A General’s Hara-Kiri on Okinawa (1945)
(1) The following is a report of an interrogation of a PW [prisoner of war] captured by the 7th Division [U.S. Army]:
The following story of the death of Lt Gen USHIJIMA is based on an eye witness account by his cook, TETSUO NAKAMUTA, a civilian laborer conscripted in HAKTA, FUKUOKA PREFECTURE, Japan; and sent to OKINAWA as personal cook for General USHIJIMA on January 18, 1945. The story is corroborated in detail by HACHIRO MIZOSHIMA, a civilian movie projectionist in the headquarters. When the movie equipment was destroyed during a shelling he was employed as an orderly. He was present at the time of the suicides but did not actually witness them. MASAHARI FUKUDA, sentry on duty at the cave entrance before the suicides confirms the date and time of the act. Corporal MORITAKE YOSHINO and Sergeant TOMOAKI FUKUDA were present in the headquarters at the time; and after their capture led members of the 7th Division to the cave entrance. The entire story is further corroborated by circumstantial evidence of many officer and EM [enlisted men] prisoners. The last Jap alive inside the cave died on the night of June 23, 1945. With YOSHINO and FUKUNDA as guides, the cave was entered on the 24th. None, repeat none, of the bodies found in the cave were identified as those of GENERAL USHIJIMA or General CHO by above PWs or by officer PWs well acquainted with the Generals. Search for bodies continues.
After 82 days of skillful resistance, and of watching his force of over 80,000 Japanese soldiers deteriorate to a handful of ragged, desperate, snipers, Lieutenant General MITSURU USHIJIMA, Commander of the crushed Japanese 32nd Army, committed hara-kiri in the traditional manner, at his headquarters near MABUNI. Thus he apologized to his Emperor for having failed to stem the inexorable American onslaught on OKINAWA.
Since April first General USHIJIMA had been forced to back from SHURI, on May 26th, to TSUKAZAN; and from there to MABUNI, on May 28th. At MABUNI, deep in a cliff of jagged coral rock that juts 250 feet high between the town and the ocean, USHIJIMA set up his final headquarters.
Part way down the nearly sheer cliff facing the sea a small ledge, six feet wide and twenty long, led into a natural fissure in the rock. The fissure developed into a tunnel seven feet wide and six feet high, which penetrated over 100 yards through the heart of the mountain to another small opening in the face of the cliff toward MABUNI. A narrow shaft led down into the tunnel from the top of the mountain. The floor had been smoothed, the roof and walls shored, and large stone barricades had been built at each opening to protect the interior from both field artillery and naval gun-fire. From this nearly impregnable cave USHIJIMA commanded his soldiers through the last bitter days of the campaign. From here he watched as they were forced back from one defense line to another, until only that part of Hill 89 which was USHIJIMA’s cave lay between the advancing American 7th Division and the sea. Then all the entrances into the cave except the one opening to the sea were blasted shut by the cornered Japanese.
On the night of June 21st General USHIJIMA’s cook was told to prepare an extra large dinner to be served about 10:00 o’clock. It was to be an important occasion. The cook, whose kitchen was near the entrance to the cave, prepared a meal of rice, canned meats, potatoes, fried fish cakes, salmon, bean-curd soup, fresh cabbage, pineapples, tea and sake. When the dinner was ready, the cook set about to prepare breakfast, as it was impossible to cook during daylight hours with the Americans so close.
At 11:30 the General’s aide quietly dismissed the sentry on guard at the cave entrance, telling him that he would no longer be needed there, and to go and participate in a “penetration attack” against the American line, then less than 400 yards away.
At 3:00 in the morning the cook was still busy in the kitchen when the General’s orderly came and whispered that General USHIJIMA and his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General ISAMU CHO, were going to commit hara-kiri.
Forty minutes later General USHIJIMA and General CHO, dressed in full field uniform with their medals, and accompanied by their Aides and the entire staff, filed silently out of the entrance of the cave onto the narrow ledge. Crouched in his kitchen at the opening of the cave, the cook watched the bizarre ceremony. The two Generals talked in low tones for a moment, then a heavy comforter was laid on the rocky ledge and over it was placed a white sheet symbolizing death. General USHIJIMA then knelt on the sheet, in the customary position of SAWARI, with General Cho on his left, both facing the ocean, there was not room to properly perform the ceremony facing north toward the Imperial Palace. Silently the men opened their blouses and bored [sic] their abdomens. General USHIJIMA’s aide, Lt. YOSHINO, holding the two knives with half the blade of each wrapped in a white cloth, stood close behind. The Adjutant, Captain SAKAGUCHI, with his saber drawn, stood on General USHIJIMA’s right. The Aide handed a knife to USHIJIMA who took the blade in both his hands. Simultaneously with the thrust of the knife, the Adjutant’s saber flashed down on USHIJIMA’s neck, several his spinal column. General USHIJIMA fell forward on the white sheet, dead. General GHO then took his turn.
The cook moved away from the opening as the staff members filed back into the cave from the ledge. Three orderlies were taking care of the bodies, burying them with the Generals’ personal effects, somewhere outside the cave.
As the staff members had breakfast, the cook fell asleep. When he awoke it was already dark on the night of June 22nd. The cook left the cave, with the intention of never returning. The members of the staff were preparing to leave also in a final “penetration attack” against the American soldiers who crouched in fox-holes at the rim of the cliff overlooking USHIJIMA’s cave, less than a hundred feet away – with their rifles ready…
Act. A. C. of S., G-2
Source: 7th Infantry Division in the Field, G-2 Periodic Report, No. 92 26 June 1945, pp. 2-4.http://www.forgottenwarstories.com/2016/11/20/a-generals-hara-kiri-on-okinawa-1945/WW2(1) The following is a report of an interrogation of a PW captured by the 7th Division : The following story of the death of Lt Gen USHIJIMA is based on an eye witness account by his cook, TETSUO NAKAMUTA, a civilian laborer conscripted in HAKTA, FUKUOKA PREFECTURE, Japan;...stevenhardestySteven Hardestyforgottenwarstories@gmail.comAdministratorForgotten War Stories