Tsuruji Akikusa,Iwo Jima veteran

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
User avatar
Peter H
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Tsuruji Akikusa,Iwo Jima veteran

Post by Peter H » 07 Jul 2007 15:50

http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/waiwai/ar ... 3000c.html

Flags of Our Fathers: Japanese Iwo Jima eyewitness tells it in his own words

"The Iwo Jima Memorial standing at Arlington Cemetery. The photo showing six U.S. Marines raising the Stars & Stripes on Mt. Suribachi was not only staged, but the summit was retaken twice by Japanese forces, who raised the Nissho-ki (Sun flag) in its place. A young Japanese serviceman who witnessed it all recounts his memories from 61 years ago." (Shukan Bunshun (12/14)

Actually, the U.S. flag was raised by five Marines and one Navy corpsman. The USMC Iwo Jima memorial stands in Rosslyn, Virginia, nearby, but not within the boundaries of, Arlington Cemetery. And allegations that AP cameraman Joe Rosenthal "staged" the famous flag-raising photo have been thoroughly debunked.

Following this acerbic and partially inaccurate lead-in, Shukan Bunshun introduces Tsuruji Akikusa, age 79. In 1944, the 17-year-old Akikusa was dispatched to Iwo Jima as a signalman for the Imperial Japanese Navy. He had enlisted two years earlier following his school graduation.

Akikusa points to a photo in a movie program showing actors portraying American GIs sitting on a patch of grassy turf.

"That would have been impossible," he scoffs. "After the naval bombardment, there wasn't a blade of grass left on the island."

Out of a total Japanese garrison of 21,000 men, only 1,023 men survived, including Akikusa. He was seriously wounded during the pre-invasion bombardment in February 1945 and did not take part in the fighting. Found unconscious in the battle's aftermath, he was evacuated to a hospital in Guam and repatriated the following year.

In "Junana-sai no Io-to" (a 17-year-old on Iwo Jima, Bungei Shunju, 840 yen), his personal memoirs released this month, Akikusa provides a rare eyewitness perspective of what happened on Mt. Suribachi from the opposing side.

Suribachi, the highest point on the island, harbored about 2,000 Japanese defenders. Akikusa himself was situated at a communications post some 3.5 kilometers to the northeast, on a lower peak called Mt. Tamana.

On the morning of February 23, he saw the first U.S. flag go up on Suribachi's peak, followed shortly thereafter by the second, larger flag, the raising of which was immortalized at 1/400th second in Rosenthal's famous photograph. Akikusa's descriptions up to this point correspond completely to American accounts of the event. But what followed afterward appears to contradict the official U.S. Naval version of the battle.

The following morning, as Akikusa relates in his book, "It was not the Stars & Stripes, but the Nissho-ki (Japanese Sun flag) that was waving. Even though the peak was the target of attack from every direction on the island, I thought how hard they must have fought, and tears naturally came to my eyes. The valiant fighters were defending Mt. Suribachi to the death."

The U.S. troops quickly hauled down the Japanese standard and replaced it with their own flag. But early the next morning, February 25, "the Nissho-ki was once again fluttering in the morning sunshine. It was a dazzling, beautiful sight."

"The flag was a different one from the day before," Akikusa recalls. "It was a smaller one, and square. It may have been improvised. The red circle in the center looked brownish, so it could have been blood."

"It may have been made out of a shirt. It moved me to tears. 'Our guys are still up there,' I thought. 'They're giving everything they've got. So will I.'"

"I had hoped to see the Nissho-ki still flying the next morning, but that miracle was not to be," Akikusa writes. "I said to myself, 'Well, I guess that's the end of it.'"

By March 8, the US attackers had turned their overwhelming numerical superiority on Mt. Tamana. Akikusa, wounded in the left leg and right hand, witnessed scenes of incredible carnage. Unconscious from multiple wounds, he awakened in a POW hospital on Guam.

Repatriated after the war, Akikusa called on the families of comrades killed in the fighting. But his visits were not necessarily welcomed.

"Their reactions were about half positive and half negative," he relates. "Many of them told me, 'We've already completed our Buddhist memorial services.' I guess they wanted to put it behind them as quickly as they could."

Shukan Bunshun asks Akikusa if he felt deaths of his comrades in arms was meaningful.

"Considering how this country has been without war for the past 60 years, I think it's commendable," Akikusa replies. "If you regard them as 'sacrificial stones' who caused Japan to relinquish what it sought to become in those times, then I want to believe their deaths were not without meaning." (By Masuo Kamiyama, contributing writer)

User avatar
Peter H
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Post by Peter H » 07 Jul 2007 16:01

Interesting that his account of what happened after the US flag was raised differs from other accounts.

A comment on this elsewhere:

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse. ... &user=&pw=

The reason I bring this to the list's attention is that, about halfway
through the book, Akikusa writes that between 23 and 25 February there were
pitched battles for control of Mt. Suribachi in which the US flag was
replaced twice by the Japanese flag before the Marines put the Stars and
Stripes up for good; naturally, I was more than a wee bit surprised by this
particular recollection, since I've read more than a couple of accounts of
the battle and have never run across any inkling of such happenings. While
taking, losing, and then retaking hills was not at all unusual in the
bitterly contested campaigns in the Pacific and, indeed, happened in the
fight for other high ground on Iwo, my understanding of the patrol that put
up the first flag on Suribachi is that, although they expected serious
resistance, what ultimately happened is that they received a sharp but short
response from some outraged Japanese soldiers, who were quickly dealt with;
these events were followed shortly by the second larger flag going up
without incident. After that, the destruction of Japanese fortifications and
their defenders on and around Suribachi continued (and many Japanese
soldiers were killed trying to make their way north); I've never run across
any reference to further fighting for the summit of the mountain. In fact, I
can't recall having read anything much at all about the summit in the
immediate wake of the flag-raisings.

In sum, and to be charitable, all I can do is assume that the memories of an
old veteran about a very bitter experience have become, shall we say,
confused. However, I also know there are members of this group who possess
far more knowledge about the operational history of the Pacific campaigns
than I do, so I thought I would run this by the list and see if anyone has
any idea what Akikusa might be talking about.


Roger Brown, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Japanese History
Saitama University

User avatar
Peter H
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Post by Peter H » 07 Jul 2007 16:11

User avatar
Peter H
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Tsuruji Akikusa,Iwo Jima veteran

Post by Peter H » 26 Sep 2008 10:49

At 81, Japanese vet makes rare return to Iwo Jima

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hEEX ... QD93B6B400

Posts: 735
Joined: 10 Jul 2008 22:02
Location: Oregon

Re: Tsuruji Akikusa,Iwo Jima veteran

Post by Brady » 26 Sep 2008 23:02

It is very interesting, should be fun to see how it works out.

Return to “Japan at War 1895-1945”