Exploitation of Captured and Seized Japanese Records by the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Service (PACMIRS) 1945-Spring 1946

Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

The U.S. Army’s Pacific Military Intelligence Research Service (PACMIRS), located at Camp Ritchie, Maryland, had been established in September 1944 to exploit captured Japanese records.  During 1945 it saw a steady increase in staff and workload–from 120 personnel in February to 160 by the end of August.[1]  The volume of captured Japanese records received also increased.  During March it received 437,682 pages.  During the next four months it received, primarily from the Washington Document Center (WDC), over 1.2 million pages monthly, so that by the end of August it had received 7,947,710 pages (118,969 documents).  Of that total, 7,678,654 pages (106,298 documents) were found to have no value.  Of the over 7 million pages received by the end of August, PACMIRS translated 22,985 pages (of which over 7,100 related to the Japanese Air Force, 2,303 related to tactics and strategy, and 1,074 related to chemical warfare).[2]

Frequently during the summer of 1945 PACMIRS was requested to translate specific documents.  Some of these documents were for use by the Counter Intelligence Corps in its plans for operations in Japan once it was occupied.[3]  A major activity of PACMIRS was publishing translations of and information from the captured records.  By the end of August PACMIRS had published 1,068,901 pages.[4]

Some of what PACMIRS translated and published came from European sources once the war ended in Europe.  Many of the documents were taken from or formerly belonged to Japanese in Germany and other parts of Europe.  In late June PACMIRS began publishing Limited Distribution Accession Lists that contained summaries of documents bearing on the war in the Pacific received by PACMIRS from the Europe Theater.  It appears that the last, No. 4, was published on March 1, 1946, shortly before PACMIRS was abolished.[5]

With the war’s end came the necessity to reevaluate all the documents in light of post war intelligence requirements. Thus in September all current PACMIRS documents were reconsidered at a Document Reevaluation Conference and many of them were withdrawn from further processing because they had no post-war intelligence value.  Also in September PACMIRS began sending some documents to the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling, Minnesota for translation and publication. One such work, dealing with the Japanese Military Police, proved to be of extraordinary value to the Judge Advocate General’s War Crimes Office.[6]

PACMIRS beginning in August 1945 developed a relationship with the Eastern Division of the War Crimes Office, which briefed its officers about the importance to be on the lookout for certain types of documentary evidence needed in war crimes trial preparation and the necessity of obtaining documents on short notice—documents needed in response to specific requests.  As the war came to an end in the Pacific, the relationship grew and expanded.  During the August-October period PACMIRS, besides providing documents and translations, had personnel spend time at the War Crimes Office and undertook several special projects, including doing research at the Library of Congress on Japanese nationalist organizations.[7]

Based on the documents in its possession, PACMIRS, between November 13, 1945 and April 9, 1946, published twenty PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series publications (numbered 1-20) that consisted of translations of documents grouped together by topic.[8]  The PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series publication quickly became popular and shortly after the first issue appeared the number of distribution copies doubled.[9]  Also to make interested parties aware of the war crimes related documents held by PACMIRS, it published PACMIRS Bulletin 80A on March 8, 1946, that identified documents that had been acquired once the war ended.[10]

During late 1945 PACMIRS continued receiving items from Europe relating to the Japanese.  In early December, 48 cases of documents from the Japan Institute in Germany arrived.  In a report regarding the first eight boxes opened, it was noted that half the documents were in the Japanese language and the rest in numerous other languages, with German, English, French, Russian, and Latin predominating.  Found were books on the culture of Japan (art, literature, poetry, music, religion, mythology, history, manners and customs, law, education and industry), encyclopedias, collections of Japanese literary classics and paintings, newspaper files, bound collections of monthly and quarterly periodicals of Japanophile societies, and personal papers.[11]

At some point in late 1945 PACMIRS received a collection of captured Japanese records from the Southeast Asia Translation and Interrogation Center (SEATIC) Headquarters in Singapore, via the WDC, to review and exploit.  Approximately 95% of these SEATIC documents were destroyed by PACMIRS, most likely during the first couple of months of 1946. Apparently the remaining 5% were transferred to the WDC when PACMIRS vacated Camp Ritchie in April 1946.[12]  It also appears that a significant body of captured Japanese records that had come to PACMIRS from the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) and other sources was also destroyed during 1945 and 1946.[13]

