Friday, June 20, 2008

The Diary of Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi

"All the patients in the hospital were made to commit suicide. I am only 33 years old and I am to die. Have no regrets. Banzai to the Emperor"
Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi
I found the document below in a pile of memorabilia my grandfather brought home from his service in WWII. He served with the Tenth Air Force (USAAF) in India, and then for a short time in Okinawa. I never got the chance to ask him about the origins of these four pages, and never bothered to read them closely until recently. Upon first seeing the document, a U.S. Army transcription of a Japanese medical officer's diary, I naturally assumed that he acquired it from colleagues in the Pacific Theater. I also assumed it was a historically unremarkable document, one of thousands of similar transcriptions that undoubtedly were generated as allied forces closed in on the Japanese mainland.

But my assumptions were all wrong. The medical officer in question, one Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi, penned his diary much closer to home - in Alaska. In it he recorded his last days during the Battle of Attu, the final defeat for Japanese forces in Alaska. I don't know how my grandfather acquired the letter. Perhaps it was from a relative of his who served in Alaska with the 11th Air Force; apparently many unauthorized copies of the diary were shared among fascinated U.S. military personnel in Alaska (this copy is marked with the seal of the Army Examiner, however).

Tatsuguchi managed a field hospital on Attu, and had an unusual background for a Japanese officer. Prior to the war he earned a medical degree at Loma Linda University in California and completed an internship at a Los Angeles hospital. He also converted to Christianity as a Seventh Day Aventist. He moved back to Japan and was eventually conscripted.

Following the death of Tatsuguchi in battle (refer to the Wikipedia article for a full account of his story), the diary was translated by Army intelligence and eventually reached the U.S. media, who shared the story of the U.S.-educated, Christian Japanese officer who suicided his own troops exclaiming "Bansai to Emperor!".

The Tatsuguchi story begins at 3:04 in the first YouTube video. The text is also available online here (but seems slightly different). Click on the scans to enlarge. Notice that on the first page, his name is spelled "Nebu Tatauquchi" - one of the reasons it took me so long to connect the document to the now famous Paul Tatsuguchi.



Anonymous said...

Hello. I am writing a history of the Aleutian campaign and have found many other secondary sources (most notably a brochure published by the National Parks Service) citing your document in their work. I was wondering if you could give me a bit more background on how you came across the diary. Who owned it first? How did they come across it? Can you send me a hard copy (scanned, faxed etc.) of the original document? I would love to talk to you more about the diary; please contact me at !
Thank you!

David said...

I know of this extraction hand written in a classmate little brown diary shows 2 Japanese soldiers on front recently found in a soldiers footlocker from World War 2 so it's app. 84 years old any information on this would be appreciated.