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  • Chohointachi no sengo: Rikugun Nakano Gakko no shinjutsu
  • Stephen C. Mercado
Chohointachi no sengo: Rikugun Nakano Gakko no shinjutsu. By Saito Michinori. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2005. ISBN4-04-883927-6. Maps. Illustrations. Bibliography. Pp. 263. ¥1600. (Japanese names in this review appear in conventional Japanese order, with the given name following the surname.)

Intelligence history, with key documents burned or classified and old operatives with lips sealed or allegations difficult to verify, is a particularly daunting field. One can only marvel at the persistence of Saito Michinori, a dogged writer who struggled in previous books to shed light on the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) Noborito Research Institute, responsible for developing covert gear and special weapons, and the Yama Agency, the shadowy military counterintelligence organ whose targets apparently included Tokyo's foreign embassies and the famous Sorge spy ring. In his latest work, Saito attempts to illuminate the darkest postwar activities of veterans of the IJA Nakano School for intelligence officers and commandos.

Traversing Japan and even flying to the United States, he pressed survivors of the Nakano School for details on the involvement of veterans in postwar operations of the United States and Japan. Rather than produce a broad study of covert warriors in civilian careers, even those several who reached the top as legislators of the Japanese Diet or as local officials, Saito tried to get to the bottom of persistent stories putting certain "old boys" of the Nakano School in covert operations during the Occupation (1945–52) and at the heart of Japanese intelligence in later years.

The heart of the book, following the introduction and a chapter on certain wartime episodes, is the postwar period. One focus is the Shimoyama Incident, the possible murder of Japanese National Railways President Shimoyama Sadanori in 1949; rumors that Japanese intelligence veterans had a hand in Shimoyama's suspicious death, officially ruled a suicide, and other [End Page 545] possible covert operations of Occupied Japan have repeatedly surfaced in Japanese media over the decades. The author also writes of his efforts to track down leads to stories of Nakano School veterans active in the postwar Japanese military intelligence community, including the Self-Defense Forces Intelligence School and the Cabinet Information Research Office (CIRO).

Having spoken over three years of research with four dozen aging eyewitnesses to the Nakano School and read veteran accounts in memoirs and newsletters, Saito gives the reader fleeting glimpses of Japan's murky postwar intelligence history while failing to pry sufficient information from the survivors to illuminate much of the dark landscape.

Foremost among his finds is the story of Capt. Komata Yozo, who graduated from the Nakano School to lead commando operations in New Guinea before preparing at war's end in Japan for possible guerrilla warfare against the pending Occupation. Following the surrender, according to his writing in a veterans' newsletter, Komata faked his own death, assumed a new identity, and falsely claimed ignorance of English to gain work in late 1945 in the heart of General MacArthur's General Headquarters as a local employee of its Economic and Scientific Section (ESS). There, he surreptitiously read internal documents for four years. Saito, seeking to learn whether Komata had infiltrated GHQ as part of a broader underground plan to monitor the Occupation, ran into the Nakano School's reputation for silence; Komata "brusquely" met his queries with a curt "I know nothing at all about that plan."

While failing to cast light completely on any of the elusive topics pursued, Saito does point to areas of intelligence history little known, if at all, outside Japan. Apart from the suggestion that Japanese officials may have condoned or even run an underground operation against GHQ while offering their cooperation, Saito's account of a Nakano School veteran at CIRO who allegedly learned ahead of the United States of Chinese preparations to detonate their first atomic bomb and his description of Nakano School training manuals recently found are among other points of interest in the unknown history of Japanese intelligence.

Stephen C. Mercado
Springfield, Virginia


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 545-546
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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