Tag Archives: 第二次世界大戦

The Pain of Survival and Aunt Michie – Part 4


You can hardly tell this is a young girl anymore. As Masako and Mr. Tsukamoto told me, they were walking dead. Flesh literally melted off their bodies and dangled. Grotesque forms which were once human beings.

The aftermath of the bombing was no different from hell.  Not that I’ve seen hell nor that I would want to…

But Aunt Michie and my very young cousins saw it.

They visited hell.

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Atomic bomb survivors. Perhaps this is what Aunt Michie and her cousins saw in their search for relatives on the other side of the hill. If you notice the flask the young girl is holding to her lips.  It was likely filled with radioactive water.

Nearly all doctors and nurses within the city had been killed or seriously wounded on August 6, 1945.  If they survived the blast, they were likely to fall ill from radiation poisoning and they themselves would die within days.  All remaining medical supplies – which had been nearly non-existent due to the war – had been destroyed as well.  Most food – even unpicked fruits or vegetables – were contaminated with radiation as was water(¹).  Thousands of corpses plugged the rivers as they would go in to soothe their burns but would soon perish.

It is important to note that food rationing in Japan was much more extreme than what was imposed on the American public.  While the rationing in America began in May 1942, it started with just coffee and sugar.  In Japan, rationing of a far more extensive reach began in 1939 if not earlier.  It extended to nearly all first quality food stuffs.  Rice, barley, seafood, meat, soy bean paste and soy sauce, vegetables, fruit, seafood, etc.  Groups called “tonari-gumi” were established in villages and the like; they monitored and rationed food to the Japanese families based on what work they were doing, e.g., war production, number of family members along with their age and sex.  The rationing was so severe that when one family member died, the family did not report it.  The average caloric daily intake was cut down to less than 2,000 a day by 1945.

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Homeless orphan in Tokyo. He would have to be determined if he was to survive.

The Japanese civilians were starving, so to speak, and were without question malnourished.

Aunt Michie was no different.  She was hungry like everyone else and likely tired easily due to low nutritional intake and daily physical and emotional demands upon her.  It is important to have an understanding of her condition at this crucial moment in history.

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Sadako – taken in early 1948 by my father while on furlough. She would marry a distant cousin (common cultural practice at that time) who was also badly burned in the atomic explosion.  She is wearing clothing my father bought for her at the Tokyo PX.

After the shock and black rain subsided, Aunt Michie’s thoughts immediately went to her treasured family.  According to my cousins, she went into her priceless family rice reserves and cooked real rice for the children.  Sadako, the second oldest, remembers to this day how she savored that bowl of rice, a definite luxury at that time.  While but a child of ten years and filled with anxiety about eating such a fine meal, she saw at that moment her mother’s love and affection for them was unconditional.

Aunt Michie’s thoughts went to the Aramaki family (aunt and uncle’s family) who lived in Hiroshima.  She had no way of knowing that day but they had become direct victims of the atomic bombing.  They had been burned over most of their bodies and had even been trapped under their destroyed house.  They managed to struggle with their searing injuries to Aunt Michie’s house to seek refuge and care.  They had realized that only strong family support would allow them to live.

Grotesquely, the path going over the 300 meter high hill which the relatives traveled became littered with scores of dead people.  Masako said they were unrecognizable lumps of flesh and died where they crumpled.  Many had their clothes burned away.  While thousands were killed instantly, other thousands suffered for days before dying from intense burns, radioactive poisoning and other injuries.  As radiation poisoning was unheard of amongst them, some were told they had dysentery and the like.  Many before dying oozed pus from their ears and blood ran from their noses.  You will not read this in any Western textbook.  In fact, the gruesome information about the days, months and years after August 6th was suppressed for a couple of decades by both governments.

While the dazed and immensely pained adults struggled to Michie’s farm, there were young children of the family unaccounted for(²).  Without hesitation and unbelievably, Aunt Michie – in her weakened state – pulled a two wheel cart over the hill to Hiroshima to look for them.

Over a hill.

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I believe this to be the type of cart Aunt Michie pulled to Hiroshima to look for the unaccounted for children of the family. Kiyoshi called it a 大八車, or large two wheeled wooden cart.

Miraculously and while the details are lost, she found some of them and hauled them back to the farm on the cart, now laden with the additional weight of the children…  on the same road that was further littered with dead and dying people.  Think of the mental anguish Michie had to endure when dying people came up to her and asked for her help…  It would be difficult to not look at them.  It was more difficult to ignore them, I’m sure.

According to my cousins, a total of 23 people got refuge and care at Aunt Michie’s farm.  I understand many were relatives from the Aramaki side of the family.

There were more hurdles for Michie and her children immediately ahead – caring for the injured and dying.

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You can tell which way this woman was facing when the bomb went off. Her left side is burned. Photo was likely taken after August 6, 1945.
Caring for Victim of Hiroshima Bombing
A mother looks after her child. This photo was also likely taken after August 6, 1945.
Victim of Hiroshima Bombing
An elderly woman lies dying on the floor covered with flies. Perhaps this is just one of the sickening sights Michie and her children have buried in their conscious.

The preceding photographs may show what Michie and the children were faced with.  And the children were just that – children.

How old are your children, by the way?

The older cousins recall that they, Michie, Mikizo’s parents and the less injured relatives took on a 24 hour a day field hospital of sorts to treat the injured.  It was stifling hot and humid; yet, they had to be given constant attention and there were so many of them.  I cannot imagine how exhausting this task could have been, especially when you are hungry and malnourished yourself.

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Taken sometime after August 6, 1945. The side of her you see is what had faced the atomic explosion. The patterns are from her clothing she wore that day. It was where the dark patterns of her clothing had been in contact with her skin. Masako recalls vividly this type of pattern among the burn victims and that the maggots followed that pattern.

