Thoughts on the Sacrifice [ Gyokusai ] of the Attu Garrison

The following is a translation of historian Hosaka Masakasu, a major writer in the area of Showa history. He is  regarded as a mainstream historian with specialisation in WWII history and its influence on contemporary Japanese history.

The document was part of the Sixth Forum (2007) of the International Forum on War History entitled “New Perspectives on the War in the Pacific: Grand Strategies, Military Governments and POWs” arranged under the auspices of the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies at the Japanese Defense Ministry.

————

The original Japanese, is here: http://www.nids.go.jp/event/forum/pdf/2007/forum_j2007_03.pdf

I have included the original text beside the translation. Portions of the official communique to Japanese troops reproduced here in English represented a special translation challenge to me. They use arcane grammar structures and specialised, contemporary military arcana. In addition, though they are long on words of praise, the need to be brief also means that words are often omitted.

I have removed the few footnotes. The references from General Higuchi”s diary are clearly referenced in the text. The quote from the American soldier of Yamasaki having “300-400” effectives gives the impression that this was the total involved in the final Japanese charge against the American forces on Attu. All other accounts I have read, both Japanese and American give the final marshalling of all forces for the final attack at about 1000, including all army and naval personnel, army merchant marine corps, basically every effective plus walking wounded and anyone who could pull themselves along or hobble from all the front line posiitons.

There will be flaws in some of my translations but I  am reasonably sure that the gist of the communique has been conveyed. Any advice of corrections please kindly contact me. All errors are strictly my own.

———————-

Thoughts on the Sacrifice [ Gyokusai ] of the Attu Garrison

Forward

In my field of research, Showa History, I still maintain the importance of verification by listening to the voices  and testimonies of those who have actual knowledge of the events of the period. This is increasingly important for events of the 1930s and 40s when Japan chose a path to war.  There were many mistakes along this path. On the other hand Japan’ recollections, cultural stance, and attitude towards history has also condensed and abbreviated many of the complexities of the war.

I have chosen the above title for three reasons: Firstly, as a supporter of the Hokkaido Veterans Association I have come across many members of the Attu and Kiska operations whom I have listened to; secondly I have come across the posthumous writings of Northern Army Commander Higuchi Kiichiro. Thirdly, within the entire Pacific War, the Attu Island Battle has a special character as the first example of what is known as “Gyokusai Battle.” From this background I would like to investigate the strategy of Gyokusai on Attu Island and its significance in the war.

今回、このタイトルを選んだのは、次の三つの理由による。一つは、私は北海道の戦友会(合同)の支援者としてアッツ島、キスカ島の作戦について従軍した兵士から数多く話を聞いていること。第二に、北部軍司令官だった樋口季一郎の凝縮にふれたこと。第三に、太平洋戦争の全プロセスのなかで、このアッツ島の戦いは特異な性格(玉砕で

は初めての作戦)を持っていること。このような関心から「アッツ玉砕」の背景に見える戦略的な考え方について検討を加えてみたい1

  • Imperial High Command the Aleutian Strategy

The Aleutian Campaign was seen, in practise as a part of, and operating in conjunction with the Midway Plan to destroy the last of the operational US carrier power in the Pacific and occupy Midway Island. According to a central directive from the Imperial High Command on May 5th, 1942. “Imperial Headquarters orders the Hokkaido Area Commander to seize the Western end of the [Aleutian] island chain”, including Adak, and Kiska Island and Attu. This Aleutian attack plan included formations from Hokkaido and would be commanded by the leader of the 26th Regiment (home stationed in Asahikawa) Major Hozumi Matsutoshi (name verified).

