The surprise attack on December 7, 1941, on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Japanese air force was quickly followed by a string of dazzling Japanese military forays. This Japanese “blitzkrieg” captured tens of thousands of Allied military personnel and civilians. Many were subjected to extraordinarily cruel treatment at the hands of the Japanese victors. One of the first and most important of these battles took place at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, which U.S. marines invaded in August 1942. The Japanese forces on Guadalcanal managed to hold on to the island for five months, despite savage battles with the marines and a withering U.S. naval bombardment and blockade. Finally, as a simple poem by noncommissioned officer Yoshida Kashichi expressed, the Japanese forces were starved into submission, retreating from Guadalcanal in disarray on December 31, 1942.
No matter how far we walk
We don’t know where we’re going
Trudging along under dark jungle growth
When will this march end?
Hide during the day
Move at night
Deep in the lush Guadalcanal jungle
Our rice is gone
Eating roots and grass
Along the ridges and cliffs
Leaves hide the trail, we lose our way
Stumble and get up, fall and get up
Covered with mud from our falls
Blood oozes from our wounds
No cloth to bind our cuts
Flies swarm to the scabs
No strength to brush them away
Fall down and cannot move
How many times I’ve thought of suicide.
Source: Yoshida Kashichi, “When Will This March End?” in Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 144.