After a comet-like rise to power and prestige in the Worldwide Church of God, Osamu Gotoh, the one-time “Mr. Mission Impossible”-who, as if by magic, opened the doors to oriental palaces for Herbert Armstrong-suddenly seems to have disappeared from the Ambassador College scene. A peculiar pall of silence seems to have enshrouded the former glory of Nippon’s shining star.
Because of “Professor” Gotoh’s extensive travels with Chancellor Armstrong to Asian capitals, Ambassador College employees used to jokingly quip: “Nobody knoweth where Gotoh goeth.” Now people are openly wondering what’s become of him, especially because Herbert Armstrong has often expressed how valuable Gotoh is to the church: “I couldn’t do the job of getting the gospel to the world without him!” (Bible study, Pasadena, Mar. 14, 1975.)
Osamu Gotoh’s Rise to Power. Osamu Gotoh heard of Ambassador College (AC) in 1966 through a close friend who had enrolled at AC’s British campus, according to Herbert Armstrong in a Dec. 29, 1970, co-worker letter. Attracted by the obvious display of opulence at AC’s Pasadena campus, Gotoh came and offered his services as a translator, at the same time expressing a desire to obtain a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from AC. His credentials at that time were that of “Rev.,” even though nobody to this day knows where he got his ministerial training and which denomination ordained him. It seems he was a self-styled “Rev.,” performing as an itinerant preacher on an obscure Japanese-language radio station on the West Coast.
The Department of Justice and Immigration conducted an investigation on Gotoh a few years ago and, according to one of their agents (name on file with the staff ), Gotoh was a one-time Tokyo taxicab driver who later became engaged in religion. It was speculated that Gotoh made his initial high-level contacts in Japan way back then, right inside his taxi while driving adventurous dignitaries to where the “action” was in town.
Gotoh enrolled at AC in the fall of 1966 as a freshman. He somehow managed to avoid the customary entrance exam and set out on his academic career. After a faltering first semester with an abundance of Cs which, according to his instructors, were rather “flattering,” he finally bombed out at the end of the next semester and had to be dropped for academic inability in the summer of 1967. During the course of the year’s work, the “Rev.” managed to draw an F in an elementary Bible course. (Gotoh’s transcript is on file with the staff .) To enable Gotoh to save face, AC officials permitted him to withdraw, which he did.
Later that year, Gotoh emerged as the head of a newly created Japanese department with the academic rank of “instructor,” even though the previous semester he had been dropped for academic incompetence. He now claimed that he did not really need to go on at AC since he held the equivalent of a Master’s of Theology. He further explained that the reason he didn’t possess the proper academic credentials was because General MacArthur ruled that postwar Japan could not confer degrees.
Japan’s Ministry of Education emphatically denied this in an official letter. The reason Gotoh didn’t have an academic degree was simply due to his not having had an education that warranted such a degree. Gotoh submitted an undated transcript to AC that showed he had attended Aoyama Gakuin. AC wrote to Aoyama Gakuin for his official transcript and discovered that the transcript Gotoh had submitted to AC had been forged, the grades had been “jacked up,” and that he had attended there only one year (from 1947 to 1948). In a letter dated Oct. 7, 1970, the Ministry of Education pointed out that the reason Aoyama Gakuin didn’t confer degrees was that “before 1949 Aoyama Gakuin was classified as ‘Senmon-Gakko,’ neither a university nor a college, [and] Senmon-Gakko could not give academic degrees.”
This cock-and-bull story about an “equivalent” degree and MacArthur’s ruling was swallowed by AC’s administration. Herman Hoeh, then dean of faculty, dutifully listed Gotoh as having an M.Th. in the college bulletin, but he was forced to withdraw it the following year after an inquiring third party demanded documentation of this pretentious claim.
In the academic year 1968-69, Gotoh was quickly elevated in rank from instructor to assistant professor and then to associate professor, and soon Gotoh began introducing himself as “Professor Gotoh.”
Beginning in 1969 Gotoh began arranging meetings with Asian heads of state for Herbert Armstrong. Herbert thought these meetings arranged by Gotoh were little short of miraculous, and he felt God must be working with and through Gotoh to perform the feat of getting him audiences with Asian leaders. (Little did Herbert realize, but every day of the year heads of state are granting interviews to editors and reporters-and one can hardly say God intervenes to bring this about. When leaders learned that Herbert would give them expensive gifts, write glowing accounts of their nation, and print their photograph on the front cover of his magazine The Plain Truth, an internationally circulated, full-color magazine, it was no wonder that these leaders were willing to grant a 30-minute interview to Herbert and have their picture taken with Herbert, Rader, and company.)
To reward Mr. Mission Impossible for his loyalty and success in furthering Herbert’s gospel and to enhance Gotoh’s image in the eyes of world leaders, Herbert elevated him to the highest academic rank possible: full professor. Herbert himself made the announcement and told the congregation that from now on Gotoh is to be referred to as “professor.” And, in order to lend more prestige to Gotoh’s office, Herbert ordered the formation of an Asian Studies Department, even though there were neither the faculty members nor the students interested in such a program to warrant such a move. There were any number of genuine Ph.D.’s at the college at the time, and yet not one of them was accorded the title “professor.” Gotoh occupies a lone spot in the history of AC-having no academic credentials and being an AC flunk-out but having been a “professor” nonetheless.