Japanese officers on Attu, early 1942
Japanese officers on Attu, early 1942

1 大本営のアリューシャン攻略作戦

アリューシャン作戦は、ミッドウェー島(ハワイの西方)占領を目的としたミッドウェー作戦と連動して練られた。この作戦について、大本営は昭和 17 年 5 月 5 日に命令を発し、「大本営ハ西部『アリューシャン』列島ノ攻略ヲ企図ス」とし、北海支隊長にアダック島やキスカ島、それにアッツ島の攻略を行うよう命じた。北海支隊は、このアリューシャン作戦用に編成された部隊であり、支隊長は旭川の歩兵第 26 連隊の大隊長だった穂積松年少佐であった。

High Command communicated the plans strategic necessities to the Hokkaido detachment to sieze important locations and ”stifle enemy air operations.” Although the operations at Midway ended with the loss of 4 Japanese aircraft carriers, the landings on Attu and Kiska were successfully accomplished on June 7th and 8th.

大本営は北海支隊に作戦要領を伝えたが、その作戦目的はアリューシャン列島の要地を攻略して、「敵ノ機動竝ニ航空進攻作戦ヲ困難ナラシムル」ところにあった。ミッドウェー作戦は失敗(空母4隻を失う)するが、6 月 7 日、8 日の両日に行われた作戦行動により、アッツ島もキスカ島も占領することに成功している。

Attu Island stands at the very western extremity of the Aleutian archipelago, about 56 kilometres east to west and 24 kilometres north to south. It is not overly large but it has almost no permanent population. Over 95% of the coastline is comprised of steep cliffs dropping directly into the water.

アッツ島はアリューシャン列島の西端に位置し、東西約 56 キロ、南北約 24 キロの決して大きくはない島で、ほとんど人は住んでいないとされた。海岸の 95%は岩壁で平地

Most of the flat areas were bogs and permafrost where even walking was difficult. Weather was predominated by thick and foggy days and winters with extremely high winds, some documents describing them as so fierce upright walking was impossible. It is difficult to understand the meaning of strategic location since it is difficult to imagine the Americans having any conception that this ground was strategic in any sense of the term. The Japanese high command and the Japanese populace did feel that the Doolittle Bombing Raid of April 18, 1942 against Tokyo had actually been carried out by bombers operating from bases in the Aleutians. As a result the landing and the occupation were widely reported in the Japanese press almost as if to supplement for the failure at Midway by underlying the importance of seizing these bases.

はツンドラの湿地帯が続き、歩行も困難とされた。気候は常に霧が深く、冬は風が強い。ある史料によれば人が立つこともできないという。つまり、この地は軍事的要塞として、対アメリカを意識する以外に戦略上の意味はない。なお、大本営がこのアリューシャン列島の確保を企図したのは、昭和 17 年 4 月 18 日のドーリットル隊の東京爆撃を見て、この地からのアメリカ軍の攻撃を恐れたからだとも言われている。アッツ島、キスカ島の占領は、ミッドウェー作戦の失敗を補うかのように大きく報じられた。

The initial landing was accomplished by 1200 members of the Hokkaido Detachment. There was effectively no immediate American response. There was no American garrison on the islands and the Japanese landings were only confirmed later by long-range American scout planes. According to American sources (Morrison’s History of the Pacific War) General Marshall felt “there was no comparative strategic significance to the Japanese landing on these islands. However there was a great psychological unease and at the same time, with activities against the Japanese in the central and southern Pacific Ocean stretched; the commitment of ships, planes and troops meant that there was no overriding concern or capability to take back the islands.”

なお、このと

き、アッツ島に上陸したのは北海支隊の 1,200 人であった。アメリカの反撃は特段には

なく、この島には守備隊など全く存在していなかった。ときに偵察機が飛来して日本軍

の上陸を確認するにとどまっている。アメリカ側の史料である「モリソン戦史」によれ

ば、マーシャル参謀総長は、「日本軍の西部アリューシャン占領は戦略的には比較的重要

性はないが心理的には重大な不安を生んだ。しかしながら、当時中部、南、及び西南太平洋において情勢を維持するために、船、飛行機、及び訓練された部隊の極度の欠乏のため、キスカ、アッツの奪回のための早急な作戦は行わない」と決めたという

In the meantime Japan had planned to build an air base on Attu, but lacking suitable locations they moved to Kiska in the middle of September 1942 withdrawing from Attu. After about one month they again re-occupied Attu. On the western part of Adak Island it was reported that the Americans had completed an air base. On October 20, under directive 706, order #1314, it was decided “ Fortress troops under their commander will be divided into two groups with emphasis on establishing air defences.’ Attu would now be called the #2  defence district and Colonel Yamasaki Yasuo was ordered to command the garrison by the regional defence commander at the end of October, 1942.

