Major Nagashima is fighting for the Empire of Japan in New Guinea, in the Southwest Pacific Theater, with the 18th Japanese Army. The war in New Guinea opened Jan 23, 1942, and ended Jan 23, 1943. Those 365 days have been described as the toughest, most gruesome, bloodiest fighting of the entire WW II Pacific Campaign.
An inadequate supply system, and not nearly enough native food supplies to sustain thousands of troops, resulted in starvation, malnutrition and desperation among the Japanese.
The eventual Japanese retreat back down the Kokoda Track was pitiful. Famished, ill, they left a trail of discarded equipment and comrades who were too badly wounded or sick to carry on. The Japanese were so short of rations that some had resorted to cannibalism. On the overland retreat from Sio to Wewak, tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished, mostly as a result of sickness and malnutrition. New Guinea was the place, "where soldiers are sent into the jungle without supplies." This seems to have proven the Japanese saying that, "Java is heaven, Burma is hell, but you never come back alive from New Guinea."
Japan, largely devoid of natural resources to feed its industries, looked overseas for supplies of strategic materials such as ores and petroleum. Before 1939 the United States was Japan's major supplier. But President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull shut off American supplies in an effort to force the Japanese to end hostilities against China. The Japanese had long coveted the resource-rich British and Dutch colonies of Southeast Asia, and as the U.S. trade embargo tightened, the Japanese increasingly looked southward for raw materials and strategic resources.
Only the United States stood in Japan's path. The U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was the only force capable of challenging Japan's navy, and American bases in the Philippines could threaten lines of communications between the Japanese home islands and the East Indies. Every oil tanker heading for Japan would have to pass by American-held Luzon. From these needs and constraints, Japan's war plans emerged
First, its navy would neutralize the American fleet with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan would also seize America's central Pacific bases at Guam and Wake islands and invade the Philippines. With American naval power crippled, Japan's military would be free to seize Burma, Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies in a series of rapid amphibious operations. Japan would then establish a defensive ring around its newly conquered empire by fortifying islands in the south and the central Pacific.
Japan's leaders were convinced that Americans, once involved in the European war, would be willing to negotiate peace in the Pacific.
By May 1942 the Japanese had succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. A vast new empire had fallen into their hands so quickly, and at so little cost, that they were tempted to go further. If their forces could move into the Solomon Islands and the southern coast of New Guinea, they could threaten Australia and cut the American line of communications to MacArthur's base there. If they could occupy Midway Island, only 1,000 miles from Honolulu, they could force the American fleet to pull back to the West Coast.
For Centuries, Japanese society was based upon Bushido, the way of the warrior, and it dictated the way of life. Bushido was a moral code that principals had developed among the Samurai or Warrior class. This code was based on national tradition influenced by Zen and Confucianism. Unchanging ideals included martial spirit, military skills, and fearless facing of the enemy in battle. The Bushido Samurai placed much emphasis on duty honor, loyalty and self-sacrifice.
In 1871, the Samurai class became illegal and Bushido was diffused into Japanese culture. The emperor replaced the feudal lord as the devotional object, but the hierarchy created by centuries of the feudal system continued. Everyone still knew his or her place in society
The way of the warrior became the foundation of society and Japanese nationalism. Samurai tradition together with military rule and martial law dominated Japanese culture for centuries. Duty, honor, loyalty and self-sacrifice became a way of life.
To maintain the hierarchy within a warriors society, the ruling classes must dominate. Upper class Japanese brutally mistreated Japanese peasants. Superior officers in the Japanese Army and Navy brutally mistreated Japanese soldiers. Many Japanese soldiers were from the peasant class. The bullied often becomes the bully. A captured enemy soldier becomes the subordinate because he has been conquered. Making subordinates grovel and showing no mercy secured domination. These values fueled the Japanese soldier in battle. “In attempting to consolidate their control over northern China, the Japanese subsequently turned to “rural Pacification” campaigns that amounted to indiscriminate terror against the peasantry”. The tone for battle was emerging: no mercy.
Like the disciplinary procedures, Japan's military award system and daily expectations were also harsher than other World War II forces. The Japanese award system only acknowledged individual performance posthumously. In addition, Japanese leaders expected their soldiers and sailors to perform to their absolute limits daily. They considered anything short of total and unselfish dedication to the Emperor a disgrace.
The Bushido ideal of contempt for defeat also influenced how the Japanese viewed combat. They regarded defeat in combat as the ultimate humiliation. The Japanese expected a soldier or sailor to win, die by the hands of his enemy, or commit suicide. Commanders who recognized imminent defeat in battle, therefore, launched hundreds of soldiers in banzai charges into overwhelming enemy machine-gun and artillery fire, knowing that the attack would be suicidal.
These commanders believed that such a drive embodied the spirit of the ancient Samurai warrior and would result in a "glorious death." Military commanders thought no greater honor could be bestowed upon them than the opportunity to give their lives and the lives of their men for their emperor. Thus, soldiers incapable of participating in these banzai charges due to injury or sickness were summarily executed.
I knew the fog machine I bought at WalMart last Halloween would prove handy. From fog and mist, to creating cordite smoke from shellfire and a way to camouflage non 1/6th backgrounds, I think it’s going to be very useful this summer.
I’m sorely lacking in information on how someone became a Japanese Army officer, but figure it had a lot to do with a persons standing in Japanese society. Perhaps kanowarrior can help fill in some of the blanks on which Japanese units served in New Guinea, and can provide some additional information on Japanese Army officers?