The common injury were burns.  Severe burns…and they had no medicine whatsoever.(³)  No Bactine.  No Motrin.  No aloe.  All Michie could do was to coat the burns with a type of cooking oil and bandage them with pieces of cloth.  She must have endured unlimited anguish in knowing she could not measurably lessen their pain and suffering.  There must have been constant crying and unbearable moans of pain.

And on their hands, blood from human beings.

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Namie – taken in early 1948 by my father while on furlough.

Six year old Namie could never forget what she had to do.  Flies were swarming having sensed dying flesh.  Namie was tasked with shooing them away with a fan but they wouldn’t stay away.  And worse yet – time and time again, she had to remove the maggots that were feeding on dead flesh…with chopsticks.  I do not know if I could have done that…but Namie did.

The turmoil that must have stormed inside Aunt Michie to tell her daughters to do what they had to do for the sake of survival…and then to be stern with them and tell them to continue when they wavered or cried…  must have been punishing to her as a loving mother.  She must have wanted to cry.

Aunt Michie was the point woman.

And she fulfilled that role.

Her goal was to get everyone to tomorrow.

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To be continued in Part 5….

Notes:

(1) Per my 2012 meeting with Mr. Tsukamoto in Hiroshima, water is the main theme of the Cenotaph at the Peace Park.  Survivors clamored for water.  Where there was well water, many survivors were suffocated as dozens more pressed against them for the precious liquid.  Please see “A 1937 Yearbook, the Atomic Bomb and Hiroshima” for further information and links to their personal story.

(2) The number of unaccounted for children is unclear.

(3) Mr. Tsukamoto recounted how they had to constantly mash yams and place them over their burns to temporarily lessen the pain.  They did that for over a month, he says.

The Pain of Survival and Aunt Michie – Part 3


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Japanese women being given “home defense training”. My grandmother on my mother’s side underwent such training on a Tokyo schoolground. 1945.

The Japanese home front had essentially collapsed by 1945.  Instead of focusing on food, supplies, building air raid shelters and organizing orderly evacuations of civilians, Japanese military leadership focused on misleading news reports and propaganda.  Millions fled the cities into safer rural areas(¹) on their own initiative but once there, supplies of daily sustenance was meager.

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In one’s own life, you are tested.  A good human being will at times prove oneself to be a good brother or sister, son or daughter, friend or life partner.  Some fail.  Some pass.

Aunt Michie was one who passed; her heart led her to care for others before herself.  It is as if she knew being good to others was the way to have a good life.

As an example, US air and naval forces ruled the skies and the seas.  A key staple of the Japanese diet – fish – had been nearly cut off  as fishing boats were attacked once out to sea.  Yet, when Aunt Michie came across sashimi, she traveled hours with Masako in tow to take a precious portion to her brother Suetaro at his army base in Fukuoka:

“…(Masako) remembers a couple of trips (to see Suetaro). It was not easy travel in war-torn Japan.  For one trip, Aunt Michie managed to take sashimi – in this time of little food, it was a tremendous treat and gift. On that trip, Masako remembers her mother stealthily sliding over to Uncle Suetaro the wrapped sashimi. He was being stared at by many of his fellow soldiers – they were not well fed either.  She remembers Uncle slowly turning so that the others could not see and quickly devoured the treat.”

(From Masako and Spam Musubi)

Aunt Michie could have eaten the precious sashimi herself…but didn’t.

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With her husband taken by the Imperial Japanese Army then dispatched to war in Manchuria, she was burdened with running the farm… still laboring to produce crops only to be taken by the military.  She would get up before sunrise, help prepare meals, tend to the family then toil in the fields.  And when her mother became partially paralyzed and alone in her own home five miles away, Aunt Michie knew she had to take care of her, too.  Michie was the last of her children left in Japan.

My Grandmother Kono – having suffered a stroke – is propped up from behind by Japanese “shiki-futon” for the picture. She would not see her son alive again. Taken in Hiroshima, May 3,1944.

While Michie and Grandmother Kono managed to get part-time care, Aunt Michie still took it upon herself to check in on her stricken mother.  My cousins tell me their mother Aunt Michie would take them along for the ten mile round trip to her Kanemoto family home.

No car.  No bus.  No taxi.  No trains or bicycles.  They had to walk.  After all, it was 1944 and fuel was a huge luxury.  One memory the youngest happily recollect is that they would take turns riding in some kind of baby stroller that Michie would push to Grandmother Kono’s.  Neverthless, it was still a great deal of effort and sacrifice on Michie’s part in any case… and she did this after working in the fields, too.

Masako will eventually end up caring for Grandmother Kono.

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Family photo taken of the town of Tomo about 35 years ago atop the 300 meter tall hill separating it from Hiroshima. Hiroshima is directly behind. This short hill served to partially deflect the atomic bomb’s shockwave. Courtesy of Kiyoshi Aramaki.
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Per Kiyoshi, this was taken from the house and shows some of the field Michie had to cultivate. She was here when the shockwave hit. While the one on the right is no longer there, the family burial plot was between the two small mounds you see here. Courtesy of Kiyoshi Aramaki and dated 1976.

After picking herself off the ground, Aunt Michie saw an evil yet mystifying mushroom cloud slowly rising up beyond the 300 meter tall hill separating her village from Hiroshima proper.  At that instant, she knew her life had taken a wrenching turn for the worse… as if it could get any worse.

I cannot imagine what was going through her mind and heart watching that mushroom cloud rising.  She could not have even dreamed that it was one massive bomb, kilometers away, that could cause this sort of force and devastation.  It must have defied belief.

Hiroshima_10
A relatively unseen image of the explosion, taken from a Kataitaichi, six miles east of Hiroshima. Michie was nearly due west and on the other side of the cloud. The cloud would reach 40,000 feet in just four minutes. It would ultimately rise to 60,000 feet. (Horikawa Elementary School)

According to Michie and my cousins, the shockwave blew out all the sliding doors, all the tatami mats were flung and the ceiling was shoved up in the house.  Try to imagine yourself being inside the house.  The same thing happened to Grandmother Kono’s house five miles south (See map in Part 1).