日本軍はアッツ島に航空基地を建設することにしたが、アッツ島には適当なところが

なく、キスカに移動した。これが 9 月半ばのことだったが、しかし1カ月後にまたアッ

ツ島の占領を行っている。キスカの西方アダック島にアメリカ軍の航空基地が完成して

いるとの報に接したからである。10 月 20 日の大陸命第 706 号に基づき発せられた大陸

指第1314号には、「要塞歩兵隊ノ歩兵ハ歩兵隊長ノ指揮スル歩兵二中隊基幹ノ部隊トシ、

特ニ対空火器ヲ成ルヘク多ク携行セシムルモノトス」とあった。アッツ、キスカの守備

隊を北海守備隊とし、アッツは第二地区と称することになった。この地区隊長に任命さ

れたのが山崎保代大佐であった。これが 10 月下旬のことである。

Attu therefore once again assumed a place of tactical importance at the very time when the Japanese were facing their first major reverses in the Pacific. The 2nd Division on Guadalcanal had just failed in a major attack. American moves were expected all over the Pacific and the garrisons on Attu and Kiska were strengthened in expectations of American and possibly Russian moves in the region. America was in actuality slowly gearing up in the Northern region, but was far from ready.

アッツ島が再び重要な戦略拠点となったのは、この時期にガダルカナルでの第2師団

を増援しての総攻撃に失敗した折でもあり、アメリカ軍の反攻が北東方面においても予

想されることになり、改めてキスカ、アッツにおける守備力を強固にすることにより、

アメリカとソ連の軍事的提携を封殺することを目的としていたためであった。実際にこ

の方面へのアメリカ軍の動きも少しずつ激しくなってきていた。

The Northern Pacific Expeditionary Force on Attu now comprised the 303 Independent Mixed Battalion with anti-aircraft elements from the Northern Kuriles, engineering, communications and other formations, with a total strength of around 2500.  Transport was not totally arranged while the garrison began increasingly more frantic work on building an airstrip.  In the middle of April 1943 a strip was established to just allow the use of fighter aircraft. At the beginning of 1943 however the Americans completed their air base on Amchitka, only 130 kms away from Kiska.This put Attu and Kiska squarely within the range of American air operations and the Americans followed up with bombing of the respective garrisons and  transport ships. Around the same time they also launched preparations to take back the islands.

北海守備隊のアッツ守備隊は、独立歩兵 303 大隊や北千島要塞歩兵隊のほか高射砲、工兵、無線などの部隊で編成され、その守備隊員は 2,500 人となった。輸送が思うにまかせなかったが、この守備隊は必死に飛行場の建設にあたった。昭和 18 年 4 月中旬には戦闘機が可能な程度の滑走路ができあがった。昭和 18 年に入ってからは、アメリカ軍はキスカから 130 キロ東にあるアムチトカ島の基地を完成し、そこを拠点にアッツやキスカ周辺の海域にいる日本の輸送船への爆撃を続けていたのである。実際に、アメリカ軍の反攻はこのころになると態勢を整えていた。

Japanese military power was constricted by the loss of operational control of the seas in the region. On April 28th a Japanese submarine just managed to enter Attu and communicate with Yamasaki. Looking at this chronology of events we can ascertain two tactical implications for the Attu garrison. While the entire campaign was crafted within the confines of both the Midway and the Guadalcanal operations it was a very complicated by ambiguity to carry off successfully. There was also no conclusive evidence that American and Russia were in any way forming an alliance against Japan in the North Pacific. While the differences between Japanese and American forces were not appreciably different Japanese Imperial Command lacked a central coherent policy to meet the expected American reaction.

