Yes, a small percentage of Japanese soldiers were anxious to die for their emperor.
But a vast majority was frightened of having to go to war. My opinion, of course.
Young Japanese boys were drafted from farms and fishing villages – just like we did here in the US of A during that time. Boys from Parsons, Kansas or from a sea coast shrimping town in Louisiana.
And they all had moms.
Like all Americans of my age, we were taught that the Japanese soldiers of WWII were fanatics. That they all were hell-bent to charge into a hail of Allied machine gun fire. To willingly die.
We were also taught that when a US Marine charged well entrenched Japanese soldiers with a satchel charge, he was a hero. Not a fanatic. He was John Wayne or Kirk Douglas. Was Esprit de Corps driving the young Marine to offer his life to save his buddies?
There is no intent to question our American values of valor or honor. Just a quandary.
My Hiroshima cousin Masako mentioned in Hawai’i having seen a photo of Uncle Suetaro and Grandmother. It was taken the day before Uncle shipped out for war (1944). Masako said Grandmother – having suffered a stroke the day before – was propped up by “shiki-futon”, or Japanese bedding for the picture. She felt strongly it was the last picture taken of Uncle Suetaro but doesn’t know what happened to it.
A few weeks ago, my California cousin Janice came across a number of old photos; she had forgotten about them. She said there were some family photos from Hiroshima. Her father – Uncle Suetaro’s and my Dad’s oldest brother – had apparently been able to hold on to them through the decades.
I asked Janice if there were any photos of my Dad’s two youngest siblings, Suetaro and Mieko, or of Michie (Masako’s mother). Janice then described a picture of Uncle Suetaro in a uniform and Grandmother (seen at the beginning of this story).
I was stunned. Topo Giggio meets Godzilla. It was the photo Masako vividly recalled seeing decades ago.
Is there an air of fearfulness…of fright? You can decide. But as we were led to believe, all Japanese soldiers were fanatics…yes?
War makes fright.