"SHIN-YO-TAI THAT DIED IN AN HONORABLE DEFEAT"
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During the late 1970's 503d PRCT Veteran Don Abbott, met and corresponded with  some Japanese veterans of Corregidor.

It was a faltering correspondence between former mortal enemies feeling each other out, but they found a common wisdom of age, and the profound sadness of regret for friends forever lost.   The exchange of letters sometimes took months. Even then, the delay between the receipt of a letter and the reading of it, for he wrote no Japanese, and they wrote no English, could extend several months.

As a consequence, the reading and content of their scraps of correspondence is fractured. Nonetheless, a picture begins to appear - one which has been largely unknown to English-speaking readers.

The correspondence occurred as the result of a series of chance meetings, the first between a Japanese writer who was visiting Corregidor to research a book on the Shin-Yo-Tai suicide boats.

 

Not everything in the following pages is entirely accurate, or even verifiable.

 

 

SHIN-YO-TAI THAT DIED IN AN HONORABLE DEFEAT
--
Corregidor Island--

 

Showa 54, [1979] December 30, 9:00 a.m., it is another sunny day in Manila, temperature as high as about 30 C. degrees, but pleasant with little humidity in this season. A high speed boat to Corregidor is about to leave the dock in front of the Cultural Center.

The high-speed boat left the quay of Manila port with  60 to 70 people on board, mostly foreign visitors, including about a dozen Japanese among them. In the seat on the southern end of the boat was a middle-aged Japanese man, holding something like a small figure covered in white cloth close to his chest. On the rocking deck, holding a handrail tight, I slowly approached the man. "Are you from the ex-Japanese military?" "Yes, I am. I'm visiting the island to salvage the souls of my war comrades who died on the Corregidor."

The gray haired couple seating next to him also came here for the same purpose with him.

 The two men were Kanehiro Ishikawa and Tadashi Koike, both were 1st class private in the Japanese army. They were among the 20 Japanese soldiers who continued to fight five months after the war was over, hiding in a cave in the west end of the island. The twenty war comrades kept in touch with each other to this date, more than 30 years after the war.  I also heard one of the twenty was Mr. Kinji Ebisawa (petty officer 1st class, Navy), who was a member of the 10th Shin-Yo-Tai (Ishikawa Troop) and now living in Mito City.

 What an unexpected encounter for me, for I have come all the way to this southern island to research the Shin-Yo Special Attack Troops! Could it have been guided by the wandering spirits of the seven groups of Shin-Yo soldiers, whose death never achieved what they died for? I was ready to ask even the trees and rocks on this southern island about what had happened during the severe battles that had taken place more than 30 years ago, and there they are, the two living witnesses I had never imagined seeing in person, alive.

 In addition, to learn that an ex-Shin-Yo-Tai member is still alive was also surprising. This was my last research trip to the old battle sites before the publishing of a book, titled "Photo Collection: Shin-Yo Special Attack Troop." There is little information of the battles left at the Defence Agency nor at the Assistance to Lost in the War department of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Without much information, coming to a foreign land where I don't even understand the language, I had not expected to find much. The encounter to the two men had given me the sense of existence of the invisible something.

50minutes after leaving Manila, Corregidor was reaching close. Passing by the north-east shore, which is the tail of the tadpole on the left, the express boat proceeds to the north dock, the center area of the island. The island has been an excellent natural harbor from the old times, for rocky cliffs are close to the shoreline and north and south dock areas are of flat land.

Some thirty years ago,Matsueda division of the Shin-Yo-Tai sallied from the north dock, and 15 days after, General McArthur landed on the south dock.

The ocean shines emerald green and the mountain over the Malinta tunnel, covered with lush green trees with a portion of reddish brown dirt showing, came close up.

There was no building near the dock where we landed, but 2 buses were waiting to pick up the passengers. In old days when it used to be an island of fortress, there was an army headquarter, men's living quarters, and a hospital on the topside on the height of the west side of the island, and San Jose, on the south shore had a population of 2 to 3 thousand people, including the U.S. and Filipino military men and their families. There was even a train system as well as a school and a movie theater. After the Pacific War, however, its strategic significance was lost and people left the island, and now a boat comes and goes only once a day.

