Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bytes and Pieces: History


The Hallowed Latrine: 

The above story comes from Patton’s own memoirs, collated and published in 1947 by his widow after he died in 1945. His memoirs in turn were based on his diary entries, the following 1944 entry dealing with the hallowed latrine site: 

We then drove through Langres, where we had no time to stop, and on to Bourg, my Tank Brigade Headquarters in 1918. The first man I saw in the street was standing on the same manure pile whereon I am sure he had perched in 1918. I asked if he had been there during the last war, to which he replied, “Oh, yes, General Patton, and you were here then as a Colonel.” He then formed a triumphal procession of all the village armed with pitchforks, scythes, and rakes, and we proceeded to rediscover my old haunts, including my office, and my billet in the chateau of Madame de Vaux.

The grave of that national hero, “Abandoned Rear,” was still maintained by the natives. It originated in this manner. In 1917, the mayor, who lived in the “new house” at Bourg, bearing the date 1700, came to me, weeping copiously, to say that we had failed to tell him of the death of one of our soldiers. Being unaware of this sad fact, and not liking to admit it to a stranger, I stalled until I found out that no one was dead. However, he insisted that we visit the “grave,” so we went together and found a newly closed latrine pit with the earth properly banked and a stick at one end to which was affixed crosswise a sign saying, “Abandoned Rear.” This the French had taken for a cross. I never told them the truth. has verified the story as true: 


Why a Pentagon?

When in July 1941, a group of Army officers met at the War Department in Washington to discuss building a new headquarters, the location was eventually narrowed down to a plot of land that the government already owned in Arlington, Virginia. The site, Arlington Farms, was adjacent to Arlington Cemetery and was roughly pentagonal in shape. Although they had to design a building that would accommodate 40,000 people and 10,000 cars. In addition, they weren't allowed to build a tall building due to building ordinances and a shortage of steel, so they came up with an irregular pentagon shaped building of one storey. 

Concerned that the new building could obstruct the view of Washington, D.C., from Arlington Cemetery, President Roosevelt switched the site to the nearby obsolete Hoover Airport site. Because a major redesign would have been costly, and because Roosevelt liked the design, it remained a pentagon. It was however modified into a regular pentagon when no longer constrained by the irregular layout of the original location. 


A tale of two holdouts: 

Hirō Onoda (1922 – 2014) was an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence officer who fought in World War II . Sent to a small island in the Philippines to spy on American forces, Onoda did not surrender at the war's end in August 1945 and spent the next 29 years hiding out in the Philippines. He evaded capture and remained in the jungle to carry out his mission. His former superior officer had to come out of retirement to convince him the war was over and to formally relieve him from duty by order of Emperor Shōwa. He returned to Tokyo a hero, dying at the age of 91 in 2014. 

During the nearly 30 years Onoda spent on the island, The New York Times says, he and the three others who were with him for some or much of that time "evaded American and Filipino search parties and attacked islanders they took to be enemy guerrillas; about 30 inhabitants were killed in skirmishes with the Japanese over the years." 

Once he was persuaded to give up, Onoda was taken to Manila. "Wearing his tattered uniform, [he] presented his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him for crimes committed while he thought he was at war," the Times says. 

Onoda leaves the jungle after 29 years. 

Hiro Onoda in March 1974 after he was convinced to give up. 

Onoda was not the last Japanese soldier to surrender. Teruo Nakamura (1919 – 1979) was a Taiwanese-Japanese soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army who fought for Japan in World War II and did not surrender until 1974. He was the last known Japanese holdout to surrender after the end of hostilities in 1945. 

Nakamura was born in the then Japanese possession of Formosa (today’s Taiwan), was conscripted into a colonial unit in 1943 and posted to Morotai Island in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) in 1944. Soon after his arrival in Morotai, American and Australian forces captured the island, the survivors fleeing into the jungle, where they suffered losses from starvation and disease. At war’s end, Nakamura was not among the Japanese survivors who surrendered to the Allies in Morotai, so he was presumed dead and officially declared so in 1945. 

However, Nakamura’s unit had been ordered to disperse into the jungle and conduct guerrilla warfare. By the time Japan surrendered, Nakamura and his remaining comrades were deep in the island’s jungle, cut off from communications with Japanese authorities, and thus had no means of receiving official notice of war’s end. As with holdouts elsewhere, they dismissed leaflets airdropped over the jungle, advising of war’s end, as enemy propaganda. Nakamura stayed with his steadily dwindling group until 1956, when he set off on his own and built himself a hut inside a small field that he hacked out of the rainforest, and in which he grew tubers and bananas to supplement his diet. He remained in the jungle, isolated and alone, until he was spotted by a pilot in 1974. That led to a search mission by the Indonesian military, which eventually tracked down and arrested Nakamura on December 28, 1974, thus bringing the longest known Japanese holdout to an end. 

Unfortunately for Nakamura, Japan did not reward Nakamura for his nearly three decades long holdout in obedience to the last orders he had received from the Japanese authorities. In contrast, Hiroo Onoda whose holdout had ended a few months earlier, was celebrated as a hero but Nakamura received little attention in Japan. Whereas Onoda was an ethnic Japanese citizen, Nakamura was a colonial soldier from what by 1974 was the independent nation of Taiwan. Although he expressed a wish to be repatriated to Japan, Nakamura had no legal right to go there, and so was sent to Taiwan instead. 

Moreover, as a member of a colonial unit rather of the Japanese Army, Nakamura was not entitled to a pension and back pay under Japanese law. Hiroo Onoda had been awarded about U$160,000 by Japan, equivalent to about U$850,000 in 2017 dollars; Nakamura was awarded only U$227 – equivalent to U$1186 in 2017 – for his three decades long holdout in service to Japan. This raised a considerable outcry in the press, motivating the government to donate over $100,000 similar to what had been given to Onoda, which in turn generated questions by earlier Taiwanese holdouts and led to considerable public discussion of the differences in treatment of Japanese and Taiwanese holdouts by the government. Nakamura spent the money on excessive amounts of food and drink, and died in 1979. 

A bewildered-looking Nakamura is garlanded with flowers on his emergence from the jungles of Morotai. 

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