“Dear Courageous Sailor” – a Letter from 1943


Marines82large
Marines escort Saipan civilians. It was estimated that 22,000 civilians died, most by suicide. It was traumatic for our young Marines to witness, too.

There is personal pain in a full-fledged war that only those who were fully involved can feel.  Those feelings will differ by how that person was involved.

We somewhat understand through survivors that a soldier, airman, sailor or Marine near or on the front lines will have an intimate kinship with instantaneous fear.  They know combat is immediate, unfair, cruel, and barbaric.  But hopefully, they know their families and country are behind them – perhaps giving them the edge to overcome their fears and survive.

And this is true for the enemy as well.  As I become more knowledgeable on the Pacific Theater during WWII, I have learned the young Japanese combatants had the same fears (please see “There’s No Toilet Paper in the Jungle of Burma“).  But unlike the Allied forces who had millions of tons of war materiel, food and medical care backing them, the Japanese military fell way short.

But what about the Japanese home front?  Have you paused to ponder that?  Were their countrymen any different from us in their ways of supporting their young men dying by the hundreds of thousands?

I never did myself until recently.

____________________________

I met Rob on the internet through his facebook page, “WWII U.S. Capture Photos“.  He focuses on the spoils of war, bringing back to the forefront the war souvenirs seized by military personnel.

He acquired a letter from a now elderly Marine who was fighting on Saipan in mid-1944. He had told Rob that he removed it from a Japanese corpse.

japaneselet2
The now tattered envelope is anonymously addressed to”海軍の勇士様” or “Dear Courageous Sailor”.

Apparently, this letter had ended up to haunt the Marine who was at time very young and fighting for his life on Saipan.  The once young Marine is pictured in the center of this photo:

Marine Saipan
The young Marine who seized this letter is pictured in the middle. For an original image, please click on the picture.

Rob asked if my father could read the letter and translate it.

The letter was haunting Rob, too.

______________________________

My lady friend and I went to see Dad in October; it was her first time meeting him as well.  Below, Dad is reading the letter taken by the then young Marine from Saipan in 1944 while Linda intently listens in.

IMG_1032

The backside of the envelope is below showing the sender’s name and return address.  The image was enhanced to bring out the writing.  The Marine had written “Japanese letter picked up on Saipan”.

The letter was anonymously addressed and sent by a young girl named “Kazuko Arai (荒井和子)”.  The return address shows she was a student of a girl’s economics school in Tokyo, Nakano City, town of Honcho (東京都中野区本町通六丁目女子経済専門学校 – 附属高女).  While I believe the school may have been at least damaged by the fire bombings, I may have located the successor school. It is called “Nitobe Bunka Gakuen” with its current address as 東京都中野区本町6-38-1.  (While I did send a blind email of inquiry to them in my far from perfect Japanese, there has been no response.  I doubt that there will be given the Japanese culture.)

culetter1

While the scans were of low resolution, the two pages of the letter are as follows:

japaneselet3
japaneselet4

Because my father  will be 95 next month, it was difficult to keep him on course.  In spite of reminding him to just read the letter in Japanese (I would understand most of it), he continually tried to translate its sentences into English.  Perhaps somewhere in his buried conscious, he is doing as he was trained by the US Army’s Military Intelligence Service.  Admittedly, there were about a half-dozen characters that were just tough to make out due to creases and lack of clarity.  And he wasn’t able to figure out one paragraph in particular…but I did!  Got one on my old man.

I also sought out help from my good Hiroshima cousin, Kiyoshi, and he filled in the blanks.

Kazuko wrote:

夏も過ぎさり戰局は日一日と厳しく今こそ物心はおらか私どもう総べてを国家に捧げつくすべきと秋となりました。
As summer passes and turns into autumn, the war situation is getting more severe and now we must physically and mentally dedicate ourselves for our country.

海上での勇士様にはお変わりなく軍務に御精勵(励)の事を存じます。
As a courageous sailor out at sea, I know your unwavering fighting spirit continues.

