Oh, My Hometown, My Mother...Diary of Kyoto Soldier; Died in Okinawa Battle of Despair
June 23 is "Irei no Hi," the memorial day for those who died in the Battle of Okinawa. An English translation of part of a diary, written by a soldier believed to have been from Kyoto who died in the fierce ground battles waged in Okinawa 73 years ago, was found among copies of US military official documents collected by the Okinawa Prefectural Archives. The soldier wrote about a festival at the Kamo River in Kyoto, and his love for his mother in his hometown. "This is a valuable record full of humanity, showing how deeply attached the soldier was to his hometown even in a desperate battle field situation," pointed out the researcher who found the document.
■ "I thought about the festival at the Kamo River all day today."
The diary was in the soldier's personal belongings, which the US forces collected from soldiers killed in battle, and its translation into English was underway on May 28, 1945 while the war was still continuing. The documents were found by Hiroshi Hosaka, a former sociology professor of the University of the Ryukyus who has studied records of the Battle of Okinawa.
The 62nd Division, also named "Ishi-heidan," which means the stone unit, was sent to the Battle of Okinawa, and many of its soldiers from Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures lost their lives at the Kakazu Ridge and the Maeda Ridge. The situation from May 1 to 21 in 1945 was written about in the diary. It was when the war situation was worsening as the Kakazu Ridge fell at the end of April and then the Maeda Ridge was conquered by American troops at the beginning of May. In mid-May, the severe battles were taking place around Shuri.
The name of the soldier who owned this diary is not stated, but he seems to have belonged to "Akatsuki Butai," or one of the ship-troop units of the Japanese Army whose members were mainly from the Kansai area, and that was dispatched as a landing party in mid-April. He wrote about the tragic battle field in the beginning of May as follows: "We are eating --- dried potatoes, gritty with sand" on May 1; "--- there were so many fleas and lice that I could not sleep a wink," on May 3; "There was a concentration of naval gunfire nearby. Four civilians were killed. Seventeen or eighteen horses were also killed," on May 5; "Miyagawa joined a suicide squad and was killed. This area is completely devastated," on May 13; "One of our shipmen went to harvest some vegetables, but he was killed under gunfire," on May 14.
He also voiced his longing for his hometown in the diary, tracing his memories of days in Kyoto, such as, "Last year at this time, mother was on the brink of death. Right now, she is probably feeling fine," on May 6, and "I thought about the festival at the Kamo River all day today," on May 13.
By mid-May, the war had become hopeless. He had resigned himself to death, writing, "There are no airplanes, no battleships, and no tanks. This is because we've been abandoned. There is no hope except to die resisting the enemy. This island's devastating end is coming. How could I go back home safely?" on May 18.
The soldier was ordered to move to a fiercer battle field on May 21, and the diary stopped the next day. "I have read the diaries of many soldiers so far, but this one is very excellent since it records not only what was going on in the battlefield, but also how a real human being should behave there. I guess the US military had the diary translated not only for the military purpose, but also because they were impressed by the soldier's feelings," said Hosaka who analyzed the diary.(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)