日本軍は制海権を喪失していたため、アッツの守備隊長山崎大佐が辛うじて潜水艦でアッツ島に入ったのは 4 月 28 日だったのである。

こうした経緯を見ると、アッツ島守備の戦略的意味は二つであったことがわかる。ひとつは、全体の作戦のなかでミッドウェー作戦やガダルカナル作戦とのからみで練られたが、しかし実際には極めて曖昧な位置づけをされていたこと。そしてもうひとつは、アメリカとソ連の提携封殺という戦略的意図に具体的な確証がないのにその作戦を進めたことである。昭和 18 年 4 月までの日本の軍事的実態は、必ずしもアメリカ軍との間に大きな差はあったわけではないが、その戦略思想のなかに、方針の一貫しない大本営の体質が浮かび上がってくる

  1. Recollections of Northern Army Commander, Major General Higuchi Kiichiro

I have here the recollections from the later life of Major General Higuchi “ Attu, Kiska: Recollections of a Northern Army Commander’ [ published 1971 by Yasu Yasu Yoshobo], Although other records exist, these serve as perhaps the most important and deserving of attention.

Major General Higuchi was Northern Area Army and Northern District Army Commander from August 1942. Before this time about half of the 28th Regiment of the Asahikawa Division, about battalion strength was selected to form the North Pacific Expeditionary Force. This decision was made by Imperial General Headquarters with no direct role of the Northern District Army Commander.

2 北部軍司令官樋口季一郎少将の回顧

今、私の手元に、樋口が晩年に回顧した、『アッツ、キスカ・軍司令官の回想録』(芙

蓉書房、1971 年)とは別の史料があるが、それをもとに樋口の考えを分析してみる必要

がある。樋口が北部軍司令官として、札幌に赴任したのは昭和 17 年 8 月である。これ

より前に行われた、旭川師団歩兵第 28 連隊の約半数大隊をもって組織された北海支隊

のアッツ島攻略は、大本営直轄の下に行われた。北部軍は直接に関与しなかったという。

With General Higuchi appointment he began to request central command for some clarification of the strategic role of the Northern Expeditionary Force. It became clear that objective was the securing of the Aleutian Achipelago. The Chijima (Kuril Island Defence Force) also moved under the command of General Higuchi. In February 1943, the Northern Area Army was reformed as the Northern District Army and had two distinct missions, one for defence of  the Japanese home islands, and one for campaigning offshore in the Aleutians. Accordingly Higuchi sent his subordinate commanders an explanation of the situation:

樋口は赴任するなり、北海支隊派遣の目的を明確にするよう大本営に要求している。そのことは、アリューシャン列島確保の目的を明確にしてほしいという意味である。それによって結局、千島防衛も従来の防衛総司令官から樋口のもとに移ることになった。昭和 18 年 2 月北部軍を改編し北方軍に改め、樋口は北方軍司令官として作戦軍と内地軍との二重の性格を持つことになったが、内地軍の性格から、作戦軍へと切り替えを考えた。このことについて、樋口は部下に次のように訓示している

“We must make all possible haste to strengthen our positions in the North Pacific front. With limited resources and unfavourable seasonal conditions, the Imperial Command with deep respect and profound inspiration and ability of the Northern army to endure issues the following Imperial Directive to the following commands and their subordinate units: North District Army and it subordinate units; including the First Air Division and the Imperial Army Merchant Marine Corps: our original responsibility will most surely at present be North Pacific Defence.

3。「北太平洋方面ニ於ケル我カ作戦ヲ遂行シ且北方作戦準備ヲ飛躍的ニ強化促進スル為北方軍司令部ヲ編成セラレ不肖季一郎乏シキヲ以テ軍司令官タルノ大命ヲ拝ス 寔ニ恐懼感激ニ堪ヘス 本日茲ニ北方軍司令部ノ編成完結ト同時ニ北部軍司令官ノ隷下指揮下ニアリシ各部隊ハ別命ナク予ノ隷下指揮下ニ入ラシメラレ又新タニ大命ニ依リ北海守備隊ヲ予ノ隷下ニ、第一飛行師団竝ニ北方船舶部隊ヲ予ノ指揮下ニ入ラシメラレタルハ寔ニ欣快ニ堪ヘサル所ナリ抑々北方軍ニ負荷セラレタル任務ハ飽ク迄西部『アリューシャン』方面現下北海守備

