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At 81, Japanese vet makes rare return to Iwo Jima

32 Comments
By JOSEPH COLEMAN

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I read this article a few days ago, amazing and very moving. So few Japanese veterans left from this most horrible of conflicts.

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The Pacific war has always been over rated. It was, from Midway, a one sided contest with a kill ratio of combatants of 8:1 - almost the same as the US - Indian wars on the Great Plains, when the US army was fighting against a stone age army with light calvary.

Determined not to be outdone by the 'real war' in Europe and always conscious of the fact that it was the Russians who won that war, the US have played up the Pacific war to a life and death struggle between great powers. Of course the Japanese are more than willing to play up to this image and voila, along comes another piece of cannon fodder to broadcast his recollections.

Please spare me it. It's boring and really detracts the Japanese from what is historically wrong with their political values. Unquestioning obedience to the self serving Japanese elites, who will feed them on a diet of xenophobia and ethnic mystification, will always lead them to eventual disaster.

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Sigh. Deprecating the human struggle and tragedy, the pathos and the courage, the horrors and the stark painful lessons because peace has left some of us incapable of understanding the core truths of mortal contest - regardless of statistics or political imagination; this is what leads us back to it again, and again.

It is not about who won the war, or how, or why; it is about War itself. Miss that crucial understanding, and we miss the meaning of the human experience of war. It's unlikely we'll ever be rid of it, but we must never trivialize it, never blunt its sting.

To suggest that any theater of operations in WW2 was less than titanic is to fail to grasp what it meant, not only with respect to forces of grand scale history, but to the individuals who faced it down, their lives in the balance. We cozy, armchair historians need to shut up for a moment, in the face of Stalingrad, or Iwo Jima, or Hurtgen Forest, and reflect respectfully, on what those who were there can tell us.

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I would never go to war like these guyd did, on the principle that i might get sho at. I don't dig that stuff man, video game is awesome, but these battles was insane and thousands died and turn to disabled or mental. I don't like wars.

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I would never go to war like these guyd did, on the principle that i might get sho at. I don't dig that stuff man, video game is awesome, but these battles was insane and thousands died and turn to disabled or mental. I don't like wars.

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I would never go to war like these guyd did, on the principle that i might get sho at

Those were days when if you didn't go, you were likely to get shot at by a firing squad at home.

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The man was 17 when ordered to go fight. I can't imagine the terror he went through just trying to survive - despite statistics and other geopolitical babble. The fighters on both sides were little more than kids, really - 18 to 20+ My father at 29 was the oldest in his group.

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With Japanese culture and politics being what it was in the 1940s, I seriously doubt many of them would have had thoughts about not going to war. Having said that, and all thoughts about wars, who was right or wrong aside etc, these guys were just amazing. A pretty good article.

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Dogdog

I hope The_Marion tracks you down and makes you eat every word you posted above.

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Dogdog may be right in his assertion with regard to the Japanese elite but you could extend that to every other countries elite both then and now..however the rest of his post appears to have total ignorance as its foundation.The war in asia a "non event" ask any of the us/commonwealth veterans of that conflict if they agree with that,"kill ratios" tell you nothing about the balance of a conflict,if they did he would not attest that Russia "won" the war in Europe. The outcome,or at least the timing of the outcome in Europe was influenced most by Hitlers arrogant decision to launch operation Barbarosa,had the german army been permitted to concentrate on the western front then i fear the outcome may have been different. Above all to state that the experiences of a survivor of and event such as Iwo Jima is,boring, is crass offensive and ignorant.Spoken no doubt by an individual whose closest experience of warfare has been garnered via his xbox games consol.My advice to you would be to thank god that that is true..these veterans have nothing but my undying admiration whichever "side" they came from and may future generations learn the great wisdom that they would teach us all..war is not worth it,wars are started by those who know they will never have to fight in them and are usually fought by those with no other option.

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Dogdog, noone made you read the article. This is a very moving piece and I found it interesting. Akikusa endured (along with many others) a horrific experience. I'm glad he was able to return and pay respects to his friend.

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touching article

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Touching! It is ridiculous how passionate Japanese are once they believe in something. They believed emperor was god and they fought to death for him!