As per their daily air raid drill, they apparently all ran to the air raid shelter in the small hill behind their house.  After about half an hour and with the mushroom cloud still rising, a black, syrupy rain began to fall on them.  According to the cousins, Michie believed that the Americans were dropping oil from space.

She could not have fathomed it was contaminated with over 200 kinds of radioactive isotopes.  We now call it black rain.

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I took this photo of a preserved wall section stained with actual black rain from that fateful day. Hiroshima Peace Museum, November 2013.

Sadako, who was ten years old, clearly remembers their white blouses had turned black from the rain.  No one – absolutely no one – knew that other than staining skin, clothing, and buildings, but that ingesting black rain by breathing and by consumption of contaminated food or water, would lead to radiation poisoning.  Even flowers would bloom in distorted shapes and forms from the radiation.

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With the enormity and the suddenness of the brilliant flash of light followed by a shockwave and the swirling mushroom cloud, Michie deep inside knew her world had forever changed.

Horror was to literally come into hand shortly to enforce that foreboding thought.

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To be continued in Part 4….

(1) Albeit late, my mother’s family fled to the Fukui Prefecture in early July 1945 to escape the bombing of Tokyo.

The Pain of Survival and Aunt Michie – Part 2


Taken in 1945 after a B-29 bombing attack on Tokyo. There is little left of the city and many, many families were without food and homes. Sadly, there were thousands of orphans as well, many of whom would perish.

Human dignity is as crucial to an earnest life as is air, water and food.

Aunt Michie drew upon that dignity inside her to help her family and others survive the day to day ruthlessness of life during war and ultimately, the atomic bombing.

While her dignity was larger than life, Michie would ultimately sacrifice her health and well-being to ensure her family and others would survive…and survive strongly.

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Japanese high school girls being drilled on how to use bamboo spears to ultimately repel “the invaders”. Notice the presence of the Imperial Japanese Army in the background observing.  Tokyo 1944.

By January 1945, Japan had already lost the war.  While the Japanese military leaders controlled the country and its path to ultimate destruction, the civilians took the brunt of war.  Many cities had been destroyed by US bombing raids leaving millions of families homeless.  There was not enough food to go around.  Many starved to death, especially orphaned children, if not from neglect as others would shut their eyes to them.

However, Hiroshima was largely spared from aerial attack.  The US did carry out bombing raids in March and April 1945 against military targets in Hiroshima but it was not frequent…but it was frequent enough to require air raid drills  The naval port of Kure though, where the battleship Yamato was built, was essentially destroyed in June 1945 by US Army and Navy bombing attacks.

HiroshimaBombingMap
A hand drawn map showing targets and damage to Hiroshima by US bombing raids including the atomic bombing. For a zoomable map, please copy and paste this link into your search bar: http://www.digital.archives.go.jp/DAS/meta/DGDetail_en_0000000611
Source: National Archives of Japan

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After her marriage in 1933, Michie was tasked to arduous farm labor at the Aramaki farm.  Their primary crop was rice.  She also gave birth to five children before war’s end: Masako (1933), Sadako (1936), Namie (1939), Tomiko (1942) and Masataka (1944).  Kiyoshi would follow in 1947.  She loved them unconditionally.

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A happy Aunt Michie and likely Tomiko. Tomiko would soon be adopted by another family in the actual city of Hiroshima.  Undated but perhaps 1943.

On the farm lived Mikizo, his parents and Michie.  The four of them – and eventually three of her oldest daughters (a total of seven family members) – would work the land from a little before sunrise to sunset.  It was hard, arduous labor.  Back breaking work.  They did not have John Deere tractors or combines to aid them but had an ox to plow the fields with.  This was 24/7.

After all that hard labor, nearly the entire crop was taken by the Japanese military for the war.  They were allowed to retain a small portion of the crop for their own use.  As a result, rice was even further rationed for family consumption.  They had no choice.  On top of that, there was little else to eat.  They lived a meager life per my cousins.

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As the war dragged on, Japan was descending into the abyss…and it kept getting more and more darker.

In the story “Dear Mama”, Michie’s youngest brother Suetaro (my uncle) hurriedly wrote a somber good bye letter to Grandmother Kono in his war diary.  He was being sent off to war and certain death.

Farewell
Farewell sendoff for Suetaro who was heading to certain death. Michie is to his left and holding Masataka; Mikizo to his right. It is only an educated guess but the older man to the right of Mikizo is his father.  May 3, 1944.

I wonder how she really felt, knowing that Suetaro was going to fight to his death against the country in which his two older brothers and sister were imprisoned.  They were her brothers and sister, too.  An ugly internal conflict.

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The area around Tomo was nearly barren of younger, physically capable men.  All the men up to 35 years of age were taken by the army, regardless of their family status.  Mikizo was no exception.

In late 1944, at 35 years of age, he was taken by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Suetaro foresaw that happening in his farewell letter; he warned Mikizo to fully cooperate with the officers and to do exactly as he was ordered.  This was because it was brutal even within the non-commissioned ranks of the Imperial Japanese Army; the training officers routinely beat recruits into submission.  These recruits were largely the men who were ordered to their deaths in “banzai charges” by the thousands.  They greatly outnumbered the “hard core” Japanese officers.

banzai killed
Aftermath of a banzai charge.

Aunt Michie’s family who tended to the back breaking labor on the farm was now lessened by one.  As with her brother Suetaro, she foresaw never seeing Mikizo again.

To make matters worse, her mother (my Grandmother Kono) suffered a cerebral infarction the day she learned Suetaro was being sent off to war.  She became paralyzed on her left side.  To get about the now empty house, she would have to pull herself around with her right arm.

