Australia-Japan Research Project

AustraliaJapan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial
Australian and Japanese attitudes to the war
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, by Keiko Tamura

Description of the diary

This diary was kept in a pocketbook, which was issued to every Japanese soldier. The entries, which were made between April and December 1943, filled about 160 pages of the pocketbook over a period of eight months. The frequency of entries varied over time. During the earlier stages of his days in New Guinea, the diarist sometimes wrote up to ten pages a day. In contrast, the entries became sparse after September, and there were no entries for October and November. The last entry was made on 8 December 1943, when he recalled the start of the Pacific War.

The diary does not contain the name of the owner. However, it was most likely TAMURA Yoshikazu. In the diary he signed his first name in two ways, but both can be read as Yoshikazu. In the list of letters he received, there were many TAMURAs, although their names did not appear in the address list at the end of the notebook. Thus, it is most likely that they were members of his immediate family, whose addresses he did not need to record.

Although his name did not appear in the pocketbook, it is possible to build up a profile of TAMURA from the information he noted at the end of his pocketbook. He was 158.5 cm tall and weighed 57 kg. Thus, he was about the average height for an adult male in that period and relatively well built, as his chest size was 84 cm. He also had good eyesight in both eyes. We do not know exactly how old he was, but his birthday was on 27 April. He was probably in his mid-twenties. We can deduce this because the first conscription period for an adult male was for two years from the age of twenty, and our diarist was conscripted for the second time when he recorded his thoughts in the diary. He was unmarried, and his immediate family consisted of a father, a sister and a brother. The anniversary of his mother’s death was on 6 February. He also recorded the registration numbers of his firearms, sword and watch, and his bank account number, in his pocketbook.

TAMURA’s home town was Utsunomiya, which is the capital of Tochigi Prefecture to the north of Tokyo. In his first period of service, his unit served in northern Korea and China, and he wrote his memories of this period in the diary. Although English excerpts of his reflections on China are not included here, he vividly described the cold, dry climate and arid landscape of China, which was dotted with small villages. According to his writing, his unit does not seem to have been engaged in combat in China. After his first period of service, he went back to civilian life. It is not clear how many years he spent as a civilian, but he had fond memories of a climb up Mt. Fuji with his friends during that period.

His second period of conscription became effective from January 1943 in Utsunomiya. He joined the 239th Infantry Regiment (Tôto 36 Unit) of the 41st Division on 5 January and left Utsunomiya on 12 January. From Utsunomiya, the troops travelled to Shimonoseki where they boarded a ship bound for Korea. He recorded the departure scenes. The train travelled through the Japanese countryside in winter. He noticed that there was hardly anybody on the station platform to farewell the troops, whereas previously they had been cheered off loudly by big crowds.

In December 1942, the 41st Division, which had been deployed in North China from the autumn of 1942, was ordered to alter its organisation. It completed this re-organisation on 15 January 1943 and was ready to be deployed to New Guinea. The total number of troops was about 19,000, which included three regiments, each with about 4,000 infantrymen. The troops of the Division moved initially from China to Palau. There, they boarded eleven transport ships, which were protected by ten escort cruisers, and the troops finally landed in Wewak between 20 and 26 February. In Wewak, the Division came under the command of the 18th Army. The 41st Division was ordered to take over the tasks of guarding the area and constructing and expanding the air base – work that had been begun by the 20th Division, which had arrived in the area in January. Wewak was regarded as the most important logistic base for air and sea support for the 18th Army. Furthermore, it was believed that Allied intelligence-collecting activities were still being carried out extensively in the Sepik River area, south of Wewak. Thus, it was necessary to tighten the guard on the area along the river. Initially, the 41st Division was assigned to patrol the Wewak and But areas, but later its area was expanded to the mouth of Ram River and further, to the Dutch border. The main body of troops were involved in airfield construction in two areas in Wewak and two areas in But.

TAMURA recorded the movements of his unit in his pocketbook. The troops arrived in Pusan on 14 January and continued their journey to North China. On 18 January 1943, they reached Botau in North China. On 20 January, they arrived in Qingdao and settled temporarily into the barracks there. On 4 February, the convoy set sail from Qingdao for the South. They reached Palau on 10 February. TAMURA wrote that he and his friends visited a Shinto shrine on the island to pray for victory. The boats departed Palau on 19 February and arrived in Wewak on 22 February. After their landing, the troops set up camp by pitching tents, in which they lived during the campaign.