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Memories of Iwo Jima: The Coast Guard guys manning the Loran station gave me a Coca Cola bottle from . The ex-wife kept after divorce. While I was reading my technical manuals, the CG mascot peed on my flight suit. I was for revenge on the next flight but I think he died misteriously. The caves were darn hot. The untold story is, that there few goats roaming around Mt Suribachi. The females died, but the makes survived. The one million dollar hole is where they dumped a lot of the surplus military gear. Some ships were used to create an artificial reef. The whole island was reforested with standard issue of fast growing trees which are resilient to these kinds of places. Not a beautifyl island. A lot could be done to reforest it with real trees to change the landscape. But it is a memorial place, so RIP.

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The outcome,or at least the timing of the outcome in Europe was influenced most by Hitlers arrogant decision to launch operation Barbarosa,had the german army been permitted to concentrate on the western front then i fear the outcome

Whose ignorant now?

The German victory in the west was lost by the German airforce and at best Hitler could have fought a stalemate in the West until the US entered the war, which was inevitable since Japan was to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and Hitler was to feel obliged, by his Axis agreement, to declare war on the USA.

Sentimentality is great, when it's put to proper use and yes everyone of the combatants fought the 'defining' engagement of WW2. However, forgive me my cynicism, but I wouldn't be surprised to say an NHK program version of this article, which yet again perpetuates the 'we Japanese were the real victims' mentality. Maybe this guy was a victim, however in the purest sense he had free will, but the real lessons of WW 2 have not been learnt by Japan (insincere war apologies whose real regret is that they lost and war criminals whose only real crime was that they led Japan to its destruction) and this piece of emotion hardly helps.

I heard the same guff from my grandad about friends left behind at EL Alemein, but at least he bought me a pint to listen to it.

Still you're right, I didn't haven't to read it.

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The real human cost of all war comes out in stories like this.

We can read numbers and stats out of books, but it doesn't become personal and HUMAN until we can see things like this.

It just makes me terribly sad.

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Seems many have their own version of the war, could it be each country teaches a different version.

Iwo Jima was a horrid battle that was used to slow down the approach of the allies, it wasnt to stop them. Most of the battles in Japan by the allied forces came in the form of air not land.....

I have met others from this battle a few years ago when I was part of the 50th Anv. .... their stories make a grown man cry.

As a soldier you do your duty thinking your side is in the right, it may not be in the right but you have to believe it is. I hope this man has found peace with his demons and I hope all who who serve in war can face their demons too..

Its not right to belittle a mans service because you dont like the reason his country went to war..

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What a fascinating read. The end was especially touching.

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With the weapons of today the battle field is very different. While there won't be battles of this kind anymore the outcome is always the same. Smart bombs and remote technology will make killing just that much easier. Perhaps it is better to have less powerful weapons to leave a few alive so they can tell the story rather than have a square mile obliterated.

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A story worth telling, told in a very human way and an excellent stress of the main issues at play. A superb article by Joseph Coleman.

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Maybe this guy was a victim, however in the purest sense he had free >will, but the real lessons of WW 2 have not been learnt by Japan (insincere war apologies whose real regret is that they lost and war >criminals whose only real crime was that they led Japan to its >destruction) and this piece of emotion hardly helps.

Dogdog

I disagree with you. We have been trying continuously to get Japan to re-arm since the Korean War without success. Japan has resisted altering that article 9 in their constitution. It looks to me like they've clearly learned the lesson of WWII, that war itself is wrong. Unfortunately, my country hasn't learnt that at all, the result of being the only major participant in WWII that never knew what it was like to have it's cities bombed. Also unfortunate is that world is full of people and nations which haven't learned the lessons of war, forcing us to continue on our path. What you describe about insincere apologies or regretting losing the war describes a small minority of ultra right wing nationalists, which are treated by Japanese society as the fringe nutbags that they are. This was a touching well written article and I can only thank all those who fought in wars, on any side, for having done their part to keep the rest of us who follow from having to live through the same.

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I think someone here needs to go tell the Marine Corps that Iwo Jima and the Pacific campaign were "overrated." While 6800 or so Americans died on Iwo Jima, it was spread out over 37 days. D-Day by comparison, Americans suffered anywhere from 1400 to 2500 killed in action depending on what sources you look at. A much higher kill ratio. People can debate the relative strategic importance of capturing Iwo Jima, but it's importance to the Marines and the U.S. military is of much higher than strategic.

