‘Memories of War’ is a project which leaves voices of the people who survived the war. We are not supporting any specific organization, and we are not agitating any thoughts.

Moreover, please be consent about the following descriptions.

  • The contents of the interview have left the voices and thoughts of the people who survived from the war.Moreover, there might be inappropriate expressions but we have left the voices as it was spoken.
  • The articles were recorded based on the knowledge and memories during the interview were taken.Therefore, there might be memories difference and some ambiguous point.

Memory 10 Hidero Fukuda

Daily life in warship
Tremendous naval battles experience

Hidero Fukuda Hidero Fukuda

born in 1921,
Lives in Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture

His experience of Battle of Leyte Gulf on warships “Maya” and “Musashi”. The naval battle caused him to be thrown out from the warship, and he drifted on the sea for a long time. In spite of that, he said, “I was in a state of ease.” His daily life in the warship was more of fear in a situation like that. How was the life in warships?

His first naval battle experience on warship “Maya”

——Could you tell us where you were at the beginning of World War Ⅱ?

On December 8th, 1941(Showa 16), it was Sunday morning around 6:30. I was a student at that time. I had a girlfriend and she became my wife later. Her father woke me and her up saying, “War broke out! Get up! Get up!” This was the beginning of the war in my mind. The next year, on January 10th, that day was the beginning of my life in the navy. I became one of the members of Seaman Officer School in Yokosuka, got training to become a seaman for about 3 months, and rode on “Maya” on April 10th. Actually, students were admitted a deferment for about 2 or 3 years, but I made my decision to enlist in the navy as the common soldiery.
(Seaman Officer School at that time had many roles: Security defense around military ports; Allotment of new recruits and petty officers to the naval vessel; Training for them and soldiers who had skills in maintenance technology. It also had ground forces.)
(The warship “Maya” was a heavy cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was considered the third class heavy cruiser Takao style. Takao was the first class heavy cruiser.)
On April 18th, that was just one week after I began my life on the warship, U.S. forces began an air raid which was called “The Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo. (“The Doolittle Raid” was the first air raid on Japan. The bombardment aircraft the U.S. Army owned was placed on an aircraft carrier.) We left Mikawa Gulf to chase the aircraft carrier. We searched for it from all directions for about 1 week around the Pacific Ocean, but we couldn’t find it, so we came back to Yokosuka. This was my first experience as a soldier.

——Did seamen of the Navy ride on the battleships?

There were battleships, aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers and small size ships, and I rode on a heavy cruiser with a displacement of 10,000 tons. That was larger than that of any of the other cruisers. Each warship had their own name. The names of aircraft carriers and battleships derived from the so-called country’s name Japan used to use a long time ago. Just to name a couple, “Yamato” or “Musashi”. Cruisers’ ones were from mountains’ names. “Atago”,”Takao”, “Chokai” and “Maya” which I rode on were called “the fourth squadron” and “Nachi” was the fifth squadron. Including ”Myokou” and “Ashigara”, we had seven squadrons. Destroyers had names like wave and wind. Each squadron has 4 ships but aircraft carriers were not included in the squadron.

On April 18th, 1942(Showa 17), after the Tokyo air raid, we went to the Kamchatka area of the Aleutians Islands on May 27th, and we battled with the U.S. forces there. As far as I remembered, the battle broke out near Commander Islands. Cruisers named “Maya” and “Ashigara” and about 6 or 7 destroyers were there but the U.S. forces had only 4 ships. We shot big guns at each other back and forth from 6 a.m. to noon but no one could hit each other though the waves were calm.

There were impressive scenes there. They had coloration bullets. If they can hit their big guns towards enemy’s ships, they can focus on shooting there, but we didn’t use them.
One more thing, they began to shoot earlier than us. They used electric dictators but we didn’t have them. Through these dictators, they found our 8 ships, but they seemed to misunderstand these ships were short size ones so they may have felt relieved, but they knew these ships were a fleet, so ran away quickly. That is why I was safe. This was my first naval battle in my life.


