The Island Hopping Experience
Callie Ollish- Standards C and D
The conditions in the South Pacific were horrendous for the soldiers, both Japanese and American. For example, an american soldier wrote the following in his diary, "It is pretty hard to write with these flies bothering you. We get two meals a day and coffee for dinner. I am always hungry….We have been living on Jap rice and oats for a month. Our only diversion is playing cards," (Donahue, 2012). The conditions were commonly muddy and it rained much of the time, (Donahue, 2012). Consequentially, this lead to diseases like dysentary, as there was not protection or medication for the soldier. For example, from the same source, "I am very hard hit with dysentery, having had it now for 15 days. My rectum is the most painful thing on me," (Donahue, 2012). These conditions were similar for the Japanese soldiers as well; they took to calling the Guadalcanal "Starvation Island," (Blair, N.d.). For example, an unknown soldier wrote the following in his diary, "My body is so extremely exhausted, that one "GO" of rice is all that I can eat, and walking is very difficult. No relief comes for this unit. The army doctor will not even send us to the rear. At present, we are all very sick men," (Blair, N.d.). Moreover, this lack of food subsequently lead to many deaths and much disease in the Japanese soldiers as well; "Oba Fumio died from illness. It was not that he lacked energy, but he was drenched by the rains which come regularly every afternoon in this life in the jungle...Asaba Kazuo also died of illness. Malaria fever affected his mind and he acted peculiarly. After eating his meal, he died suddenly. This death increased the large total of those killed in action and from the disease to 13 men," (Blair, N.d.).
Air raids were one thing among all of the texts that seemed extremely pervasive for both sides. Diaries from each side mentioned how air raids were commonplace and strikes from the enemy tended to last all day. For example, an american source, a diary from the Guadalcanal, stated, "Last night we were shelled with naval gunfire. The air bombings are continuing despite the fact we have planes. Guam and Wake gunners now with 3rd Defense say this is the hottest spot of the war. The final total on the Jap landing is 1,300 Japs killed to 38 Marines," (Donahue, 2012). Also, on the Japanese side of the war, air fire was just a prevalent, and soldiers were told to stay on their toes. Moreover, a source from a Japanese diary, also from the Guadalcanal, stated, "4 enemy planes have completely damaged our convoy! Jintu was badly damaged, Kinryu-Maru was helpless in a big fire and in 10 minutes raging flames and smoke covered up half of the ship. The ship was abandoned after 40 minutes. The convoy went up north after the confusion of the air raid," (Inui, N.d.). Clearly, this deadly aspect of the war was prevalent on both sides of the conflict.
Differences (American Perspective)
Motivation by Choice
Contrary to the Japanese motivation of fighting, which was forced, the motivation for many young men in America was based around their own motivation to fight for their country, even though there was a draft. For example, "Romance, patriotism, adventure...all in one neat package. Wow! The Naval Academy offered it all. Besides, since I knew there wouldn't be any college money for me, an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy would provide a free education. Each U.S. Senator and congressman could appoint two boys to both West Point and Annapolis each year," (Paull, 1996). In this case, the young man saw a movie that sparked his interest in joining the war effort. Moreover, this type of propaganda was common in order to spark this same interest in many young men, in order to build voluntary support for the war, "I had enough money for an occasional trip to the Park Theater. My dream was born in this dark hall. I was bewitched by a movie, "Shipmates Forever"; Dick Powell played a suave Annapolis midshipman and a sweet young ingenue, Ruby Keeler, walked down Flirtation Walk with him as he crooned: 'Shipmates stand together, tho it's a long, long trip; Fair or stormy weather, we won't give up, we won't give up the ship.' This movie fascinated me and I sat through it several times. I'd like to see it again but I'd probably be embarrassed by its corniness. Corny, or not, it eventually had a direct effect upon my life," (Paull, 1996). These movies were shown to influence many boys decisions to join the war.
