The Path of Infinite Sorrow in Silae, Malaybalay, Bukidnon

The following account on the Japanese side of this action was shared by Corporal Yoshitomo Mori in the Quick-Shooting Squad, the 1st Company led by Murakami, the 30th  Search Regiment (SK30), 30th Panther Division who were 1,500 meters above sea level (MSL) on Mt. Sampokan, north of Silae, Malaybalay, Bukidnon on June 25 in 1945:  

Mt. Capistrano viewed from Barangay Cabangahan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

At that time, we had to move up the mountain 4 kilometers a day without any food.  We had light rain on that night. I set up a lightweight tent, laid leaves and went off to sleep with PFC Yukiyoshi Fujita.  He said to me, “Corporal Mori, I can’t follow the unit anymore.” It was around 7 PM.

Topographical Map of Barangay Silae, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon

Fujita, who joined the Army in 1942, had been climbing the mountain, feeling dizzy with high fever caused by malaria, but his body was still normal on that night.  

“What’re you saying? C’mon! Keep up! Going over the mountain, we’ll be rescued, just a little more marching. Cheer up! ” I kept telling him to encourage him, but he told me that he had 1 gou of rice (1 gou=180ml) left in his mess kit and asked me to cook it for him.  

Japanese Army Ration of Wild Grass Rice (for Illustration purposes only) Presidian Vox

It was 8PM in the darkness, so I had to report to the Squad Leader, and he told me to get it done.  I cooked it in light rain and made small rice balls, each about the size of a chicken egg.  Fujita happily ate both of them. He looked normal.  He was a gentle soldier with a pale face. 

I remember many things, such as the water from the rain soaking through the leaves under us, we had many sleepless nights, we heard the old trees fall down and slide down with lots of noise.  The rain was not stopping, and if he could  not accompany the unit, this meant “Self-Termination” according to the “Battle Front Code, ” so as not to be humiliated by being captured alive.  

Katanas of the Imperial Japanese Army of World War II from a private collection in the Philippines. (RMB)

The rain was up on the morning of June 26. I got up at 6AM and took down our tent.  “Fujita, just a little walk. Cheer up!” But he neither moved nor responded. Six other squad members tried to cheer him up, but he was only sitting there quietly.  From 7-8 AM, the same situation continued.  The rest of the squad left and passed in front of us.  

At 8:30 AM the Squad Leader left to finally report to the Company Commander.  The order from the Commander was “Self-Termination”.  

Type 38 Short Rifle (Carbine)

It was conducted as follows: We dug the ground with a small shovel, making a mound with a height of about 30 cm.  We had Fujita sit on it.  He sat down silently with his eyes closed.  He put the muzzle of his Type 38 carbine on his head above the left ear.  There was a sound of the hammer hitting the shell, but it may have been God’s mercy, the bullet didn’t come out.  

This was only the 6th time I had seen a bullet not come out of the muzzle during my long service in the Army.  Fujita opened his eyes, and since I was standing in front of him a couple of meters away with a shovel in my hand, our eyes met.  I said to him, “Fujita, go to the Yasukuni Shrine first.  I’m coming later, too.” He nodded and began to reload. He fell backward after the explosion.  

Two examples of a Hinomaru (good luck flag) from a private collection in the Philippines. (RMB)

We covered his face with his Hinomaru (Good luck Flag) with his name, Yukiyoshi Fujita, and the autographs of many people, wishing him good luck on battles in it.  It has some red stains on the red part and yellow spots on the white.  

We cut some leaves from a tree and covered his body with them.  All the squad members, totaling only 6, fell in to salute him. We all said good-bye to our friend.  We left at 9:00AM. We felt really sorry because Fujita had a normal temperature and was in normal condition that day. 

Approximate escape route of Japanese soldiers from Malaybalay via Silae to Waleo
(courtesy of Carlos Policarpio Bagonoc)

I hope that he is in heaven.  (He would be 80 yrs. old if he was still alive) We had a Buddhist ceremony on the 50th anniversary of his death, to console his soul at the Fugenin Temple in Mt. Koya the year before last.  

Sgt Masayoshi Morishita, the former Squad Leader, who was present at the ceremony, said to me, “Mori, I still think it was murder.”  The thought was still breaking his heart after 50 years.  

