Cecil Coggins


Name Cecil Coggins
Born April 10 1902
Died May 5 1987
Birth Location St. Louis, Missouri

Navy doctor, ONI counterespionage agent who investigated the loyalty of Japanese Americans.

Cecil Hengy Coggins was born on April 10, 1902, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a minister (who later became a physician) from Missouri and a school teacher from California. After a short stint as a merchant seaman, Coggins attended the University of Missouri and graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1930. While working as an obstetrician in California, he began monitoring Japanese fishing boats and eventually presented his data to the navy department. His techniques and findings became the basis of the official Manual of Investigations of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).[1]

In 1940, he was transferred to Hawai'i on the staff of Commander of the Pacific Fleet and placed in charge of counterespionage. In this role, he selected and trained some 100 counterespionage agents, most of them Nisei to watch for suspicious activity within the Japanese community. A few months after Pearl Harbor, he met with members of the Honolulu Civic Association, previously the Hawaiian Japanese Civic Association, and together they drafted a statement of Japanese American loyalty. This statement was presented at a luncheon organized by Hawai'i businessman Walter Dillingham to high ranking military personnel including Delos Emmons and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz who were contemplating the fate of the Islands' Japanese Americans.[2] Although the impact of this statement is unclear, Coggins' account of this event and the statement of loyalty by Hawai'i's Japanese was published by Harper's Magazine in 1943 during a period of anti-Japanese sentiment in America.[3]

After a stint in Washington D.C. in 1942 where he served as the navy representative on the Strategic Service Planning Group of the Office of Strategic Services, chief of OP-16-W ("special warfare") in the Office of Naval Intelligence, and navy representative in the Office of War Information, Coggins was reassigned as chief field surgeon for U.S. Naval Group China, also known as Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) until the end of the war. From 1947 to 1949, he served in the Medical Corps aboard the hospital ship USS Repose and later was chief of atomic, biologic, and chemical warfare on the staff of NATO headquarters in Paris. In this capacity, he established schools of warfare defense in NATO nations, coordinated their research, and devised a way to report biological warfare attacks. In 1959, Coggins retired as a rear admiral and later spent several years as medical chief of civil defense for the state of California. After a long career, Coggins passed away on May 1, 1987, in Monterey, California.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Coggins, Cecil Hengy. "The Japanese-Americans in Hawaii." Harper's Magazine (June 1943): 75-83.

Coffman, Tom. The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai'i. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003.

Laforet, Eugene G. "Cecil Coggins and the War in the Shadows." JAMA, April 25, 1980, 1653–55.

"1935–1945: Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations." Naval Criminal Investigative Service website. http://www.ncis.navy.mil/AboutNCIS/History/Pages/1935-1945.aspx

"Papers of Rear Admiral Cecil H. Coggins, 1927–1943." Naval Historical Center website, http://www.history.navy.mil/ar/charlie/coggins.htm.

Footnotes

  1. "1935–1945: Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations." Naval Criminal Investigative Service website, http://www.ncis.navy.mil/AboutNCIS/History/Pages/1935-1945.aspx
  2. Tom Coffman, The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai'i (Honolulu: University of Hawai' Press, 2003), 81-82.
  3. Cecil Hengy Coggins, "The Japanese-Americans in Hawaii," Harper's Magazine (June 1943): 75-83.