NEWSLETTER #50 - Spring 2012
OLD ENEMIES BECOME FRIENDS IN SUYE MURA, JAPAN
As a wireless operator/air gunner in the RAAF in World War II, I flew on many bombing missions over the Japanese bases in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
In 1966 my job was Senior Tutor in Geography at the University of Sydney. I'd been invited to read a paper at the Pacific Science Congress to be held in Tokyo in August. I did some checking on articles about Japan, and found and read the book by anthropologist John Embree, on Suye Mura, written in 1936. I decided to take extra leave and undertake a time-lapse study on that same village in Kyushu.
At the Congress, I was able to talk a Japanese geographer into accompanying me as interpreter. We duly arrived at Hitoyoshi, the nearest small town to Suye Mura, where we hired push-bikes. We would ride the 5 miles out to the village each morning to walk around, talk to people, take photographs, etc., before returning at night to Hitoyoshi.
After two or three days of this, the village headman [Soncho] of Suye Mura invited us, as we were doing work that would benefit his village, to come and stay at his home. This invitation was gladly accepted, and we stayed for five or six days with him -- a most interesting experience for me, of course, but would have been better if I'd had some Japanese language.
Anyway, after a couple of days, one night after the evening meal, and after we had been summing each other up, the Soncho, Genro Morinaga by name, asked me, "You in the war?"
I said, "Yes, how about you?"
"Yes," he said, "What did you do?"
I replied that I had been a flyer, in bombers. "What did you do?"
He said, "I was an ack-ack gunner."
"Very interesting," says I, "where were you based?"
"Oh," says he, "in a little out-of-the-way town on the northern tip of New Guinea, place you've never heard of named Manokwari."
"Really," says I, "I certainly have heard of it and was over Manokwari, bombing the airstrip or shipping on three or four occasions. You were terrible shots; didn't come anywhere near us!"
"Well, you blokes weren't so hot either," says he. "After you'd dropped all your bombs in the bay, we'd send boats out to collect the dead fish for our dinner!"
Well, we both laughed, stood up and hugged each other -- two men who 22 years before had been trying to kill each other, now able to have a friendly laugh about it. And we did exchange friendly, newsy letters, and send little gifts, for some years. He couldn't read or write English of course, but his educated eldest daughter could and did. About twelve years later his letters ceased, so I assumed he had died.
A wonderful, one in a million experience for me, and one which I will always treasure -- the best sort of war story.
18 April 2011
RAAF 528th/530th Squadrons, Gunner/RCM Operator, Various Crews
Genro Morinaga (back right)
Richard Dakeyne with Genro Morinaga in
[I checked my logbook and was over Manokwari
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