Death of brothers, the third battle of Solomon

We went back inland and left for Rabaul in the Shortland Islands which are in the southern Pacific Ocean. There was a night battle there. “Maya” didn’t take part in the battle and waited around the area of Rabaul. “Chokai” was the flagship in that battle and it defeated 2 or 3 opponents’ ships. The victory became famous so we gave praise to it.
(Why it is called “flagship” is because that is where the commander rode and to which ship the flag commander’s flag was raised. When many navy ships got together, one of them became the flagship.)
The next day or 2 days later, “Maya” took part in the battle, but the result was totally different from “Chokai”‘s case. We suffered from the air raid by the opponent. I thought “Maya” may have prepared for big guns and machine guns and it hit many bullets towards the opponents. However, I don’t know exactly but one of the opponents’ aircraft fell into the middle of our ship and that gave heavy damage to the boiler of this ship. That was so terrible.
The cruiser had four propellers as a shaft but just only one worked. It was off balance. It managed to be able to go back to the port in Rabaul, but it was so hard. At that time, one of my brothers through this life in the warship got damage around his belly, but it was impossible for us to treat him fully because we were on the ship. Finally, he passed away three days later because of peritonitis. His death really shocked me.
We came back to Yokosuka from Rabaul, and focused on fixing this ship. It took about a half year. At that time, the U.S. forces hadn’t reached Okinawa, but many of them were in the Rabaul area and around the south area of the Pacific Ocean. During the Battle of Midway, we were safe because we were around the Aleutian Islands.


Warship sinking, fierce struggle of Battle of Leyte Gulf

On October 23rd, 1944 (Showa 19), the “Battle of Leyte Gulf” broke out between the Allied powers (U.S. forces and Royal Australian Navy) and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This battle continued from the 23rd to 25th of October in the Philippines and its surrounding area. This battle is called the “largest-ever naval battle” because the area of the battle was spread out so widely. Our fleets, “Yamato”, “Musashi”,”Atago”,”Takao”, and “Maya” went to attack Leyte Island. “Chokai” may have not been included at that time, but our fleets were tremendously big.

We always got up at 6 a.m. but when we came close to the enemies, half of us slept, the rest got training on the position for battle. At that time, Leyte Islands was very hot, so we wore short-sleeved undershirts and short-pants. I got the training around 6:30 a.m. but the opponents’ submarine boat attacked us heavily. “Atago” was our flagship at that time but it got damage from a torpedo launched from a submarine and sank immediately in 5 minutes in front of our very eyes.
(Torpedo is a weapon that cruises underwater and destroys the
opponents’ ship upon impact when it bursts. Screw propeller and engine were set on the warhead. )
When the ship sinks, it zigzags widely. “Takao”, which was in the second line of the fleets also got damage from the opponents.
Destroyers and cruisers around them had depth charges with them but they were not able to shoot. There were many soldiers who were floating on the sea because their ship sank. If they shoot the depth charges, the vibration may damage their belly.

I heard this command, “Change your clothing to a battle uniform.”, so I did it. After 10 minutes of the command, on the way to the bridge deck which was my position, walking along the right side, four opponents’ torpedoes hit the left side of our ship with a booming roar. Our ship was still moving but tilted 20 degrees. After a while, our captain commanded us to abandon ship, and we gave three cheers, and sang “Kimigayo”, which is the Japanese national anthem.