In a Dec. 29, 1970, letter to his supporters, Herbert introduced Osamu Gotoh as the man responsible for introducing him to Prince Mikasa, brother of Japan’s emperor. He explained the miraculous way God had brought Gotoh to AC and how the WCG’s Japanese work would get off the ground the following July 1-all due to the efforts of Osamu Gotoh, Mr. Mission Impossible.
The Beginning of the End for Gotoh. As Gotoh’s overseas trips-both with and without Herbert Armstrong-grew longer, more frequent, and more expensive, he came under close scrutiny by several top AC/WCG officials. It was reported by reliable sources that Gotoh was taking “God’s Work” for a ride. An AC Financial Affairs official reported that Gotoh had a lavish expense account which eventually exceeded $100,000. This account was strongly suspected of having paid for more than just his business expenses. A listing of his American Express (credit card) charges, billed to the WCG, shows the accusations are not all contrived. A few of his billings were: (1) $6,703.31 in July 1974, (2) $5,957.45 for Aug. 16, 1974, and (3) $8,239.91 for Aug. 22, 1974. Charged to his credit card were purchases from Gucci, Hermes, and other exclusive shops, from jewelry shops in Thailand and Hong Kong, from camera shops in Tokyo and Germany, and from Dunhill in London.
As opposition to Gotoh and his activities increased, so did Herbert Armstrong’s unmitigated praise of Gotoh:
“…Oh, Mr. Gotoh. And there’s a man-don’t sell him short! Some people have tried to strike at me by belittling Mr. Gotoh. And when you strike at him and say derogatory things about him, you’re striking at me. I couldn’t do the job of getting the gospel to the world without him!! He is a very important phase of it. And he’s a very effective man.
“Come to me with your criticism of Mr. Gotoh. Don’t go to someone else-I dare you!! Come to me! Mr. Gotoh predicts ONE THOUSAND baptized members after one year of the “Japanese Work.” And we’re just getting it lined up, ready to really go now. It’s going to get off the ground very soon…. The Work is going forward as it never did before. Believe me!” (Pasadena Bible study, Mar. 14, 1975.)
Those high AC officials who got to Herbert with criticism of Gotoh’s activities were quickly brushed aside by such comments from Herbert as: “I don’t care what kind of person he is, and I don’t want to hear. All I know is that God is using Gotoh to help me preach the gospel.” At the 1975 Tucson Feast of Tabernacles site, thousands of WCG members received a tongue-lashing from an irate Herbert for spreading rumors about “Professor” Gotoh, who was said to be engaged in international smuggling. Herbert not only gave Osamu an unequivocal vote of complete confidence, but he also held him up as a paragon of honesty and integrity out of whose book church members could take a few pages-not knowing that earlier on June 6, 1975, Gotoh was apprehended at the L.A. International Airport carrying a substantial undeclared amount of jewelry. This information came from the Department of the Treasury in San Pedro, Calif., which commissioned an agent to compile a case against Gotoh. According to an official spokesman of the government agency, Gotoh, if tried by a jury and convicted of the crime, could have received up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine.
Gotoh, by this time, had left the United States. The agent in charge told the editors at that time that they “had a case but no body.” The agent felt that with the material in their possession the District Attorney could be convinced that Gotoh was not just a small, one-time offender but a big enough fish to warrant a large-scale investigation.
Unfortunately the case never went past the D.A.’s office. Some high government official intervened and squelched any further efforts to bring Gotoh to trial. After this incident, Gotoh resigned his chairmanship over the Asian Studies Dept. and his position on AC’s faculty. Soon his lavishly decorated office was dismantled. According to reliable sources another official in the administration confiscated a hoard of jewelry, watches, cameras, and radio equipment. On top of it all, the business office allegedly cancelled Gotoh’s executive privileges, his expense account, and his credit cards.
At last report, Gotoh is still on the payroll of Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (sponsored by the WCG), drawing a $23,000 salary. But nobody seems to know for sure what he is doing and where he is. He is now free to enter and leave the U.S., as the Department of the Treasury is no longer after him. Their spokesman, however, admitted that the department had been under “pressure from above” to lay off Gotoh. He would not elaborate any further.
Now in The Plain Truth and in WCG sermons and co-worker letters there is no mention of the illustrious “Professor” Gotoh-the man Herbert Armstrong called “the miracle of God” a few years ago. The light of Nippon’s shining star has waned to where it is but a faint flicker.
No one knows whether Osamu Gotoh will play any future role in the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College or not. We leave the speculating up to the reader. But we want our readers to remember that Gotoh is the man of whom Herbert wrote: “…this man from Japan has been converted and baptized! He not only believes in Jesus, the Christ, he BELIEVES CHRIST…” (co-worker letter, Dec. 29, 1970, p. 2).