Tag Archives: Occupation

The Truly Reluctant Admiral Yamamoto – Part X \ Epilogue


“In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.” – Admiral Yamamoto to Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoe.

One of the Doolittle bombers taking off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, April 18, 1942. US Navy.

The date of Admiral Yamamoto’s death was ironic.

Admiral Yamamoto was killed exactly one year after the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

It was like an omen.

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The Japanese military and government did not disclose his death for about a month.  When they did, they conducted a grand state funeral.

Here is a link to a Japanese video of his funeral.  At the beginning, it shows the last known movie footage of him on Rabaul, waving to the pilots as they take off to attack Guadalcanal in Operation I boosting morale tremendously.  There is also a glimpse of the only memorial statue of Admiral Yamamoto and a look inside his small home that is now in disrepair.  During the funeral procession, it is very important to note you see Tokyo as it once looked before being leveled. I wonder if my grandparents, mom and aunt were in the crowds:

While his ashes were met in Tokyo by his widow (1), one half of his ashes remained in Tokyo, the other half taken back to his home town of Nagaoka.  There, an unremarkable crypt of about three feet tall entombs one-half of his remains in a small family plot that is visited much more so by history nuts and the curious than by family and relatives.

Admiral Yamamoto’s crypt on a small family plot in Nagaoka.

In a bit of lost history, the funeral procession passed in front of his favorite geisha Chiyoko’s residence.

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Epilogue

Similar to how WWII history has become to being taught here in America (meaning forgotten), Japan had chosen post-war to teach very little of WWII if anything.  Because of this, many Japanese younger than say 55 years of age know very little about the war with America… except for the atomic and fire bombings.

For instance, my second wife and her mother never even heard of Iwo Jima.  When I told them it was an island and part of the Tokyo prefecture, they were in disbelief.  They didn’t even know there was a horrendous battle that took 30,000 young Japanese and American lives.  Imagine that… but “the forgetting” is happening here in America too because of misguided emotional beliefs and attitudes of the teachers and school administrations.

GySgt John Basilone, MOH, N/C was KIA on Iwo Jima on the first day. Source unknown.

Here in America, we have ships, airfields and streets named after heroes.  Aircraft carriers USS Chester Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS George H. W. Bush, O’Hare International Airport, or John Basilone Road near Camp Pendleton.

Piece of the wing from Admiral Yamamoto’s Betty bomber in which he died. Source unknown.

Yamamoto has nothing.  He is rarely even mentioned in Japanese textbooks.  There are no ships, airfields or streets named after him.  Just two unassuming crypts and they are rarely visited by offspring or family.  There is a small museum I was able to see back around 2001 soon after it opened during a business trip but it was hard to find.  Even the train conductor whom I asked for directions didn’t even know who Yamamoto was.  He told me to go to the police kiosk and luckily, one of the officers heard of it and gave me directions – about a 15 minute walk.  It does house a piece of the wing that was part of the Betty bomber he was shot down in.  Oh, there is a small statue of him in his hometown near his crypt.

The lack of honorariums is an insult, in my opinion, as he gave his life to a war he knew he couldn’t win.  He was simply loyal to his emperor. I also believe from my civilian’s chair that Yamamoto was one of the greatest prophetic naval minds in history – so much so that Nimitz viewed him as his greatest threat.

In his time, those in the Japanese military who wanted to see him assassinated believed he was “pro-American” or just a cowardly “dove”.  I don’t see it that way.  I believe he was a patriot, loved his country and was the consummate military man wearing the uniform of his country – just like Patton, Ike, and Nimitz.  He simply did what he thought best for his country given his orders and conditions – that the pompous Army-led government wanted a war that Yamamoto knew they could not win.  He therefore believed the only way to achieve this haughty vision of victory against the US and England was to execute a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and disabling the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.(2)  He may have succeeded if Nagumo had indeed attempted to carry out Yamamoto’s full orders and battle plan.  Nagumo failed to do so.

(Note: As an American, I fully accept that any attack on a country should be preceded by a declaration of war.  However, just as I/we believe a declaration of war is necessary before hostilities, the samurai roots of Japan totally accepted surprise attacks as the norm.  Just a fact.)

…but as a military leader, I feel for him.  He knew Japan could not win.  What was he to do?  Step aside and let others lead the young men to their deaths under less competent leadership?  Or lead them himself into a war they could not win and should not fight?  Of course, he chose the latter and appropriately so.  In my opinion, he should not be condemned because he did.

But it cost him his life.

The man whose name was his samurai father’s age at birth, the man who did handstands to break the thick air and bring laughter, the man who was a winner at gambling around the globe, the man who was nicknamed “Eighty Sen” by geishas… died fighting for the country who would then quickly bury him in their lost history.

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If he was not killed in the daring and risky attack hastily put together by the USAAF, what would have happened to him if he was alive on the day of surrender?

Would he have killed himself?  Many did.  He was the son of a respected samurai.

Or would he have surrendered like General Yamashita did in the Philippines only to be hung shortly thereafter as a war criminal in a hasty trial?

Would MacArthur have spared Yamamoto to be used as a liaison with his understanding of America and his fluent English during the Occupation?  After all, he was revered in Japan as was Ike and Patton here.  That may have been ideal but unlikely due to the immense hatred bred onto him by American propaganda.

We will never know.

Perhaps it was best he died a warrior while leading his troops.

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Footnotes:

(1) In the first video, Admiral Yamamoto’s ashes disembark from the train after its arrival in Tokyo on May 23, 1943.

This second video is the “official” national footage of the state funeral procession.  You can glimpse the infamous General Tojo at about the 3:10 mark and his widow and three children at about the 3:20 mark:

(2) Against Admiral RIchardson’s stern advice to FDR for which he was fired, the US Seventh Fleet was moved out of San Diego to Pearl Harbor by FDR.  Yamamoto, just like Richardson, saw it as a dumb military move.  They were both right.  This is one reason why I firmly believe FDR wanted Japan to attack the US and get us into a war which he campaigned against.

 

 

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.

patrick byrne
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.)