武士道

11 Dec

Have you ever heard the story of Commander 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) of the 大日本帝国海軍 (Imperial Japanese Navy) who, during World War 2, was the captain of the Japanese naval destroyer 「」 (Ikazuchi)? (The name “Ikazuchi“, by the way, is an uncommon pronunciation for “thunder” in Japanese).

How about Sir Sam Falle who was a sailor on the destroyer, HMS Encounter of the English Royal Navy, during World War 2?

Just like most people, you probably aren’t familiar with either.

I recently watched a special about their story on TV. It’s an amazing story about Sir Sam Falle and Commander 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU), who lived by 武士道 (the Way Of The Samurai).

The story began in early March 1942. The HMS Encounter and the US Navy ship, the USS Pope were sunk after a heavy battle with the Japanese Navy.
442 survivors of those two ships were left floating in the Java Sea with no realistic chance of rescue by the allies (who weren’t in the area). One of those survivors was Sam Falle.

There weren’t enough life boats for all of the men, so most were holding onto the boats or debris and floating in the fuel drenched sea. Many got oil in their eyes and couldn’t see.

After the men of the HMS Encounter and USS Pope had been floating for over twenty hours and were close to death, the Japanese destroyer (Ikazuchi) entered the Java Sea.

The (Ikazuchi) was on high-alert and the sailors onboard were at their battlestations because the area was known to be heavily populated with enemy (re: Allied) submarines that could torpedo and sink the ship.

When the stranded Allied sailors initially saw the destroyer, they thought it was a friendly ship and began to wave madly to make their presence seen. But once they realized that it was a Japanese warship, they were certain they were doomed.

When the sailor on lookout watch onboard the (Ikazuchi) saw the American and English sailors in the water, he informed the ship’s captain, Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU).

The commander knew that they must have been the survivors of the sea battle the day before. And much to his crew’s surprise, he ordered a rescue operation!
He was informed that in order to rescue them all, almost all ship’s crew would be required to help…which would take men off of submarine watch and from manned guns. And also it require a great deal of the ship’s fuel…if an enemy ship approached, they might not have enough fuel for evasive battle measures.

On top of that, he was informed, taking onboard all of those additional sailors would more space, medicine and food than they had onboard.

Despite all of this, Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) believed that even in war, there are moral rules to live by. And he repeated his order to rescue each and every man from the sea.

Sir Sam Falle was surprised and moved that the crew of the (Ikazuchi) rescued them and gave them their medicine and food.

After the war was over and Sam Falle was living back in England, he still could never forget about the kindness of Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) and he wanted to travel to Japan to meet him again and thank him in person.

The only problem was that shortly after that incident, Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) was transferred to command another ship…and the Japanese naval destroyer 「」 (Ikazuchi) was sunk in battle and all of the sailors onboard died.

Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) never spoke of the war or his experience (even about the rescue operation). Some people think this was because he felt bad about the sinking of his former ship and the deaths of his former shipmates.

Because Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) never spoke of his experiences, it was difficult for Sir Sam Falle to locate him.
It wasn’t until Sam Falle wrote a book (titled “My Lucky Life“) about his experiences in WW2 (including, of course, the rescue operation in the Java Sea by the Japanese destroyer) and the book was translated into Japanese that fate stepped in.
A former Japanese crewman of (Ikazuchi) who was part of the rescue operation (but had also transferred before the ship sunk) contacted Sir Sam Falle and they met in 2003.

At the meeting, Sir Sam Falle told the Japanese sailor (whose name is Shunzo TAGAMI) about his desire to meet Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) and thank him in person.

In 2004, Mr. Tagami told Sam Falle that he was finally able to find out about Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU). He had unfortunately died of cancer in 1979.
After Mr. Tagami was finally able to find the grave of Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU) in 埼玉県川口市 (Kawaguchi, Saitama), Sir Sam Falle was able to come to Japan and pay respects at the grave of Cmdr. 工藤俊作 (Shunsaku KUDOU)…on December 7, 2008. Just a few days ago!

17 Responses to “武士道”

  1. Zen May 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    Put simply, it is a normal duty of seafarers to save life at sea. What makes Commander Kudou’s action noticable is the fact that it was so exceptional. To save ANY life was rare for the Japanese, but because there were so many allied sailors, not only was there a risk from allied submarines, but also Kudou’s ship was at risk of being seized by the allied sailors.

    However, in general the record of the Japanese, in the treatment of both civilians and prisoners of war, was appalling. Sadly, the Japanese have yet to come to terms with this, causing much ill-feeling. I have met British POWs who even 50 or 60 years later were clearly traumatised by what they had gone through.

    The mass shootings and bayonetting of POWs and wounded ( sometimes used as human target practice ) is something that should never be forgotten.

    Healing in the true spiritual sense can only take place when truth is both known and accepted.

    Like

    • tokyo5 May 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

      >British…traumatised by what they had gone through.

      And the civilians, including women and children, who survived the bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were traumatized too.

      War is terrible. Every country involved does terrible things.
      Hopefully before too long there can be an end to wars.

