Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseTakeo Yoshikawa was born in Shikoku, Japan to a policeman. He graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima in 1933 at the top of his class. In the 1920s, he served aboard the armored cruiser Asama and later as a submariner. In 1934, he began training as a pilot, but a severe stomach ailment prevented him from completing the training program. In 1936, he was discharged from the Japanese Navy due to health reasons, and he contemplated suicide for the disgrace. In 1937, he returned to the Japanese Navy, this time as an intelligence officer with the United States and United Kingdom section. His detection of a plain-language shortwave radio transmission noting that 17 British transports near the Crown Colony of Freetown in Western Africa directly led to the German sinking of several of these transports, and for this he received a personal letter of appreciation from Adolf Hitler.
ww2dbaseIn 1940, Ensign Yoshikawa became a junior diplomat after passing the Foreign Ministry English examinations. With this new credential and with the false identity of Tadashi Morimura, he sailed with Japanese Consul-General Nagao Kita on 27 Mar 1941 for the United States aboard the liner Nitta Maru. He rented a second story apartment in Hawaii, United States that overlooked Pearl Harbor. He provided intelligence to the Japanese Navy by taking photographs of ships, recording ship movements, studying American military base security measures, observing bases from the sky in rented small planes, and studying harbor floor by glass-bottomed tourist boats and by diving with hollow reeds as breathing devices. Many of his observations made on foot were done from a teahouse at Aiea Heights and the Shuncho ro restaurant (a geisha house) on Makanani Drive, both of which provided excellent view of the harbor. Although Hawaii had a large population of people with Japanese ancestry, Yoshikawa never made use of this potential resource; he believed that the Japanese-Americans could not be trusted because most of them were loyal to the United States. The intelligence he attained was sent to Tokyo in the PURPLE code used by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, which had been cracked by the Americans, but his messages were never discovered by the United States because messages sent from the consulate in Hawaii was considered very low priority, as most messages were commercial in nature. His report of the double-row typical mooring pattern of American battleships and the usual lack of aircraft patrols to the north of Oahu, Hawaii were both critical in the subsequent attack plans.
ww2dbaseWhen he heard the secret message "east wind, rain" over shortwave radio from Tokyo, which signaled imminent attack, Yoshikawa destroyed all evidence of his espionage activities. On 5 Dec, two days before the attack, he received a direct message asking him whether the American ships were protected by anti-aircraft weapons or anti-submarine nets; his response could have tipped off the Americans about the upcoming attack, but that message was not discovered and decrypted until the day after the attack. Immediately after the attack, when the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation approached him, FBI agents found no signs of foul play. Between Dec 1941 and Mar 1942, he was kept under watch in San Diego, California, United States. Between Mar and Aug, he was placed in a camp in Arizona, United States. He returned to Japan in Aug 1942 in a diplomat prisoner exchange.
ww2dbaseDue to the sensitive nature of his work, Yoshikawa never received recognition for his significant contribution to the Japanese success at Pearl Harbor during the war, though he continued to work for Japanese Navy intelligence. After the war, fearful of American retribution, he went into hiding as a Buddhist monk, returning to his wife and two children only after the American occupation ended in 1952. In 1955, he opened a candy business. In 1960, he told his story to an American audience, and after which he became a scape goat for Japan's participation in the Pacific War. As a result, his business soon failed. Unable to obtain any job, he remained unemployed for the remainder of his life, supported by his wife who was an insurance saleswoman. He was reportedly bitter at everyone except for his family. "My wife alone shows me great respect," he later said. "Every day she bows to me. She knows I am a man of history." He passed away in 1993.
ww2dbaseSources: HistoryNet, Japanese Intelligence in World War II, Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Dec 2009
Takeo Yoshikawa Timeline
|1 Jan 1914||Takeo Yoshikawa was born.|
|27 Mar 1941||Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa arrived at the US Territory of Hawaii aboard the passenger liner Nitta Maru, under the guise of a diplomat.|
|6 Dec 1941||Japanese spy Yoshikawa reported US ship locations in Pearl Harbor; the message was decrypted aboard Japanese carrier Akagi 36 minutes later.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939