This ship I was on was coasting but gradually leaning down. I lay along the side of the ship, but I was drawn into the sea. I needed to go away from the ship to escape from being involved with the bad situation. I swam away from the ship by treading water. Far from it, I saw the ship sinking with the back side of the ship endways. I saw other people, who couldn’t swim, leaning against the ship. This happened after 6:30 a.m. but the area was warm so the temperature of the sea was warm. That is why I was able to survive. If I had been in the Aleutian Islands area, I would have died in two minutes because of the coldness. Our destroyer condition was safe so it was going around them but it seemed not to be allowed to shoot the death charge. It started to bring down boats and picked people up to the ship. I treaded water swimming in the water for about 3 hours. As one saying goes, “A drowning man will catch at a straw.”, so as a square sized table came floating by I grabbed on to it with one hand. There were 3 people holding on to this. If 4 people catch this, it may sink, but we, four people swam in the sea, holding the table. It may be a funny thing. People know the result, but they rely on it. I held it for 30 or 40 minutes. I also knew that sharks don’t bite something long, so I took off all my clothing and tied a loincloth around my ankle. That is one of the ways I calmed myself down I think.
My body was fully covered in oil from the sunken ship, so it was hard for me to go up to the ship. The boat never picked me up. We went up relying on the rope from the ship. I slipped down many times because of the heavy oil. I was finally able to go up to the ship. I was relieved. I felt like drinking water as early as possible more than I was thankful for my survival.


Fear to Navy custom called “Lining-up on the deck” more than the war

——You said that you were in the sea for about 3 hours, right?Could you tell us how you felt during the time?

I just floated in the sea moving with the wave. I didn’t think about my life and death.

——Didn’t you feel fear?

The feeling of fear didn’t enter my mind. I never felt fear from the start. The navy had a fear custom. The custom was called “Lining–up on the deck” and it was held for about 1 hour after mealtime. Soldiers with longer careers than the others gathered others and put more spirit into them. The ways were to slap and hit them sometimes using a one and a half meter stick which was included for the meaning of “discipline for strengthening themselves mentally”. We were hit around the butt by the stick.
I didn’t know why I was slapped but I think there were no specific reasons for that.

——Was it a wooden or metal stick?

It was a wooden stick. If a metal stick, a fire hydrant was used. Even though we were hit by the wooden stick, it didn’t break, but in a fire hydrant case, it got dented. As I said it before, I think the objective of this custom is to put more spirit into them. As far as I knew, officers seemed to do the same type of thing. Middle class soldiers put more spirit into budding officers who graduated from military school. This custom was much more terrifying than the war at that time.

——I can’t imagine how it was terrifying. Could you tell us whether there were anyone who stood against it or not?

No one did at all. Once the war happened, I just sat on the same place, made an adjustment of machines and someone brought a meal to me. This was more comfortable than the custom. So, floating in the sea was more carefree than the custom.

The destroyer helped me but the scale of that was not wide. This size was for 200 people, so there was no room to have meals and sleep. After that, I rode on “Musashi”. This is the happening by the evening of October 23rd.


The second sinking, piled up dead bodies, the last scene of warship “Musashi”

On October 24th, the rest of the warships went to Leyte Islands. Unfortunately, “Musashi” was the target of the air raid. We were helped by the warship, but that means we didn’t have our position on”Musashi”, so I felt we looked like being locked into the ship. However, some had positions as there were lack of soldiers because of the air raids and torpedoes, so some of survivors from the sunken ship were placed there. The air raid continued till 4:00 p.m. I wasn’t placed in any position for the battle, so I didn’t know about the situation. However, after the air raids ended and I came out from the room, this ship situation was tremendously terrifying. “Musashi” was such a sturdy ship and never ever sank even though she suffered from the air raid. There were many bombs, tracks of machine gun shots, a big hole on the left side, and torpedo’s tracks to the hole on the ship but no cracks at all. This was the evidence of sturdy “Musashi”. However, the left side of the helm didn’t work. The helm got damage from the air raid, so “Musashi” wasn’t able to go straight, it just only went around and around. We were survivors from the sunken ship so we moved to ride on the other destroyer, “Shimakaze”. All the left ships headed to the Leyte Islands, and we had a plan to use “Musashi” as a missile emplacement somewhere, but it was gradually sinking into the sea because of the damage to the helm. At that time I left “Musashi”, I saw it still remained but was an awful situation. Around the top of the ship, the situation was similar to a pirate ship, dead bodies were piled up and hung down from the pole.