On top of everything else – tending to the crops, the house and the children – Aunt Michie now had to care for her disabled mother.

Michie’s daily life was now further strained with even more stress…  Life must have appeared darker to Aunt Michie.

Michie’s willpower and dignity will now be on trial and severely tested.

But the struggles she will endure will have purpose.

She would not let her family down.

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To be continued in Part 3….

A Father-ly Invasion


Imagine being a Marine. You’re in Afghanistan.  You see your buddies getting blown up by the cowardly enemy’s IED or killed after an ambush. Then, after a bitter, maniacal all-out war, their religious leader capitulates.

Now, suddenly, you are standing out in the desert, outside of Fallujah, waiting to go in as part of the “occupying force”. Your feelings and emotions are going amok – anger coupled with fear of the unknown… You will be surrounded by the enemy who also fought the exact same bitter war against you.

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US 26th Marines marching into Sasebo, Japan – August 1945. Notice the Japanese standing to the left and the general absence of civilians.

Now… imagine you are a young Marine on a troop ship off the Japanese coast. It is August 30, 1945. A few weeks earlier, you became acquainted with the term atomic bomb. The Emperor of Japan just capitulated.

You are to go ashore onto the Japanese homeland.  But in this case, you are not wading ashore to occupy a city. You are wading ashore to occupy an entire country.

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As we now know, the initial “invasion” of Japan by Allied forces ended up being entirely peaceful; no one was killed. Perhaps there was a small incident or two, but I have not read anything to indicate a single shot was fired. How could that be? How could hundreds of thousands of Marines, soldiers and sailors have stormed ashore – under an assault mindset – onto a homeland populated with maniacal military and millions of civilians – and not erupt in combat?

army report 98th

Per a report of the US Army’s 98th Infantry Division dated December 20, 1945:

“The mission assigned the Division was participation in the occupation of Japan; however, due to uncertainty as to the attitude of the people, the real intentions of the Japanese army, and the possibility of treachery or sabotage, the Division was directed to be combat loaded and prepared for any eventuality. Thus planning for the occupation of Japan was based upon an assault landing rather than an administrative movement…”

(Click here to see actual report.)

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There is no single answer. The peaceful invasion was the result of hundreds of contributing influences.

One came from Father Patrick Byrne, a Catholic priest in a country dominated by Buddhism.

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Father Patrick Byrne. He was elevated to Bishop prior to his death.

Father Byrne had been sent to Kyoto in 1935 to set up a mission. As he was respectful of the peoples, he was put under house arrest (confinement) when war broke out. Of course, it was very harsh. His only companions were a cat and a parrot. Food was poor and scarce, just like it was for the unfortunate civilians.

Per “Escape from Manchuria” by Paul K. Maruyama (USAF, Ret.), he emphasizes the importance of the role fulfilled by Father Byrne immediately after the Emperor broadcast his surrender. Although in very poor health, Father Byrne with the aid of a newspaper reporter and a Father Furuya, hurriedly put together a radio broadcast intended for TWO audiences: (1) one for the Japanese homeland and (2) one for the “invading” Allied forces.

As hordes of civilians were escaping to the countryside, getting from Kyoto to Tokyo in the few available trains was hard but after 15 hours, he made it being escorted by police. He then recorded his speech on or about August 20, 1945, which was re-broadcast many times via radio and shortwave…to the Japanese people and to the countless number of Allied occupying forces staging off-shore.

His radio broadcast:

“The war is over. What can I say first of all to the Japanese people whom I have loved and who love me as a brother for more than 10 years? I share their grief when the Emperor spoke to them and told them that they had fought a good fight but now he wanted them to give up the war and turn to peace. I, an American, speak to you Japanese in the name of those soldiers about to enter your land to assure you that you need to have no fear. They are not coming to the shores as invaders, with tanks, bayonets and bullets, but merely as representatives of their country, taking occupation of Japan to help you once more to reconstruct and build on the new foundation of democracy. The eyes of the world are on this occupying army. You may rest assured they come peaceably.

What can I say to you, the soldiers of my native land, regarding these people? Their feelings will naturally be mixed with emotions as you look up on the victors entering their land, where the homes have been destroyed or burned, their sons and fathers of families killed or maimed and wounded. It is only natural that you look with anger, fear, mistrust, and frustration at your arrival. Should you add to their present feelings by any any ruthless attacks upon the women and young people in this land, I am afraid of what the consequences might be. So I urge you to cooperate with me as I assure the Japanese people that you will commit no degradations, that you would have goodwill and charity in trying to realize what these people, the real victims of the war, have suffered and will not do anything to add to the pain they endure.

You are on trial before the eyes of the world. Any violence or immorality, any unjust or criminal act on your part will not only be a stain on your character but on that the nation you represent.

I believe I may assure you people of Japan that the army chaplains would do everything they can to remind our soldiers of their moral responsibility. The Military Police, too, will carefully protect your interests and will arrest anyone found violating the law. If there seems to be any violation of this protection which is your due, I have been assured by the Archbishop of Tokyo that he will appeal to the Holy Father in Rome who in turn will make known to the whole world by radio and the press any form of injustice. Freedom of the press in the United States will cooperate so that such news will not be suppressed.

I am not afraid because I know these Americans and trust them, but I can understand the fears of the Japanese people. Soldiers coming into Japan, I strongly urge you to come with kind hearts and be good friends of these people. You have fought hard and want a victory. I know you want to enjoy it and want to be proud of it, but please try to understand the distress of the Japanese and make your behavior calm and warm as representatives of a great nation. Perhaps after two or three months, they will begin to understand you better, and then I think there will come an intimate friendship between you and them.”

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The Allied Forces – with the words of Father Bryne questioned in many soldiers’ minds as to intent – stormed ashore on August 30, 1945 on many beaches all around Japan. Once ashore, they were largely astonished to learn over the next few hours the truth in Father Byrne’s words.