Mr. Morishita died of prostate cancer in August last year, which made me the only squad member still alive.  On my responsibility as the oldest-timer in the squad, I’ve been searching for the families of 286 members of the regiment and found 150 of them so far.  The rest 130 remain unfound.  I’d almost given up but whipped myself into searching again at my own pace. 

About 5 years ago I found Takae Fujita, Fujita’s sister lived in Sakaide City in Kagawa Prefecture and I went there to meet her.  When she said, “So it was malaria as we were told,” my heart was pierced with sorrow.  I just told her that he died from high fever caused by  malaria.

Yasukuni Shrine (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo) 日本語 靖国神社(東京都千代田区 (Kakidai)

I want to add that there was always gunfire somewhere in the mountains in the morning or evening.  I still regret saying such a crappy thing (Yasukuni Shrine) then.  I can’t get that flag off my mind. I’m going to visit Fujita’s grave.

Source: shared by Daniel Markle, 2d Co, 108th Infantry Battalion, New York National Guard from a letter shared by Cpl. Mori Yoshitomo to Richard Rupert (the translated letter has been edited for readability and brevity) Mori belonged to the Quick-Shooting Squad, 1st Company led by Murakami, the 30th  Search Regiment (SK30), 5th Panther Division.

Notes:

  • Yasukuni Shrine is a privately owned Shinto shrine and war museum located in Central Tokyo, Japan. The Meiji Emperor built the shrine in 1886 to house the remains and souls of those who died in civil conflicts. The shrine is now the burial site for over 2.5 million people who died in conflict, mainly in World War II. 

Most of the venerated dead served the  Emperors of Japan during wars from 1867 to 1951 but they also include civilians in service and government officials. It is the belief of Shintoism that Yasukuni enshrines the actual souls of the dead, known as kami in Japanese. The kami are honored through liturgical texts and ritual incantations known as Norito.

Japanese nationalists dressed in World War 2 military uniforms march into Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, Monday, 15 August 2005. (ANDY RAIN/ BLOOMBERG)

However, of the 2,466,532 people named in the shrine’s Book of Souls, 1,068 are war criminals who were convicted of war crimes at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East following World War II including 14 convicted Class-A war criminals has resulted in international controversy.  “Class-A” war criminals are those who are charged with “crimes against peace” while Class-C criminals are charged with crimes against humanity.

The decision as to whom is enshrined at Yasukuni is solely a religious activity due to the legal separation of State Shintoism and the Government of Japan. The Yasukuni priesthood have complete religious autonomy over deciding whom they bestow enshrinement. It is thought that enshrinement is permanent and irreversible by the current Kannushi.

In Shinto, a body cannot be removed once it is placed into a shrine to be worshipped as a kami. It has also been suggested that the Chinese government has its own political agenda in protesting against Yasukuni shrine.

Malaybalay City, Bukidnon showing Barangay SIlae
(center in blue, next to the municipality of Cabanglasan)

Silae is mainly an agricultural village with corn as its principal crop. It serves as the entry point to the Upper Pulangi District from both Can-ayan and Cabanglasan.

It was one of the oldest barrios in Bukidnon, being part of the town of Sevilla in the province of Misamis under the Spanish Empire, with its seat at Linabo. In 1907, the American colonial government reorganized the country and established the Municipality of Malaybalay, dissolving the town of Sevilla. This saw a transfer of administrative seat from Linabo to Oroquieta (now Poblacion, Malaybalay).

  • Type 38 Cavalry Carbine

Intended for use by non-front  line troops (transportation, engineering, artillery & support units) where a full sized rifle would be a hindrance, the Type 38 Short Rifle was introduced into service at the same time as the standard Type 38 (1905 AD) by the Chigusa factory at the Nagoya Arsenal from a design by Captain Kijiro Nambu.

Type 38 “Cavalry” Short Rifle (Carbine)

Its barrel was 487 millimeters (19.2 in), overall length 966 millimeters (38.0 in), and weight 3.3 kilograms (7.3 lbs.). The carbine lacked a bayonet and the cost in 1939 was 67.9 yen per unit. Tokyo Arsenal from 1906 to 1931; 210,000 units (est.)

Source: https://imgur.com/a/RGU8R7A#nDNd1xk

Published by Yoshitomo Mori

Member, Quick-Shooting Squad, the 1st Company led by Murakami, the 30th Search Regiment (SK30), 30th Panther Division

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