Skip to comments.Yoshio Yoda, Actor on ‘McHale’s Navy,’ Dies at 88
Posted on 01/23/2023 2:20:40 PM PST by nickcarraway
He played Fuji Kobiaji, the Japanese prisoner of war turned Seaman 3rd Class, on all 138 episodes of the wacky ABC series.
Yoshio Yoda, who portrayed Fuji Kobiaji, the lovable Japanese prisoner of war who becomes a valued member of the PT-73 crew led by Ernest Borgnine on the 1960s ABC comedy McHale’s Navy, died Jan. 13 in Fullerton, California, it was announced. He was 88.
Yoda appeared on every one of the 138 episodes of McHale’s Navy during the Universal Television show’s 1962-66 run, plus two movies.
His character deserted from the Imperial Japanese Navy and becomes a Seaman 3rd Class, gladly “serving time” cooking and working for Borgnine’s Lt. Commander Quinton McHale and his crew on the fictional Pacific island base of Taratupa.
Fuji’s presence and identity is meant to be kept a secret from Joe Flynn’s Captain Binghamton, so whenever the boss arrives unannounced, he’s told to “head for the hills!” in a popular running gag.
Born in Tokyo on March 31, 1934, Yoda was studying law at Keio University in Japan when he was encouraged to pursue an acting career, and he enrolled at the University of Southern California’s film school in 1958.
MGM producers contacted USC seeking an actor who was bilingual in Japanese and English, and he was cast as Sgt. Roy Tada alongside Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss in the World War II comedy The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962), directed by Richard Thorpe.
He attended night school while appearing on McHale’s Navy and wound up getting his degree in cinema arts.
After the show ended, Yoda appeared on ABC’s Love, American Style in 1969 and served as an assistant vice president of Toyota Hawaii in Honolulu. He moved to Fullerton when he retired.
He was predeceased in death by his son, Edward. Per his request, no services will be held.
Fight on forever, Yoshio!
Even the 60’s had woke characters in Hollywood. Wouldn’t want to offend Japanese American’s with a US Navy ship fighting Japan.
I know this may be Boomer talk, but tell me, what generation had the best TV and the best music.
I didn’t see every episode but that was my recollection too.
Maybe not even an official POW either - whenever Binghamton came around, McHale would tell him to hide.
When "James at 15" came out in 1977 - I was 15. And lived in Boston. And listened to Fleetwood Mac.
Bingo. I would expand that a bit, mid 1960’s to early 1980’s.
I thought the guy was helpful in softening the memories and made it easier to make humor about the Pacific war palatable.
Well, it was supposed to be a comedy. They weren’t going to portray the ugliness of a real war.
Mid to late 1950s to mid to late 1960s.
Exactly. By the 1960s, the Japanese were our friends.
This is the second image of a “cliche” Japanese person I’ve seen post on FR. The other one was an old Dr. Seuss propaganda cartoon showing similar.
Of course, then there is the real-life image of the old guy (asian of some sort) that just shot up the dance studios and he fit the image as well.
[Even the 60’s had woke characters in Hollywood. Wouldn’t want to offend Japanese American’s with a US Navy ship fighting Japan.]
Vietnam was divided at the 16th parallel by the victorious Allies, with the Chinese occupying the north and the British occupying the south. The Chinese gave the Viet Minh considerable freedom of action, while the British brought in French troops to relieve them of the burden of occupation; the French of course moved quickly to put down any independence movement.
The first Japanese aid came in the form of arms: in the north, Vo Nguyen Giap equipped his troops with French weapons that the Japanese had issued to its puppet Indochinese Guard. Japanese weapons made their way into the black market soon after the surrender. It wasn’t long before Japanese soldiers and officers also became available: there was no immediate way home for these men, even if they wanted to go. They hadn’t been defeated in the field; they couldn’t understand why the Emperor had ended the war; they had nothing to greet them at home but shame and desolation. Many had Vietnamese wives or girlfriends. When the war ended, they thought of themselves in the tradition of the ronin or leaderless samurai warriors. Like the ronin, they simply gravitated toward whatever employer was willing to hire them.
And the Viet Minh wanted them, the officers and NCOs particularly, as training cadres. In September 1945, there were about 50,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians in northern Vietnam; by December 1946, about 32,000 had been repatriated and 3,000 escaped to the island of Hainan, leaving 15,000 still in the country. Perhaps a third of these, Goscha believes, may have joined the Viet Minh as cadre, combat troops, or civilian experts. In the British-occupied south, with the French returning and pressing the Viet Minh hard, a much larger proportion of the Japanese garrison was repatriated; Goscha estimates that only a few thousand remained in the summer of 1946, and that perhaps only a few hundred actually joined the Communist forces. (Apparently a larger number simply melted into the population as farmers and shop-keepers.)