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A Marine walks past young Japanese women on a routine patrol.  Thousands of vials of poison were distributed to thousands of young girls in preparation for the “invasion”. (USMC Photo)

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According to “Escape from Manchuria”, Father Byrne made a recovery back in the United States after the war and was elevated to Bishop when he was sent to Korea in 1947. In 1950, he was captured by the North Koreans and once again was subjected to horrifying treatment and captivity before being put on the Korean War equivalent of the Bataan Death March.

He fell ill during the march in freezing conditions and when he could not continue, he was taken to a shack. There, on a frozen floor and without any warmth, he passed away on November 20, 1950 at a place called Ha Chang Ri, North Korea.

(Note: Edited Feb. 2, 2014.  For some reason, the photo of Father Patrick Bryne had been removed.)

“Dear Courageous Sailor” – a Letter from 1943


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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.

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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.

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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.

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My friend and I went to see Dad in October 2013.  Below, Dad is reading the letter taken by the then young Marine from Saipan in 1944.

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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.)

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

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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.

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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

Old Man Jack-ism #6 – The Zero


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I stopped by with a cigar to visit with Jack today.  I hoped there will be others visiting given the date and holiday season…

Today, I thought I’d visit with Old Man Jack for a while.  I didn’t drive my supercharged and unmufflered Grabber Orange Mustang to visit him although he loved it so much.  It looked like rain.  But I did take a cigar with me.

I know he didn’t mind the cigar.

He said it “doesn’t smell much better than the stinkin’ islands…but anything smelled better than those stinkin’ islands”.

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He would reminisce much more frequently about the war on those islands when it involved “fun memories” and I recalled one while chatting with him today at his grave. Believe me, whether it be a “fun” memory or not, a tear or two always tags along.

Old Man Jack always described the islands in the Southwest Pacific to be “those stinkin’ islands”.  He had said that while things always stunk, “everything smelled like shit”.  Pardon the French but those are the words expressed by the now old man who was back then a young boy of nineteen.  Hell, put it into perspective.  That spoiled young singer Justin Bieber is nineteen.  I’ll leave it at that.

“When I got there, I wondered why things smelled like shit,” he said with his trademark grin.  The one where the left corner of his mouth rises.  “Well, I was a dumb shit punk myself back then.”

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We had been touring the mock up of the CV-6 carrier deck (USS Enterprise) at the Chino Planes of Fame Museum back in 2003.  Our friendship had begun solidifying by then.  I had taken him there primarily to see his beloved F4U Corsair so this was a side trip at the museum.

On the “flight deck” was a Douglass SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber.

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Jack in 2003 with the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless behind him.  You can make out his boyish grin.

One thing he immediately spit out was after seeing the plane was, “That rear seat is just a metal plate.  You sat on your parachute for a cushion…”  He then continued, “…and those were twin .30’s back there.”

He told me once a Navy dive bomber pilot “grabbed him by the collar” early on and told him to get into the rear seat “quick-like”.  I remember asking him why because at that time, I didn’t know he was certified to fly.  In typical Old Man Jack fashion, he quipped, “‘Cuz I was the only one there.”  Accent on the “there”, please.

“Well, we were flying up there.  Man, that parachute made for a lousy cushion,” he said.  “Then a Zero got on our six…and then I saw these little flashes.  I figured out real quick he was shooting at us.”  Jack’s still got that grin on his face.

“The pilot yelled, Shoot, you son of a bitch!  Shoot!  Shoot!  So I did.”

“The pilot kept yelling, Shoot!  Shoot!“.  Then I yelled, “I did! I did!”

He wasn’t afraid to say it.  Jack said he got so scared he just laid on the triggers and didn’t let go.  There was only about 15 seconds worth of rounds.  He had fired off all his ammo.

“Man, I heard every god damn cuss word from that pilot,” he chuckled, still with that trademark grin.

But then he ended it by saying, “…And whoo-ee, I crapped in my pants…  And that’s how I figured out why everything smelled like shit.”

rear gunner
A WWII period photo of rear gunner and the twin .30 caliber machine guns.

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I never asked him what happened to that Zero…or if they successfully dropped their bomb…or what happened to that Navy pilot.

But one thing is for sure.  I would have liked to have seen Justin Bieber in that back seat behind those twin .30s.

I’m sure his voice would get even higher…permanently…and would have needed a diaper change.

Real men don’t wear diapers.  Jack sure as hell didn’t.  He just shit in his pants and wasn’t ashamed to admit it.

____________________________

I enjoyed our chat today, Jack.

And I’ll be sure to drive the Mustang next time so you can hear it.

Miss you.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part IV


Just two months after Old Man Jack passed away, so did the young boy who stood in the US Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Louisiana in 1942.

The man who told me funerals don’t do a damn for him anymore.

Mr. Johnson was gone.

The cremated remains of Mr. Johnson

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The neighborhood was in shock.  I had waved to Mr. Johnson just three days earlier while he and Marge gingerly got out of their car.  I said in a louder than normal voice from across the street: “We’re still on for breakfast on Saturday, right Mr. Johnson?”  We were to go have breakfast and chat about Old Man Jack – and perhaps learn more of Mr. Johnson.  Instead, he died suddenly just three days later.  Three days.

After 66-1/2 years of marriage, Marge was now a widow.  A sudden illness took his last breath away when bombs could not 70 years earlier.  He was 89 years old.

Marge surprised me when she asked if I would video Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  I told her it would be my privilege.  I was elated to be of some service to her.

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After Old Man Jack’s funeral, Mr. Johnson invited me over after I got home from work that night.  That was when he volunteered that story about how “he got suckered into becoming a Marine”.  Lovingly, of course.  You could tell he had esprit de corps in his blood to that day.  He was proud of not having BEEN a Marine, but of BEING a Marine.  He had all the right to be.

