In 1945, Lieutenant Minoru Wada was part of the Japanese 100th Infantry Division fighting for its life on the Philippine island of Mindanao. Fighting on the island had been going on since March and Lieutenant Wada saw the battle as a waste of human life in a war he thought was pointless. Captured by the Americans, Minoru Wada was presented with a way to shorten the war, death and destruction he so opposed. In early August, 1945, Lieutenant Wada set out on his last combat mission of the war, to bomb the command post of his own division.

Minoru Wada was a Kibei, a Japanese term for Japanese born in America yet raised in Japan. After spending his formative years in America, Wada returned to Japan. He went to the University of Tokyo and later the Kyushu Military Academy.

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Lieutenant Minoru Wada points out the location of his headquarters to American Officers

Wada opposed the war with America; he disliked the Japanese Military and their desire for war.  Like so many men in Japan, Wada was drafted into the army, where he became an officer. By 1945, he was overseas in the Philippines serving as the transportation officer for the 100th Infantryman Division under the command of Lieutenant-General Jiro Harada.

Wada kept his thoughts to himself but as he heard of Japan’s heavy losses in the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, he became more frustrated in seeing men die in a war that’s continuation seemed more pointless and wasteful to him with each passing day.

During Wada’s interrogation, his captors found a man very sympathetic to the Allied cause. Wada told the Americans of his disillusionment and how we only wanted peace to come back to Japan and America. He spoke of his willingness to do anything to stop the war and bring peace even if it meant losing his own life.

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Wada briefs Marine pilots for the strike

The Americans wanted to bomb the 100th Division headquarters in hopes that its destruction would disorganize and demoralize the Japanese. As transportation officer, Wada had an intimate knowledge of the island and of the Japanese defenses. The Americans asked for Wada’s help in locating and bombing it. Initially, Wada refused the request, since bombing his own countrymen was something he was unwilling to do. The Americans gave Wada time to think over their proposal and the thought of betraying his own countrymen.

Minoru Wada decided that if he helped the Americans bomb his own command post, the fighting on Mindanao might end sooner which would save hundreds if not thousands of lives for the price of a few. He decided that his desire to end the war and bring peace to Japan was more important than his personal feelings of betrayal for leading an attack on his own men.

As the headquarters was located in the jungles of Mindanao’s Kibawe-Talomo trail, it became clear that the only way the Americans could locate the headquarters was to have Wada lead the air strike personally.

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Wada prepares to board a PBJ-1D for the strike

On August 9, (some sources say August, 10 although after action reports from the squadron state August 9) US Marine PBJ-1D’s (US Navy version of the B-25 Mitchell) of Marine Bombing Squadron 611, escorted by F4U Corsairs of Marine Fighting Squadron 115, took off from Moret Field in Zamboanga, Mindanao and headed for Harada’s headquarters. Wada briefed the pilots for the mission and boarded a PBJ-1D along with an Army Ground Liaison Officer,  Major Mortimer Jordan and a Japanese-American interpreter named Charles Imai since Wada did not speak English.

Still wearing his Japanese Army uniform, Minoru Wada sat in the bomber’s radio-gunner position where he looked for landmarks to lead him to the target. Through the interpreter, Wada lead the flight right to Harada’s headquarters where the Americans dropped bombs, napalm and rockets onto it. Major Jordan later said to the debriefing officers, “The Japanese officer put us zero on the target and we did the rest – maybe overdid it.”

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Lieutenant Wada observes the airstrike

The attack had the desired result and the fighting on Mindanao ended soon afterwards. For Wada, the raid brought him mixed feelings, but he did not regret his actions and firmly believed he helped save the lives of many for the sacrifice of a few.

Minoru Wada and the mission remained classified for years and the full details have still not been disclosed. Lieutenant Minoru Wada was able to realize his goals of saving lives and ending the war. In the peace that followed, Wada was given a new identity and place to live by the US Government. He was then allowed to disappear into history.

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