On March 29, 1946, began the publication of a new series, entitled PACMIRS Summary. To some extent, it replaced the PACMIRS Bulletins, with some modifications. These document summaries were supplementary to the Shipping Advices of acquired documents published by the WDC (Advanced Echelon) in Japan. Given in the summary listings were the PACMIRS Document Number, the WDC Shipping Advise Number and WDC Number.[14]

PACMIRS Technical Service Translations, a publication series that had begun in April 1945 and continued after the war ended, covered a wide range of topics, mostly of a technical nature.  Among them were: No. 9 August 8, 1945 Outline of Soviet Chemical Warfare; No. 19 September 13, 1945 Type 01 Model 180 Nissan Truck Operating Manual; No. 23 October 8 Effect of the Body of Habitual Drinking of Hard Water (Shansi Province); No. 24 October 10, 1945 Medical and Geographical Survey of North China; No. 26 October 17, 1945 Gas Protective Equipment; and, No. 28 November 27, 1945 Crossing Marshy Ground and Special Transportation Equipment.

PACMIRS Technical Service Translations No. 32, January 7, 1946, entitled Chemical Warfare Notes, provided translation of three sections of a 1943 file of chemical warfare reference material, mainly relating to the storing, preserving, and using chemical warfare material under tropical conditions.  Actual combat use of toxic smoke by the Japanese was described in PACMIRS Technical Service Translations No. 33, Use of Toxic Smoke Candles and Shells in the Northern Shansi Province Operations, March 8, 1946. This was a translation, requested by the War Crimes Office, Army Service Forces, and the MIS Scientific Branch, of a December 1938 document issued by the Operations Department, North China Area Army.  The document is a compilation of data of a report that contains a resume of the results achieved through toxic smoke, a chart outlining operations, a critique of the tactics employed, and detailed accounts (illustrated by a situation map) of seven actions in which toxic smoke was used.   PACMIRS Technical Service Translations No. 34, dated March 18, 1946, was entitled Chinese Employment of Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare against the Japanese.  This was the transaction of a 1941 Japanese intelligence report (by Research Section, Toku Kwantung Defense Army 3036 Unit), presenting “evidence that during the China Incident the enemy has skillfully and secretly carried out chemical and bacteriological warfare activities against personnel, animals, natural resources, water and food supplies.”  The report declared that Russia was preparing to launch bacteriological warfare in the event of hostilities with Japan.  PACMIRS noted that the ‘evidence,’ much of it sketchy, lists half a dozen instances of chemical tactics, 10 cases of bacterial contamination of water, and about 45 examples of food and water poisoning.[15]

Throughout 1945 and early1946 PACMIRS published many translation series as “limited distribution” publications.[16]  One such publication series that was published in 26 issues between June and November 1945 contained mostly firing table information.[17]  LD Translations W, published in April 1946, dealt with heavy industry and minerals in Manchuria.[18] LD Translations S, published between March 15 and April 9, 1946 dealt with the Soviet Union and contained such titles as Chain of Command of the Soviet Far Eastern Army, Soviet Chemical Warfare, Water Transportation in Eastern Siberia, and Soviet Airborne Raiding Units, April 9, 1945.[19]

One limited distribution series entitled Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations E, contained translations on documents relating to a variety of topics, including Soviet and British use of land mines, allied espionage agents in Burma, communists in North China, maps of military resources of Sian Area and its vicinity, a Military Topographic Survey of the Northern Regions, PACMIRS map of Japanese Colonization in Manchuria, a report on the military geography of Sankiang Province, Manchuria, and a listing of mining properties in Manchuria.[20]

One of the E Series (No. 11, Document 2806) was “A Discussion of Bacteriological Warfare” that had been requested by the Military Intelligence Service Scientific Branch, probably in December 1945.  This was a complete translation of a Japanese pamphlet on bacteriological warfare. It gave examples from World War I and the 1937 China Incident.  Russian interest in this type of warfare was stressed. The original pamphlet was undated, with neither the author nor the issuing authority specified.  This six-page pamphlet noted that the Chinese Army, infected wells with cholera germs when the Japanese Army broke through Shanghai in the summer of 1937 and made the great drive toward Nanking. In the winter of 1937, the pamphlet continues, Japanese soldiers found glass bottles filled with anthrax germs in the creek in the vicinity of Chia-ting. Again at Kowkung (Chinchiang), the pamphlet asserts, Chinese Army troops sprinkled cholera germs in wells when they retreated, with the result that there was a sudden outbreak of cholera. “Speedy and accurate countermeasures saved the men of the Imperial Army from harm, but innocent civilians fell victim to the venom of this invisible death” the pamphlet asserts.  The pamphlet states that observation of Chinese bacteriological warfare showed that their methods closely resembled the methods used by Soviet Russia.  The pamphlet noted that bacteria had not yet been used in the war between Germany and Russia and that judging from this, the Soviet Union might be planning to let the Chinese experiment in such warfare, so as to use it against the Germans later at a decisive period; or the Soviets may have abandoned the use of bacilli in Europe, where medical facilities and ideas were more advanced, planning instead to set the stage for bacteriological warfare in Manchuria and China.[21]