He also talked about how he met Marge.  What a wonderful story it was.  I will try to capture the essence of what he told me.

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By early 1944, Mr. Johnson (now a sergeant) had been taken off the front lines to recover from his grave wounds.  He was “pretty messed up,” as he put it.  Didn’t say much more.  He was put in charge of the motor pool at Camp Pendleton during convalescence.

The base commander’s wife, a proper lady, he said, had come to the motor pool to get her car fixed up.  Mr. Johnson said it was a beat up Chevy especially on the inside but it was better than most for those times.

After she commented on the car’s condition, Mr. Johnson said he’ll do his best to make it more presentable.

He had come to know an upholsterer in Oceanside so Mr. Johnson arranged for the interior to get tidied up some.  He also had it painted.  She was elated.

I wish I had jotted down the commander’s name.  Darn.

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Sometime towards the latter part of ’44, he said, there was some scuttlebutt about a big operation that was brewing.

But then, the base commander called Mr. Johnson into his office.

“Johnnie,” he said, looking through his file, “you’re pretty used up.  I’m sending you to rehabilitation.”

So off he went.  While Mr. Johnson used “a hospital out in San Bernardino” as a description, the hospital was likely somewhere near the mountains because he mentioned Lake Arrowhead.

As I write this, there is a good probability it was Naval Hospital, Norco, as it was officially called back then.

Naval Hospital, Corona

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During rehabilitation, he ventured to a USO dance being held at the hospital.  The USO was such a morale booster for these young men.  Mr. Johnson was no exception.

There, against the wall, he said, was this pretty young thing.  It was Marge.  She was studying to become a nurse…which she did.

…and if I understood him correctly, they got married the day after he got discharged from the Corps in 1945.  It sounded like if Marge just didn’t want a husband that would go off to war, let alone as a Marine.  She got her way, of course:

Marge and Mr. Johnson on their wedding day in 1945.

Don’t you think they are a gorgeous couple?  A gift of chance… and war.

(As a historical note, the “scuttlebutt” ended up to be… Iwo Jima.  Part of the 3rd Marine Division, Mr. Johnson said that in a way, he was glad he didn’t go…  Not that he DIDN’T want to go but because of what the Marines horribly found out after the first waves landed ashore.  He learned from the Marines that made it back that all vehicles that went ashore in the first couple of days were sitting ducks for enemy artillery.  This was made worse by all the volcanic ash being spewed up by the artillery rounds, just choking off the engines just minutes later because it would clog up the air filters.  Some of boys were burned alive, he was told, after their vehicles got hit…in the same vehicles he was in charge of at Camp Pendleton.)

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One reason why I was never able to find any military record on Mr. Johnson became obvious on his funeral day; that’s when I – and the other neighbors – found out his name wasn’t Johnnie, but Doreston.

“Doreston”

I was partially successful in videotaping Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be for Marge’s sake.  There was a bit of disorganization and miscommunication, too.  Many of us following the hearse were just waiting in our cars wondering what to do next…when I saw the Marine burial detail getting ready to escort Mr. Johnson’s urn to a covered area.  Time for a mad dash.

A couple of notes about the video below if you wish to watch…

  1. I’m not much an editor but I managed to insert the “Marine’s Hymm” from my all-time Marine Corps classic, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.  Gives me goose bumps every time.  It starts a bit after the 1:00 mark.
  2. There is some footage at the National Medal of Honor Memorial; Mr. Johnson would be interred just yards away.  Sgt. Hartsock is my friend’s first husband who was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor.  You will also see the names of some of the 22 Nisei’s who were also bestowed the Medal of Honor during WWII.
  3. The bugler you see is a long-time friend of Mr. Johnson.  I understand he is also in his 80’s and volunteers his services everyday.  A very fitting and personal tribute.
  4. This was also the first 21-gun salute I was ever able to have the honor to witness in person.  I am glad it was for Mr. Johnson:

_______________________________

During this time, and now armed with his true first name, I was pretty determined to uncover some of his unspoken valor during the Solomon Islands Campaign and the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands…and I was partially successful.

These are two pages from CINCPAC’s official, confidential after battle report.  They were called “War Diaries” and are daily operational journals created by various naval commands throughout the Navy during WWII (The Marine Corps is an arm of the US Navy).  I was only able to find this single battle report for the Solomon Islands Campaign:

War Diary, Cover Page
Specific page recognizing Mr. Johnson’s valor under fire.

I do NOT know for sure if Mr. Johnson fought on the islands but Old Man Jack never mentioned anything except him serving on the Big E…

_________________________________

As for Mr. Johnson’s wounds, Old Man Jack muttered once “Johnnie was hit twice.  The last time was pretty bad.”  He didn’t say more.

But Mr. Johnson collapsed at his house in 2011.  Marge called me over to help while waiting for the ambulance.  Mr. Johnson was on his side, left hand gripping the bed sheets and right arm pinned in under his body.  He was too big for me to lift him off the floor by myself.  So I yelled, “C’mon, Marine!  Get your sorry ass off this floor!”  Seriously.  With that, he grunted, grabbed the bed sheets one more time, and together, we got his upper body onto his bed…

But in the process, I saw his chest.

His first fall in the house. Marge’s shadow is the one on the left. My little house can be seen beyond the ambulance’s cab. (Edit)

My god.

The scars.

______________________________

Tears of Remembrance and Closing

Two days after the funeral, I had finished putting the video together for Marge.  We watched it together on my laptop as she didn’t have a DVD player that worked.  Dry eyes had to take a back seat.  She was so grateful.

But she called me at work a couple of days later.  She asked if I could stop by after work again…and show her the video one more time.  I was so surprised by her request…but so happy.  She must have liked it.

When I played it for her – and when the “Marine’s Hymm” from the John Wayne iconic classic “Sands of Iwo Jima” began playing, her left hand began to rhythmically and softly beat to the theme song… ever so softly. Then her head bobbed along with the beat. That broke me.