      >something that should never be forgotten.

      Yes I agree that the mistakes of the past shouldn’t be repeated.
      But that doesn’t mean that Japan can never be forgiven since Japan has formally apologized.

      Like

  2. Biento December 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    There are few and far between that one will find a honorable commander like him. Japanese soldiers in WW2 were brutal and caused a lot of death and grief to a lot of people. Truthfuly, there will always be good and bad people in all nations. Hopefully there will be more good people than bad. WW2 taugt all of us a valuabel lesson. Peace to all.

    Like

    • tokyo5 December 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

      >WW2 taugt all of us a valuabel lesson

      Hopefully we can learn from it!

      Like

  3. tokyo5 December 19, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    naokoさん、

    >ごめんなさい、冗談のつもりでした

    No problem. I knew it was a joke.

    >I’ m sorry if I offend you

    No. I don’t get offended easily. 🙂

    >I tried to change the avator that WordPress gave me to my own picutre, but I couldn’t

    Did you see WordPress’ FAQ about it?
    Here:
    http://support.wordpress.com/avatars/#upload-avatar

    >このへんなアバターでいいです(^.^)

    You can change it easily anytime on your WordPress profile, if you decide to.

    Anyways…thanks again for visiting my site. Please continue to comment often.
    And I check your blog, too.

    Like

  4. naoko December 19, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    ごめんなさい、冗談のつもりでした
    I’ m sorry if I offend you,but it was just a kidding about that strange avator. I tried to change the avator that WordPress gave me to my own picutre, but I couldn’t …I checked the forum to solve the problem but I could’t find a good help.
    I did’t know that WordPress’s program chooses a different avator for each blog that I comment. Thank you for your advise. このへんなアバターでいいです(^.^)

    Like

  5. tokyo5 December 18, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    naokoさん、

    >I want to learn about my country from your blog!!

    Thank you for the kind words. Please comment often.

    >I love your blog

    ありがとう!
    I like your blog, too. I will add a link to it on my site.

    >and come again!

    Yes, please visit my site often!

    >I am sorry to comment again

    No. By all means, please comment all the time!

    >but WHY did that strange picture, avator?,stick me!! I hate that!!

    Sorry, I didn’t choose that one. You should change your profile on WordPress and add your own avatar picture…then it will show on any WordPress blog whenever you comment.
    (I use the 「力」 mark for mine.)
    Otherwise, WordPress’s program chooses one for you (a different one for each blog that you comment one, usually).

    If you want to make you own avatar, but can’t figure out how to…let me know. Maybe I can explain easily.

    ———-
    (update: I notice that you updated your avatar).

    Like

  6. naoko December 18, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    I am sorry to comment again, but WHY did that strange picture, avator?,stick me!! I hate that!!

    Like

  7. naoko December 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm #

    I didn’t know that story until I read your post, eventhough I grow up in Japan for 39 years. I want to learn about my country from your blog!! (^.^)

    I love your blog, and come again!

    naoko

    Like

  8. tokyo5 December 12, 2008 at 11:53 pm #

    Jeffrey…
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I’ll check out your Korean War posts!

    Like

  9. tokyo5 December 12, 2008 at 11:52 pm #

    sfrunner…

    ありがとう。 (Thanks).

    Like

  10. tokyo5 December 12, 2008 at 11:52 pm #

    Eric…

    >I have noticed that they try to focus on the positive stories over here. I’ve also noticed that often the bad stories are often not known by younger people.

    I’m not sure that I agree. I think most Japanese know about the tragic or unmentionable things that happened during WW2.
    And that’s why it’s nice to hear some “good news”.
    People like to hear about heros like Oskar Schindler who do the right thing even at risk to their own safety.

    BTW, have you ever heard of the “Japanese Schindler”?
    Sugihara Chiune worked as a diplomat in the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania during WW2.
    He is credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews by issuing them Japanese visas.

    Like

  11. Jeffrey December 12, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Nice write up. I enjoy reading these posts a lot. You are very knowledgeable of Japanese history. You should check out some of the Korean War posts I have on my blog. You might find them interesting.

    Like

  12. sfrunner December 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    tokyo5, very interesting. Thanks for sharing it!

    Like

  13. Eric December 12, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    I have noticed that they try to focus on the positive stories over here. I’ve also noticed that often the bad stories are often not known by younger people. I made my wife watch the Ken Burns WWII documentary on PBS, and she couldn’t believe some of the things that happened. Knowing these things will stop them from ever repeating.

    Like

  14. tokyo5 December 12, 2008 at 12:36 am #

    Eric…
    In the West, you don’t hear stories about WW2-era Japan like this.
    But it’s not so uncommon on Japanese TV and books.

    Look at the movie that I mention at the end of this post:
    https://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/river-ferryboat/

    And this 神風 (Kamikaze)’s 手紙 (letter) to his baby:
    https://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/sixty-three-years-ago/

    Like

  15. Eric December 12, 2008 at 12:01 am #

    That’s an interesting story. It’s definitely a different type of story than you usually hear about Japan during the war.

    Like

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