Hamada of Japanese
Above: WASHINGTON, D.C., January 3, 1946: Brig Gen John Magruder, left, deputy director of the Office of Strategic Services, presents Dick Hamada the Soldier’s Medal for Hamada’s role in Operation Magpie. (Photo courtesy of the Hamada family.)
Hamada, of Honolulu, died in May 2014 at the age of 92. He is scheduled to be inducted in ceremonies in June 2015, according to a letter from Maj. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
Hamada, originally from Kukuihaele on Hawaii Island, was one of about 6, 000 Japanese Americans – Nisei – who served in the Military Intelligence Service in World War II against their ancestral homeland. Hamada was living on Oahu in March 1943 when he answered the initial call for volunteers for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. During basic training in Mississippi, Hamada was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. After intensive training, he was one of a handful of Nisei assigned to OSS Detachment 101. They spent months deep behind enemy lines in Northern Burma conducting clandestine operations, leading native and Allied troops in guerilla raids, gathering intelligence and rescuing downed Allied aviators. Deep in Burma’s jungles, their only supply line consisted of air drops. Hamada was hospitalized twice with malaria and dysentery, encountered tigers, learned how to deal with leeches.
In early 1945, Hamada singlehandedly saved his battalion from being wiped out at the village of Ke Hsi Mansam. Made up primarily of native Kachin troops, the battalion was in the third day of fighting, and Hamada was leading a platoon of Nationalist Chinese troops protecting its left flank. Under intense, concentrated Japanese attack, Hamada’s troops began faltering. He went from foxhole to foxhole, exposed to direct enemy fire, exhorting and rallying his men and manning a machine gun himself. The platoon held and the enemy attack was repulsed. Hamada’s commanding officer, an American, commended his leadership and credited Hamada with saving the entire battalion from “total defeat.”
Following the Burma campaign, Hamada and other Japanese Americans were assigned to OSS Detachment 202 in China. Emperor Hirohito’s August 15, 1945, announcement of Japan’s capitulation immediately raised concerns about the fate of thousands of U.S. and Allied prisoners – military and civilians – still held by the Japanese. Seven OSS teams, each including a Nisei interpreter, were dispatched to parachute into Japanese prison camps in China, Korea and French Indochina. Hamada was assigned to Operation Magpie, parachuting into Fengtai Prison in Peiping (today’s Beijing) on August 17. After a hostile reception and two days of negotiation, the Magpie team secured the liberation of several hundred prisoners, including four of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders and the commander and other survivors of the Wake Island garrison.
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