Tears of Remembrance – Marge, now a widow after 66-1/2 years of marriage

She asked me again to explain the page from the Solomon Islands Battle Report which clearly states how he valiantly fought and incurred his wounds… Then when the 21-gun salute played on the screen, that was it…   She broke down.  I cannot imagine how large those floodgates may have been for her emotionally.

She thanked me immensely…

But it was so humbling as it was me who wanted to thank her and her husband… the same young boy in that Louisiana recruiting station who did what he had to do… and had enough humanity left in him to forgive.

The Greatest Generation…  May they go in peace.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part III


I figured if Mr. Johnson wanted to tell me more, he would have.

But as with Old Man Jack, I never asked for more.

I believe that’s how these combat vets want it.

They don’t want to be quizzed about what they said or asked to describe more.

They will tell you some things of what they experienced.  Probably to let the devils out that have been eating away at them for 70 years.

They have a built in limiter to keep more memories from popping back up…the things they saw or did that they try so hard to suppress to stay sane.  Every minute for the rest of their lives.

They deserve that respect.  Always.  And you feel honored they felt enough confidence in your character that you would accept what they were telling you as is.

I feel they appreciated that.

___________________________

I was alone with Old Man Jack during visitation. It was good as I was able to say good-bye in private… The mortuary didn’t invest in good quality Kleenex, though.

Mr. Johnson and I walked together into the little chapel where Old Man Jack’s funeral service was being held.  His flag-draped coffin was proudly presented up front.

It was mostly relatives as all his friends had passed away before him.  I felt distant as I don’t recall ever seeing them visiting with Old Man Jack.  But they were relatives.

Mr. Johnson and I were likely the only ones there outside of family besides a daughter of one of his fellow employees from the old Northrop plant.  We had met once when Old Man Jack was in ICU from a tremendously bad intestinal infection.

His only daughter Karen was busy going over things with the reverend.  You will have to excuse me if I used the wrong term for him; it was a Christian service and I am not.

Mr. Johnson and I sat next to each other in the back row.

__________________________

Here is Old Man Jack on our tiny patio deck, in his trademark blue plaid shirt losing another “chat” with his only child, Karen. I’m sure – in spite of his boasts – he lost to his lovely wife in a similar fashion through the years… Hence, “A man ain’t got a chance.

Karen finally approached us.  It was good to see her again.  I hadn’t seen her since she moved Old Man Jack up to their mountain home just five months earlier.

We greeted and it was already tough not to shed a tear.  She then said, “Koji, we have enough young relatives here to be pallbearers but I know you and dad were close.  I think he would like it very much if you would be one of his pallbearers.”

I looked at Mr. Johnson.  I guess I was unknowingly seeking his acceptance knowing they both fought a bitter war together.

Mr. Johnson smiled and nodded his head as if he knew I was asking him if it would be OK.

It was emotional.  My eye plumbing was already leaking a bit before but it broke loose.

After Old Man Jack fought on “those stinkin’ islands” and had nightmares for the remainder of his life, I was now going to help carry this great American on his last journey.

I kept the gloves in memory of Old Man Jack and the honor he allowed me.

It is a mark of the Greatest Generation.  Forgiveness.  Honor to the end.

_________________________

Just a short vid of the flag presentation to Jack’s daughter.  (I apologize for the video quality but they only sell the video cameras with the little swing out screen now.  It’s hard to get used to and hard to see the image in bright sun…and impossible to hold still…but towards the end, you can see Mr. Johnson sitting right behind her.)

I wondered what was going through Mr. Johnson’s mind after saying to me earlier “…funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore”.

He didn’t get teary-eyed once.  A true Marine, I thought.  I also briefly felt he had his mind on other pressing matters.

I was about to find out.

__________________________

After the ceremony, I helped Mr. Johnson back to my car.  He hadn’t said much at all nor showed ANY emotion.

I opened the car door for him; it would be a struggle for him to get back into my low-slung machine with his bad back and unsteady legs.

But he stopped short of getting in.  He towered over the roof of the car as he was standing on the curb next to other graves.  I remember clearly his right arm was on the roof of the car and his left was seeking support from the top of the passenger door glass.

Then he spoke.

“Koji, I’m sorry I was so curt with you in the car…when I said funerals don’t do a damn for me anymore.  I hope you’ll let me explain why.”

I didn’t know what was coming.  He continued but he had that look on his face.  The same glassed-over gaze Old Man Jack had when he was going to talk about something he was trying to forget.

“Koji, the Japs jumped us and they jumped us good.  Real good.  We were caught out in the open.  We had fighter cover but there was just a shit load of them.  Just too many.  They were coming down at us from every which way.”

He mimicked with his right hand that he had elevated towards the sky toy planes – just like we did when we were kids.  But these weren’t toys that day.  He was reliving a battle…but he didn’t say where or when.  Just like Old Man Jack.

“They just kept coming and coming.  We took a bad licking.  A real bad one.  We just kept reloading and firing at them.

We lost a lot of good men.”

He stopped for a moment.  He never once said he was on the Big E.

“I got put in charge of the Burial Detail.  There weren’t too many of us left that could get around.”  He was, I assume, talking about his fellow Marines.  He was a Private at that time and at the Battle of Santa Cruz; you will find out later how I discovered that.  But it’s not good when a young Marine private who was in boot camp just months earlier gets put in charge of a burial detail on board the greatest lady of the sea.

“I don’t know who the son-of-a-bitches were.  They were wrapped up in canvas and a shell would be put inside at their feet to weight them down.  Then we’d dump them over the side.  We’d salute.  Then we’d do it again…and again…and again.  I don’t remember how many times I saluted.  I didn’t keep count.  But that’s why funerals don’t do much for me anymore.  I had been in enough of them.”

