jpg (217026 bytes)

Second Lieutenant Gordon Growden, Marine Corps combat correspondent, interviews the Japanese prisoner of war prior to take-off on the bombing mission against the prisoner's former headquarters and commanding general who had taken refuge in the mountains. This is the first recorded time that such material assistance has been given to our forces in the Pacific Theater. When asked about treatment of prisoners, Lt. Wada expressed delight in the food and consideration given. He and many other prisoners who had been interviewed claimed that not one Japanese prisoner of war would try to escape even if the gates were open and unguarded. Marine Corps photo #130974.

 

006_040505.jpg (187239 bytes)

En route to target: The air strike coordinator, Maj. Mortimer H. Jordan, left, follows the information given by Japanese prisoner of war Second Lieutenant Minoru Wada, to lead the bombing strike in the general vicinity of the target area. Marine Corps photo #130975

 

007_040505.jpg (191750 bytes)

In the waist of a Marine Mitchell bomber Japanese prisoner of war, Second Lt. Minoru Wada, scans the mountains below, picking out landmarks that will aid him on leading other Marine bombers and fighters over the target. Major Mortimer H. Jordan, air strike coordinator, has moved forward into the nose of the bomber to take command immediately as the target is pin-pointed. Marine Corps photo #130976.
 


 

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