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A Japanese Soldier Describes the Horrors of Guadalcanal

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.

See Also:"Hello, You Fighting Orphans": "Tokyo Rose" Woos U.S. Sailors and Marines
"We Need to Exterminate Them": A Marine Describes the Battle of Guam