Units are to secure and maintain their strength while at the same time prepare to decisively smash  US counter attacks and quickly be able to react against any possible moves by the Soviet Union. Defence of the Home Islands will continue to be our role, and operational capabilities being maintained in the Northern Pacific and continue with our role as the Northern District Army. In implementing this important task, Imperial Command relies upon you with your iron will, enthusiasm in carrying out the task and has complete faith in your ability to implement these multi-faceted but important mission.”

隊ノ確保シアル要域ヲ保持増強スルト共ニ敵米ノ反攻ヲ徹底的ニ撃砕シ且対蘇情勢ノ急変ニ対応スル作戦準備ヲ完整スル外 国土防衛等ニ関シ北部軍ノ任務ヲ継承スルニ在リテ作戦軍タルノ性格ノ下ニ北方方面ノ作戦実施、作戦準備ヲ実施スル外 内地軍タルノ性格ノ下ニ従来北部軍ノ全任務ヲ遂行スルコトニ存ス 寔ニ任務重大、業務多岐ニシテ予ノ不敏不徳実ニ悚々トシテ只管力ノ及ハサランコトヲ懼ルト雖 幕僚長各部隊長以下諸官ノ熱誠ニ信倚シ一死奉公以テ其ノ重責ニ応ヘ奉ラントス諸官宜シク現下ノ状勢、北方軍ニ与ヘラレタル任務ニ鑑ミ愈々発奮自励 予ヲ核心トスル鉄石ノ団結ノ下 一意其ノ職責完遂ニ邁進シ以テ此ノ大任ヲ遂行シ誓ッテ聖旨ニ副ヒ奉ランコトヲ期スヘシ」

The results of the last charge of Yamazaki's men near Engineer Hill
The results of the last charge of Yamazaki’s men near Engineer Hill

General Higuchi’s considerations were based upon the Northern Expeditionary Forces seizing Attu and building up a garrison of at least 7,800 men. Higuchi-san offered up a full report to the Imperial Command requesting not only Attu, but that Kiska and Adak should also be incorporated to form a tripod defence. This was not recognised or endorsed by Imperial Headquarters with the existing manpower and it was resolved that Attu and Kiska would be defended. At the same time Yamasaki san was appointed to command the Attu Garrison.

樋口は、この考えに基づいて、アッツ島は北海支隊でもって占領していたが、これでは少ないと 7,800 人を以て北海守備隊をつくり、アッツだけでなくキスカ、アダックの三島鼎立の形で守るべきと大本営に具申したが認められなかったといい、与えられた兵力の関係でアッツとキスカだけを守ることにしたと、この史料には記されている。それでアッツには山崎大佐が任じられた。

General Higuchi remembers that Yamasaki’s main points of consideration were construction of the airstrip and the establishing some form of coastal defence. Ultimately building up adequate beach defences was of supreme importance according to Higuchi. There is a view that concentration on these elements led to an ambiguity of strategy where air power was not available because the airstrip was never finished.

山崎は、アッツに航空基地を造ることのほかに、アメリカ軍の攻撃に対して海岸線防御をするのか、どちらに主眼を置くか悩んでいるように、樋口には思えた。結果的に言えば、海岸線防御をなにより重視すべきだったと樋口は言い、そのことの誤りが作戦の曖昧さにつながったとの見方がある。

The Americans began their landing on May 12, 1943. On May 12th Yamasaki sent the following message to Northern Command.

Body of Japanese Soldier 3 monhs after the battle.
Body of Japanese Soldier three months after the battle.

“ May 12 Morning, heavy bombardment by air has begun, following this elements  of enemy infantry landed in divisional strength. Our troops have engaged them and are in the process of counter attacking.”

