Japanese View of the Leyte Naval Battle

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The following was published in “Senso: The Japanese Remember the Pacific War.”

Don’t Shoot at a Sinking Enemy

As a 25-year old seaman about a destroyer, I participated in the sea battle off Leyte.  In the midst of the battle, our destroyer was pursuing a fleeing aircraft carrier through squalls and curtains of smoke.  Suddenly a single enemy destroyer headed directly for us.  Attacked by the concentrated fire from our destroyer squadron, it rapidly went up in flames.  As we neared the enemy ship to see its last moment, it listed to one side, with flames rising everywhere.  It was about to sink.  Men were floating on the water’s surface or sinking beneath it, while half-naked crew members jammed themselves into lifeboats and rowed away, escaping.

We were close enough to see their unkempt beards and the tattoos on their arms.  One of our machine-gunners impulsively pulled his trigger.  He must have been overflowing with feelings of animosity toward the enemy.  But he was checked by a loud voice from the bridge saying, “Don’t shoot at escaping men!  Stop shooting, stop!”  So he inflicted no injury on the enemy.

I read an article written after the War’s end that the captain, who survived*, (a descendant of the Cherokee tribe) had tears in his eyes when he recalled the scene. “A Japanese destroyer that passed by did not shoot.  What is more, I cannot forget the officers on the Gigantic warship who saluted us in seeming condolence for the loss of our ship.”  What flashed through my mind was the story of Commodore Uemura, who rescued the crew of the sinking Yurik during the Russo-Japanese War.  Seppū was the name of his destroyer – known as the luckiest warship in the world.

This was written by Okuno Tadashi, who became a business owner in Ōmuta, Japan after the war.

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Edward E. Evans

Edward E. Evans

Commander Ernest Edwin Evans was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma on August 13, 1908.  He was three quarters Cherokee Indian.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944 Commander Evans and the USS Johnston were assigned to Task Unit 77.4.3 AKA Taffy III with 2 other destroyers (Hoel and Heermann), 4 destroyer escorts (Butler, Dennis, Raymond, Roberts) and 6  escort carries (Fanshaw Bay, Saint Lo, Kalinin Bay, White Plains, Kitkun Bay, Gambier Bay).  Here, at the Battle Off Samar, they fought the vastly superior Imperial Japanese Navy Centre Force which consisted of 4 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers.

At 9:45 AM Commander Evans ordered his crew to abandon ship.  The USS Johnston sank at 10:10 AM, receiving a hand salute from the skipper of a Japanese destroyer.

* The article Mr. Tadashi read must have been written by another crew member, as Cmdr. Evans was seen abandoning ship, but was never found.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Personal note – 

I would appreciate hearing if you are interested in more stories from the Japanese side of the war.  I refrained from adding a second story here from a crew member of the Musashi to keep the post at a decent size.

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Military Humor – from the Readers Digest ‘Humor in Uniform –

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“I’m the commander of data security.”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anthony Allis – Clearwater, FL; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lou Bucelli Sr. – Bridgeport, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Scoter

George Clifford-Marsh – Waikato, NZ; RNZ Army # 629433, WWII, Cpl.th-jpg1

James Fuehrmeyer – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Thomas Gibson – Nashville, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Stuart Hansen Jr. – Kettering, OH; US Army, Vietnam

Robert Jones – Syracuse, NY; US Navy, WWII

William ‘Bud’ Liebenow – Fredericksburg, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO & ETO. Captain, PT-199

Howard Porter – Kalamazoo, MI; US Army, WWII, PTO, medic

Joseph Wapner – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 2, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 102 Comments.

  1. I do like stories told from points of view different from our own. Please do more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the follow. Very moving and interesting stuff here. In case you didn’t know it, forgiveness is my schtick.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All soldiers have Beloved family .
    Great Thanks from Japan.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I found that story sad, but with a touch of military decency, I believe there were many such story’s where reciprocal honorable recognition was displayed, mainly with the Air force and Navy I think.
    Good post gp.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Please keep these type stories coming

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I also enjoy hearing all sides. War should never happen, but it is good to hear of these acts of compassion and respect from both sides in the midst of all the atrocities committed. Now if only our world leaders could get it together! Thank you for posting this story,GP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem. In fact, because of the overwhelming response, there will be another one tomorrow. I’m very happy to see that so many are willing to hear the other side!!

      Like

  7. I came across this excellent article for those of you out there that like WW2 Naval History:

    https://warisboring.com/the-best-designed-battleships-ever-built-41d367c78da8#.bnfcwv6cy

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well done.Great war story

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoy hearing all sides, and often that is missing in historical events. Sometimes a small detail is mentioned, and that becomes so enlightening to someone in the future. Kudos for another fascinating story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Maryann. I’ve been talked into posting another Japanese view for Monday and now that I know how interesting it was to so many, I’ll do my best to get more in as we go along.

      Like

  10. Very different story from “The Saga of the Richard Hovey,” that I just read in “100 Best True Stories of WWII,” where a sub sunk the Hovey and then proceeded to do what it could to polish off the lifeboats. Your narrative is a much better version of men at war. I think reading both sides is necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pierre Lagacé

    You know my answer GP… Full speed ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So good to read both sides of a conflict, to remember that we are all just doing our best with the lives we’re living, and that our shared humanity (and honor) are more important than the conflicts of the moment. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great article, I really enjoyed the read. I am going to reblog this one for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. yes, of course. another vote for. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is so good of you to post. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I remember reading that scene in “Last Stand of the Tincan Sailors”. It stuck with me because it said so much about both sides. Thank you for posting the side. It’s as noble as I had hoped.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Astonishing. Remarkable. Heart rending.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes! stories from the Japanese perspective would add context, detail and color.

