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Human face of war
HISAEDA Akiyoshi
HISAEDA Akiyoshi was an army conscript from Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku and he joined the 55th Battalion 1st Field Hospital as a transport soldier. His personal diary covered over a year from his conscription on 3 October 1941 to 16 November 1942 when he wrote his last line, "Enemy landed in Buna".

A field hospital unit attached to the South Seas Force, HISAEDA’s unit left Japan on 23 November 1941 to cross the Pacific Ocean to the south. Their landings at Guam on 10 December 1941 and at Rabaul on 22 January 1942 ended in victories for the Force. In May 1942, he was on a transport ship, the Matsue Maru, with the Force commander, Major General HORII, en route to attack Port Moresby from the sea. The South Seas Force had to return to Rabaul as the convoy encountered Allied forces in the Coral Sea. Back in Rabaul, he spent two months preparing for the overland attack on Port Moresby as a member of the field hospital unit.

On 29 July 1942, a week after the landing by the Yokoyama Advance Party, HISAEDA’s unit landed on the New Guinea coast to set up a field hospital, HISAEDA recorded that they were under severe attack from Allied bombing soon after their arrival. On 12 August 1942, twelve members of the field hospital, including HISAEDA, were sent towards Kokoda for reinforcement as the South Seas Force advanced into the Owen Stanley Range. After stopping at various villages on the way to open temporary hospitals, HISAEDA finally reached Kokoda on 28 August. He worked on transferring sick and injured soldiers from Deniki back to Kokoda as the number of casualties increased. The Allied bombing increased intensity in the meantime – as HISAEDA described the situation on 2 September 1942: "From 0800 for an hour: air raid, no damage. Bombs dropped by several enemy fighters (Boeing) and several bombers. Like a rain of bombs."

In early October, as the Force started to retreat back to the coast from the Owen Stanley Range, the food supply in HISAEDA’s unit started to decline. He recorded the reduced ration in his diary and it is possible for us to tell the food shortage was getting more serious. He did not have rice at all on 10 and 11 October, and had to eat porridge made from oats the following day. On 13 and 14 October, he only had one tin of food for his ration.

On 28 October, his unit started to move back to the coast with other retreating forces. They crossed the Kumusi River on 1 November and headed towards the coast. The food supply was further diminishing, as he wrote that he only had about 500 cc of rice left with him on 2 November.

On 16 November, HISAEDA jotted down the last entry in his diary. He was camping with his unit about 5 kilometres from Giruwa where he wrote, "Enemy landed in Buna." It is most probable he died in the area soon after recording this last sentence.

Although HISAEDA did not write down his feelings and reflections, his detailed entries of movement and activities in the diary provide an interesting insight into a soldier’s experience. The diary also includes two fascinating illustrations; the first one, depicting palm trees and a grass hut, celebrated the occupation of Guam, and another showed Rabaul with a smoking volcano. He wrote a short poem to accompany this illustration to express his sentiment. It reads, "Remembering Rabaul, the full moon [I saw there] was just like a mirror which would reflect my home and family." HISAEDA’s thoughts were with his family at home even though he crossed the Pacific Ocean with the vanguard of the Imperial Japanese Army.

His diary was handed to Mr L.B. Smith who was an officer commanding a local Papuan camp in Gona in the late 1942. The diary remained in his possession for thirty years before it was translated by two academics, Dr Arthur Stockwin and Dr Junji Banno, at the Australian National University. The original diary was handed to the Embassy of Japan to return to HISAEDA’s family, and the Australian War Memorial holds a photocopy of the diary and its English translation.

Contributed by Keiko Tamura (AJRP)

HISAEDA Akiyoshi, AWM Private Records, 3DRL/4005.

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