The tropical blue sky is bottomlessly clear, and bright red flowers add the color to the green trees covering the island. The island of the deadly battles shows little sign of human activitiy, but rather it is a sanctuary for birds and small animals. The only humans seen on the island are the native children oaring canoes and diving for fish. Over thirty years ago, bombs, shells, torpedoes and machine guns that covered the island had made it into the hell on the earth by its explosion sound and fires. Now, as if to offset such past, the island is filled with tranquillity and peaceful sunlight that somehow still indicates the afterlife. The lost spirits of the Japanese, the Americans and the Philippines must have found the peacefulness to rest at last.

About 20 days before coming to Corregidor, I was able to meet Mr. Yasuo Tatsumi. He was a member of the Matsueda troop (19th Preparatory School, Class-B), and was injured just before the landing on the Corregidor, during on board the Gempukku Maru in the Manila Bay on December 14, Showa 20 [1944?]. Because of the injury, he was sent home without having to fight on the island. He had kept the last letter from his superior, Matsueda troop leader.

 

to Yasuo Tatsumi"

"This is my message to Tatsumi, who shared the countless hardships and joys together since our departure of the motherland. The bitter memory of the moment of your injury still comes back to torture me now and then. Why did a piece of bullet have to ruin you? I know, more than anybody, that your loyalty to the country was genuine and that you dedicated your life to the Shin-Yo-Tai and you had trained yourself for this sole purpose with your heart and soul. Therefore, I understand that your grief and regret is deeper than anybody can imagine. However, I assure you that we will fulfill your goal for you. You will be the one who will cry out the cheers for us. Please take care, never think of hurting yourself further. I pray that you will become the force for protecting our country once your health is restored. Send my best regards to your mother, brother, and your sister.

from troopleader,
Lieutenant J.G.
Yoshihisa Matsueda

 

Mr. Tatsumi said it was the last farewell with the leader and the colleagues, then choked up in retrospect. After about 10 days, I met Mr. Mihisa(?) Matsueda (Lieutenant Commander, President of South Nippon Broadcast), who was the oldest brother of Yoshihisa Matsueda, at a hotel in Tokyo. His son had come to my last photography exhibit "The 30th Shin-Yo-Special Attack Troop; 33 Years After the War" last February and made this meeting possible. I showed him the copy of the letter and he confirmed it was his brother's handwriting and he said he wanted to send its copy to his mother. To him, I asked a question long puzzling me;

 

"During the Pacific War, Kamikaze and Kaiten Special Attack members were given 2-to 3-step promotion. Judging from old photographs, some of them even received the uniform of the promoted rank right before they went out for attacks. But not even a single Shin-Yo-Tai member is given such drastic promotion. Why?"

 

When his father went to retrieve Yoshihisa's bones, the official is said to have told him, "if you apply, 2 step promotion will be given to your son." But the father declined, and the late Matuseda was promoted from Navy Lieutenant J.G. to Lieutenant. This story shows there was such thing as 2-rank promotion for Shin-Yo-Tai. But in fact, no one has been given this special treatment. Was it because of poor communications between government offices, or was the young lives to be lost was considered as disposable by the government?

Probably the father of Mr. Matsueda did not consider his dead son's promotion so honorable, after sending his two sons to the war. Holding an empty box wondering if inside the box there is at least the spirit of his son who died at the age of 23, the official's words must have sounded vainly to the father's ears.

When the Pacific War started, Filipino President Quezon and his family fled Manila to Corregidor, the Island of Fortress, on the same day General MacArthur with his wife and child arrived on the island in his warship, escaping from Bataan.

On February 20, 1942, Quezon and his company left the island in a submarine to the Visayas, which has become the capital of the Philippines. MacArthur was directing American-Filipino military from the fortress on the island, but following the advice from the President Roosevelt, which the President had given him three times, passed the remaining duty on to Major General Wainwright and  boarded a torpedo boat with his family and his men to leave the island on March 12 the same year, leaving behind his famous word, "I shall return."

May 6, 1942, after a fierce battle, the Japanese occupied the island, and the flag of the Rising Sun fluttered on the flagpole on the topside ground.

On the island of Corregidor, rusty remains of artillery mortar shells and antiaircraft batteries are still found here and there. Parts of Japanese made batteries are lying on the ground. Silk trees and other trees that have grown several meters of height screen the view from the fortresses once overlooked the ocean. Thirty tropical years have taken the view from the batteries, allowing them to rest in peace, assuring them the peaceful calmness of the paradise in future.

