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Additional Resources for you to Explore
The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the U.S. Army was formed a month before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States military had already seen the importance of having military personnel who were fluent in Japanese language and customs, and started recruiting and training soldiers at the Military Intelligence Service Language School in deciphering Japanese codes, and interpreting and translating Japanese military documents. Because of their familiarity with Japanese language, the MIS was almost exclusively made up of Nisei linguists--Japanese-Americans soldiers. They would be critical in interpreting and translating intelligence information on the Japanese military units garnered from captured documents--the specific units, their officers, and locations during the war. Some MIS soldiers were on the front lines and acted as interrogators of Japanese prisoners to gain further information on Japanese military units in the Pacific. They also interpreted and gathered intelligence from diaries taken from dead Japanese soldiers. Additionally, they created and publicized propaganda material to the Japanese soldiers in an effort to convince them to surrender. Of particular importance to the MIS, were the kibei (kee’-bay), who were Nisei born in the United States, but were sent back to Japan as children for education. They were especially adept at the Japanese language and culture, and some of them became teachers in the MIS language school. The MIS remained a secret operation for three decades, and not until the mid-1970’s were the MIS files declassified for public knowledge. So important were their accomplishments in the war in the Pacific against Japan, that President Harry Truman referred to the MIS as “the human secret weapon”. Visit this site to find out more about the legacy of the Japanese American Veterans of World War II and read the presidential citation given to these veterans for their service to their country.

You can watch the video interviews of Harry and Ken Akune via the Densho Digital Archives.

(You’ll need to log on as a guest and use the Search function to find “Harry Akune”.) This will lead you to the set of interviews of Harry and Ken Akune. They provide details of their experiences as soldiers, as well as, their issues dealing with discrimination and national identity.

Further searching will lead to other Japanese-American soldiers, their interviews and experiences during the war. Watch the interviews and learn!

The documentary movie, MIS: Human Secret Weapon, was released in theaters in 2012. The movie’s website provides some background information, archival photos, and video snippets.

It was not uncommon for Japanese-American families to be divided by the war. Another well-publicized set of brothers was the Oka Brothers. There were seven of them, all born in the United States, all American citizens. Five would go on to fight for the United States, two for Japan. You can read the article and watch a short video of Don Oka, one of the brothers who fought for the U.S. You can also find video interviews of Don Oka on the Densho Digital Archives site.

Japanese-American soldiers were heavily involved in the European theater during WWII, most notably the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, segregated units of Japanese-American soldiers. Their famous motto was “Go For Broke” and they earned the distinction as being the most decorated military unit of its size in U.S. history. Much has been written and shown of their accomplishments. You can read about their exploits here.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed by President Ronald Reagan to redress the wrongs done by the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. The act provided monetary compensation to surviving Japanese-Americans and their families who were interned during the war. You can watch President Reagan’s speech and learn about this act.