110 Year Old Relics Returned

Thanks to my friend Ron Nichols, son of WWII veteran, for finding these 110 year old Japanese war memorabilia and donating it to the dead soldier's daughter. And special thanks to Nobuhiro Nakamura for his Herculean volunteer efforts to find the family.

110 Year Old Relics Returned

Reiko and her sister Teruko examine the soldier's book dated 1902 that once belonged to Reiko's later father SgtMajor Kenji Nagahama who served in the Japanese Army in the Russo-Japan war of 1905. The grouping of relics were discovered on line by a friend, Ron Nichols, who lives in Japan. He asked me for my help in trying to locate the family. With the incredible sleuthing skills of Mr. Nobuhiro Nakamura the family was located even though they had moved in 1939 from the original address listed in the soldier booklet! The family was naturally suspicious and cautious, "Why would someone want to return our family relics to us at no cost? There must be a catch," they wondered, and first baulked at even meeting Mr. Nakamura who contacted Reiko Nagahama with an incredible tale of a 110 year old booklet.

Reiko Nagahama examines her father's 1902 dated Army soldier's booklet. Her grandfather Kenji Nagahama was a SgtMajor in the Japanese Army and fought under General Nogi in the ferocious battle of Hill 203 in Korea (against the Russians) in which more Japanese were killed than at Iwo Jima. It records that he was in the famous Pyrrhic victory of Hill 203 in which the Japanese defeated the Russians in the Siege of Port Arthur but lost 16,000 dead and 44,000 wounded which exceeded the number of casualties at Iwo Jima 40 years later in which modern weapons and aircraft were used.

Ron Nichols discovered the artifacts for sale on an auction site and something struck him. He bought the items with the intention of someday finding the relatives and returning the box to them. My friend Nobuhiro Nakamura and I were invited to tour the Atsugi Naval Base (where Ron runs the pro golf shop) which is when Ron showed us the items and asked for our help. Mr. Nakamura put in an amazing effort and was able to find the ladies through a temple name DAIUNJI in Hyogo Prefecture, and an old address written inside the soldier booklet. He did some good old fashioned gumshoe detective work and found the family had relocated to Kyoto in 1939. They are appreciative and look forward to Ron's upcoming visit to Kyoto where they live.

The box states it is a presentation award from the Imperial Household. It shows SgtMaj Kenji Nagahama's name and that he is awarded the Rising Sun 7th Class.

Bones Returned

On March 10, 2011 Members of a volunteer group of Japanese are handed the ashes of over 100 WWII Japanese soldiers to the Government of Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare. The volunteers raised money to make a 3 week trek into the interior of the island of Guadalcanal to search for the remains of the dead who had been abandoned after the war. The ceremony took place at the "Chidorigafuchi Senbotsusha bouen" (Chidori ga fuchi cemetary for the war dead) next to the Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita, Tokyo. The hand over ceremony is called the "Hikiwatashi shiki."

Dan King has been invited to join the group's next trip to Guadalcanal. Funding is always a problem, but as soon as funds can be obtained he will be happy to assist in the recovery of the war dead as there are possibly American dead in the jungle as well.

Iwo Jima Booklet Returned

Iwo JIma Booklet

This is a Japanese Army service booklet that was taken from IWO JIMA during the battle by a US Marine, in Feb or Mar 1945. It surfaced in 2004 at a flea market in the San Diego area and was purchased by a former WWII British Royal Navy veteran, Edward Cordner and his wife Edna. When Cordner saw the service booklet he recognized its significance and purchased it hoping to someday return it. They gave the WWII booklet to Mrs. Vickie Prosser after learning she had been instrumental in returning a real-life "Letter from Iwo Jima". Prosser is an aide to Oceanside City Councilman Jack Feller and secretary of Oceanside's Sister Cities Foundation.

It was entrusted to me by Mrs. Vickie Prosser who had recently played an active role in the return of a real-life "Letter from Iwo Jima".

Upon examining the Guntai techo  (military service record) I learned the dead soldier's identity and background. He was Private First Class Toshiki Kawasaki, born in Nagasaki on July 2, 1920. He was drafted Dec. 1, 1940 and served with an artillery unit based in Korea. He was discharged on Dec. 7, 1943 after fulfilling his 3 year enlistment.

After his military service he found employment working the night shift in the "Production Planning Dept" at the Mitsubishi ship factory near his parents' home in Nagasaki. His civilian career ended just six months later when he was recalled to active duty on June 18,1944. He was immediately sent to Iwo Jima on July 14th (via Chichi Jima) with the 86th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 1st Company on a 150mm mortar team.

In order to find the family of PFC Kawasaki, I requested assistance from fellow WWII Pacific war historian Nobuhiro Nakamura who was able to find the family after an amazing sequence of phone calls and letters to various temples in Nagasaki.

His younger brother Sadao Kawasaki stated he was deeply moved at the gesture of friendship by the American couple who entrusted the booklet to me to be returned.

Dan King with the Japanese Army service record of Private Toshiki Kawasaki who was killed on Iwo Jima in March 1945.

