Kuribayashi, Tadamichi

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Kuribayashi, Tadamichi, born 07-02-1891 in Nagano, into a lower class samurai family in the Hanishina District. According to Vice Admiral Kaneko, who attended Nagano High School with Kuribayashi, “He once organized a strike against the school authorities. He just escaped expulsion by a hair. In those days, he was already good in poetry-writing, composition, and speech writing. He was a young literary enthusiast.” Kurbayashi graduated from Nagano High School in 1911. Although he had originally aspired to be a journalist, Kuribayashi was persuaded by his high school instructors to instead enter the Imperial Japanese Army Academy . Kuribayashi graduated from the Army Academy’s 26th class in 1914, having specialized in cavalry. Kuribayashi was designated as deputy military attaché to Washington DC in 1928. For two years Kuribayashi traveled across the United States conducting extensive military and industrial research. For a short time he studied at Harvard University. Kuribayashi later recalled, “I was in the United States for three years when I was a captain. I was taught how to drive by some American officers, and I bought a car. I went around the States, and I knew the close connections between the military and industry. I saw the plant area of Detroit, too. By one button push, all the industries will be mobilized for military business.” After returning to Tokyo, Kuribayashi was promoted to the rank of major and appointed as the first Japanese military attaché to Canada. He was promoted to lieutenant colonol in 1933. During his services in Imperial Japanese Army General Staff in Tokyo from 1933-1937 he wrote lyrics for several martial songs. In 1940 Kuribayashi was promoted to Major General. On 27-05-1944, he became commander of the IJA 109th Division . Just two weeks later, on 8 June, he received orders signed by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo to defend the strategically located island of Iwo Jima in the Bonin Islands chain.  He was accorded the honor of a personal audience with Emperor Hirohito on the eve of his departure. On 19-02-1945, the United States Marine Corps landed it’s first men on the southern shore of the island. In a radically different approach, American officers and men were first allowed to land unmolested and then shelled and machine gunned from underground bunkers.As night fell, Marine Corps General, Holland Smith  studied reports aboard the command ship Eldorado. He was especially stunned that Kuribayashi’s men had never attempted a banzai charge. Addressing a group of war correspondents, he quipped, “I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese General running this show is one smart bastard.

Death and burial ground of Kuribayashi, Tadamichi.

On the evening of 23-03-1945, Kuribayashi radioed a last message to Major Tomitara Hori , “All officers and men of Chichi Jima — goodbye from Iwo.” Major Hori later recalled, “I tried to communicate with them for three days after that, but in the end I received no answer.” The exact circumstances of Kuribayashi’s death remain mysterious. He was most likely killed in action on the early morning of 26-03-1945, while leading his surviving soldiers in a three-pronged assault against sleeping Marines and Air Force ground crews. Kuribayashi and his men silently slashed tents, bayoneted sleeping men and lobbed hand grenades. The assault climaxed in a hand to hand battle to the death between the men of both armies. The General’s body could not be identified afterwards for he had removed all officer’s insignia in order to fight as a regular soldier. According to less credible theories, Kuribayashi is alleged to have committed seppuku. “The name of General Kuribayashi has been accorded a place of honor in postwar Japanese history, alongside that other outstanding commander Admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto.

In his autobiography, Lieutenant General Holland ‘Howling Mad’ Smith paid him one of his highest tributes: ‘Of all our adversaries in the Pacific, Kuribayashi was the most redoubtable.’ He is buried, age 53, on the cemetery of Yasukuni Jinja, Tokyo.


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