May 24th, 2024

War dead on the other side must be remembered

By Letter to the Editor on November 4, 2021.

We don’t talk much about those war dead who fought against us. We must remember them regardless of the sides of the conflict they were on.

Here are my stories including some who fought on the wrong side:
In April, 1948, I lived in Japan in a fishing port city of Numazu at the foot of Mt. Fuji. I evacuated from Tokyo which was air-raided and fire-bombed almost every night. I moved to the city of my birth to attend a high school that was still open, staying with family friends.
One beautiful afternoon, I was walking home with a friend from school. “All Clear” siren meant it was safe to go out.
The sun was showing off; the light show in the canopy of trees full of dancing fresh green leaves. Then a sudden sharp sound of a falling bomb.
I hit the ground face down covering eyes, ears, and nose with two hands and 10 fingers as we had been trained to do.
A deafening sound of explosion: a blast of wind threw me a few metres away from where I fell down.
When silence descended I stood up to find my friend. There was a two metre wide hole on the ground, but no friend. He completely disappeared, leaving only a piece of intestine hanging on a tree branch: a direct hit.
Later the whole city of Numazu was fire-bombed. I saw many charred bodies and body parts. By then my nerve was numb and nothing shocked me. But I still have nightmares.
War is ugly. No wonder many veterans don’t want to talk about what they saw. My father-in-law who was a RCAF mechanic stationed in England and Europe said nothing about the war.
When I gave up the lease of the family plot in Tokyo Municipal Cemetery, I re-interred the ashes of my ancestors in St. Louis-de-Gonzague, Quebec: my last workplace before retirement.
To my horror I found one of the urns empty. It was for a brother of my grand-mother, Masao Mitsui. He was a commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy. He fought in the war against Tsarist Russia in the early 1900’s.
He led a convoy of de-commissioned rusty cargo boats to the mouth of the Russian navy base of Port Arthur, sunk them to seal in the Russian Pacific Fleet.
Grand-uncle’s boat was blown up. I didn’t realize his body was never found. His hat which was supposed to replace remains in such a case rotted away in a hundred years.
My grandfather on mother’s side, Dr. Yukichi Takeda, also went to northeast China to fight the Tsarist Russian army as an veterinarian: a horse doctor.
After coming home, though the shingle remained, I never saw him practising his profession. Only recently a cousin told me grandpa was a heroin addict all his remaining life after the war. His profession allowed him free access to drugs. No wonder his den always smelt of disinfectant. I guess he had in today’s terms PTSD.
 My father’s youngest brother, Mitsugu, was just out of high school in 1944 when he was conscripted. He was sent to the southern Pacific to fight on the Island of Guadalcanal. He never reached the beach-head. He is officially “missing in action.”
War is ugly. All the soldiers joined the war for us regardless of the cause. On November 11th, let us remember all of them regardless of the sides they were on with gratitude and say, “Never Again.”
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui

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I agree with you 100% Tad. What some people fail to realize is that many of the people that took up and continue to take up arms against others, is the fact they have been brainwashed into thinking that “their” country is in the right and the other side is wrong or even less than human. During the 2nd world war were all the German or Japanese people bad? Of course not. They were led down that path just like how today, many on social media are led into dark corners and misinformation. I look at every human being on this planet as my equal. I will call them out for bad behaviours but not for their race, religion or country of origin. Those that hate are taught that by others for their own purpose. We have many problems on this earth today but one thing that has always been a problem is patriotism and nationalism. I don’t consider myself so much as a Canadian but as a human on the planet earth. The United States is a country where far too many of it’s citizens are led to believe that they live in the land of the free and that the USA is the best country in the world. Nope. You are just like anyone else. A human being. If you read this Tad, I just finished a great book by Margaret MacMillan entitled The War That Ended Peace – The Road to 1914. Perhaps you have read it? More people should read these books on history so they can better understand why these wars get started in the first place. I know you are very educated on many matters and I always appreciate your well written letters to the editor. In closing, on Remembrance Day, I along with yourself I assume, I will remembering all the lives lost due to wars, no matter what side of history they were on at the time.