    I didn’t know that Cmdr. Evans was from Pawnee, OK. I lived in Oklahoma for a while and know exactly where Pawnee is. The Johnston put up a great fight in that battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. There is a short letter from a kamikaze pilot to his family just before he will fly his last mission. Maybe you can find it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is there one in particular, Carl, that you found interesting or touching? I have found a few of the kamikaze letters which usually accompanied their nail clippings.

      Like

      • Father and Mother,

        Please excuse this hastily written letter. I sincerely thank you for taking care of me until this, my 18th, year.

        I also at last have joined the Special Attack Corps, an airman’s highest honor, and it has been decided that I will make a sortie. I am sorry that recently I have not been able to send you news, but this also is unavoidable for military reasons. However, I have not regretted this. My heart is full of gratitude not only to you who have taken care of me until now but also to the senior officers and my friends from whom I as a single person have received so much.

        Please enjoy good health until the day when in the end the Greater East Asia War is won. Even though my body disappears, my spirit only will remain. Please let me have the honor of seeing your cheerful faces from the skies of Yasukuni [2]. The end is near. I want to write various things, but I do not know which ones are best to write.

        Tomorrow at last I will fly to Okinawa and carry out a taiatari (literally “body crashing”) attack. I will die for an eternal cause believing I follow after my younger brothers and convinced of certain victory. If a white wooden box arrives [3], please praise me without crying. I earnestly request this of you.

        I could not do any acts of filial piety for you, but I ask my older brother to do this. The enclosed photograph was taken just before my takeoff. I am in high spirits. Please rest assured. They are dirty nail clippings, but I enclose them with this letter.

        I hope you live long and take good care of yourselves.

        Please say hello from me to our neighbors and relatives.

        Nobutaka
        April 27, 1945

        This one strikes me with the idea “War- Greater East Asia”. I think that is a motive or objective not fully understood by historians. Although the occupied countries were ruled with unbelievable brutality I think Japan saw their effort as a liberation from European colonization. French Indo China Disappears, Dutch East Indies disappears and so on after WW 2. Then Britain loses India, its parts of Africa as do the French and Belgians. And then the European Allies are so devastated by Germany they cannot t maintain their colonial empires. So in that sense Japan accomplished liberation for Asia and Africa and in that sense won the war.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I see you located the letter. So many of those young men wrote home to ease the mind of their family and upholding the honorable reputation of their forefathers. I agree that in part they accomplished one of their goals, too bad their men in power became overcome with power.

          Liked by 1 person

  20. Julia C. Tobey

    I would be interested in reading for about the Japanese point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. At the end of the day, these are all desperate men thrown into a cauldron and trying to stay alive and return home to loved ones – only true warriors will understand this. I salute the Cherokee captain and the Japanese officers who stopped the random shooting.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This was fascinating. I cannot wait to read your other posts. I am hooked by stories from the world wars, especially WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Solomons, Philippines, and the island hopping campaigns are fascinating. A couple of subjects I like to see are: treatment of and the repatriation of Japanese POWs after the cease fire and surrender; anything from the Japanese perspective is interesting. You do such a splendid service by this site, thank you once again.
    Gary Ives, YNCS.USN.ret

    Liked by 2 people

    • Will do, Gary, great suggestions and I’ll follow through as the time comes. One of my main complaints about so many historical books I’ve read is that the timeline jumps around, so I don’t want to be guilty of that myself.

      Like

  24. Very, very touching article. Make us think some necessary thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Including stories from the other side adds balance and objectivity to your wonderful blog on the Pacific theater. My vote is yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate you taking the time to let me know, Peter. I always try my best to keep things factual and leave my own opinion out of the mix. I find that too many historians do just that in some of the books I’ve read.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Always nice reading about honor even among enemies.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Another vote for sharing both sides. Interesting and uplifting to read that they were told not to shoot at the men trying to escape.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I would like to read more from the Japanese viewpoint. The level of misery in the Japanese forces was extreme and it is interesting to see how they coped. Thanks, GP

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I think I would enjoy stories form the Japanese point of view. This one was good. I’m sure the range of emotion will vary, but it’s good to see this from all sides.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Wonderful post. Yes, I think it would be interesting and eye-opening to hear stories of the “other” side.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I’ve written a couple articles about U.S. sailors in this battle. It was interesting to read about how the Japanese experienced it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for giving me your opinion, Jim. I want to help everyone understand what went on in the Pacific and for that we need as many sides to the coin as possible.

      Like

  32. Another vote for more stories from the Japanese perspective. It’s always interesting to read their accounts as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I’ll vote yes. I like seeing stories from the other side’s point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for adding your opinion here, Adam. When the readers contribute, it makes it easier to try and please everyone. I am amazed that this blog is still going as long as it has, but hearing from people like yourself keeps me going.

      Like

  34. I hope you do include more from the “other side”. I would find that interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Somewhat conflicting reports?

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Very interesting to read and I think it’s always important to hear from both sides of the story. I can’t even imagine being on a ship that is being fired upon and going down.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Yes, I like both sides to the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Yes, please do add stories from the Japanese point of view. I have good friends who are Japanese and also American friends and family who were connected to Christian missions to Japan and China before and after the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. It is always good to see the other side of the conflict, GP. I wonder though if any of them wrote about being happy to fire on survivors, or to mistreat prisoners?
    These rare examples of Japanese honour do them justice, all the same.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t believe there would be any stories like that. It seems wartime behavior is often looked down on once they get home. It’s an honor to fight in battle, but not murder or sadistic behavior.

      Like

  40. I find it interesting. I’m always interested in what Japanese think and do. They have not changed much.

    Liked by 1 person

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