——Did they pass away?

Yes, that situation was awful. At that time, the number of people who moved to the “Shimakaze” was around 400 people but there were about 1,000 people in this battle at first. A total of 600 people passed away through the “Maya” sinking and battle of “Musashi”. There was an isolated base camp in the Tsujii area, Kanagawa Prefecture. The survivors from the “Maya” got together. At that time, the number of the survivors was around 400 people. The survivors from the case of “Musashi” came to this base. There were three thousand and some hundreds of soldiers in the past but now only 300 people remained. I thought the left battleships headed to the Island on the 24th and began to attack but we headed back.

——Why did they head back?

I have no idea why. At that time, no Japanese aircraft came there. They may have worried about the same thing happening to them. Once we thought we felt our defeat, this situation definitely happens.

——At that time, some Japanese people didn’t go to the battlefields, and the news kept broadcasting Japan’s victory. Could you tell us whether you felt Japan’s defeat or not from your viewpoint of the Japanese navy?

I didn’t think of Japan’s defeat because I didn’t have any chances to listen to Japanese news programs. If I had been in charge of receiving telegraph as my job, I may have got some information through it. There were neither information nor newspaper. Some rumors and information from mouth to mouth were the ways of getting information. However, I felt awful to the ships’ situation because not only my ship but also other ships got damage.

We had a resume in the navy. When one battle broke out, the soldiers’ career was added to it. This system brought the decoration of differences among soldiers. For example, a rank is different between soldiers and officers. There were also differences between officers. Unfortunately, if the ship sank, all of the record and career were deleted. In my case, I had no ships to ride on even though I came back from the Leyte Islands because the ship I rode on sank.


“Touch me, Sir!”I knew the end of the war through this single-word by U.S. soldiers.

In the long run, in January, 1945 (Showa 20), I was assigned not to “Katori Naval Aviation” in Chiba Prefecture which aircraft men belonged to but an education organization where engineers belonged to. In August, I was transferred to “Koromo Naval Aviation” in Nagoya City, it is called Toyota now, because we knew the U.S. forces’ attack plan on Chiba Prefecture. On August 15th, that day was the end of the war.

After leveling mountains, the naval aviation in Nagoya was made in the mountains. I remained there as one of the pools for condemnation by U.S. forces. I had a plan to go back in September but the condemnation was postponed because of the typhoon, so I remained there till November. During the time, I didn’t know what happened inland.

——Even though the war ended?

The war ended on August 15th, but in November, the U.S. forces’ battleplane landed on the airport and the pilot got off the plane. Screaming, “Enemy! Enemy coming!” I went outside. I didn’t know at all what this guy was doing. He suddenly said, “Touch me, sir!” At that time, I knew the war finally ended.

This is the second time to see the enemy. The first time was the U.S. forces’ aircraft that had fallen on the middle of our ship in Shortland Islands. At that time, I didn’t see the soldiers’ faces but there were many things with them, for example, cake, chocolate, their personal belongings and… well.. condoms too.

——Did the soldiers of the U.S. forces have any chances to use the condoms?

I guess they may have had….


Daily life on warship, water burial, meal and carouse

——Did the soldiers pass away?

Yes, they passed away and I saw their figures.

In memory of the fallen, the Imperial Japanese Navy did it on the ship, so it was called “water burial”. We made wooden type boxes and covered the boxes with blankets. Soldiers except duty persons got together around the back of the deck. Playing the trumpet, someone shot three funeral bullets. Three or four soldiers held the box from both sides, laid the box on the gangplank, and got it into the sea. The ship went around the same area three times. That is the way of the water burial. I didn’t know how they treated the dead bodies of the enemy soldiers. One of my fellow soldiers was shot around his belly and passed away three days later because of an inflamed peritoneum. We did water burial for him. That was a misery of the war. We did water burial for the fallen in the battle of Rabaul too. We cut only the tip of their fingers before that and cremated them. However, at that time, almost all information about the fallen just only remained on the documents. Through those experiences, I thought the war caused misery but thinking about myself, I had never felt fear and misery to myself.