Thank you letter from Michiko Asada to Mr. Nobuhiro Nakamura for his efforts at finding the family of Private Kawasaki.

Asada is a priestess at the temple in Nagasaki where the family records were located. The temple staff were "deeply touched at the great lengths gone to by all of the kind Americans who aided in returning the booklet."

Letter from Mr. Sadao Kawasaki (younger brother of Pvt Kawasaki) to Dan King in appreciation for returning his brother's military service record book.

Iwo Jima Booklet

Letter from Mr. Sadao Kawasaki to Mr. Nobuhiro Nakamura thanking him for his help.

Mr. and Mrs. Sadao Kawasaki

Mr. Sadao Kawasaki and his wife. His older brother died at Iwo Jima, and his older sister was a nurse at the Nagasaki University Hospital when the bomb was dropped on Aug 9, 1945 and was among 850 doctors, nurses, students and patients who were killed at the hospital. He himself joined the Naval officer cadet trainee program in 1945. He has three adult children and is living happily with his wife. He wrote that he cherishes his brother's Army service booklet as it is the only physical reminder he has of him.

Read more about this event in this article that appeared in the San Diego North County Time.

Letters from Iwo Jima Returned

"In January 2011, I received an email from John Powell of the Iwo Jima Association of America asking for assistance in translating a letter from Iwo Jima that recently surfaced at a flea market in North Carolina. I have been on the Iwo Jima trip, Pearl Harbor, Guam & Midway trips with John Powell -through Military Historical Tours working as the volunteer Japanese interpreter- so naturally agreed to help.

I was then contacted by Rex Butler, the collector who found and bought the paperwork found in a box of items from a dead US Marine who had fought at Iwo Jima with the 5th Marine Div, John Puett. Rex managed to find the son of the Marine, and return some items to him, but he wanted to find out more regarding the Japanese letters.

Even though I earned my degree in Japanese and lived there for 10 years, the letters were difficult to read due to the calligraphic nature of the author's handwriting. I sent the letter to a good friend in Japan, WWII Naval historian and photographer, Nobuhiro Nakamura for review. He summoned the help of 6 others including several WWII Japanese veterans to help decipher the beautifully written 5-page letter.

Through their efforts and those of Vickie Prosser of the Oceanside-Kisarazu sister city program and Shinji-san of the Kisarazu sister city program we learned that the letter was written from a mother, Machiko Hattori of Sakurai city, (near Nara) to her eldest son 1st Lt. Genichi Hattori, serving in the Japanese Army. At the time of the battle for Iwo Jima, the 30-year-old officer had a wife Sawako, and a 3-year-old daughter Sachiko. Hattori had a younger brother Genji who became a Captain in the Army, and 2 elder sisters Miyoko and Kyoko.

Actual Japanese letter and postcard that were recovered  during the battle for Iwo Jima in March 1945 by US Marine John Puett.  The letter was written by a mother to her son 1st Lt.Genichi Hattori who  was a 2nd in Command of the Suribachi Eastern Defense zone, located  directly above "green beach", the invasion spot closest to the mountain.  The postcard was written by his younger brother, Capt. Genji Hattori  who was also an Army officer, stationed in the homelands.

Family photo of the Hattori brothers taken on Jan.1, 1944  near the city of Nara. L-R  Genuchi Hattori (father) Capt. Genji  Hattori, Machiko Hattori (mother) 1st Lt. Genichi Hattori who died on  Iwo Jima.

Map of the Suribachi southern defense sector showing the  spot where 1st Lt. Hattori died on Feb 22, 1945. A survivor of the  battle returned to Japan to report that he had witnessed Hattori leave a  bunker at 02:00 in the morning with 5 other men to engage in a  nighttime raid but only 1 returned who died the next day from wounds.

The Road to Iwo Jima

Hattori was born in 1916 into an old timber family in Sakurai City, in Nara Japan. He had a younger brother Genji who became Army Officer Academy graduate, and 2 elder sisters Miyoko and Kyoko. His father, Genuchi Hattori, was the 5th in a line of Hattoris who had been lumber traders. His mother, Machiko, wrote to him often when he was in the service.

In 1934 he graduated at the top of his class from Nara Prefecture Shogyo's forestry trade school in order to follow in his father's footsteps in the family business. When his father became ill, he became the 6th generation of Hattori clan to manage the forests of Nara. His family had been samurai loyal to the Toda Daimyo in the infamous Sekigahara Battle of 1601 in which the use of firearms was first used to great effect against fellow samurai charging headlong with swords and spears. A lesson that seemed to have been learned and then forgotten by Japan's modern Army.

On Dec. 26, 1936 he joined the Japanese Army's 4th Imperial Guard Regiment and within 2 years proved himself as a leader and entered the Officers Candidate school. On July 1 1938 he was promoted the 2nd Lieutenant and dispatched to the Northern China – Russian Boarder area, (Sunwu) a week prior to the start of the China-Incident War.

