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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Japanese Diary on Kolombangara - WWII

Kolombangara Island (コロンバンガラ) is a near circular extinct volcano about 30 kilometers across that rises 1,800 meters from the sea, forming the highest mountains in Western Province of Solomon Islands, northwest of Australia.

To look at it on a map, you wouldn't think much of the place - yet, during WWII, it was a place that Japan occupied and was the scene of much fierce fighting between them and the Allied forces.

I'm going to copy from Wikipedia here:

The Imperial Japanese Army used an airstrip on some flat ground at Vila on the south shore of the island, and in May 1943 based several military units with over ten thousand troops garrisoned on the southeast side of the island under the command of Major General Minoru Sasaki, in an attempt to establish a defense line through the Central Solomons. Naval battles nearby included the Battle of Kula Gulf and Battle of Kolombangara.
The most famous and bloody battle was the mission to intercept the "Tokyo Express" supply convoy which resulted in the ramming and explosion of U.S. torpedo boat PT-109, manned by John F. Kennedy (AJ note: yeah - that US President JFK) and his crew. Australian coastwatcher, Sub Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans, who manned a secret observation post at the top of the island's Mount Veve volcano, spotted the explosion. After decoding news that the explosion he had witnessed was probably from the lost PT-109 he dispatched Solomon Islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana in a dugout canoe to look for possible survivors. Their courageous efforts led to the subsequent discovery and rescue of John F. Kennedy and the surviving crew.
After destroyers succeeded in sinking the supply ships three nights later and isolating the garrison of 12,400 there, US forces were able to "leapfrog" Kolombangara to land on Vella Lavella to the west. The Japanese evacuated Kolombangara between September 23 and October 4, 1943.
In January 1944 a detachment of 1 officer and 6 enlisted men from the 350th Engineer General Service Regiment stationed at Munda, established a vegetable farm on the Japanese abandoned airstrip at Vila. The British government furnished 16 male natives to help with the project. With seeds acquired through the International Red Cross, many vegetables were sent back to the base hospital to supplement the dehydrated meals served the recuperating veterans. The main item was watermelons.

Now, for your learning experience, I am going to provide you with a link to a blog written by a gentleman named GP Cox, who I only know via the Internet and a few e-mails back and forth, who provides some truly great articles about WWII - regardless of the side - at his Pacific Paratrooper site.

For this one, he has written about and presented a diary extract from a Japanese soldier - Higa Tadashi (surname first) - on August 3, 1943, including what may have been the man's last words on the face of this Earth. 

Go on and read it, tell the blogger how great his site is, and if you feel like it, tell him who sent you there. I'm sure some of you will find plenty to read there.

Andrew Joseph

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