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Attitudes to the war
Identification of the Japanese midget submarine crews' bodies
In one of the showcases below the Japanese midget submarine exhibition in Anzac Hall, a sea boot is displayed. It was donated to the War Memorial in 1987 by a daughter of a Sydney undertaker who handled the bodies of the Japanese midget submarine crew for the funeral which was held on 9 June 1942 at the Eastern Suburb Cemetery in Sydney. Inside this boot, a name, “Fujimori” is marked. However, there was no Fujimori among the four dead submariners. Who is Fujimori? Why was a crew wearing somebody else’s boot?

In the confidential report address to the Naval Board on 25 June 1942, four Japanese names were listed and the locations of the submarines where the bodies were retrieved from. [1], Lt Benny Abraham was called in to search the bodies of the submariners to establish their identities. Abraham was a long term resident of Japan and had worked as a businessman in Kobe. He left Japan for Australia before the war started. He was called up to serve in the Australian Army at the age of 49 because of his skill in the Japanese language. [2] The report which was prepared for the Naval Board showed how confusing the situation was after the attack. The locations where the submarines were sunk and the bodies retrieved were mixed up and Abraham obviously had trouble reading the Chinese characters of the crews’ names correctly. Reading personal names is often difficult and particularly in this case as some of the names were very unusual. CHUMAN Kenshi’s family name was mistakenly read as “Nakauma” and TSUZUKU name was again mistakenly read as “Miyakotake”.

Three crews, CHUMAN, OMORI and TSUZUKU were wearing their uniforms which their sewn nametags and correctly identified by the New South Wales police. Only one whose correct name was missing was MATSUO Keiu. He was wearing a uniform which was tagged as FUJIMORI for the mission and his actual name was not identified until the ashes reached Lorenço Marques. The names and characters were notified by the Japanese Foreign Ministry after an enquiry was made by the Japanese legation staff. The most possible explanation of carrying the false name might be that MATSUO decided to wear a jacket and a pair of sea boots which had belonged to his close colleague because he was either killed or missed the mission. However, that name does not appear in any of the Japanese sources on the midget submarine training school. It is a mystery why Matsuo decided to wear clothing with somebody else’s name for the most important mission in his life.

1. (MP1185/8 1877/13/318)
2. Arthur Page, Between Victor and Vanquished,Lofus: Australian Military Publications, 2008. P.473.

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