PACMIRS was scheduled to be vacated by the War Department on April 15, 1946, as the lease for the property where it was situated was scheduled to be terminated.  During March plans were developed to move it to the Pentagon and this plan was agreed to by the Secretary of War in mid-March 1946.[22]  But at some point in late March or early April a decision was made to relocate PACMIRS to the WDC.  On April 17 PACMIRS and the WDC were merged into a single operational entity under the name Washington Document Center. [23]


[1] Of the 160 staff in August 1945, ten were stationed at the Washington Document Center. Most of the personnel were U.S. military but there were also twelve British Army and Navy and twenty-four Canadian Army personnel assigned to PACMIRS. Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for August 1945, p. 2, File: AGAR-S-1455A, Record and Non-Record Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives in 1968 (Pomrenze Collection), Entry UD-282-BB 9 (NAID 6922180), National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, Record Group 242 (hereafter cited as RG 242).

[2] Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for March 1945, p. 4 and for August 1945, pp. 4 and 7, File: AGAR-S-1455A, Record and Non-Record Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives in 1968 (Pomrenze Collection), Entry UD-282-BB (NAID 6922180), RG 242.

[3] See memorandums in Decimal 350.03 March 1-December 31, 1945, Decimal Files 1941-1948, Entry NM3 47B (NAID 1367076), Records of the Army Chief of Staff, Intelligence (G-2), Records of the Army Chief of Staff, Record Group 319 (hereafter cited as RG 319).

[4] These publications included PACMIRS Air Translations, Bulletins, Technical Service Translations, Transfer Lists, and four separate Limited Distribution Translations. Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for August 1945, pp. 10, 14, File: AGAR-S-1455A, Record and Non-Record Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives in 1968 (Pomrenze Collection), Entry UD-282-BB (NAID 6922180), RG 242.

[5] Secret Project for Scientific Branch MIS (GD 901-GD 950), PACMIRS, Camp Ritchie, MD August 17, 1945, Folder: PACMIRS Camp Ritchie GD 901-GD 950, Publications Files (”P” File) 1940-1945, Entry NM84 79 (NAID 1557240), Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165 (hereafter cited as RG 165); Folders: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Accession Lists, ibid.

[6] Memorandum, Col. S. P. Marland, Jr., Chief, PACMIRS to The Commandant, MIS Language School, September 26, 1945, Decimal 350.03 March 1-December 31, 1945, Decimal Files 1941-1948, Entry NM3 47B (NAID 1367076), Records of the Army Chief of Staff, Intelligence (G-2), RG 319; Memorandum, Capt. Kenneth M. Himes, Adjutant, PACMIRS, Camp Ritchie, Maryland to The Commandant, MIS Language School, December 3, 1945, ibid.

[7] Memorandum, Col. Abe McGregor Goff, Assistant Director, War Crimes Office to Chief, PACMIRS, Subject: Japanese Military Police, August 20, 1945, File 116-11, Set-Up Files 1945-1957, Entry A1 145 (NAID 1692305), Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army), Record Group 153 (hereafter cited as RG 153); Memorandum, Lt. Col. B. E. Sackett, War Crimes Branch, Manila, GHQ US Army Forces, Pacific to Brig. John W. Weir, and others, Subject: Coordination of War Crimes Activities Between Washington and Manila, October 18, 1945, File 103-1B-114, ibid; Memorandum, C. B. Warren, Jr., to Director, War Crimes Office, Subject: Facilities and Personnel Available for War Crimes Assistance in Pacific Theaters, November 29, 1945, File 103-1B-117, ibid; Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for August 1945, p. 7, File: AGAR-S-1455A, Record and Non-Record Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives in 1968 (Pomrenze Collection), Entry UD-282-BB (NAID 6922180), RG 242; Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for September 1945, pp. 9, 12, File: AGAR-S-no number, ibid.; Military Intelligence Service, Pacific MIRS Monthly Report for October 1945, pp. 9, 10, 12, 13, File: AGAR-S-1458A, ibid.