The rocky hill of Malinta was chiselled criss-cross into a huge tunnel area by the Americans using a vast amount of money and years of construction. It accommodated military headquarters, hospitals, storage for food and ammunitions, and during the war, accommodated 5 to 6 thousand soldiers. Filipino president Quezon, MacArthur and his family, Japanese leader Itagaki and other officers and injured men had discussed strategy, been treated to heal, or hidden themselves from the direct bombings. This tunnel is another non-speaking witness of the fierce war of the Pacific.

There were seven groups of Shin-Yo-Tai that progressed to the Corregidor. The seventh led by Yamazaki, the eighth led by Ishii, the ninth led by Kenjiro Nakajima, the twelfth led by Matsueda were trained at the Torpedo School and assigned as the Special Attack Troops. The tenth led by Ishikawa, the eleventh by Ryojiro Nakajima, and the thirteenth by Ando were trained at the Kawatana Temporary Torpedo Training Center and assigned as the Special Attack Troop.

In early October of the year of Showa 19, an anti-aircraft troop was organized, then late that month, surviving crew of the warship which sank offshore of Leyte joined them restore American batteries for the defence of the Corregidor Island. In November, construction unit was sent over, and several Shin-Yo-Tai troops, from the 7th to the 13th, were dispatched to defend the island. These Shin-Yo-Tai men originally we assigned to Philippine Islands, but due to the loss of Japanese grasp over the area, they moved to the Corregidor between the period of November and the following January.

The 7th, 8th, 9th [NAKASHIMA],10th [ISIKAWA] and 11th [YAMASAKI] were positioned on the Corregidor on November 1st of Showa 19.

On December 20th, with the reorganization of the marines in the Manila region, Captain Itagaki was assigned as the director of the Manila Bay area defense troops, with Commander Oyamada as the director of the marine special attack troops. Hence, the Corregidor attack force, consisting of the 7 troops, or 300 Shin-Yo-Tai boats and 6 torpedo ships, was born.

The 11th set forth on the ship Atlas, which was attacked on the sea and sank on the 14 of November. The surviving men on board later positioned on the island. The 12th [MATSUE] arrived at the island in January, Showa 20.

American fleet started shooting from ships on December 10, then added large formation airplane attacks from January 23. Our high-angle batteries and machine gun batteries were severely damaged.

On the 23rd of December, the message "the enemy fleet is moving up north from the Mindoro area, with possibility of attacking the Corregidor." was sent from Itagaki, and Shin--Yo-Tai was order to sortie. While preparing to set out, accidental fire broke out from one of the Seventh Shin-Yo-Tai fleet, which set off its on-board explosives. In no time, explosion jumped one boat to another, blowing up 50 boats and 100 men.

Another similar accident took lives of many more men on January 7th, when inside-tunnel mines blew up one after another.

The Japanese were air-raided on Jan. 10th, 20th and 23rd. On the 23rd, 10 B-24s bombarded the fourth Navy tunnel, causing the magazine to explode. The Japanese had lost 5,519 counts of shells and powder charges at once.

On the 24th, more than 140 planes attacked the island, and thereafter a large scale of bombing took place. 25 of Shin-Yo-Tai boats were lost. The amount of bombs dropped by the American force was 3000 ton per square mile. Trees, roads, buildings and power poles were destroyed which forced the Japanese to escape into tunnels. What was left of the Shin-Yo-Tai moved into Malinta tunnel.

By the end of January, total number of men stationed on the Corregidor was about 4,500. On January 30, American troops landed on Subic Bay area. About 100 remaining Shin-Yo-Tei boats were reported to Captain Itagaki on Jan. 30th. The rest, about 200 boats had been destroyed. According to Mr. Kinji Ebisawa, a survivor from the 10th (ISHIKAWA) Shin-Yo-Tai, "the tenth Shin-Yo-Tai was ordered to attack an island south of the Corregidor, but the mission could not be completed and they returned.

Explosion inside of Malinta tunnel and other accidents destroyed the boats, from 50 down to 5.

On February 10, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines entered in the Manila Bay, then started attacks at the Corregidor.

On February 15, a large fleet accompanied by about 20 cargo ships artillery-bombarded the Mariveles battery, on the north side of the Corregidor Channel. With plenty of supplies, the  Americans destroyed the battery.

On February 15th, Showa 20, at about 8:45 a.m., telegraphs reading "enemy landing boats, 8 large and about 40 small are approaching the north shore," and "the enemy is estimated to land west of Mariveles," were received by the troop at the Manila Bay entrance. At 9:00 p.m., Special Attack Commander Oyamada ordered the Shin-Yo-Tai Matsueda [12TH] troop to "attack and destroy the enemy fleet stationed in the Subic Bay."