大東亜の全戦線に於いては、今や彼我の攻防戦は、まことに熾烈極めて居るという事等、すでに日々の報道により私共の耳に刻々傳えられてをります。
Per our (radio) broadcasts, we hear that the intensity of battle and such has increased for both sides at all the front lines in the Far East Asia theater of war.

山崎保代部陽長以下二千名ついに全員北海の島に於いて玉砕したこの事をラジオが私達に傳へるや私達は唯聲をのみ頭をたれるばかりでした。
A radio broadcast announced that Lt. General Yasuyo Yamasaki and 2,000 of his  garrison died honorably defending an island in the North Sea.  All we could do was bow our heads (in honor) and swallow our  grief (voices).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[ NOTE: In researching this report, I discovered that Lt. General Yamasaki was assigned to defend the island of Attu.  He was killed with his remaining garrison in a banzai charge on May 29, 1943.  Please click on the following for more information:
My cousin Kiyoshi also found an extensive accounting of the Battle of Attu in Japanese with English translations for those who are interested.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(Letter continues)

今私達は本当に容易ならぬ戰争の只中におかれている事を強く感じました。
Now, with the daily war situation, we strongly feel as if we are in the midst of the battle and realize (winning) will not be easy.

学校ではもうじき秋の軍動會が開かれますので一生懸命身体をきたへてをります。
Soon, it will be time for the autumn (military) athletic meet; I will train hard to strengthen my physique.

断じて米英女性には贁けない覧唔です。
We resolve to not lose against the American and English women.

ではどうぞう勇士様くれぐれ御身体御大事に大切にお国の為しっかり戰って下さい。御武軍を祈り致します。
So please, courageous sailor, sincerely take good care of yourself and fight hard.  I pray for your fighting spirit.

さよなら
Good bye.

_____________________

So now we realize that Japan also had a “home front”.

Perhaps they did not have a “Rosie the Riveter” like we did.

But the Japanese homeland did endure pain, fear and sorrow as we did…and depression.  They were not the inhuman creatures depicted on war posters and in propaganda of that time.  And thanks to Rob and the young Marine, we see a letter written in Tokyo by a high school girl named Kazuko Arai in the autumn of 1943 and simply addressed to an anonymous sailor.  Kiyoshi also believes that the watermarked stationery was of high quality and issued out of military stock for this purpose.

Sadly, we do not know the name of the sailor from whose corpse the letter was removed from, nor do we know if Ms. Arai survived the war and raised a family.

showa8
Picture taken at Kazuko’s school pre-war.

Things like this sort aren’t evident in our (current) history textbooks.  Now, WWII has pretty much been erased from school textbooks altogether, replaced by “politically correct” topics…that there was simply a war between Japan and America.  A disgrace to those who endured or died.

In closing, there is a diary written by a young Japanese doctor up to the time of the final banzai charge on Attu.  He was one of the attackers who was killed.  As mentioned in my other posts about the Military Intelligence Service, Japanese military forces were allowed to write diaries.  When these diaries were taken from the battlefield, the Japanese-Americans (Nisei) soldiers were able to read then extract valuable intel on the enemy – both for their battle front and their homeland.  In his last entry, the young doctor writes a goodbye to his wife and two small children back home.

Young Japanese doctor’s war diary

All about honor


Friends, a wonderful and honorable reflection on a career Marine’s experience with a Japanese-American who was trapped in Japan during WWII. I would encourage you to read it.

Fix Bayonets

TPhoenix 001ed Kobayashi was tall for a Japanese, typically thin, gray haired, a bit stooped over, and one thing that really stood out was the fact that his English was flawless.  He worked in the Manpower Management section of the Personnel Department at Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan.  I was privileged to serve as Assistant Director.

