"Old Soldiers Never Die…

T

hey just fade away.” This famous phrase–uttered by General Douglas Macarthur after being relieved of duty as head of East Asian military operations after WWII–might need to be rephrased for former WWII Japanese soldiers discovered in the Philipines: Old soldiers never die, they live out their lives in isolations, abandoned by the government they served.

According to Japanese news reports yesterday, former soldiers of the old Imperial Japanese Army were found on the island of Mindanao almost 60 years after the war ended. Japanese officials from the embassy have yet to meet them and confirm their story.

You can read it in English in the AP reports, but there are other details found in the Japanese language edition of a number of other newspapers, including Asahi. Apparently, they were members of the 30th Regiment of the 30th Division which was formed in Pyongyang, Korea and especially trained to fight the Russians, but they were sent to the Philippines to fight the Americans in 1944. A year later in April, when they were in a valley known as Malaybalay, they were ordered to “provide for themselves and fight for themselves” 自給自戦. When the war ended half a year later, they were in transit within the mountains and were not able to reunite with the rest of their Division and were left behind. They moved south to an area around Lake Buluan and lived there for the next few decades. It is yet unclear how they survived or if they interacted with the locals in an area controlled by the Moro Islam Liberation Front. Last year, a Japanese businessman involved in the lumber industry discovered these men–now in their 80s–and learned that they had wanted to repatriate to Japan but were afraid of being tried in military court for desertion. Another source has reported that there are more than 40 other former soldiers in the mountain. Complicating matters is the fact that Japanese officials have managed to set up meetings in General Santos City to interview them and confirm their identities, but the two did not appear at the appointed meeting.

Now, I realize that the Imperial Japanese Army caused a lot of pain and suffering throughout the Pacific, certainly in Korea, China, the Philippines and beyond. And for all I know, these guys played a major role in it. Still, if this story turns out to be true, I might feel for a bunch of soldiers who were ordered to “provide for themselves and fight for themselves”–No supplies. No food. No ammunition–then be abandoned by the very military and government that ordered them to fend for themselves. Being stranded for all these years must have made them feel betrayed.

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One Comment on “"Old Soldiers Never Die…”

  1. Grace Says:

    wow. how did they survive?


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