The Other Side

While those of us who read in the English language have many resources in books, papers, reports and other documents, to learn and study on the Bataan campaign.

For the most part, all these publications and papers offer great insight and detail on the campaign and its participants. However, there is perhaps a resource lacking, and that would be ion materials from the Japanese perspective. The language barrier is one issue. The other is the question as to what there is available, given that many of the Japanese participants in the battle were killed in the campaign and/or the years of warfare which followed.

But in looking around, it is possible to find some English language translations of Japanese accounts. One such example is found on the “American POWs of Japan” web log site, at:

http://americanpowsofjapan.blogspot.com/

Specifically, under the “Websites” listing on the left hand side of the website is available there is the “Battle of Bataan: A Japanese Officer’s Memoirs,” the account of Imperial Japanese Army Capt. Kumai Toshimi, who was a Second Lieutenant in the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 65th Infantry Brigade.

Kumai was a replacement who joined the unit in the Philippines in March of 1942, and fought in the battles of early April. Initially in the reserve, his unit, the 2nd Machinegun Platoon of 40 members in the 1st Machinegun Company of the 1st Battalion, was soon in action.

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers firing a Type 92 (1932) 7.7-mm. heavy machine gun, gas-operated and air-cooled. This was the standard Japanese heavy machine gun.  (Courtesy Allworldwars.com)

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers firing a Type 92 (1932) 7.7-mm. heavy machine gun, gas-operated and air-cooled. This was the standard Japanese heavy machine gun. (Courtesy Allworldwars.com)

By the end of the final offensive on Bataan, his platoon was much reduced in strength, down to just 14-15 effective, if bone-tired, fighting men. Lt. Kumai himself was carrying a machinegun barrel during movements to new positions by the time the fighting ended.

It makes one wonder how much fighting capacity the Japanese had left by the time of the General King’s decision to surrender. Were the Fil-Am forces unknowingly on the verge of causing another major upset in the Japanese timetable for conquest?

There are a number of interesting observations in Kumai’s memoir, such as the difference in field sanitation practices between the Fil-Am and Japanese forces, and the remarkable engineering capabilities of the Fil-Am side.

Kumai’s 23-page account was written in 1968, and can be read at:

http://www.kumaibuki.com/Kumai_memoir.pdf

In any study of military history, it is important to understand the perspectives of the various sides in the conflict. Although it is difficult, it is possible to find some useful perspectives translated from another language. This perspective is essential for understanding the motivations, and experience of the other side in a conflict.

So a hat tip to Asia Policy Point, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that studies the US policy relationship with Japan and Northeast Asia, who created the “American POWs of Japan” web log and research project. Thank you for sharing some insights on the adversary of the Fil-Am forces on Bataan.

Image: IJA machine gunners, at: http://www.allworldwars.com/The-War-Against-Japan-Pictorial-Record.html

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