The Manpower Management section had undertaken a study of the efficiency of several of our air station support departments, and so I hardly ever saw Ted except when he was en route to, or returning from one of his assessments.  One day I asked him to tell me what he was doing, and he just looked at me with a slight smile and said, “Well, of course I am a Japanese employee of the Marine Corps Air Station, and so my primary purpose here is to make the American civil service employee—my boss…

View original post 986 more words

Vintage Japanese Art


dragonfly

My Aunt Eiko had these in a brown paper bag of all things.

Hundreds of old Japanese artwork kept by my Great-Grandfather Wakio Shibabayama.  Born August 17, 1874 in Kaga City of the Ishikawa Prefecture.

Sumi-e.  Watercolors.  Sketches.  On thinner-than-tissue rice paper.  Dog-eared from what appears to be many years of handling by my Great-Grandfather.

________________________

My Aunt Eiko’s knowledge of Wakio (her grandfather on her mother’s side) is unfortunately sketchy.  No pun intended.

Her knowledge of these paintings is even sketchier unfortunately.

But they survived the war and I don’t know how they did.  They are so fragile to say the least.

Surprisingly, some artwork was painted on several sheets of rice paper glued together.  I don’t know what kind of glue it was but it sure beats Krazy Glue.  And it’s non-toxic to boot.  I think.

_______________________

armor
An apparent samurai in full armor.

Aunt Eiko knows Wakio was an accomplished artist and that he taught art in his senior years.  In Japan (and unlike here), professors were elite.  And quite a few of them were samurai towards the end of the 1800’s.  Unbeknownst to many Westerners, the Japanese government began banning the samurai around 1870 to bring civility to society… but by then, the samurai had begun transitioning to a peaceful life philosophy.  Many took up art.

And I’m not saying Wakio was samurai… but my mother drummed it into my head that “her” family heritage WAS samurai. lol

Aunt Eiko remembers Wakio passing away when he was about 80.  (It does appear that long life is in one’s genes.)

She has little information about this collection.  She recalls these sketches and watercolors were done by his students…perhaps as assignments.  I can read some of their names.

But my Great-Grandfather’s “hanko 判子”, or seal, is stamped on all of them.  In fact, there are several variations of his seal through the years.  You can see them on the samples.

Aunt Eiko also remembers that “a couple of his students” became well-known artists but cannot recall their names.

Here are some samples.  Currency can be seen for reference; in some photos, you can actually see how thin the rice paper is:

goose
This appears to be one of the oldest in his collection. Undated.
fan
Detail of the brush work can be seen immediately below.
fan close up
A close up of the brush detail from the fan painting immediately above.
turtle
In spite of being folded for decades, the serenity of this piece still shines. You can see right through it, too.
performers
Appears to be street performers from old Japan.  You can also see it was painted on several sheets glued together.
warrior
A dramatic sketch of what appears to be a non-Japanese warrior. Undated.
gorge
A serene painting of a gorge.

dragon lily

dragonfly closeup
You can see the remarkable attention to the detail in this close-up…down to individual brush strokes.
syllabus
A fragile rice paper booklet written in Wakio’s hand… all with a brush and carbon ink. You can also see ties at the right. I don’t know exactly what it is but there is a reference to the “43rd Class” in red at the upper right. Perhaps this was his syllabus.  The seal in blue states 1947 and he was 74 years old.  The red seal apparently functions more like a signature.

________________________

But as mentioned, Wakio was an accomplished artist.  Not to say he was famous.  Just accomplished.  My family has several of his original silk paintings, one of which is shown below.

wakio painting

We don’t exactly know where Wakio sought refuge during World War II but these delicate art pieces from long ago survived.  My aunt believes my grandmother inherited these from him upon his death.

And here is the one photo I have of my Great-Grandfather Wakio Shibayama.  You can see it on the scroll above.

wakio1

Too bad Sony hadn’t invented portable digital voice recorders.  I would have liked to have heard the story behind these remnants Old Japan.

Homemade Double-Layer BD Cake (Kinda-Sorta)


IMG_7668
In case you haven’t figured it out, my daughter is on the left.

My just-turned eleven old daughter had her third 11th birthday party.

