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Asiatic-Pacific Theater




Once General Douglas MacArthur established his Southwest Pacific command in Australia in spring 1942, his chief intelligence officer, Brigadier General Charles A. Willoughby, worked to bring together US and Australian intelligence in Australia to help with operations in New Guinea and the Philippines.

After setting up various intelligence organizations to meet various needs, Willoughby replaced one of these organizations with the American-led Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) in September. Initially based in Melbourne but later moved to Indooroopilly Racetrack in Brisbane, Australia, ATIS held great importance in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

ATIS began operations at the time when land combat between the Japanese and the Americans in the Pacific started to yield captured documents and prisoners of war.

The first American team at ATIS consisted of Captain David W. Swift, a Caucasian officer, and eight Nisei, led by Staff Sergeant Gary Tsuneo Kadani. All men had arrived in Australia in June 1942, and all were graduates of the Fourth Army Intelligence School. The men were assigned to General Headquarters, where they worked tirelessly to process the information that began to steadily stream in from the Pacific battlefields. Kadani interrogated the first Japanese POW sent to Brisbane at the end of September.

Several notable events occurred at ATIS. One such event was the translation of the captured "Z Plan" during the Philippines campaign. The "Z Plan" contained Japan's strategy and tactics for an all-out counterattack against the Allied forces, specifically in the Mariana Islands near Hawaii and the Philippines. Recognizing the importance of the "Z Plan," ATIS worked day and night to translate it.

In its first month of operation, ATIS interrogated seven prisoners, translated and disseminated nearly 100 documents, and processed more than 1,000 others.1

During and after World War II, more than 3,000 Military Intelligence Service (MIS) linguists were sent to Australia to translate documents and interrogate Japanese prisoners. At ATIS, these linguists, both Australian and American intelligence personnel, translated more than 350,000 captured documents and interrogated more than 10,000 Japanese POWs.2

An ATIS "scanning conference." A Nisei linguist at the far right scans a captured enemy document. Col. Sidney Mashbir (seated fifth from left) and officials (including a Chinese general) look on and listen. Courtesy of the United States Army.
Map of Australia, showing Brisbane - the location of ATIS. Courtesy of Norman Einstein.


1 James McNaughton, Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II (Washington, DC: Department of the Army. 2006), p. 79.

2Ted Tsukiyama (2004),"The Nisei Intelligence War Against Japan," retrieved from on December 16, 2014.


278 Gene Uratsu
Starts on Tape Four, between 6 and 8 minute marks

And went in October of 1943, both Tom Sakamoto and I took 60 men, a group, to Brisbane, Australia.
Now, Australia is a long ways away. How long did it take you to get to Australia?
Took almost a month, because the ship would not go straight, because then it becomes a good target for submarine, so it would zigzag.
[Coughs.] Excuse me. Did you get seasick?
First few days. After that, got used to it, and I guess I enjoyed the voyage, playing cards.

326 Harry Kubo
Starts on Tape Three, between 4 and 6 minute marks
So once you landed in Brisbane, can you just describe what Brisbane looks like?
We were in a country, we called it Camp Chelmer about three train stops out of Brisbane, downtown Brisbane, and it was in the middle of a farm. You know, I don't know what they used it for. There was one permanent building, they made that as an officer's quarter. We stayed in a tent. Then ATIS, A-T-I-S, you know what ATIS stands for? Once crossed the river in the, oh, I don't know what it was, pretty good-sized building, that's where the ATIS was headquartered. So from Camp Chelmer to ATIS building, we used to walk everyday. Walked a little ways then crossed the bridge, and maybe 100 yards from the foot of the bridge to the building. That wasn't too far.
Just for the video, can you explain what ATIS is, what it stands for?
A stands for Allied, T for Translator, I for Interpreter, and S for Service. A-T-I-S, it's a part of MacArthur's GHQ, general headquarters.

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