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D-Day by comparison, Americans suffered anywhere from 1400 to 2500 killed in action depending on what sources you look at. A much higher kill ratio

D Day was a momemt in a battle, it is not a comparison, a bit like the US marines landing on the beaches of Iwo Jima. In the Battle Of Normandy the allies suffered 220,000 casualties with 40,000 dead.

My point wasn't to belitle this man, or any other man's experience of war. My point was to say that I'm rather fed up with the Pacific War PR machine which seems, after sharing the myth of its importance in the 1939-45 war, to be giving diverging messages on each side of the Pacific.

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DogDog said My point wasn't to belitle this man, or any other man's experience of war. My point was to say that I'm rather fed up with the Pacific War PR machine which seems, after sharing the myth of its importance in the 1939-45 war, to be giving diverging messages on each side of the Pacific.

PR machine??? Considering that the war between America and Japan was mostly based on air and sea battles it would be hard to compare it to a massive linland invasion/war. But if you figure out that in 1939-1945 most if not all supplies around the world came via ship, it starts to make a ton of sense why this part of the war was very important. I would suggest you do a tad bit of research into the war, maybe learn how the allied forces got to Normandy, if the allies didnt control the sea then D-Day would of been a Didnt day...

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Ok Dogdog,just out of interest..what exactly would that part of the german army and airforce that ended up fighting the Russians have spent the war doing had operation Barbarosa not commenced..

They definitely wouldn't have been invading Britain without air superiority over southern England, something that was beyond their means from September 1940.

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rjdjr

The Marines had 862 casualties at the September 1847 Battle of Chapultepec and 35 casualties in the First Barbary War of 1801. I really don't think telling the Marine Corp that Iwo Jima and the Pacific Campaign were "over-rated" is going to fly very far.

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The Marines had 862 casualties at the September 1847 Battle of Chapultepec and 35 casualties in the First Barbary War of 1801. I really don't think telling the Marine Corp that Iwo Jima and the Pacific Campaign were "over-rated" is going to fly very far.

You really have difficulty with comprehension skills, don't you?

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Actually, I apologize for my last post. It seems that I'm the one who has difficulty with comprehending rjd jr posts.

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)n the 20th day of Septemebr, I was 88years old and I guess there isn't too many of us left that landed first wave on Iwo Jima at 0900 hours on the 19th day of Febuary in 1945. I started on Guadalcanal then Vela LaVella and Bougainville and these were all " a walk in the park" but Iwo Jima was pure Hell and while I did return to Iwo in in 1985, I will always feel when I met my first Okinawan, I fell in love with everyone on the island and I married a Ryukyuan and today I am an old man, but I am stillhappily married to the greatest race of people on this earth. What happend on Iwo may never be told as movies will never capture what really happened. Read the book Iwo Jima by Wetenhall and Marling as they truly captured "the feeling" of what happened on Green Beach....

Okinawa is not Japanese.

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Thanks Marion. Your input is appreciated. And we'll let it skip that this is about Iwo Jima, not Okinawa.

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OssanULTRA: Quoting you; "this is about Iwo Jima, not Okinawa." I have spent the better part of my life, knowing that Okinawa and Iwo Jima were what may be called "Twin Sisters." We fought the better pasrt of WWII as a Naval Carrier war, largely using both naval and army aircraft and thus logicallt Iwo Jima and Okinawa became "fixed" carriers as we were reluctant to make the actual battle to be waged by Marines going ashore against Japan proper - However we had to take both Okinawa and Iwo Jima and frankly this was no easy task. We won both islands after horrendous loosses on both sides, but when the islands were won, they were immediately turned in fixed aircraft carrier and the lossees we caused to Japan numbering into the millions. Iwo Jima had only a few Chritian families living there before the war, but Okinawa have almost a million inhabitants who were largely Chinese oriented and they had been annexed by Japan in 1879 - and this was only 66 years previous to them having been the Kingdon of the Ryukyus. I ask you that are interested to look up the Cairo Accords of 1943. Know that we gave back Iwo Jima shortly after the end of WWII. Japan established a Self Defense Airforce Group and otherwise the island has returned to a lonely brush covered island.

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Xeno23 - I don't think it could be more eloquently or beautifully put than that - thank you. And of course your comments were disregarded in the ceaseless and pointless arguments to follow.

Besides, it was the gallant Few in the Battle of Britain that won the Second World War for all of us (combined with Hiter's tactical stupidity of course).

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