アッツ島へのアメリカ軍の本格的な上陸作戦が始まったのは、5 月 12 日である。山崎から北部軍に、「5 月 12 日未明、米空軍の猛烈なる爆撃開始され、次いで約一師団の地上部隊上陸、アッツ守備隊は既設陣地に拠り、この敵を反撃中」という連絡があった。

According to General Higuchi this landing was about one month earlier than expected. The airstrip was only about two-thirds completed. If a single squadron of aircraft had been stationed there the battle would have been better matched but Higuchi-san was under no illusions as to the progress of battle. “Under these conditions of a well-equipped enemy against an isolated garrison the battle would go hard for the defenders.”

この上陸作戦は、樋口によれば予想より1カ月早かったという。飛行場はまだ3分のしか完成していなかったのである。もし飛行機一中隊でもそこに移駐していたならば、その戦闘は多少楽になったと思われるが、そうだとすればアメリカは空母群をもってきたであろうと樋口は言い、「優秀な敵に対する孤島の防禦戦は絶対の困難を伴う」とも述懐している。

Higuchi had resolved upon a counter landing in support of the garrison in the event of an American invasion. He asked central command for the provision of the Asahikawa Division to provide a mixed brigade immediately. With this a staff officer Hata Hisaburo came directly to Sapporo and informed Higuchi that with the present lack of sufficient Imperial Navy strength in the area direct support of the garrison would be difficult. Higuchi-san was thunderstruck and recorded “there is nothing more sorrowful than this judgement.”

樋口は、アメリカ軍の上陸地点に対して「逆上陸」をもって山崎守備隊を救援すべく決意し、旭川師団歩兵団長を長とする混成旅団の即時編成を命じ、自らの決心を大本営陸海軍部に要求したという。これに対して、参謀次長の秦彦三郎が直接札幌に来て、残存海軍の艦艇を見ると、北部軍の作戦指導を行うのは無理とその理由を説明したという。樋口は、「落涙、この断に従う以外になかった」と記している。

Upon the landing of the Americans Higuchi encouraged the Attu garrison to hold the Eastern part of the island in order to facilitate a counter landing and give encouragement to their efforts. By the 27th and 28th  General Higuchi’s resolve to support the garrison became impossible and a sacrifice of the garrison was the only possible remaining option. He communicated this to Yamasaki. Yamasaki’s reply was that he would “implement based upon Higuchi-san’s intentions.” From this point onwards the path of “gyokusai” or annihilation became clear.

実は樋口は、アッツ島にアメリカ軍が上陸したときに、近く混成旅団を救援するから、よろしくアッツ東部の拠点を確保するようにと激励していたというのである。しかし、5 月 27、28 日頃、樋口は、「中央決定の次第、またそれにより私の決心したるアッツ救援作戦は実行不可能になった。一死困難に殉ぜられたし」と打電したという。山崎からは、「謹んで御意図に基づき行動する」と返電があった。ここに玉砕の方向が明確になったのである。

3 The Battle of Attu, 19 days of Battle

After 19 days of fighting all communication with the garrison ceased on May 29th.  According to General Higuchi “ Yamasaki-san had no regrets. He said he had about 150 effectives added to other units to form a single unit and hit the Americans with one final charge. We should live forever and pray for the glory of the homeland. Ten Thousand Years to the Emperor.’

アッツ島の戦いは、守備隊からは 5 月 29 日(上陸から 19 日目)に連絡が断たれた。樋口の回想記には、山崎から、「思い残す事はない。使用し得る兵力は百五十名、一団となって、全部隊残らず討ち死する決意である。私共は永遠の生命に安住する。祖国の栄光を祈る。天皇陛下万歳」との最後の通信があったという

The Northern Army operations and their combined forces broke off the engagement with the American. The Chief of Staff of the Army Ministry cabled the Northern Area Command with the following revelations

“The events of the past 29 days and the brutal combat in your area of operation have again become the subject of an Imperial Council meeting.  In the magnificent defence you display and with thanks directly from his Majesty the Emperor,  your fearless fortitude have surely hit the enemy hard and prayers of thanks for your efforts will surely be a source for the appeasing of the gods.

