From: San Antonio, TX
June 20, 1942
Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia
HQ Australian 7th Division
Major General Arthur “Tubby” Allen studied the map in front of him. New blue markings marked the advance of his forces just beyond Katherine. The red lines opposite his forces had been pushed approximately 40 miles north of the city in recent fighting.
Across the road from the command tent, a stack of Japanese infantry helmets had been collected since yesterday, souvenirs to many of the enlisted. Officers, of course, were helping themselves to prized Japanese swords and Nambu pistols where they could.
The Division intelligence officer had pointed out to General Allen that these were particularly collectible helmets. Unlike others, the five-pointed star on these helmets was wreathed in garland: the insignia of the Japanese Imperial Guard.
The general took a gulp from his tea and looked again at the map. His forces would advance on a broad front, pushing the enemy further north towards Darwin, several hundred miles distant.
Japanese supplies, which had been brought into the theater by the Wyndham-Katherine track had been cut a few days earlier by small armored units operating through the desert rough.
The general recognized that the Japs were in a bit of a spot, really. Over the last month, Darwin had held against repeated attacks from four heavily reinforced besieging Japanese divisions. The defenders, short on supplies and nearly out of ammunition, had stymied the Japanese efforts to consolidate their advance in the Northern Territory. Now the Japanese position had become unhinged from the South and massive Allied combined forces were in an enviable position. If they played their cards right, the Japanese could lose an entire Army here. Never before had an Australian force been able to inflict those kind of losses on the enemy. That it was happening on Australian home turf was the stuff of legend.
The squeal of brakes outside the tent announced the arrival of car. Entering the tent and saluting, a messenger unshouldered a leather message satchel, a light coating of red dust falling as he thumbed open the cover and handed the general a message. The messenger noticed the general’s brow furrow as he read the communique.
The general drew in a long breath. Letting it out, he exclaimed, “Bloody Hell!”. Activity in the tent stopped and all eyes looked his way.
Turning to his radioman, he handed him the message. “Get confirmation on this straight away”.
Nitmiluki park, Northern Territory, Australia
To the east, the rising sun shone brightly on the nearby bluffs. Below them, still pools of water were still in darkness. The middle of “the dry”, as the season was called, slowed the water, but revealed a place of wondrous beauty, serene pools and quiet solitude.
Lieutenant General Takuma Nishimura nodded quietly to himself. “Place of cicada dreams” , as the aborigines called this place was a fitting name.
Behind him, Major Watanabe noted the fine morning himself. A long-standing friend and adjutant of the general, he was here at the general’s direct request. There could be no greater honor than to be with his general on this day, the Major thought to himself.
The general’s aide had dressed him resplendently this morning-his ceremonial dark blue tunic with five rows of mohair frogging over dark blue trousers with a crimson seam. On his head, a red kepi with rooster tail plume was held down by a black leather chin strap. The light breeze ruffled the plume in his cap.
The general removed his cap, placing it on the low platform his aides had prepared in front of him. His aide helped him unfasten his tunic and the general knelt on a small tatami mat on the ground. He extracted the plume from his kepi and dipped it into a small well of ink.
His calligraphy with plume was skillful, the small assemblage of officers noted-particularly for the breezy conditions atop the bluff. The general finished his brief note and held the parchment aloft for a moment to dry the ink. An aide stepped forward and took the scrawl from him. The aide held out his other hand for the plume as well.
The general started to hand him the plume. Then, as an afterthought, he took the feather into both hands and broke it. Handing the halves to his aide, he uttered, “Give this to the commanding Allied general.” The aide acknowledged the request and turned towards the vehicles behind them.
The general turned forward, again facing the low platform. With his right hand, he picked up the wakazashi that lay on the platform, and removed the sword from its sheath. He laid the sword on the tatami mat before him, bowing slightly towards the platform.
Major Watanabe approached the bowing general from behind, unsheathing his katana. The major knew that there could be no hesitation in relieving the general’s pain and ensuring that there was no loss of resolve.
The major watched as the general opened his shirt over his belly, grasped the handle of the wakazashi and pointed it at himself. The general cast a quick glance over his shoulder and Major Watanabe raised the katana high above his head. A quick thrust and a small gasp of pain from the kneeling general signaled the hara-kiri had been committed and the major brought his sword down in a clean arc.
Major Watanabe had understood why it had to be thus. The orders to cease all offensive actions against the Allies had come as a stunning surprise to the Japanese officers, amidst their shattering retreat from Katherine. It had taken a full day to confirm the seemingly inexplicable order, but it was a valid one from Imperial Army Headquarters in Tokyo.
General Nishimura could not, of course, accept the ignominy of surrender. His personal bushido code would not allow such a shameful disgrace. In several other places in the crumbling Japanese pocket, not dissimilar to this one, other general officers were also committing hara-kiri rather than be forced to surrender themselves to the enemy.
Someone at Imperial Army Headquarters had decided to break with tradition and end the war. As an officer, the major reflected, it was his responsibility to carry out all orders from superiors, whether he liked and agreed with them or not. His general read the surrender order differently. As ships’ captains are expected to go down with their ships, the general understood what was expected of him when the surrender order was handed down.
Farewell, my general, the major thought to himself, staring into the rising sun. A lone tear, hot against his cool cheek, ran down his face.
< Message edited by Chickenboy -- 1/8/2012 3:17:06 AM >