The New Guinea diary started with an entry for April 1943 at a camp in Wewak. Tamura had been on active service for three months but had not heard from his family or friends in Japan. The last entry of the diary was on 8 December 1943. It is most probable that TAMURA was killed and his diary captured by Australian soldiers soon after 8 December.

A characteristic of the diary is that it was not just a record of a soldier’s daily activities. He used the diary as a means to reflect upon his experiences in the military, and to reflect on his purpose in life, both as an individual and as a soldier for the nation. Some of the letters he wrote to his friends and his family were copied into the book. He also recorded some memories of his past experiences both at home and in China, where he had been sent during his first period of service. He missed home as he lived in a tent in the jungle without any communication from Japan for months. The diary also described how the soldiers acted and felt during the air raids by the Allies. Furthermore, the emotions of a soldier faced with death and maintaining his honour are vividly expressed.

He employs two styles of writing in the diary – prose form and the 31-syllable tanka poetry form. TAMURA recorded over one hundred tanka poems in his diary. The format he favoured was to record his activities and reflections for the day and then write down four or five poems at the end. Thus, the tanka poems were summaries of his thoughts and emotions on the incidents recorded. Tanka poetry has a long tradition in Japan, dating from the 8th century, and is a forerunner of the haiku style that has become popular in the Western world in recent years. While haiku poems need to be closely connected to the seasons and seasonal changes in their themes, tanka poems do not have the similar constraints. Therefore, tanka poetry is more suitable for expressing one's emotions. A tanka poem consists of thirty-one syllables, divided into lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables, whereas a haiku poem consists of only seventeen syllables – five, seven and five. In this respect also, the longer tanka form is better suited to expressing emotion than the shorter haiku.

After the war, the diary remained in the possession of Mr Allan E. Connell, who was originally from Melbourne. He had enlisted in the 57/60th Australian Infantry Battalion in October 1941, at the age of nineteen, and was discharged in January 1946. The diary was discovered while Mr. Connell’s son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Mrs Kay Connell, were sorting through Allan Connell’s possessions after his death. It is not known how the diary became the property of Allan Connell, as he did not talk about it at all to his family.

However, it is possible to speculate on the fate of the diary. According to his service record, Allan Connell was in New Guinea towards the end of 1943 and working in the intelligence field. All of the captured Japanese diaries and documents were sent to the intelligence section from the battlefield and eventually forwarded to the Allied Translation and Interpreting Service (ATIS) in order to be assessed for their strategic value. Allan Connell, who was handling those diaries, probably decided to keep one pocketbook for himself when he found out that the diary did not contain any military information on the Japanese. He might have anticipated that the diary would eventually be destroyed. Although such an action was not officially permitted, it appears that similar incidents were not unknown. [1]

Upon discovery of the diary, Mr. Jeff Cripps, a friend of Jeff and Kay, contacted the Australia–Japan Research Project in 2001 and sent a photocopied page, in order to find out about the contents of the pocketbook. That particular page included several beautiful poems about life in the jungle in New Guinea. Those poems clearly revealed the soldier’s literary sensitivity towards the foreign nature and fauna. Later, Mr & Mrs Connell kindly agreed to provide photocopies of the whole diary for the Project so that we could read it through and translate part of it. The Project would like to express its great appreciation to Mr & Mrs Connell and Mr. Cripps for their cooperation.

Movements and actions of the 239th Infantry Regiment of the 41st Division

According to the Japanese Official Military History, the 239th Infantry Regiment of the 41st Division was first raised in Utsunomiya, Tochigi-prefecture in September 1939. For the operation in which TAMURA was involved, the Division consisted of about 19,000 personnel. According to official records, the regiment had moved to Qingdao on 29 January 1943. Between 20 and 24 February, the troops landed in Wewak.

The unit history stated that, between March and April 1943, the regiment was engaged in airfield construction in Wewak and But. Between April and June 1943, the troops worked on an airfield in Dagua, constructing roads from Dagua on the coast to Maprik, which was inland. Between July and September 1943, the regiment came back to Wewak to engage in airfield construction again. [2]

The Wewak area was bombed during the period of airfield construction as we read in the Tamura Diary, but the bombing was restricted at night to a single bomber, while Allied reconnaissance planes flew over the area during the day. [3] Thus, although the construction work was delayed, it continued, and eventually the airfields were completed so that Japanese planes could land in the area. According to the Australian Official History, by August 1943, the 6th Air Division of the Japanese Army, with five fighter and three bomber groups, totalling 324 aircraft, was established at Wewak. The 7th Air Division with a total of 156 aircraft was also established at But, some kilometres west of Wewak. At this stage, Japan was aiming to regain the balance of air power and making plans to bomb Port Moresby and other areas.