北部方面隊の前衛部隊も連合艦隊の機動部隊もこの方面の作戦を打ち切っている。参謀総長、陸軍大臣は北海守備隊司令官に電報を打っている。そこには次のような表現があった「本二十九日貴地区隊ノ奮戦状況更ニ上聞ニ達シ再ヒ優渥ナル 御言葉ヲ賜フ 恐懼感激ニ堪ヘス 今ヤ最後ノ関頭ニ立チ毅然タル決意ト堂々タル部署ノ報ニ接シ合掌シテ感謝ス 直チニ上奏スヘシ 必スヤ諸氏ノ仇ヲ復シ屈敵ニ邁進セン 願クハ意ヲ安ンセラレ永ク北辺ノ守トシテ神鎮リマサンコトヲ」

Lt. Col Ogata Kenichi, Imperial Aid-de-camp noted in his diary the following: “the garrison formed itself up and resolved upon an honourable death by using all it remaining force to hit the enemy. Just prior to the attack all codebooks were destroyed, the wounded all committed suicide.”

また、侍従武官であった尾形健一中佐の日記には次のようにあるという「守備隊ハ昨夜敵集団ニ突入撃砕シ尽ク自決玉砕セリ 又攻撃発起前通信器暗号ヲ破壊シ傷病者ハ自決セリト 何タル悲愴ゾ 是ダケノ大戦争、二千位ノ犠牲ハ其ノ数ニ於テハ問題ニ非ス当然ナルモ事此ニ至リ何等援助支援救済ノ途ヲ講ズル事能ハズ 而モ最後ノ模様ヲ知ル由モナク又遺骨モ収集スルコト能ハズシテ之ヲ敵手ニ委セザルヲ得ザル実情ハ何トシテモ悲愴ナリ 指揮官トシテ死場所ヲ得タル部下ノ戦死ハ喜ンデ冥スベキモ最後ニハ其骨ヲ拾ッテヤリ度ハ部隊長ノ心情ナリ 此ノ点ハ従来ニ其ノ例ヲ見ズ 『ガ』島ノ撤収又悲愴ナリシモ其骨ハ戦友ニ抱カレテ帰ルコトヲ得タルナリ」

The Attu garrison indeed fought well. Despite fighting in an environment of limited men, supplies and overwhelming pressure there was no surrender of the Japanese and no response to the thousands of leaflets dropped by the Americans calling on the Japanese to surrender. On the 29th Yamasaki took his remaining men and charged into the Americans. According to American records from eye-witnesses to events concerning this last combat, including several officers.

“On the 18th there was repeated fighting. Japanese fighting strength had dwindled to 300-400 effectives. I was cradling my automatic looking at a section of the island. There was mist and one could not see more than 100 metres. A strange rumble and unearthly sound seemed to arise from the fog, indistinct and strange.  I thought it may be an enemy attack and upon looking could see what appeared to be 300 to 400 of the enemy charging as a single body moving towards me. Leading from the front was commander Yamasaki. In his right hand a sword and in his left the Japanese flag. Every other soldier came on in faded uniforms, many in tatters. Those who had no rifles grasped bayonets instead. Most were wounded in all sorts of ways. Some dragging their legs and others on their knees dragging themselves closer. The entire spectacle made our hair stand on end and frightened the hell out us. The lead Japanese officer was hit with a round and went down immediately but in a short time pulled himself back up before falling again. He repeated this a number of times each time willing himself closer inch by inch to our positions despite his injuries. Eventually a bullet smashed into his left arm, so he could no longer raise the flag. He promptly transferred the flag to his right hand. A large megaphone now called for the Japanese to surrender, but they showed not a single sign of doing this and eventually our artillery concentrated on the remaining elements.

