Richard M. Sakakida, Manila, 1946
In MIS annals Sakakida's story is unique.
Born November 19,1920 in Hawaii, the youngest of four children of immigrant parents from Hiroshima, he early showed his mettle as an American patriot, excelling in ROTC at McKinley High School in Honolulu and winning promotion to the rank of cadet colonel. Additionally he displayed leadership qualities by serving as president of his Japanese school class. On March 13, 1941, at the age of 20, nine months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was recruited by the U.S. Army Corps of Intelligence Police (CIP) at Fort Shafter, Honolulu, with the rank of sergeant for an undercover assignment.
Secretly dispatched to the Philippines in April 1941, to report on the Japanese community in Manila, Sakakida spent over three years as a covert U.S. intelligence agent even after his capture in May 1942 when he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese. As recounted in his narrative, he was subjected to excruciating torture by the dreaded Kempeitai (Military Police), but he never broke. Indeed he planned and executed a prison break for over 500 Filipino guerrillas. And at war's end when the tables were turned, in a demonstration of moral courage, he forgave his former captors in a face-to-face meeting.
Such courage and grace under extreme pressure demand recognition, and Sakakida has been decorated on several occasions for exceptional services. Among his awards are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Commendation Medal (twice). On July 1, 1988, he was inducted into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. On October 23,1993, he was presented the American Patriot Award by the Japanese American Veterans Association at the MIS National Capital Reunion for services to his country. And on April 15, 1994, in an impressive formal ceremony at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Raul Ch. Rabe decorated Lt. Col. Richard Sakakida with the presidential award, the Legion of Honor (Degree of Legionnaire) "...for exceptional meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding service to the Filipino American Freedom Fighters as a U.S. counterintelligence agent in the Philippines during the period 22 April 1941 to 20 September 1945."
In 1948, Sakakida transferred from the Army Counter Intelligence Corps (successor to the CIP) to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) as a commissioned officer with counterintelligence duties. He served for 34 years until his retirement in 1975, 19 of them on assignment in Tokyo, where he became commanding officer of AFOSI, Japan, responsible for the activities of four detachments with 250 agents throughout Japan proper.
Married on September 25, 1948 to Cherry M. Kiyosaki of Maui, his hobbies and interests while living in retirement in Fremont, California, include traveling and cooking with his wife, gardening, carpentry, and photography.