The troop leader, 3 fleet leaders (Tamaki, Yamakage, Yasuda) and 50 crew (graduates of B-class, 19th and 20th preparatory schools) changed into new underwear, tied white headbands, and sipped cups of sake for farewell. Base personnel carried the boats out from the storage to the shore, and mechanics checked engines. Meanwhile, the crew were allowed to take a nap. Even snores were heard.

At midnight of February 15, 50 Shin-Yo-Tai from Matsueda troop prepared to attack Subic and Mariveles. After midnight, came the time for departure. The crew were equipped with pistols and hand-granaries and wore swords in the back. They followed the leader and left the north dock one after another. Smiles on the faces of the crew, and tears were seen in the eyes of the personnel at the base.

Without anyone suggesting it, remaining base men, though tired, moved to a hill in the center of the island that overlooks Mariveles to witness the result.

One hour had passed with no changes.

The Americans had learned lessons from surprise attack in early February, when a few dozens of cargo ships were sank in the bay of Lingayen by the Japanese army suicide boats. Destroyers patrolled at high speed within the torpedo fleet security area, and around the cargo boats, guarding boards are linked together to cause self explosion of the Shin-Yo-Tai boats. Any such boats that came through the barriers were to be shot at with small firing weapons from ships. With this thorough defense, the odds were against Shin-Yo-Tai's, the small motor boats that runs at about 25 knots without any firing equipment on board.

At about 3:00 a.m., next day, a large red pillar of flame went up in the direction of Mariveles. Red flames and fireballs followed. The sky lit up like sunset hours.  Several pillars of fire were seen in the Mariveles area. The sound of explosion came a few moments later. In the flames, black dots, probably burning ships were seen. Base members jumped and shook hands in joy. They knew it was for this moment that they endured the hardships of hiding out. Many of those who shared the joy died in later battles.

 All boats that went did not return. According to the American war record, sank some ships.

The success of this night cannot be confirmed in "The History of the Japanese Marines in the Pacific War, Vol 11, Defending the Philippines Islands (Shaul- Victory] No.1 Operation)" by the Defence Agency, but is described in "Galleon History Series, Corregidor", written by Alphonso Aluit as follows;

"At 3:15 a.m. on Feb. 16, a number of Japanese military suicide boats, approximately 17 feet long, left Corregidor and appeared suddenly in the port of Mariveles. They succeeded in sinking 3 support boats. About 30 of the suicide boats were dispatched from the island in the night between 15th and 16th to carry out the mission, never to return."

To honor the 12th, Matsueda troop and other Shin-Yo-Tai troops, I would like to report that this success is confirmed as fact by the American sources.

Meanwhile, the five remaining boats of the 10th (ISHIKAWA) Shin-Yo-Tai, in which Petty Officer Ebisawa belongs, was ordered to set out for the follow-up (second) attack. Ebisawa was graduated from a Mine Institute (Senior) and in charge of explosives equipment, but due to the lack of manpower, was preparing for the attack as a Special Attack crew. However, due to the landing of the American parachute troops and the enemy landing from the south dock on Feb. 16, they lost the chance for the second attack.

They exploded the boat and move to the east side of the island.

On the 16th of February, following the shootings from ships, parachute troops came down on the central highland of the island, the same time as strong troops landed from the south dock. The rest of the men, including the remaining Shin-Yo-Tai members, continued the battle by night raids, but on the 17th, we lost our top, Captain Itagaki.

On 20th, most of the Army men had been dead in the plateau area, and the Japanese had already practically lost the war. After the 22nd on, the escape to Bataan, suicide of officers, were all hellish, and the battle on the Corregidor ended when most of the remaining men killed themselves.

On 24th, a troop from the Malinta tunnel tried ambush attack during the night but failed.

On 27th, all officers higher than warrant officer killed themselves.

To the remaining men, retreat to Bataan was ordered. Petty Officers Ebisawa and Sekine made a raft to cross the sea, but was carried away by the tide to the west of the island, near the Battery Point. They met the other survivors, then were separated from the others, and later became among the 20 men who surrendered.

 
 

 

SHINYO TAI BOATS AT OFFICERS BEACH
 

Made of light plywood, reinforced by wooden beams. The ones on Corregidor were powered by six-cylinder Chevrolet car engines. They were painted a sickly Sherwood Forest green.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

         

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