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Witness to war

To mark the 62nd anniversary of the end of the war, The Japan Times is publishing a series of interviews with firsthand witnesses of the country's march to war and crushing defeat.

Each of our subjects — speaking with the authority that only those in the evening of life can command — testifies to the destruction humanity can inflict upon itself. But each has also shared their view of how younger generations can avoid the same tragic path.

Surrender spared a young, doubting kamikaze


If Masamichi Shida, 80, had known a bit more about the world back in 1942, he might never have become a kamikaze. But Shida was just an impressionable junior high school kid when he took the first step toward becoming a warrior for the Emperor.

'War orphan' recounts feeling of abandonment


It was a rainy day in mid-August 1945. World War II was about to draw to a close, but nobody in the tiny Chinese village knew it. All they knew was that chaos was breaking out, and that the Russian military was approaching from the north. Noriko Suzuki was among some 600 Japanese sent to northeast China, in the region historically known as Manchuria, under a colonial government program for settling the region. That plan was clearly falling apart.

Journalism in the service of war authority


Kanji Murakami began his reporting career in January 1941, joining the Asahi Shimbun's bureau in Seoul, or Keijo as it was then known, when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule. At that time media censorship was strong. A 1909 law imposed many restrictions and curbed freedom of speech. Every newspaper was loyal to the Imperial government, which urged the nation to sacrifice for victory.

Spared Korean war criminal pursues redress


Lee Hak Rae was stunned on March 20, 1947, when he stood in an Australian military court in Singapore and was sentenced to hang as a war criminal for the brutal treatment he was accused of inflicting on ailing Allied prisoners of war who were forced to build the infamous Death Railway to their last breath. Lee had been specifically accused by nine ex-POWs of collaborating with the Japanese military in forcing sick prisoners to build the Thai-Burma railway until many died.

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