Underage soldiers were often allowed to enlist during the Civil War — especially if they chose a non-combat position such as bugler or drummer boy. This led to boys barely in their teens suffering wounds alongside the grown men.
In one case, a 12-year-old boy nearly lost his left hand and arm when it was shattered by an artillery shell.
Sometime in 1864, he was serving in battle when an artillery shell burst nearby. The shrapnel ripped through his left hand and arm. He is widely regarded as having been the youngest Civil War casualty.
The SDF is comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters and Syrian militia groups and is the primary partner for the U.S. effort against ISIS. This new offensive has taken them within 40 miles of the ISIS stronghold. U.S. and coalition aircraft are supporting the effort with airstrikes in and around Raqqa.
SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), will not advance on the capital city itself. The Kurdish leadership believes Raqqa should be captured by Arab militias. Thirty thousand SDF troops moved to retake vast areas northwest of the city, but the assault on Raqqa will have to wait until the Arab militias have the strength.
BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports ISIS fighters are literally digging in for Raqqa’s defense. Earthworks and defensive structures are going up around the area. There are even rumors of an extensive network of tunnels.
Fox News reported a state of emergency was declared by ISIS in Raqqa. The city’s defenders number anywhere from three to five thousand fighters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian forces are ready to coordinate with the SDF and the U.S. coalition to provide any support necessary to capture the ISIS capital.
SDF forces celebrated a string of victories against ISIS in recent months, including liberating a number of villages and 4,000 square miles of territory under ISIS control, capturing militants, and cutting off ISIS supply lines into neighboring Iraq. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2013, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to forces in open rebellion against the Asad regime in Damascus.
As an overseas hub for U.S. military bases, Okinawa, Japan is known among troops for its beautiful coastline, hot and humid weather, and a unique fusion food simply referred to as TRC.
“Tacos had already been introduced to Okinawa by the Americans, but it was more like a snack – not very filling for Americans. And it was something you couldn’t find at a restaurant,” Parlor Senri restaurant’s Sayuri Shimabukuro Shimabukuro told Stripes Okinawa. “Matsuzo decided to substitute the taco shell with rice, which is relatively faster to cook and also filling. Parlor Senri’s customers were 100 percent Americans, and in order for the wait staff to explain the dish, he named it taco rice.”
TRC, or “Taco, Rice, and Cheese,” — a Mexican-Japanese fusion dish that exists only because of the U.S. military presence on the island — is most simply put, a giant taco salad with rice instead of the taco shell. First introduced on the island in 1984, it’s now a staple among U.S. service-members stationed there.
The dish is so popular among troops that most shops that serve it are literally walking distance from the base gates. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s considerable debate among shop owners as to who came up with TRC first. According to Stripes Okinawa, multiple shops in Kin (the town outside Camp Hansen) claim it was their idea. But while we’re trying to figure out who cooked it first, you can always make it yourself at home.
US General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, says North Korean missile technology may be advancing faster than expected.
Milley spoke July 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, as North Koreans concluded a day of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
Milley told his audience, “North Korea is extremely dangerous, and more dangerous as the weeks go by.”
‘Never seen before’
Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced it had completed its first successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, one expert said could travel far enough to reach the westernmost US states of Alaska or Hawaii.
The launch took US defense experts by surprise. Pentagon officials said it was something they had “never seen before.”
There was speculation that North Korea might use the July 27 anniversary to test-launch a new missile, but late in the day, those fears appeared to have been unfounded.
Earlier July 27, North Koreans gathered at the mausoleum of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to commemorate the day in 1953 when China, North Korea, and the US-backed United Nations signed an agreement to end the struggle over the Korean peninsula.
Statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Wikimedia Commons photo by José Fernandes Jr.
Peace treaty never signed
The conflict began in 1950 when the Soviet-ruled North invaded the democratically ruled South.
In the North Korean version of the story, the conflict is known as the Fatherland Liberation War. North Korea blames the United States for starting the war that devastated the Korean peninsula and saw the South Korean capital, Seoul, change hands four times.
Because a peace treaty was never signed, the two nations are technically still at war. Pyongyang uses that fact to justify its concentration on military readiness.
Hong Yong-Dok brought his granddaughters to the Kim mausoleum to pay their respects July 27. He told a French news agency, “Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world.”
In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.
The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.
The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.
That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.
And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.
In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.
Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.
When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.
He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:
“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
Another bullet slammed into the rocky slope beside journalist Mike Boettcher. The Taliban sniper fired again, sending another large-caliber bullet whizzing between the Americans who were scattered among the boulders. Boettcher kept his camera rolling but worried his son Carlos might have been hit. The father-and-son team was embedded with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, but getting good footage was now the last thing on his mind.
Eventually the paratroopers forced the sniper to displace, and Mike and Carlos Boettcher were reunited, both unscathed.
“I told you don’t leave my side! This is a damn war zone, Carlos,” Mike can be heard screaming off-camera.
When it comes to documentaries about the war in Afghanistan, Restrepo still reigns supreme. But while the award-winning documentary from Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington is the most acclaimed film of its kind, The Hornet’s Nest is a must-watch for anyone seeking a closer look into America’s longest war.
Mike Boettcher describes the documentary as a “real-life narrative feature.” The feeling that his film is more than a documentary comes from the added drama of Mike and Carlos’ strained relationship. Their final attempt to bond amid the war that surrounds them provides an additional storyline that unfolds like a scripted feature film.