He was de-commissioned (he wasn't a career officer) and discharged on May 5, 1941 to return to Nara prefecture to work in the forest industry and performed duties as an ex-soldier in the Zaigo Gunjin Association. On June 6, 1941 through an arranged marriage he wed Sawako Kawai who later gave birth to a girl, Chikako, on Feb. 8, 1943. He was doing well and soon promoted to secretary to the minister of forestry of all Nara prefecture.

Things changed dramatically for the Hattori family when he was recalled to active duty on June 20, 1944 and assigned to the HQ of the "Osaka 22nd Unit". However, the 10th Independent Anti-tank battalion Commanding Officer, Major Kyusan Matsushita, was in need of an executive officer because his normal XO was gravely ill. As a result, 1st Lt. Hattori was called in as an emergency replacement with the unit, which left Osaka harbor the following day consisting of 303 officers and men. The ship soon docked in Yokosuka where he was able to meet his younger brother Genji who had become the commander of the "Eastern 2112 Unit" a coastal artillery unit charged with the defense of Tokyo Bay. The younger brother Genji survived the war and wrote a book. He mentioned how the brothers spoke for three painfully short hours about their resolve to make the ultimate sacrifice for the nation. The unit boarded a light Cruiser and headed for the Ogasawara island chain. On July 20, 1944 the ship pulled into Chichi Jima and then to Iwo Jima.

10th Independent anti-tank battalion under Major Kyusan Matsushita was made up of men from Osaka, Nara, and Wakayama. The Battalion was tasked with defending the Mt. Suribachi which put them right between the landing beach and the path to the top of Mt. Suribachi; this was the objective of the 5th Marines, 28th Regiment that landed on Feb 19, 1945. 1st Lt. Hattori never saw the flag go up on Suribachi, for he died the day before at 2:00am in a squad-sized impromptu Banzai charge he led. A survivor of the attack crawled back into the cave (located next to the Southern Kannon goddess memorial at the base of Mr. Suribachi today) and reported that 1st Lt. Hattori and the others were killed. The witness died shortly after reporting the attack to Major Matsushita who survived the battle and later went to Hattori's parents' home in Dec 1945 to inform them of his last day.

The Japanese state there were 20,129 Japanese soldiers and sailors killed on Iwo Jima with 1,033 survivors, many of whom gave false names -such as movie stars, poets and historical figures-when they were captured, and many changed their names after the war to avoid the stigma and shame of being a prisoner of war. There is no accounting for how many are alive today as very few will speak about their experience, and time and illness have claimed many who would be in their mid to high 80's.

In the "Matsushita Unit" (units were named for their commander) there were 303 officers and men but only 6 survivors including Major Matsushita who, after the war, visited the homes of the men in his unit and reported to their families. He visited the parents of 1st Lt. Hattori on Dec 17, 1945 to inform Hattori's parents of his last hours as he knew them.

Hattori's funeral was held, sans remains, in his family home in Dec 1945 shortly after confirmation of his death by Major Matsuhita and a notice from the government.

On a closing note, upon his death, as was customary in the Japanese Army, Hattori was promoted one rank to that of Captain.

Hattori's daughter, Sachiko who is mentioned in the letter as "running happily around carrying the picture of Daddy riding his horse" is still alive and deeply appreciative of the people in the US and Japan who worked hard to find her father's family and return the letter as it is the only physical proof that her father once walked the earth.

Mihoko and her husband Motoki Hattori hold a page from the 5 page letter from Iwo Jima.

Rex Butler presenting the letters to Motoki Hattori during the dinner hosted by the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.

Motoki Hattori, Rex Butler, Dan King, John Edwards.

The last page of the letter written to 1st Lt. Genichi Hattori in which his mother, Machiko, asks him to do his best for the  Country. She closes stating that Hattori's wife, Sawako is by her side  as she prays for him.

In keeping with Japanese military tradition, upon death in battle the soldier was promoted a single rank. 1st Lt. Hattori was  promoted to Captain Hattori as is labeled in this photo provided by his family.

Motoki Hattori hands the actual "Letter from Iwo Jima" to the deceased Army 1st Lt. Genichi Hattori's daughter, Chikako, who is mentioned in the letter that was sent from the Officer's mother to him on Iwo Jima. Motoki is the grand-nephew of the dead officer. This event occured on May 5, 2011 during a Buddhist ceremony/funeral rites to pray for the  soul of the departed. The letter acted as a replacement for the  decendants' remains which were never recovered after the battle and are  presumed to be entombed on the island in an unknown grave or cave.

On May 5, 2011, the Hattori family conducted a Buddhist ceremony (at the same temple as in the 1944 photograph above) for 1stLt. Genichi Hattori to lay his soul to rest. In the photo are L-R:

  • Mihoko Hattori
  • Motonari Hattori
  • Chikako (1stLt Hattori's daughter who is mentioned in the letter)
  • Hisako Hattori
  • Motoki Hattori
  • Gentaro Hattori (the dead officer's nephew)

Please read the article I wrote for the USMC 4th division newsletter about returning WWII items to Japan.