In Thai Nguyen province, the Japanese apparently ran an arms factory. In Hanoi, a western-educated Japanese scholar named Kiyoshi Komatsu directed the Viet Minh’s “International Committee for the Aid and Support of the Government of the DRV.” In Quang Ngai, a Viet Minh officers’ school had six Japanese officers on the faculty; in southern Trung Bo province, 36 out of 50 military instructors were Japanese. Major Ishii Takuo, a young officer of the 55th Division in Burma, deserted in Cambodia in December 1945 with several comrades and made his way to Vietnam, where he became a colonel in the Viet Minh, provisional head of the Quang Ngai military academy, and later “chief advisor” to Communist guerrillas in the south. Some specialists, including doctors and ordnance experts, were forced to work for the Viet Minh against their will. The French identified eleven Japanese nurses and two doctors working for the Viet Minh in northern Vietnam in 1951.
“One of the results of the Japanese presence in the Viet Minh army was an increase in French losses at the beginning of the war,” Goscha writes. During the first battles in the north, Japanese soldiers served in the front lines. In Hue in 1947, the French reported battling a Japanese assault force of 150 men. Also in 1947, Colonel Ishii helped set up an ambush that killed upwards of 70 French soldiers.
Koshiro Iwai led Vietnamese units into battle and led commando raids behind French lines; by 1949 he was a Viet Minh battalion deputy commander. Later he became a planner for the 174th Regiment, helping the Viet Minh to employ their newly acquired Chinese cannon.
In 1951, the Viet Minh began to repatriate their Japanese (and European) helpers via China and Eastern Europe. After the Geneva Accords of 1954, which divided Vietnam into two halves, 71 Japanese left the Viet Minh and went home, and others returned over the years. “A handful would remain in Vietnam well into the 1970s,” Goscha writes. “Others would never return.” This doesn’t necessarily mean they helped in the war against the Americans; more likely, these stay-behinds had simply gone native. ]
That same day, the local French population, jubilant at the restoration of the city, lost restraint, descending into rioting against the native population. This led to the events of 24-25 September, when a Vietnamese mob (alleged to be the Bình Xuyên, but later found to be Trotskyites), entered the Cité Hérault district of Saigon, lynching 150 French civilians while abducting a similar number - who later also perished. At the same time, the Viet Minh set up road blocks around Saigon, shooting Frenchmen who attempted to leave and accidentally killing OSS agent Dewey, the first American to die in Vietnam. Elsewhere on the 25th, the Viet Minh attacked and set fire to the city’s central market area, while another group attacked Tan Son Nhut Airfield. The airfield attack was repelled by the Gurkhas, where one British soldier was killed along with half a dozen Viet Minh. The British now had a war on their hands, something which Mountbatten had sought to avoid.
For the next few days, parties of armed Viet Minh clashed with British patrols, the Viet Minh suffering mounting losses with each encounter.: 70 The British soldiers were experienced troops who had just recently finished battling the Japanese; many officers and soldiers had also experienced internal security and guerrilla warfare in India and the North West Frontier. In contrast the Viet Minh were still learning how to fight a war.
In early October, Gracey held talks with the Viet Minh and a truce was agreed upon. On the 5th, General Philippe Leclerc, the senior French commander, arrived in Saigon where he and his troops were placed under Gracey’s command. However, on 10 October, a state of semi-peace with the Viet Minh was broken by an unprovoked attack on a small British engineering party which was inspecting the water lines near Tan Son Nhut Airfield. Most of the engineering party were killed or wounded. Gracey accepted the fact that the level of insurrection was such that he would first have to pacify key areas before he could repatriate the Japanese. It was at this time that his small force had been strengthened by the arrival of his second infantry brigade, the 32nd, under Brigadier E.C.V. Woodford. Gracey deployed the 32nd Brigade into Saigon’s northern suburbs of Gò Vấp and Gia Định. Once in this area the Viet Minh fell back before this force, which included armored car support from the Indian 16th Light Cavalry.: 206
Aerial reconnaissance by Spitfires revealed that the roads approaching Saigon were blocked: the Viet Minh were attempting to strangle the city. On 13 October, Tan Son Nhut Airfield came under attack again by the Viet Minh; their commandos and sappers were able this time to come within 275m of the control tower. They were also at the doors of the radio station before the attack was blunted by Indian and Japanese soldiers. As the Viet Minh fell back from the airfield, the Japanese were ordered to pursue them until nightfall, when contact was broken.: 284
By mid-October, 307 Viet Minh had been killed by British/Indian troops and 225 were killed by Japanese troops, including the new body count of 80 more Viet Minh at Da Lat. On one occasion, the Japanese repulsed an attack on their headquarters at Phú Lâm, killing 100 Viet Minh. British, French, and Japanese casualties were small by comparison. On the 17th, the third brigade, the 100th, commanded by Brigadier C.H.B. Rodham, arrived in Indochina.]
For the past 6 months I’ve been watching McHale’s Navy episodes nightly via Youtube . First 2 seasons were excellent but seasons 3 and 4 hit and miss IMO .
I was told by a Japanese friend that it was common for Japanese soldiers who surrendered (there weren’t many) to almost immediately collaborate with their American captors. Can’t verify if that’s correct. But it could be explained by the psychological break which would happen after intense conditioning to consider surrender unthinkable. In fact, it matches how the entire country behaved after the general surrender.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.