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Human face of war
Death of HORII
On 18 November 1942, two months after receiving the order to turn back from Ioibaiwa, the main force of the South Seas Force reached a location near Pinga, on the left bank along the Kumusi River. They could hear the roar of guns in the direction of Giruwa and assumed that the Japanese defence in the area was being attacked by the Allies. During the night, a big storm hit the troops and their camp site flooded. The troops had to wait for dawn "on their feet as if they were horses".

On 19 November, Major General HORII decided to go down the Kumusi River on a raft as he wanted to reach Giruwa as quickly as possible. After ordering the rest of the main force to rush to Gona, HORII went on board a big raft accompanied by a staff officer, an adjutant and a few NCOs and soldiers. However, within two kilometres, the raft was caught by a tree which had been submerged in the river and could not be released. The group had no choice but to land on the right river bank and to proceed downstream on foot. They soon located a canoe and HORII got on board with his staff officer, TANAKA, and a duty soldier who used to be a fisherman. The canoe safely reached the mouth of the Kumusi River.

When they reached the sea, the roar of guns become louder and more frequent, which indicated the attack on Japanese troops in Giruwa had become fiercer. They were still eager to reach Giruwa as soon as possible, and HORII made the fateful decision to go across the sea on the canoe even though he knew it was dangerous.

HORII with his Staff Officer TANAKA and the fisherman-soldier, started their journey across the sea in the canoe towards Giruwa. In order to avoid being attacked from the shore, they went further out to sea. The weather turned bad in the afternoon with thunder and lightning and a strong wind started to blow. The canoe was almost 10 kilometres off shore when it turned upside down and sank instantly. Staff Officer TANAKA could not swim and after bobbing his face to the surface a few times, he disappeared into the water. HORII and the soldier started to swim towards the coast. After swimming about four kilometres, HORII said to the soldier, "I am out of strength. Tell the troops that HORII died here." Then, he put both of his arms up and shouted in his loudest voice, "Banzai to the Emperor." Those were his last words before he disappeared.

The soldier managed to reach the shore and reported the incident as the sole survivor. The above account was based on the memoirs of Major KOIWAI.

Contributed by Keiko Tamura (AJRP)

Bôeichô Bôei Kenkyûjo Senshishitsu (ed.), Senshi sôsho Minami Taiheiyô rikugun sakusen 2: Gadarukanaru-Buna sakusen (Official war history South Pacific Area army operations, vol.2: Guadalcanal-Buna campaigns), Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1969, pp. 212–15.

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