Influence as a Happening-Pt1

Over the years I’ve been asked to write more about the three POW’s and our relationship on Okinawa. Even now I feel the influence they had on my growth as a result of our working together for about 15 months. Their picture is well etched in my mind and heart. Even now as I tell the story it brings a smile and warm feeling. They helped make me the person I became.

My respect and regard for them began day one and I felt this in return. None of it planned and why I label it a “happening.” A brief reminder of the story: I was part of a squad that sent prisoners into caves to try to convince the Japanese solders still fighting the war that they would be safe if they gave themselves up. If they did not come out we’d blow up the entrance to the cave closing off at least one escape route for them. Three soldiers with their hands held high came out of the cave and I was ordered to drive them to the prisoner’s compound. Having never driven anything how could I turn this demand down? Reading the metal plate instructions on the dash and driving was one challenge I had to take. Luck ruled the day and someway, somehow, we made it safely to the compound.

Soon after this adventure I was instructed to build an outdoor warehouse for used equipment and for labor get some prisoners to help me. At the compound I saw the three prisoners sitting along the fence and we immediately smiled at each other. Surely we each remembered our close call with death during the drive. I knew then that they were and had to be my coworkers. 

Once together It took them five minutes to realize I was a 19 years old that knew nothing. They immediately took over and began the process of organizing and constructing our warehouse. I also recognized that they never made light of my role as leader. In other words, given the situation they would play deaf and dumb so that when officers requested equipment for their own use the three coworkers made sure I appeared to be the power that either gave or denied the request. 

The warehouse grew and we soon had a crew of twelve POW”S. One Day a POW ran into the hills attempting to join the Japanese soldiers still fighting the war. I grabbed my carbine and headed off to recapture him. Yamamoto and Ohara tackled me and physically restrained me from going after him. Yamamoto, the true leader, in his 40s and Ohara, 2ndin command and 30s refused to let me go after the escapee. It was Yamamoto that went for him and now I thought I had two escapees. (As an aside, they taught me basic Japanese and I taught them English using Life Magazine pictures. Eventually, we were able to communicate with each other. We laughed a lot, but made it work.)

Long story short, Yamamoto returned with the escapee about two hours later. Lined up all the workers and me and absolutely demolished the escapee verbally, slapped him, once, across the face and we all went back to work.  This event never repeated again.  (To be continued in the next paper).

Haiku: We commit to do———-And become one in our goals———-We do not fail any

The leader leads us———-Because they do the job best————-We participate.   Sy  

Influence as a Happening-Pt2

To continue: 

The yard grew and the card file created by Yamamoto was perfect. Each item in the yard had its place and condition noted. Also our equipment grew to a forklift, cherry picker crane and a truck. We had become a big yard that held all kinds of “stuff” ultimately to be shipped back to the States, used locally or disposed of.   The pacific was our dumping grounds.

The day came when the four of us discussed our returning home. Ohara was a street car conductor in Tokyo before the war and looked forward to returning home. Kato was an actor, also from Tokyo and wanted to return. Yamamoto was the senior of the group and had been a bank officer from Hiroshima. He lost his whole family to the bomb and desired to remain on Okinawa. There was nothing for him to return to. I wrote letters on each of their behalf supporting that their wishes be fulfilled. In my ignorance and youth the thought of remaining in touch with them never came up. To this day am sorry for that.

My company captain (the one that administered the GED exam) offered to arrange for me to go to Radar School in the Philippines which meant a year plus of schooling and upon graduation becoming a 2ndLieutenant. At the same time I was given a time to return home and civilian life. I choose to return home to Chicago and my family. Under the captain’s influence I looked forward to beginning my formal education. I had no idea as to what that would be. The thoughts of me being a student actually excited me.

When the day came for me to leave Okinawa and the military I met with my three dear friends. It was a sad experience I will never forget as I will never forget them.  We had become family and it was painful to say good bye. We all hugged and cried at our parting. They had contributed to my becoming a man, and as I was to discover, a leader. Yamamoto was my primary teacher, but Kato and Ohara also taught me what relationship, respect and regard meant. We truly and deeply had this for each other.  Consider our history together and that throughout my whole experience on Okinawa they became my closest and dearest friends. How blessed to have them in my life even to this day.

When I reflect on this experience I see that from the moment I saw them with their hands over their heads I felt empathy and sadness for them. They really believed they would be killed when they walked out of that cave. What happened was a friendship I hope they carried with them throughout their lives. I certainly have.

Haiku:

We meet and become———–Becoming what we know not———And why becoming.

I allow you in————takes courage to allow this———–Yet, what other course?

You give me your self———–Do I know what this gift means?——–Not until I know.

Friendship, a true gift———–Rare to be given freely———–Never take lightly.   Sy