Entertainment Based Around Movies
American entertainment was centered around the group viewing of movies, and this is littered throughout many sources. For example, the following was pulled from multiple diary entries from the same soldier, "Saw movie on tank deck last night "Nice Girl."... Movie played tonight Life Begins at 8:30 Monty Nooly pretty good... Saw movie at night...Had movie in crew's headquarters...Played cards and saw a double feature movie," (Mullins, N.d.). The movie watching continues to increase as the time period goes on; more and more movies were watched. However, the activities that took place on the Japanese boats were starkly differently. The activities that were prevalent on the Japanese side of the war were group activities. During their down time organized shows and the like took place. For example, "We are dying for a drink and girls, and Captain doesn't mind. The planning for Amusement Show of Ichki-shitai was completed. The night record concert under palm trees was so nice," (Inui, N.d.). Moreover, when Inui and other Japanese soldiers were able to view movies, they were typically "news movies." Furthermore, "Went to the movies at Lecture Hall of the Navy. Saw 3 news films. 'The war bereaved worshipping a spring ritual in Yasukuni-shrine': I recalled Miss Kamiya who was one of those bereaved. 'the Battle Taking the Fortress of Corregidor': Many friends of mine in Kyoto Regiment must have died there," (Inui, N.d.). These movies were not typically there for entertainment but informed the soldiers instead.
Differences (Japan Perspective)
Ruthlessness of the Japanese Army
From the American perspective, the Japanese army was seen as utterly ruthless. This can also be seen from multiple different perspectives, both American and Japanese. Each soldier had to be on their toes around the enemy, as the Japanese were known to do anything and everything in order to help aide the cause and their empire. Moreover, this is evident in the following American source, "It’s every man for himself. When a Japanese patrol signals surrender, the order “cease fire” is given. We hold our fire til they are plainly visible in our peep sights, and then we open up. Few are the times that a Jap will surrender," (Donahue, 2012). Each American soldier had to guard their own life and stay skeptical when dealing with the Japanese, as it was rare for them to surrender. They figured that the Japanese surrender could be a ploy for them to gain advantage in order to take down the American Army. This ruthlessness could also be seen through the perspective of the Japanese Army, as they also saw that their own determination was deadly. For example, "Even though we are alive we figure we will only live about 2–3 days. All of us put the muzzle of the gun to our throats several times but however eventually we will die so why not just stick it out to the finish?" (Johnson, 2013). This source comes from a trained suicide bomber; similar to the terrorist ways of portions of the Middle East in the twenty-first century, the Japanese were training soldiers to take their own lives for their country, indoctrinating them with the ideas that the cause was worthy enough to die for. Finally, a Japanese source states their position on the American army while also highlighting their determination, "I heard one of the enemy talking busily in Japanese over a loud speaker. He was probably telling us to come out. What fools the enemy are! The Japanese Army will stick it out to the end. This position must be defended with our lives," (Blair, N.d.). Clearly, the Japanese Army was willing to do anything in order to defend their country and win the war, death included. This makes them extremely deadly and ruthless.
Honor suicides were common in Japanese soldiers throughout the war. The Japanese people were raised and trained believing that being captured by the enemy was the worst thing imaginable. Being taken prisoner was considered to be a dishonor for the family and could even hurt a sister's chances of finding a good husband. Soldiers were told that if they were returned after being held prisoner, they would be killed, (Johnson, 2013). Moreover, an american source stated, "...the Japs come at night. Three or four times we are out of our sacks and in the shelters. We are bleary-eyed. Three Jap Zeros strafed our position and all were brought down. The pilots were heavily bandaged; therefore, they were probably suicide missions," (Donahue, 2012). This sources was from September 2012, relatively early in the battles of the South Pacific. However, the following is a source from later in these battles, July 1944; however, it is also an american source based around the first hand account of viewing Japanese mass suicides. Furthermore, "The Japanese civilians and the surviving soldiers were all crowded into this area. Now one of the worst horrors of the war occurred. In spite of loud-speaker messages asking them to surrender, and assurances that they would be well-treated, they began killing themselves. Soldiers clutched hand grenades to their bellies and pulled the pins," (Paull, 1996). These honor suicides were seen as a more honorable way to die, rather than dishonoring the soldier's family.
Fought for the Empire
Many of the Japanese soldiers were conscripted into the army, as there was a draft in order to pull the country's support for the war effort. Moreover, the these soldiers surrendered their lives for the empire, and this is evident through the following source, "It's the time to offer your life for His Majesty the Emperor. We are sure of ultimate victory of the Imperial Army!" (Inui, N.d.). This source was pulled from the diary of a man that served in the Japanese army, as is the following. This dedication to the empire and the cause was seen in times good and bad, even in times of celebration. For example, "Gave 3 banzai [cheers] for the Emperor and sang the national anthem. We toasted with whiskey," (Blair, N.d.). This was given in reference to the soldier's daily activities; the date for this particular entry was January 1, 1943. Also, this was starkly different that than voluntary participation of the American soldier as discussed above.