Friday, October 16, 2009

"August 6, 1945"

Very few Japanese remember there were about 45,000 British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) occupying western Japan from 1956 to 1958 - Shimane, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi and four prefectures of Shikoku. I was a high school student then in Shikoku. I couldn't tell the nationality of the soldiers, BCOF or USOF, who came to my school to burn the school gliders with gasoline. I was a member of the air club, so I sadly watched it. The act was part of their demilitarizing responsibilities but I wondered why it was necessary.

During two-thirds of the occupation, the Commonwealth was represented by Australians, and throughout its existence BCOF was always commanded by an Australian officer. They were headquartered in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture. One-tenth of the BCOF were Kiwis, New Zealand contingent of an army Infantry Brigade commonly known as "Jayforce". They took over USOF in the early part 1946. They were in charge of Chofu, the westernmost of the BCOF district, which is now a part of Shimonoseki City. The main job of the troops on their patrols was to see that the munitions of the Japanese Navy, Army and Air Force were destroyed, dumped at sea or melted down.

The J-Force headquarters in Chofumachi was in the Kobe Seiko works where the planes were melted down to recycle aluminum. I have read in one of the local Shimonoseki papers that the Kiwis behaved well, showed less racial discrimination against the Japanese than any other troops and left a warm impression when they repatriated. We are both islanders, and Kiwis have Maoris, similarities stop there?

About 10 years ago, I was invited to a welcome reception of a dozen Kiwi veterans who were J-Force members. They must have all been septuagenarians with the lapse of 50 years. They were hale and hearty and we enjoyed conversation. I came to know a gentleman named Bill, a historian and a teacher by profession, who lives near Auckland. We have corresponded almost 10 years. Through the exchange of e-mails, I learned that he has made many Japanese friends and gave me the name of Shiro Nakamura for whom he helped translate and publish an article in August 11, 2001 issue of a top 10 New Zealand magazine called Listener.

I Googled the Listener back issues but I could not retrieve the article. It was probably too old to be in the online archives. Bill sent me a photostatic copy for scanning. The Listener article was greatly praised by critics as per Bill. He said the article triggered his memories of the battered Imperial Naval Port that had huge buildings with racks for "midget" submarines in Kure, and the horror of first seeing Hiroshima from the railway train from Kure to Chofu.

The title of the Listener article is "August 6. 1945". The original Japanese article was written by Rennosuke Fukuda (1923 - 2001) who was one of 100,000 victims of the A-Bomb on that ominous morning. What a real and truly graphic account by Rennosuke, a victim himself! He was unconscious at the moment of the flash! Coming back to life, he saw he was blown quite a distance away from where he was originally.

I remembered I met Shiro Nakamura when the Kiwi veterans revisited Kitakyushu 10 years ago. So I wrote to Nakamura, asking who Rennosuke Fukuda is. It turns out that Rennosuke Fukuda was his older brother. Shiro was adopted into the Nakamura family and hence his surname change. Here is a brief bio of Shiro's brother Rennosuke.

Rennosuke was born in Shimonoseki, studied at the Yamaguchi Youth Normal School and became a school teacher. He was drafted by the Army and assigned to the accounting section of the Hiroshima Engineering Battalion. After the war, he got a job at the Shimonoseki City Office and worked until his retirement. He died in 2001.

I asked Shiro if Rennosuke had written any other articles. He said it was the only paper he found, so Shiro thought he owed it to his brother to get it published with timely help from Bill, our mutual Kiwi friend. Shiro was completely surprised when he found the translated story in the Listener. He had not sent any photos, so he concluded that the Listener must have picked up photos from the archives.

Maybe it is an old article. Belated though, I want to congratulate Rennosuke from the bottom of my heart for this great article in the Listener, as the culmination of friendship and cooperation between Bill and Shiro. I pray for the soul of Rennosuke, and I want to dedicate this blog entry to my mutual friends by presenting the article to my readers.

Bill and Shiro

The Listener article:

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