Posts Tagged ‘Guam’

Well, the trip to the doctor for my back malady seems to have paid big dividends.  By noon yesterday, I was feeling much, much better.  I could get out of a chair, walk around, sit down, drink a soda, eat pizza, and watch the Packers find their way to the Super Bowl.  Some of you football fans may remember last year’s meeting between the Packers and Steelers, when the two teams racked up nearly 1,000 yards of combined offense.  It was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever watched, despite a Steelers win.  I hope for a repeat, except with the Packers carrying the day.

There’s a song that goes something like, “This is the song that never ends…“.  I don’t know any of the rest of the words and, who knows, maybe it’s not even a real song, but it came to mind this evening, and somehow seems appropriate for the subject…sort of.

For Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end before Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945.  The same cannot be said for most of brothers-in-arms, who either gave up the fight or gave up their lives in the fight.  For Yokoi, the fight had come to him on Guam in 1944 as a member of the 38th Regiment.  He managed to remain alive throughout the battle and ended up hiding in a cave with a few fellow infantry as the Pacific War passed him by and headed to the next island.

And for Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, either.  Yokoi was still in hiding (more than a year later), waiting for the Japanese to return and give him his next orders.  But of course, those didn’t come.

For thirty years, they didn’t come, even though Yokoi waited.

Over the years, the ten men became eight, then five, then just three.  Eventually (at some point in the mid-1960s), the final three separated, remaining hidden but in contact with each other.  And pretty soon, there was just Shoichi, as the other two men died.  He hunted at night, and made his own tools and clothes.  And while the pay wasn’t very good, he stayed alive, ready to fight again should duty call.

On January 24, 1972, Shoichi Yokoi’s war finally came to an end, when he was captured by fishermen checking their traps.  He was one of the very last (if not the last) Japanese soldiers captured.  As we have seen many times in our discussions, for a Japanese soldier to be taken alive was a shameful thing.  But Yokoi returned to Japan as something of a hero.

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In July of 1944, Army and Marine forces completed the capture of Saipan.  Though not the largest of the Marianas Islands, it held the largest Japanese garrison, estimated at more than 30,000 soldiers.  Taking control of Saipan, an effort which began on June 15, 1944, was originally estimated to require 3 days (I think pretty much everything in the war started with a 3-day estimate), but ended up taking nearly a month.

The U.S. landings on Guam were scheduled to begin June 18th (3 days after Saipan), but as you can guess, events on Saipan and the Marianas Turkey Shoot quickly put paid to those plans.  Guam is the largest of the Marianas Islands, and its size made it an obvious choice for occupation, as it could provide a launching point for the forces heading for either the Philippines or Taiwan (military leaders still hadn’t fully which one to attack) and, ultimately, the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) and Japan itself.  In addition, Guam’s deep water harbor at Apra (lost when the Japanese captured it in December 1941) was ideal for staging the U.S. Navy’s fleets, and a pair of airfields could handle the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses just coming into service.

The 3rd Marine Division was tasked with taking Guam, along with the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division.  Shooting back would be the 18,000-man Japanese garrison defending Guam, commanded by Lt. Gen. Takeshi Takashina.  This force  was significantly smaller than its counterpart on Saipan, so when the men hit the beaches on July 21, 1944, there was reason to hope that this effort would indeed be more quickly completed than that of Saipan.

Initial landings were completed successfully and, by nightfall, a solid beachhead had been achieved.  But like Saipan, this would be no 3-day affair, either.

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