From: Oregon, USA
December 2, 1942
Attached to: TF 72
Mission: Air Combat
System Damage: 2
Float Damage: 0
Orders: Await further orders.
The morning sun sparkles on the water as Chief Torpedo Officer Sugiyura leads several dozen men of the Hibiki in exercises on the crowded stern of the destroyer. They are doing a good job of matching his movements, and Sugiyura is pleased. He is keenly aware that Captain Ishii is among his audience this morning.
These movements were already familiar to some of the men, of course, but after nearly a year of war even the most proficient need the work. Sugiyura leads the men through the forms, then brings the exercises to a close.
“It will be a while yet before we are ready to begin seriously working on actual combat,” says Sugiyura, “but I thought that perhaps a demonstration or two today might be in order. Please, make room. You three, there, bring out the mats.” The men move back along the rails, clearing a space, and the mats are brought out and unrolled. These are reed mats, and even though they are several layers woven together they do not seem like a great deal of padding against the steel deck of the destroyer.
Sugiyura steps to the center of the mats and looks around. “Chief Petty Officer,” he says, addressing Shun, “would you assist me, please?” Shun nods and steps forward, removing his shoes and jacket. It is understood that in this situation rank does not apply. The two men face each other. The other men lean forward, very much interested to see these two in action.
“A basic strike and counter,” Sugiyura addresses them. Then, to Shun: “Are you ready?” Shun nods again. He assumes a slight crouch and comes up onto the balls of his feet.
Sugiyura assumes a fighting stance and then strikes at him with his right arm. He uses nothing close to full speed. Shun easily deflects the blow, and the two men step back. Sugiyura runs through this several times, commenting to the assembled sailors about the moves and stances both men are using, and slowly increasing speed. Finally both men step back.
“Perhaps the men would like to see a more extended sequence,” Shun murmurs. The men respond enthusiastically, and Sugiyura smiles.
“Very well,” he says. “Just to whet their appetites. Ready, Chief?” Shun nods. The torpedo officer bows to him, and Shun solemnly returns the gesture.
The men will argue for days about exactly what happens next. They all agree that Shun crouches and charges Sugiyura, but the ensuing exchange of blows is lighting fast and over in just seconds. All that is certain is that it ends with a meaty thud as Sugiyura catches the Chief solidly in the ribs with a kick. Shun grunts and staggers back, then smiles. “Very good,” he says.
“Again?” asks Sugiyura. Shun replies yes, and the two men square off again. The next exchange is even more confusing and debated. It also ends abruptly, but this time Sugiyura goes flying over Shun’s head and crashes into the mats on his back. Shun extends an arm and helps him to his feet. Sugiyura does not seem to be hurt, though he rolls his shoulders experimentally.
“To return to the original drill,” he again addresses the men, “let’s have…” he breaks off as Captain Ishii steps forward. The captain murmurs something in his ear, and Sugiyura nods. “Let’s have two of you show us what you have learned,” he resumes. “Ensign Handa and Ensign Izu, if you please.” The two young officers step out of opposite sides of the gathered men and onto the mats. They stand eyeing one another warily.
Sugiyura coaches them into assuming the correct stances. “Now you,” he says, indicating Handa, “strike at him,” and he indicates Izu. “Counter as you saw Shun do.” He steps back, and before he can say “begin” Handa strikes. Izu barely blocks the blow. Izu glares at Handa, then sneers and makes a snapping gesture with his hands that resembles clacking crab claws. Several of the onlookers laugh.
Sugiyura starts to say something, but Handa yells and strikes out again. His technique is terrible but spirited, and this blow gets through and splits Izu’s lower lip. Izu hisses and flings himself at Handa. The two men stand almost toe to toe, flailing away at each other.
Sugiyura angrily starts to step forward, but Captain Ishii holds up a hand to forestall him. “Let them go,” is all he says, and Sugiyura steps back.
Both men are more interested in offense than defense. Handa quickly acquires a swollen eye, and Izu’s other lip is split. They grapple and trip each other, then roll over and over on the mats, snarling and cursing as they attempt to inflict further damage. Captain Ishii watches patiently for a moment, but as the two men begin to tire he nods to Shun and Sugiyura.
“I think these two are ready to cool off,” he says. The two step forward and grab Izu, who is on top at the moment, by his legs and arms. They shuffle a few steps and then unceremoniously fling him over the rail. The splash has barely died away when Handa follows him into the water. One of the other petty officers turns and looks down, then takes out his whistle. He looks at the whistle, polishes it up a bit, then blows on it.
“Man overboard,” he says in a conversational tone. Lines are lowered, and both ensigns are brought back up on deck. They look bruised, chastened, and of course are dripping wet. Captain Ishii steps over to them.
“Well, gentlemen,” he says, “are you done now?” The two men look at each other, then back at the captain.
“Yes sir,” they say in low voices. Captain Ishii nods.
“Good,” he says. He next glances over at Sugiyura, who addresses the class as a whole.
“That’s all for today,” he says. “Dismissed.” The men depart, talking among themselves about events. Several of them pause to roll up and stow the mats, but soon the stern is almost deserted. Captain Ishii pauses to compliment Sugiyura on the way the classes are going, then heads back to the bridge.