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by S. R. Lake
Publishing Platform 2012
Cover Price: $16.00
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Of A Fallen Japanese Soldier 1943
This book is an English translated copy of a Japanese diary captured when the U. S. Army landed on Rendova on June 30, 1943 and killed the defeated the relatively small force on the island.
The book's preface begins with the author describing how his brother, W. R. McCall a U. S. Navy sailor assigned to PT-321 was walking over the invasion beach on Rendova on or about July 3, 1943. Among the debris and wreckage, he found a Japanese diary and turned it over to U. S. intelligence, where it became "Captured document #43,203". After the war, an English translated copy of the diary was sent to McCall. When his younger brother S. R. Lake read it he wept and decided to publish a copy of it.
The diary spans a two month period, and requires quite mundane events and happenings in the life of an average Japanese soldier. The soldier's name is never mentioned in the text, either deliberately withheld by author Lake, or omitted by U. S. intelligence, or was never written in the diary itself. Based on the entries, the diarist is a Japanese Navy doctor or medical orderly who is 27 years old.
The diary begins with entries in the Solomon Islands, abruptly on May 11-12, 1943 where the diarist notes "made medical examination of the Kolombangara dispensary, then traveled aboard a truck to the east to a pier then traveled aboard a lighter at night arriving at Munda at 11:30pm and notes an enemy plane overhead, an air raid alarm and an explosion nearby describing the raid and naval bombardment as "the most frightening thirty minutes I have spent since I was born". He believed, they were the target of the bombardment because his air raid shelter was near a truck depot area.
On May 14, 1943 the diarist was assigned to the Kure 6th Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) and the next day wrote simply "I am going to the very front lines". On May 17 he departed Munda aboard another lighter before first checking the Makana Hospital about 1,000m from his departure pier and described the road as very rough.
By May 19, he was assigned to the Hakana Hospital, which seems to be at Dragon Point (probably the Dragon Peninsula near Bauroko Harbor on New Georgia) and writes about eating "raw fish and a good sized boiled eel" and "took a bath in the evening. This is the first bath since leaving Buin and I felt very good and refreshed." On May 20 he notes "Heard American troops landed on Kiska so I am glad that I am down here. It seems as though Rendova is a better place than I thought." Ominously, he notes on May 23 a large lighter from Dragon Point was discovered by an enemy flying boat and strafed leaving one dead and two wounded aboard.
On May 26 departed from Munda for Bonga Island [sic, probably Mbanga Island (Baanga)] at 8:30pm on a boat, but remembers "numerous mosquitoes on Bonga Island but it is a nice place", but departed on a barge on May 29 but experienced several engine stalls causing it to drift before the engine was successfully restarted, and reached Kolani Harbor [on Rendova Island?] safely on May 30.
The next entry on June 11, he talks about fishing and increased enemy air activity over Rendova. He admits that the garrison of only 750 Japanese "would be wiped out in a short time". On June 15 he notes poetically "I realize that my danger is comparable to that of a lonely candle in the midst of a fierce wind". Meanwhile, American forces were preparing for an amphibious invasion of Rendova at the end of the month as the opening blow of the New Georgia Campaign. On June 20 he notes "I arrange my clothes so that I will be able to dress at any time, even in the darkness" and eats as lavishly as possible, noting "Wile I am living, I'll try to enjoy life all I possibly can." and "Often I think of my Mother and Siace [Japanese girl's name]".
By June 22, Japanese observers at Wickham anchorage detect an incoming U.S. convoy and think the landing might be at Bernard to the south. He is relieved to learn the Japanese commander on Rendova plans to defend strongly, then withdraw to a holding position when attacked and notes "I am relieved he too is human", implying he is relieved they will not be ordered to make a suicidal defense or Banzai charge. He also notes that no reinforcements due to a lack of man power and they are on "good landing place" and expecting an attack.
On June 23 he notes U. S. light bombers and a two motored Consolidated plane (PBY Catalina) overflew their position. The weather is clear and fine over the next several days and calm, until June 27th when heavy air raids commence.
A final entry on June 28th foreshadows his death when then Americans land. Undoubtedly, the diarist was killed when the U. S. Army landed on Rendova on June 30, 1943. Although simply written, this diary is a powerful glimpse into the life of an ordinary Japanese Navy orderly life and thoughts.
Review by Justin Taylan
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