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Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators, and Interpreters in the Pacific War Hardcover – July, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; 1st edition (July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591142113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591142119
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Roger Dingman was educated at Stanford and Harvard and was professor of history at the University of Southern California for thirty-six years. He and his wife divide their time between Harbor City, CA, and Glade Park, CO.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joel R. VINE VOICE on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The inside cover of "Deciphering the Rising Sun", by Roger Dingman, succinctly summarizes the book by stating "This book is the first to document the vital role played by Americans not of Japanese ancestry who served as Japanese language officers in World War II." It continues "This book reveals an exciting and previously unknown aspect of the Pacific War and demonstrates the enduring importance of linguistic and cross-cultural knowledge within America's armed forces in war and peace." The book was fully successful in living up to these goals.

I am always fascinated with the foresight America had in preparing for World War II months or years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dingman opens the book by examining the efforts "to try and remedy an importance deficiency in the Navy and Marines Corps' readiness for war" by increasing the number of officers who were truly fluent in Japanese. So, in October 1940, the United States began the effort to train hundreds of officers in Japanese almost a full year before the Day that lives in infamy. What follows is the fascinating saga of how the United States ended up with language schools on both coasts, and finally at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Dingman next captures the memoirs of the students as they went through the demanding curriculum of the language school. These stories not only cover the technical aspects of learning the seemingly indecipherable Japanese characters; but also cover many of the personal stories that took place during the rare off-hours not spent studying.

The balance of the book is a continuation of the memoirs of the men's and women's combat assignments. Two chapters are logically grouped by service assignments - Marine Corps or Navy.
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Format: Hardcover

In 1942, the U.S. Government recognized the need to set up a school where its servicemen could be instructed in the Japanese language. After brief sojourns at Harvard and Berkeley, it was decided to locate it at the University of Colorado in Boulder. On 23 June 1942, barely two weeks after the Battle of Midway, the school opened with 152 officer candidates, recruited mainly by Albert Hindmarsh, who had as a young academic visited Japan in 1937 to study the language intensively. The students were trained by both American and Japanese instructors, using the Naganuma texts. In their teaching, they maintained a balance between the spoken and written aspects of "this most difficult language." When the first class graduated in July, 1943, they were commissioned second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the first stage, some were introduced in Washington to work as code-breakers and specialized in radio interception and cryptographic work for the Navy. But code-breaking and translation were demoralizing; and it wasn't until 1944 that they became involved in combat. As the war progressed, they played their part as Marine combat interpreters in the island-hopping campaign. Meanwhile, their naval colleagues were trained to function as Japanese-speaking intelligence officers. In the last months of the war, they were generally attached to combat units and saw grisly service in Okinawa. Two items of relevance to Britain and the Commonwealth should be made at this point. Britain couldn't rely on Niseis (a native of the U.S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on October 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a history of U.S. Navy and Marine Japanese language translators and interpreters during World War 2. The author is mainly interested in describing how the schools they attended worked, were staffed and organized, and so forth. The principle school involved was at the University of California Berkeley before the war, but much of the staff was of Japanese ancestry and couldn't remain in California after Roosevelt evacuated all Japanese-ancestry individuals from the West Coast, so the whole operation was moved to the University of Colorado, Boulder. There, small classes at first and later larger ones learned to speak, read, and write Japanese. Even conversational Japanese wasn't sufficient for what they wanted to do; the Japenese military used a plethora of terminology that was unintelligible without the proper knowledge. Once they graduated the courses (typically sometime in 1943) the translators were sent to the Pacific theater to work in intelligence centers, on headquarters staffs, and even on occasion at intercept centers.

The author is mainly focused on the role these people played culturally during the war, and especially after it. He's semi-interested in the war itself, but only in terms of how it influenced the later lives of these translators, and the Japanese-American cultural exchange. The discovery of documents on the Japanese cruiser Nachi, for instance, is only briefly mentioned; there were thousands of these documents, some of them very interesting to Allied forces, and they all had to be translated. The author only recounts this incident, really, in terms of how impressed the translators were with what had been captured. The last 2 chapters (of 8) deal exclusively with the influence of these translators after the war.
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