That’s right.  Third one.  LOL

And, with the stuff that’s been going on our family life, I decided to try and make a “classic white double-layer birthday cake with raspberry filling and butter cream frosting” for her – from scratch.

Key word: “try”.

And dang, that’s long name for a cake, isn’t it?  Mary Poppins would be pleased.

_____________________________

IMG_7716
My two oldest celebrated Brooke’s 11th birthday a week earlier during her real birthday.
IMG_7720-001
That’s my beloved Green Bay Packers t-shirt… Oh, and my four great kids.

This ol’ mechanic thought he could throw this cake together easily…  You know, like if I was Major Nelson with Jeannie at his side.

And I wish I did have Jeannie.  Only for her blinks, of course.

________________________________

IMG_7653
Most of the key ingredients. By the way, I use old medicine cups that came with children’s medicines to pour in extracts.  They even have markings on the side.

I followed the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  Its recipes are proven battle plans for old mechanics that are easy to follow with predictable results.

But they forgot to consider my age and my (poorly) man-equipped kitchen this time.  Unthinkable.

This time, two (and a half) things went wrong while making the cake:

1.  As I didn’t have a flat beater for my KitchenAid stand mixer, the cake flour/butter mixture couldn’t get “crumbly” enough.  I believe this kept the cake from properly rising while baking.  (Well, there were three things that went wrong: it was overbaked by a couple of minutes.)

2.  I over-whipped the frosting, making it REAL tough to spread…  It was worse than cold peanut butter.  But it tasted just fine.

And while no fault of the recipe, I ran out of frosting; because the cakes had domed too much, there was a gap around the circumference my belly could have sneaked through.  I ended up shoving a LOT of frosting in to fill the gap.

IMG_7658
Smuckers raspberry preserves over the almond-buttercream frosting. Spread from the inside to just short of the edge. It’ll squish out.

Since Brooke has gotten hooked on “Cake Boss” (darn fake reality shows), she has become an eleven year old expert on how to frost and decorate cakes.  She was “lovingly critical” on how the frosting was being put on…a little after midnight.  “Pa-paaah! I told you.  You should have cut off the domes.  It’s too high now so you’ve got a HUGE gap!”  (My oldest, Robyn, is probably snickering to herself, “Haha.  Now you know what its like!)

You have no idea how close I was to being fired by the household Cake Boss, let me tell you.  But since it was after midnight (yes, she was still up), I would have received double-time.

For a cake stand, I had to improvise.  The cake was first placed onto the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.  Then that bottom was placed on top of a 9” Pyrex pie dish which was atop a mixing bowl.  Complicated.  Pain to use.  But I did it.  Frustratingly.  With the Cake Boss still cracking orders to boot.

____________________________

Anyways, the girls ate it.  They said it was good.  I made sure they said that.

IMG_7665
Brooke’s four closest friends.

Below, you can see the HUGE gap between the layers I was nearly fired over.  Admittedly, the gap (all the way around the cake) measured about an inch:

IMG_7706

So now I know better next time.  And I did order the right flat beater and a revolving cake stand.

But the 11 year old Cake Boss is still here.

I have a great idea.

I should join the baker’s union.

They would keep me from being fired.

American Warriors, Past and Present


Some interesting facts and thoughts to ponder from a career Marine who served our country…

Fix Bayonets

Greatest Generation WeissWe can thank Tom Brokaw for the term, “Greatest generation.”  It first appeared in his 1988 book of that title, accompanied by his declaration, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”  He is, of course, writing about Americans who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II.

I wonder, though … is this true?  What makes Mr. Brokaw the expert, to make such a determination?  He has no advanced degrees; he worked most of his life in television journalism, participating in three televised “news” programs with NBC.  He was, like Walter Cronkite, a newsreader.  Unlike Cronkite, Brokaw never buried himself in the carnage of combat journalism.  When other up and coming journalists went to cover the war in Southeast Asia, Tom Brokaw accepted a position with KNBC Los Angeles.

So…

View original post 299 more words