__________________________

I was left humbled and voiceless.  Too late I realized Mr. Johnson WAS having sickening thoughts running through his mind – from the time when I asked him to help hold ME together.

And I was ignorant to even think he had his mind on other pressing matters during the funeral.

With that selfish request, I instead helped unleash some vile memories within him.

__________________________

Mr. Johnson himself would pass away shortly thereafter.

More to come in Part IV.  I hope you’ll stay tuned.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part I


“Koji, funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore.”

That was Mr. Johnson’s reply while I was driving us to Old Man Jack’s funeral.  I had asked him to help hold me together as I knew I would fall apart.

“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself when I heard that curt reply.  “I guess I hit a nerve…”

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Old man Jack on the left, Mr. Johnson on the right. Taken June 30, 2005.

Mr. Johnson was Old Man Jack’s next door neighbor.

Since 1953.

Nearly SIXTY years.  Hell, I ain’t that old yet.  Well, I’m close.

They got along real well for those 60 years… except Jack was a WWII sailor… and Mr. Johnson was a WWII Marine.  They reminded each other of it often.

Lovingly, of course.

Old Man Jack happily reminisced that “…us white caps would also tussle with them Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us”.  But Jack would have gotten the short end of the stick if he took on Mr. Johnson.  He towered over Jack and me…

And Mr. Johnson was a decorated WWII Marine.

Decorated twice…that I know of.

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Our cozy neighborhood called him “Johnnie”.  I always addressed him as Mr. Johnson…He used to say, “Damn it, Koji.  I wish you’d stop calling me that.”

I never did call him Johnnie. I just couldn’t.

But in the end, we found out his real name was Doreston.  Doreston Johnson.

Born August 1, 1923 in Basile, Louisiana.  A tiny town, he said, and everyone was dirt broke.

I wish I knew why he wanted to go by “Johnnie” but later, I discovered Doreston was his father’s name.

_____________________________

After Jack passed away, I visited with him.  He opened up a bit.

The Depression made it tough on everybody but then war…

When war broke out, he was gung ho like many young boys at that time.

It was expected.  You were branded a coward if you didn’t enlist or eluded the draft.  You were at the bottom of the heap if you got classified 4F.

He said went to the Army recruiting station.  They said they met their quota, couldn’t take him right away and to try again next week.

He then went to the Navy recruiter.  They also said pretty much the same thing but that there was an outfit “over there that’ll take ya”.

It was the United States Marine Corps.

Notice the 1903 Springfield in this 1942 recruiting poster.

The Marines “took him”…right then and there, he said.

Mr. Johnson said, “I was a dumb, stupid kid at that time”  – slowly shaking his head…but with a boyish little grin.

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It was 1941…  When the United States Navy had their backs against the beaches…  MacArthur blundered after Pearl Harbor and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner in the Philippines.

The country’s military was poorly equipped and poorly trained.  With outdated equipment like the 1903 Springfield and the Brewster Buffalo.  And most gravely, the US Navy was outgunned.

Mr. Johnson was in for it.

To be continued.  Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part II here

Ike, a German-American Soldier


General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

Thirty-forth President of the United States of America.

An American soldier.

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An “American soldier”.

Plain.  Straight forward.  No descriptive.

But as a simple question… Was he ever referred to as a “German-American” soldier?  After all, he is of German descent.

Or as a “Kraut”?  No insult intended whatsoever.

I don’t know.

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How about General Charles Willoughby?

Major General Willoughby

Never heard of him?

He was General Douglas MacArthur’s right-hand man.  Chief of Intelligence during and after World War II.  G-2.  My dad’s boss’ boss.

An American soldier.

Did you know Willoughby was born in the town of Heidelberg, Germany, the son of Baron T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach from Baden, Germany?  A royal German family.  His real name was Adolf Karl Tscheppe-Weidenbach.

He spoke German fluently.  And spoke English with a heavy accent.

Was he referred to as a “German-American” soldier?

Or as a “Kraut”?

I don’t know.

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How about my two uncles who received the Congressional Gold Medal?  Or even my dad?

An American soldier.

Unlike Willoughby, dad was born here.  In Seattle.

He spoke both English and Japanese without an accent.  And Ike didn’t speak German.

Is there any difference in Dad’s summer uniform in comparison to Ike’s?

Well, I guess there is a difference.  Ike’s has five stars; Dad’s doesn’t… Oh, and Dad’s is wrinkled.

But unlike Ike and General Willoughby, soldiers like Dad were referred to as “Japanese-American” soldiers.  Even today.  Or just plain “Jap” back then…even when in uniform.

Even in newspapers.  Here is one on my Uncle Paul who was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal two years ago.

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Don’t get me wrong.  There is no intent to ruffle feathers.  Or to be accusatory or express anger.  And I certainly am not calling our 34th President a “Kraut”.

This is just history…  Albeit, perhaps, from an odd vantage point.

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But why is there a distinction made?

Are we – Americans in a broad stroke of the keyboard – bringing attention to minorities in too great a lawyer-driven focus?  But considering the popular vote, my friends, the minorities are no longer minorities.  Let’s face the facts.

From history, we need to learn.  Yes.  And we need to look at ourselves as of today… but with a helluva lot fewer lawyers.  (Did I write that?)

And people need to be “working” to the best of their ability… to live on their own ability instead of an expectation of assistance.  As a fellow blogger so eloquently wrote in “The Value of Ability“, we need to tighten up this ship and boost a person’s confidence that they do have potential and to live up to those expectations.

It’s time to move on from minority recognition…in whatever shape or form.  Hiring requirements.  College enrollment requirements.  Special program requirements. Especially within governments – local, state or federal…  Especially in our schools.  How about hiring a conservative to be a teacher once in a while..?  In my humble opinion, of course.

Time to promote “American-ism”.

Ike would have liked that, I’m sure.