However, the Japanese prospects were completely dashed on 17 August 1943. Allied Forces became aware of the concentration of aircraft in the area and decided to attack them. On 17 and 18 August, the Allied aircraft bombed four Japanese airfields in the Wewak area intensively and the Japanese Army lost about 100 planes, including light bombers, fighters and reconnaissance planes. The damage inflicted on the airfields was extensive and this attack gravely crippled Japanese air power. [4] After the attack, the remaining planes in the Wewak area were not utilised to protect the ground troops. Instead, when the air-raid siren was sounded, the planes were quickly evacuated to the Hollandia area in order to spare them from any damage. Thus, the ground troops, including TAMURA's regiment, were exposed to aerial attacks as the sky was under the total control of the Allies.

From October 1943 to February 1944, the regiment was mobilised to go to Madang under Commander NAKAI to participate in the Finnisterre and Saidor campaigns. In March and April 1944, the regiment was under the 41st Division at Madang. In May and June 1944, the troops moved back to Wewak from Madang. In July and August 1944, the troops participated in the Aitape Campaign in transport and combat roles. During the series of campaigns that had initially started in October 1943, the Division suffered serious casualties in its deployments along the north coast of New Guinea. Some deaths were caused by combat and air raids, but the main causes of the casualties were disease and starvation.

In September 1944, the remaining troops moved to the mountainous inland areas and engaged in small-scale combat till the end of the war in August 1945. Yet, in reality, those remaining troops expended most of their energy securing food for their survival. In his memoir, Nyûginia-sen tsuioku ki (Memoir of the New Guinea Campaign), HOSHINO Kazuo, who was a staff officer of the 41st Division, wrote that by the end of the war only 600 troops of the 41st Division survived out of an original strength of 20,000 men. He also wrote that, of the 200,000 Japanese troops who were sent to East and Central New Guinea, only 10,000 were alive at the end of the war. Thus, the rate of attrition was extremely high, particularly towards the end of the war, due not only to the desperate battles the Japanese fought, but also to the disease and starvation the soldiers suffered during their retreat.

Entries in the TAMURA diary stopped suddenly on 8 December 1943. As two notations in English (“JX1759 Harry” and “JW1107 Garags” [5]) appear on the page following the last entry, it is most likely that TAMURA was killed soon after writing his last entry. According to the regimental record, the 239th Regiment moved to Madang in October 1943, so it is possible that TAMURA died during this campaign.

Postscript

The Japanese national broadcaster, NHK, screened a documentary in August 2003 concerning letters and diaries written by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. The TAMURA diary featured prominently in the documentary, which was aired on the anniversary of the surrender of Japan on 15 August. TAMURA’s surviving younger brother and sister were located in Oyama City, north of Tokyo, during research for the filming and related newspaper articles. A copy of the diary was subsequently delivered to the family.

TAMURA’s family had received no information about their brother’s military service in New Guinea aside from notification of his death from the Japanese Government immediately after the war. Reading the diary after sixty years, including a copy of a letter to them which was never received, must have been an extremely powerful experience.

The Australian War Memorial, in response to a request from the family, determined that it would be appropriate in this instance to return the diary to TAMURA’s family. Consequently, the Director of the Memorial, Steve Gower, handed over the diary to the Ambassador of Japan, His Excellency Kenzo Oshima, at a moving ceremony conducted at the Australian War Memorial on 10 December 2003.

Notes
1. The Personal Records collection of The Australian War Memorial includes another diary by a Japanese soldier, HISAEDA Akiyoshi (3DRL/4005). Photocopies of the diary were donated to the War Memorial by Mr L. B. Smith, who was a resident of Canberra. He explained the circumstance in which he had kept the diary. In his interview with the Canberra Times on 5 May 1972, he said, “The diary should have gone to our intelligence, but I’m not embarrassed about the fact that it didn’t. They must have had all the information they wanted by then. We had just about had it by then and we were being replaced by the Americans. I had no worries about keeping it.”

2. Tôbu Nyûginia Hômen Butai Ryakureki. Tokyo: Kôseishô, 1961, pp. 179.

3. HOSHINO, Kazuo, Nyûginia-sen tsuiokuki: Sensô to hyûmanizumu. Tokyo: Senshi Kankôsha, 1982, p. 16.

4. George Odgers, Air War Against Japan, 1943-1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1957, p. 70.

5. These two codes do not correspond with any Australian identification numbers.


Printed on 09/27/2017 06:00:52 AM