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Japanese Soldiers

“Unleashing unrestricted mayhem against fellow humans was contrary to everything I had been taught by my parents and Sunday school teachers, but I was forced to justify the decision to be a Marine and learn to kill Japs.

My rationale… was simple. I felt it was my first duty to protect my country and family from Japanese aggression. I would trust God to deal with the religious part of my internal conflicts… I also adopted a fatalistic approach. If the training we endured didn’t kill us, the enemy would.

During a marching break one hot afternoon, a Marine remarked, ‘Screw all the training. I’m sick and tired of all this pussy-footing around. I want to get overseas and slap me a Jap!’

This remark was made in the presence of Sergeant George Lutchkus, who immediately cut him off, saying: ‘Hold on, Sonny! Let me tell all of you a thing or two about the Japanese soldier! Number one, he is not the caricature you see in newspapers with bombsight glasses and buckteeth. The average Japanese soldier has five or more years of combat experience. Their Army doesn’t have a ‘boot division’ like ours. Don’t forget, the Japs have already conquered half the nations in Asia. Remember Pearl Harbor? Not only are they better trained than you are right now, many are old hands at combat fighting and have a strict military code they live and die by called Bushido. Literally translated it means ‘way of the warrior.’ With their code, combined with their pledge to die for Emperor Hirohito, who they consider God, they will die before surrendering.

‘Jap soldiers are well equipped and are experts with their weapons. They are trained to endure hardships, which would have most of you guys writing your congressman. I don’t like Japs, but I respect them as fellow soldiers. I learned my respect the hard way on Guadalcanal.

‘Japs are the world’s best snipers, experts at the art of camouflage, and get by on a diet of fish heads and rice. They will never surrender and will commit hari-kari rather than be taken prisoner.

‘Heck, they don’t have corpsmen; if they are wounded, they are considered damaged goods. So, sonny, mull that over, and don’t ever let me hear you complain about your training again. There will be a time when your life will depend on what you learn in the days ahead.’”


Pulled from the section “Know Your Enemy” in Chuck Tatum’s memoir Red Blood, Black Sand: Fighting Alongside John Basilone from Boot Camp to Iwo Jima.

Remember this excerpt the next time someone debates the ethics of The Bomb. There will be a time when your life will depend on what you learn.

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