——How many years did you ride on the warship as a naval soldier?About three years?

Well, I think so. The worst thing in the life of the warship was lack of water. Every morning, I was served 1 liter of water for washing my faces and brushing my teeth. Extremely saying that, I washed my cap, socks and loincloth. About bathing, I just got 3 liters of water, 1 liter three times.

——Was it cold water not hot water?

Cold water. They never made mistakes about the amount of water. When I entered the water supply room, they gave me three pieces chess like Japanese “Shogi” ones. When I got a cup of water, I had to pass one of them to the person who was in charge of that. If I didn’t have the things, I wasn’t able to get water. I washed my body and clothing using that water. Almost all the navy clothing color was white, so if the water for flushing clothing was in lack, he said,” Dry it, and the clothing become white even though the detergent still remains.”

——Could you tell us what kind of meal you had on the warship?

Our meal was rice cooked with barley, a cup of soup of crushed sardine and vegetables and 2 or 3 pieces of “Takuan”, which is a Japanese pickle. Sometimes Japanese apricots were prepared. This meal menu was always the same three times, morning, afternoon and evening. Alcohol was served only the time ships arrived at or left for ports. There were no glasses for alcohol, so we had to use our own tableware for drinking alcohol. We had to use the same tableware for the next morning meal. We used enamel type, because porcelain type broke easily. However the alcohol smell couldn’t be removed completely in enamel type of tableware. Washing dishes were the youngest soldiers’ role, so they had to clean them up by next morning. This job was so strict but the youngest ones seemed to be strong to alcohol.

——Whenever you went to bed every night, did you have a feeling like, “ I am wondering whether I can survive or not tomorrow?”

No. I got desensitized. The feeling didn’t show in my mind. In short, death was always with me, and of course, it was natural for me to think like that.

——Is that from the time you entered the Navy?

Yes, around me was the same situation, and they said, “Once we become a soldier, death is a natural thing.”


Defeat may have led to some better situation for Japan.

——“I want to run away from here.” or “I want to survive and do something in the near future.” Did you feel these kind of things during the war?

I didn’t feel like that because I didn’t have someone special at that time. My parents lived in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture so it was far from my place. I felt at ease. People around the area belonged to the Second Division of the Imperial Army in Sendai City. In my case, my legal domicile was Asakusa, in Tokyo, so I had a physical examination for conscription there and was ordered to be a seaman. My situation may not have been usual.
If I had been in the Japanese Imperial Army as a soldier in Sendai City, I would have died because the soldiers in Sendai City passed away in the Battle of Guadalcanal. It was an awful thing. Nagaoka City in Niigata Prefecture suffered from the air raid on August 1st because Mr. Isoroku Yamamoto, who was the 26th and 27th Commander-in-Chief of The Combined Fleet was from the city. That was the countercharge from U.S. forces. My youngest sister passed away because of the air raid. My brother went to China as the member of the Army and came back to Japan after the war. My mother’s brother lived in Asakusa but passed away because of the Great Tokyo Air Raids on March 10th.
Through those things, I was one of the victims but I survived. I never thought about this war was whether good or bad.
However, I think about the war now. If Japan had won this war, and how the world would have been, I feel the situation would have been worse, or Japan may have been divided into 2 places, such as the Korean Peninsula.
I think this defeat may have been better.

——Could you tell us why you felt like that?

