Peter KornickiAug 1, 2022
Eavesdropping on the Emperor
Interrogators and Codebreakers in Britain's War With Japan
Oxford University Press 2021
When Japanese signals were decoded at Bletchley Park, who translated them into English? When Japanese soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, who interrogated them? When Japanese maps and plans were captured on the battlefield, who deciphered them for Britain? When Great Britain found itself at war with Japan in December 1941, there was a linguistic battle to be fought--but Britain was hopelessly unprepared.
Eavesdropping on the Emperor: Interrogators and Codebreakers in Britain's War With Japan (Oxford UP, 2021) traces the men and women with a talent for languages who were put on crash courses in Japanese, and unfolds the history of their war. Some were sent with their new skills to India; others to Mauritius, where there was a secret radio intercept station; or to Australia, where they worked with Australian and American codebreakers. Translating the despatches of the Japanese ambassador in Berlin after his conversations with Hitler; retrieving filthy but valuable documents from the battlefield in Burma; monitoring Japanese airwaves to warn of air-raids--Britain depended on these forgotten 'war heroes'. The accuracy of their translations was a matter of life or death, and they rose to the challenge. Based on declassified archives and interviews with the few survivors, this fascinating, globe-trotting book tells their stories.
Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.