PUC Alumni Who Fought in the WWII, in the Japanese Army

By Eric Shih

Dr. Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1911. As a Seventh-Day Adventist, Tatsuguchi came to the United States to receive higher education. He attended Healdsburg College, which later became Pacific Union College. Tatsuguchi eventually received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Loma Linda University in 1938. [1] After finishing his education in the United States, Tatsuguchi went back to his homeland and worked at Tokyo Adventist Sanitarium. In 1938, while Tatsuguchi was back in the United States for postgraduate medical studies, he married a woman named Taeko Miyake, who would later become a mother of two daughters.

Unfortunately, political tension began to rise between Japan and the United States in the late 1930s. The Second World War was on the verge of breaking out. The peaceful surface could no longer be maintained among nations. In preparation for the war, Japan began to order generations of men to serve in the military. With no exception, Tatsuguchi reported to the First Imperial Guard Regiment and was stationed in Tokyo at first. He went to the Imperial Japanese Army’s medical school in September 1941 for further training because of his degree in medicine. In the meantime, the Empire of Japan launched the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Hirohito, Emperor Showa of the Empire of Japan declared war on the United States and the other Allies. In this moment, millions of lives from the two countries were forever changed, including that of Tatsuguchi and his family.

After being deployed in different locations on the Asian continent, Tatsuguchi arrived on the island of Attu, Alaska in 1942. His wife Taeko and daughters at home received a lock of Tatsuguchi’s hair. It was a tradition of the Imperial Japan Army when soldiers were sent to high risk combat zones, in case soldiers died in the battle and their bodies were impossible to be repatriated for funerals. Tatsuguchi kept a diary during his time at the battle, which recorded detailed description about the battle of Attu and final regards for his family.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, “From June 3 to 7, 1942, Japanese forces attacked Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, bombing Dutch Harbor on the island of Unalaska and invading the islands of Attu and Kiska. The Aleut residents of Attu were taken to Japan for the duration of the war. In May, 1942, after a prolonged air campaign, U.S. troops piled into transport ships to expel invaders from American soil for the first time since 1812. Lasting 18 days, the Battle of Attu was one of the deadliest battles of World War II, but it remains one of the least well-known.”[2] The Japanese Times also described some details about the Japanese Imperial Army in the Battle of Attu, “The Japanese forces committed to this diversionary operation were barely adequate – the Imperial Navy’ fifth fleet, including two light carriers and a seaplane carrier along with the Imperial Army’s Northern Sea Detachment (Hokkai) of little more than a single infantry regiment, augmented with a separated force of about 550 special naval landing troops.”[3] Unfortunately, Tatsuguchi was part of this expendable diversion.

Americans intelligence had been monitoring the situation in Attu since June 1942. Their strategy was to pinch the Japanese on the island between invading northern and southern forces. There were approximately 12,000 American troops against 2,300 Japanese soldiers. However, it still took eighteen days to completely defeat the Japanese compared to the original estimation of three days. Due to the enormous difference in troops size, the Japanese quickly realized that they had no chance of turning the battle around. The alma mater of Dr. Tatsuguchi, Loma Linda University published a news journal about the former student, and released parts of his diary. Tatsuguchi wrote in his diary on May 28, 1943, “The last assault is to be carried out. All patients in the hospital were made to commit suicide. Only 33 years of living and I am to die. I have no regrets. Banzai to the Emperor. I am grateful I have kept the peace of my soul which Christ bestowed upon me. At 1800 took care of all the patients with grenades. Goodbye, my beloved wife, who has loved [me] to the last. Until we meet again, grant you God-speed. [Misako], who just became four years old will grow up unhindered. I feel sorry for Mutsuko, born February of this year and gone without seeing your father.”[4] Dr. Tatsuguchi and thousands of his comrades died in the battle, only about 30 survived.

Imperial Japan would eventually surrender on September 2, 1945, after the United States launched one of the most destructive attacks in history. Dr. Tatsuguchi’s family moved to Hawaii in 1954. In 1961, they moved to Angwin, California for her older daughter Joy Misako to attend Pacific Union College. The younger daughter Lori (Laura) Mustsuko attended Loma Linda University of Nursing later on. In May 1993, the younger daughter Lori traveled to Attu and spoke at the 50th anniversary commemorative event of the Battle of Attu, she remarked in her speech, “How ironic that my father was killed in combat against his beloved America while in loyal service to his Japanese homeland. Like my father, I too have great love for Japan and America”. [5]



[1] Takaki Tominaga, “Japanese Widow Remembers Husband Killed in Battle of Attu,” The Free Library (August 8, 2005): Accessed March 1, 2018. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Postwar60%3A+Japanese+widow+remembers+husband+killed+in+Battle+of+Attu.-a0135576606.

[2] National Park Service, “The Battle of Attu: 60 Years Later,” National Park Service Accessed March 1, 2018 https://www.nps.gov/articles/battle-of-attu.htm.

[3] Edward R. Beauchamp, “Imperial Navy Doctor’s Wartime Diary opens a Window to the Nation’s Past,” The Japanese Times (November 22, 2001): Accessed March 1, 2018. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2001/11/22/opinion/imperial-navy-doctors-wartime-diary-opens-a-window-to-the-nations-past/#.Wp-FkZPwaCS.

[4] Henry Yeo and Heather Reifsnyder, “Same Family, Different Sides,” Loma Linda University (Spring 2007): Accessed March 2, 2018. https://news.llu.edu/sites/news.llu.edu/files/docs/scope-spring-2007.pdf.

[5] Sandi McDaniel, “Searching for a father on Attu,” Anchorage Daily News (March 17, 2008): Accessed March 2, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20080422044803/http://www.adn.com/aleutians/story/348036.html.

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