I think that feeling convinces me. I never killed people directly. I didn’t control myself during the time, but I was always in the situation which I didn’t need to kill people directly.
When I was a student, I always got training for the battle till late. There were training places in Narashino City and the Yoyogi area, so I played soldier there. I think this was usual.

——You said it was natural, but you didn’t have a good feeling toward it, right?

I didn’t enjoy it at all but it was not a resignation. Everybody did this, so this way of thinking was always with me I think.

——Three years living on the warship was usual life, right?Could you tell us what supported you or nothing?

I think nothing but I was glad bags of consolation included daily goods or something and letters reached me. My girlfriend sent me a letter. She said in the letter, “I sent you a doll.” But the doll wasn’t delivered. I guess the doll was thrown away on the way to the delivery.

——Were you permitted to reply to the letter?

Yes, but I didn’t know whether the letter reached her or not.
At that time, I didn’t think about that. Of course, I was glad to receive her letter because there was nothing else. Food and water were not supplied fully. Everyday they were in shortage. Water was a real precious thing. When I marched from the Tsujido area to Kamakura because the ship I rode on had sunk, I saw water trickling along the slope. I was envious of that. I don’t have the feeling right now even though I use much water, but at that time, I was 24 years old and since then, for about 5 or 6 years, I felt the value of water.
About my life on the warship, I didn’t need to walk much compared to the Army, so I feel nostalgic for the life.

——What kind of topics did you talk with others on the worship?

I didn’t remember chatting with them. There were ranks on the warship depending on the years they served. In 1944 (Showa 19), I was ranked as a top among the soldiers with 2 and a half years under my belt. That was not the result from the class but the decoration. There seemed to be some positions in each department from troop 1 to 4, for example, big gun, flak gun and measuring of ship. I belonged to troop 4, and this troop had many roles and I was ranked in the top in this troop. When it comes to the point of the roles, I had the right to make decisions to assign whomever I felt could do the jobs, and one more thing, it was the custom of “lining up on the deck”. My weight was just only around 50 kg at that time, so I may have been skinny. If I hit them, I felt pain. Though my idea was unfair, there were 2 or 3 lower ranked soldiers around me. I hit or slapped them because of their laziness. I didn’t feel hurt by hitting around 3 people. Next, I lined up 20 or 30 soldiers on the deck at night. I made those 3 people, who were lower ranked soldiers than me but higher than others, hit lined up soldiers by turns because of their laziness. This was a means to put their spirit back into their work. I didn’t remember exactly how many times I was hit or slapped, but I hit and slapped other soldiers, too.

——At that time you spent your life on the worship, right? Were there anyone who got mad?

I think there may have been. Before riding on the ship, we had to take an aptitude test. Through the result of the test, it may be clear what kind of people are suited for this work.

I heard that the trainings of the battleship “Yamashiro”, and aircraft carrier “Akagi” were strict, so I thought that it was better for me not to ride on those ships. I was asked which ships I would prefer to ride on when given the request. It was a good chance for me, so I told the person that my request was to ride on a cruiser, and my request went through. I felt at ease.


Friends passed away, fortune of the war.

——68 years have passed since the end of world war Ⅱ. Could you tell us what you want to leave to your grandchildren and the next generation, and how you feel about the current generation?

I think we don’t need to battle. Battles inevitably cause serious problems. I am not a fatalist but I thought experiences of this war was my destiny. Current generation people didn’t experience this war, but our generation was the opposite. I didn’t choose the deferment of military service, entered in the Navy and came back here after 3 years. On the other hand, my friends who postponed it, and became members of the student mobilization passed away because of the Battle of Guadalcanal or the air raid of August 1st. As far as I know, none of my classmates survived.
I rode on the ship around Mikawa Bay with 84 soldiers, but after coming back to land, only 5 of us had survived. I don’t know how they were after that but this is the truth. That is why there was nobody through troops and childhood around me.

(Interviewer:Yohei Hayakawa, Writer:Emi Endo, Translator: Yoshino Wakamatsu)