アッツ島の日本軍守備部隊は確かによく戦った。兵力や物量は圧倒的に開きがあるのに、その限界まで戦ったことになるが、日本軍に降伏はなかった。アメリカ軍は飛行機で投降を呼びかける多くのビラを撒いていたが、5 月 29 日に山崎は存命の兵士とともに15突撃している。アメリカ軍の史料には、山崎部隊の最後の突撃について、それを目撃した第一線中隊長であった中尉の話が紹介されている.「一八日間激戦が繰り返され、日本部隊は三〇〇~四〇〇名にへってしまった。・・・自分は自動小銃を小脇にかかえて島の一角に立った。霧がたれこめ一〇〇米以上は見えない。ふと異様な物音がひびく。すわ敵襲撃と思ってすかして見ると三〇〇~四〇〇名が一団となって近づいてくる。先頭に立っているのが山崎部隊長だろう。右手に日本刀、

左手に日の丸をもっている。・・・どの兵隊もどの兵隊も、ボロボロの服をつけ青ざめた形相をしている。手に銃のないものは短剣を握っている。最後の突撃というのに皆どこかを負傷しているのだろう。足を引きずり、膝をするようにゆっくり近づいて来る。我々アメリカ兵は身の毛をよだてた。わが一弾が命中したのか先頭の部隊長がバッタリ倒れた。しばらくするとむっくり起きあがり、また倒れる。また起きあがり一尺、一寸と、はうように米軍に迫ってくる。また一弾が部隊長の左腕をつらぬいたらしく、左腕はだらりとぶら下がり右手に刀と国旗とをともに握りしめた。こちらは大きな拡声機で“降参せい、降参せい!”と叫んだが日本兵は耳をかそうとはしない。遂にわが砲火が集中された」

Still not Home
Still not Home

The news of this sacrifice of the Attu garrison is an impressive tale and instructive piece of what “duty” on the battlefield means. Yamasaki was a source of praise and songs were also written about him. He became rather famous at the time. After this supreme act of sacrifice, this “Gyokusai,”(there were many others to come) but Attu island remains the first “test case” in this type of psychological fortitude.

こうした玉砕の報は日本国内では戦時美談として、あるいは戦陣訓の範として讃えられた。山崎を称賛する歌も作られ、国民の間に流行することになった。玉砕はこのアッツ島以後、数多く続いていくが、その先駆けとなるこの戦いは、太平洋戦争を戦う<精神力>のテストケースとなったのである。

In closing I would like to say that these cases of supreme sacrifice, this fighting to the end — “Gyokusai” — show the psychological make-up of the Japanese. Lacking resources this internal source of power can be thought of as one way of standing against the enemy. However if we look in greater detail, I think, we can see that the meaning was really a lack of firm thought or strategy on the part of the supreme headquarters general staff. As a Japanese I think of these soldiers with a profound sense of loss and pity. The few survivors, prisoners of the Americans do not talk much about this and there are precious few memoirs.

おわりに

私達は、こうした玉砕や特攻作戦に対して、日本人の精神性を表すものとしての見方をとることがある。あるいは、物量に劣る日本の戦いとみた場合、こうした精神性を対峙させるとの考えもあった。だがつぶさに見ていくと、こうした玉砕作戦そのもののなかに、やはり大本営参謀たちに欠けていた思想があるのではないかと私は思う。私はひとりの日本人として、こうして戦死した兵士に強い哀悼の念を持っているし、生存者の証言も聞いて、なおのことその思い持っている。人事不省に陥ってアメリカ軍の捕虜となっていたこの兵士は、生き返ったと知ったときに戦闘のときの記憶がほとんどないことに気づいたという。

How should we seek to understand this moment of annihilation?  Studying this supreme sacrifice may offer us a key to greater understanding. Certainly the survivors of the withdrawal from Kiska Island still tearfully repeat how much they owe to those who died on Attu. That is also something that I think we too should keep in mind….

玉砕をどう捉えるかは、今戦史を研究するときの鍵になるのではないかと思う。この

アッツ島玉砕のあと、キスカ撤退が行われるが、キスカ撤退の兵士達は今なお、この玉

砕で戦死した兵士だけが我々を救ってくれたとの言を涙でくり返している。このことも、

私は改めて記しておきたいと思う。

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s