[8] PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series Folder: PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series, Publications Files (”P” File) 1940-1945, Entry NM 84 79 (NAID 1557240), RG 165; and in Box49, Law Library Files 1944-1949, Entry A1 135 (NAID 6921676), RG 153.

[9] Memorandum, Col. Joseph V. Hodgson, US Commission, UNWCC to the Judge Advocate General, Subject: Transmittal of PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series No. 1, December 10, 1945, File 116-11, Set-Up Files 1945-1957, Entry A1 145 (NAID 1692305), RG 153; Memorandum, Capt. Bertram W. Tremayner, Jr., Executive, War Crimes Office to Supervisor of Reports, MIS, Subject: PACMIRS War Crimes Information Series, January 9, 1946, ibid.

[10] PACMIRS Bulletin No. 80A March 8, 1946, Document L-311, Law Library Files 1944-1949, Entry A1 135 (NAID 6921676), RG 153; Memorandum, Maj. Gen. O. P. Nichols, Director, Civil Affairs Division, to Col. Joseph V. Hodgson, US Commission, United Nations War Crimes Commission, Subject: PACMIRS Bulletin No. 80A, March 8, 1946; March 25, 1946, File 116-11, Set-Up Files 1944-1949, Entry A1 145 (NAID 1692305), RG 153.

[11] Memorandum, 1st Lt. Henry W. Jarvinen, Assistant Chief, Document Group to Capt. George B. Brown, PACMRIS, Camp Ritchie, Maryland, Subject: Japan Institute Material, December 7, 1945, Decimal 350.03 March 1-December 31, 1945, Decimal FileS 1941-1948, Entry 47B (NAID 1367076), RG 319.

[12] Memorandum, Brig. Gen. Edwin L. Sibert, CIA to Chief, Division of Foreign Activity Correlation, December 30, 1947, Decimal, 894.414/12-3047, Central Decimal Files 1910-1963, Entry A1 205H (NAID 302021), General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.

[13] Memorandum, P. H. Lash, Jr. for Col. R. F. Ennis, Chief, Intelligence Group, Military Intelligence Division, G-2, War Department General Staff, War Department to Commander-in-Chief, Far East, October 10, 1947, Decimal 314.4, Japan, Project Decimal Files 1946-1948, Entry NM3 47D (NAID 1663425), RG 319; Memorandum, Brig. Gen. C. A. Willoughby, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, GHQ, Far East Command to Director of Intelligence, General Staff, U.S. Army, Attn: Col. Ennis, October 30, 1947, ibid.; Memorandum, Col. R. F. Ennis to Commander-in-Chief, Far East, January 8, 1948, ibid.

[14] PACMIRS Summary, No. 1, March 29, 1946, File: PACMIRS Summary, Publications Files (”P” File) 1940-1945, Entry NM84 79 (NAID 1557240), RG 165.

[15] PACMIRS Technical Service Translations, File: PACMIRS Technical Service Translations, ibid.

[16] Nos. 84-86 were Accession Lists of Field Diaries published at the request of the Historical Branch, MIS, between December 21, 1945-March 1, 1946.  Files: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations A No. 61-No. 86, ibid; File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations B, No. 27-No. 40, ibid.

[17] File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations (ORD), No. 2-No. 26, ibid.

[18] File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations W, No. 2-No. 3, ibid.

[19] File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations S, No. 1-No. 5, ibid.

[20] File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations E 1 thru E No. 15, ibid.

[21] PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translation E, No. 11, Doc No. 2806, “A Discussion of Bacteriological Warfare” January 10, 1946, File: PACMIRS Limited Distribution Translations LD Translations E 1 thru E No. 15, ibid.

[22] Memorandum, Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 to President, War Department Manpower Board, March 11, 1946, File: AGAR-S-1365, Record and Non-Record Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives in 1968 (Pomrenze Collection), Entry UD-282-BB (NAID 6922180), RG 242; Memorandum for approval and approvals, Maj. Gen. C. H. Bonesteel, President, War Department Manpower Board, March 12, 1946, approval endorsement by Secretary of War, March 19, 1946, File: AGAR-S-1362, ibid.

[23] Memorandum, R. L. Hopkins, Col. To Col. C. A. Krug, Subject: Plans for PACMIRS, April 18, 1946, File: 020.AGO (GMDS), Decimal Files 1941-1948, Entry NM3 47B (NAID 1367076), RG 319.

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