It is condensed from Tateyama and Nunneley’s Tales by Japanese Soldiers (London: Cassell Military Paperbacks, 2001 edition). The book as a whole is a wide-ranging anthology of short tellings by IJA veterans of Burma. Memoirs from this battle front –- the IJA’s farthest –- seem little translated except for this book.
From page 105-108:
Supplying Water to Soldiers
Second Lieutenant Shuichiro Yoshino, 11th Epidemic Prevention and Water Supply Unit
Taunggyi, Hukawng, Meiktila
I was born in Matsutou, a provincial town in central Japan, which was in beautiful country with a view of a mountain range to the south. A female poet wrote many Haiku verses (seventeen-syllable poems) on the life and locality of the town. I went to a middle school and then to a pharmaceutical college in Kanagawa, and was employed by a drug company. At the time military service was compulsory for men and I was rated 'Class A1' in the military physical examination and awaited my call. In March 1941 I was enlisted in the 50th Infantry Regiment in Matsumoto. After passing the examination for reserve officers, I was trained at the Military Medical College in Tokyo and then at army hospitals. I was commissioned officer cadet … and in July 1942 I was ordered to be attached to 11th Epidemic Prevention and Water Supply Unit, stationed in Taunggyi, Burma. I said goodbye to my parents and went to Tokyo where the men in my group were training.
On 13 August 1942, we assembled in full uniform and marched to Shinagawa Railway Station to board a train to Ujina, a port near Hiroshima … My group of 60 men boarded an old 5.000 ton freighter. Eight ships formed a convoy escorted by a submarine chaser, and moved at a very slow speed. We stopped at Takao in Formosa …
We stayed at Singapore for five days. The sunken boats in the harbor made us realise this was war … We sailed to Rangoon, and from there took a train to Thazi where we were met by lorries from our unit. We arrived at Taunggyi on 21 September 1942 and reported to Lt. Colonel Inouye, commander of the unit. Only half of the group who went with me were (destined to return home from the war) ...
The Epidemic Prevention and Water Supply Unit was a unique organization which was formed after a serious outbreak of cholera while the Japanese were fighting in Shanghai in 1937. The unit had seven doctors and one pharmacist, three other officers and 250 men. To supply clean bacteria-free water, the unit used porcelain micro filters. We had four sets of automatic regeneration filters on automobiles (remodeled from fire engines) with a capacity of 30 tons per hour, and eight filters carried on horseback (weight 90 kilograms) with a capacity of 720 liters per hour. These filters gave better water more efficiently than our former method of using alum and 'chloride of lime,' followed by boiling. The unit had 10 folding canvas tanks with aluminum frames and 70 small water bags carried on the shoulder.
In his short account, Yoshino gives much traceable detail about his assigned unit and movements. Although he was only one man in water purification, we can get some idea of how someone might enter that specialty in the IJA. However, Yoshino had already had some medical training before his call-up.
Even though they are not named, the Ishii filters told here are easily matched to Taki's photo and listing. Yoshino's mention of their capacities can be compared to those given reported by the US Naval Technical Mission to Japan.
- ”Automatic regeneration filters on automobiles (remodeled from fire engines)” would be Model Ko, or “A”.
"Filters carried on horseback” weighing 90kg would be Model Hei or “C.”
The “folding canvas tanks” are seen in many of our water filtration photos, except for mention that they had aluminum frames. If true, this might have small interest since aluminum was a strategic metal for aircraft. But here aluminum seems likely for corrosion resistance, or in a lightweight alloy.
(to be continued)