Former NCIS star Mark Harmon, 72, and his technical adviser, retired NCIS veteran Leon Carroll, Jr., 73, have written their first book, Ghosts of Honolulu: A Japanese Spy, a Japanese American Spy Hunter, and the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (HarperCollins, Nov. 14). It’s the true story of a big crime — the Japanese attack that ignited World War II. Just as Martin Scorsese’s Flowers of the Killer Moon tells a tale about the birth of what became the FBI, Ghosts of Honolulu sheds light on the early days of what would become the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) — known in the 1940s as the ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence).
The hero is ONI spy Douglas Wada, a Hawaiian born to Japanese immigrant parents who was recruited to sleuth out Japan’s spies in Honolulu and witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack. He was the first Japanese American ever to work in intelligence.
His fascist opponents included Japan’s drunken, adulterous consul general, junior diplomat Takeo Yoshikawa, and rich Nazi Otto Kuehn, who hung laundry at his shoreside Oahu home as a code to signal the invaders. Kuehn’s daughter Susie, once Joseph Goebbels’ underage mistress, ran a Honolulu beauty parlor where gossipy officers’ wives let their loose lips sink ships, and Susie seduced U.S. military personnel. The ONI also busted a Los Angeles Japanese spy ring that included the on-screen and real-life chauffeur for Charlie Chaplin, who had narrowly escaped assassination in Japan in 1932.
Harmon and Carroll tell AARP about their real-life crime investigation case, and their TV collaboration.
Why did you write a book about Douglas Wada?
Harmon: Credit has been due to Wada for a long time, and it’s great to open the window to that a little bit with this book. It was interesting trying to uncover the research and talk to people who had never been asked to tell their story.
Carroll: Mark and I were talking about stories of real NCIS versus the TV show, which obviously was dramatized, and we wanted to really give our NCIS audience, and others, an inside look at what the agency actually does.
Why might an NCIS fan be interested?
Harmon: I think the book is a page-turner. You think you know about what happened at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, but you realize that there’s so much more. You find out that every Japanese pilot that day had four-day-old docking assignments for every ship in that port. Oh, my God!