Narita, Japan

My name is Tadakazu Usami and I was born in the village called Otsuka in a year Taisho 9, which, in translation to the Western calendar, I think means 1920. My kids tell me my birthday is January 20th, 1920. My youth was modest and busy - I was an active child.
We were being prepared to fight since an early age, my school had military classes and I learned to shoot a rifle when I was just 12. The draft age for young men was 20 at the time and I was looking forward to the day I would join the Armed Forces of our Emperor. The day I turned 20 I volunteered for the the army. Sino-Japanese war was already in full swing and after completing my basic training I joined Aoyama infantry, 7th regiment, and was sent to Hebei, China.

We didn't consider it a World War or anything like that, we saw it as a war to prove the power of Japan and our Emperor, no one knew that things would turn out the way they did. I was a young kid, of course propaganda played a trick with my mind and I was fanatical about the war.

China was very exciting, but not in a very good sense of this word. Wherever we went from day one, there were people dying next to me, bullets flying in all directions. That was a real mess. But what could I do, our commanders would say, "we are moving here tomorrow" and we move here. They say, "move there" and we move there. We had to honourably follow the orders of our leader, we were soldiers. At that time I started understanding what the war really is about and most of all I was just missing my home. It was tough to survive everyday, to go through all the atrocities and violence; you had to distance yourself from your body and become a different person. And just fight to win, like they taught us in our training.

One particular fight was crucial for my regiment. We were going back and forth the Great Wall for a few days trying to confuse the enemy and get them where they least expected us. But at some point we got surrounded by the Chinese army and my whole regiment was practically wiped out. I got shot in my right arm during that fight and I was among the very few who survived. I still consider myself lucky to be alive.

After some time I ended up in a hospital in Peking and ended up spending 2 years there. Then I returned to Japan to be re-enlisted but because of my disability I wasn't fit for active duty, so I worked at various military-related jobs. I was working at Tsudanuma Railway regiment as a security person, then I continued my duty in Wakayama city ship engineering, 9th regiment. At that time some people started talking about the fact that Japan was losing the war. I declined to believe that, I thought it impossible.

Later I was sailing military transport ships to Korea and back. And that's when the war ended. I felt a great shame and couldn't speak with anyone for days, I still feel ashamed even though now I have a much clearer image of what was going on and how we all have been fooled into believing what we believed.

There is nothing else to say, I hope you will excuse me. I often have dreams about my fallen comrades calling me from beyond the grave. I feel guilty that I was more lucky than many of my fellow soldiers.

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