Between 2010 and 2011, the duo embedded with three Army brigades and one Marine battalion on their deployments to Afghanistan. While the filmmakers survived their extended stay in Afghanistan, 44 members of the units they embedded with did not. The combat footage they recorded is as intense as any existing documentary, but the audio surpasses them all. The sounds of bullets snapping and whizzing overhead are so clear it’s hard to believe they weren’t created in a studio and added during editing.
While the combat footage is jarring and the Boettchers’ relationship is compelling, it’s the documentary’s ending that transforms The Hornet’s Nest from an average film to a must-watch. The Boettchers were present at the Battle of Barawala Kalay Valley: a two-day mission that devolved into nine days of heavy fighting. Before the Americans prevailed, six US soldiers were killed in action.
The entire battle unfolds in the film’s final act, concluding with an emotionally devastating battlefield memorial service. The final scene provides a rare glimpse into one of the most sacred military traditions. As the final roll call is read and the surviving soldiers fight to keep their bearings, it becomes difficult to watch. The heart-wrenching conclusion serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the steep cost of the war in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition, and other surplus military equipment.
Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a August 28 speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.
The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.
National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.
Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.
Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets, and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.
Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.
“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement August 27 that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.
“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.
“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.
The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.
Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.
Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.
Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.
The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.
To an infantry squad leader, having the powerful tool of “mortars-on-station” gains allied forces a massive battlefield advantage. Setting up the weapon system can be fast and flawless with a well-trained crew.
A mortar tube is comprised of an elongated, closed metal tube mounted on a base plate.
On the bottom of the mortar tube is a fixed firing pin. Once a mortar shell is loaded and dropped into the tube, it slides down and strikes the firing pin which causes the mortar’s propellant to ignite creating gas pressure — launching that sucker at the bad guys.
Modern mortars are designed to provide short-range indirect fire at high angles, typically between 45 and 80 degrees. They are relatively light-weight in nature making them more accessible to carry while on a foot patrol. It’s much better than hauling a 155mm Howitzer artillery shell.
That sh*t is heavy.
In the event the bad guys do get “froggy,” the mortarmen on the ground can quickly and efficiently set up the mortar system while the infantrymen accurately get a fix on the enemy’s position and make it rain 81mm mortar — it’s a beautiful spectacle.
November 2018 marks 100 years since Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close. Yet in many ways “the war to end all wars” has never really ceased. From the outbreak of a second world war just twenty years later to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the current perilous state of Turkish Democracy, the smoldering ashes of WWI have ignited time and time again. These nine books — arranged by genre and covering the hostilities from the home front, the trenches, and the hospitals where soldiers were treated for a new injury known as “shell shock” — are essential to understanding how a century-old feud shaped the world we live in today.
(Random House Publishing Group)
1. The Guns of August
By Barbara Tuchman
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the Modern Library’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time, this is the definitive history of the first 30 days of the war—a month that set the course of the entire conflict. Tuchman brings a novelist’s flair to her subject, from the spectacle of King Edward VII’s funeral procession—”The sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again”—to the dust and sweat and terror of the German advance across Belgium. She captures the war’s key figures with flair and precision and enlivens her analysis with a dry-martini wit: “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” Most astonishingly of all, she creates genuine suspense out of the inevitable march of history, convincing her readers to forget what they already know and turn the pages with bated breath.
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
2. The First World War
By John Keegan
Twenty years after its original release, this gripping chronicle remains the best single-volume account of the war. Keegan, an acclaimed British military historian, brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to some of the 20th century’s most confounding questions: Why couldn’t Europe’s greatest empires avoid such a tragic and unnecessary conflict? And why did so many millions of people have to die? By foregoing radio and telephone to communicate by letter, Keegan explains, world leaders effectively rendered themselves deaf and blind. The problem was grotesquely amplified on the battlefield, where weapons technology had advanced to the point that entire regiments could be wiped out in a matter of hours. No other history brings the war’s mind-boggling magnitude — 70,000 British soldiers killed and 170,000 wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele alone — into sharper focus.
By Alan Moorehead
As an acclaimed correspondent for London’s Daily Express, Moorehead covered WWII from North Africa to Normandy. But the Australian once swore he’d never write about the most famous military engagement in his nation’s history: the Battle of Gallipoli. He’d heard more than enough stories from ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) veterans back home and had grown bored with the subject. Thankfully, he changed his mind — and his eloquent, elegiac account is a modern day masterpiece. From Winston Churchill’s plan to “launch the greatest amphibious operation mankind had known up till then” to the costly, avoidable blunders that doomed 50,000 Allied troops (11,000 of them from Australia and New Zealand), Moorehead vividly captures the grand ambition and tragic folly of the campaign. His sketch of army officer Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the seeds of modern-day Turkey’s independence were sown at Gallipoli.
(Random House Publishing Group)
4. Paris 1919
By Margaret MacMillan
WWI brought about the fall of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires and displaced millions of people across Europe. Faced with the monumental task of reshaping the world, Allied leaders convened the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Over the next six months, delegates from 27 nations redrew international borders, hashed out the terms of Germany’s surrender, and laid the groundwork for the League of Nations. Above all, they aimed to prevent another world war. They failed, of course — Hitler invaded Poland just 20 years later—but this engrossing, comprehensive history debunks the harshest judgments of the Treaty of Versailles and provides essential context for understanding its myriad repercussions. MacMillan covers impressive ground, from the Balkans to Baku to Baghdad, without losing focus on the colorful personalities and twists of fate that make for a great story
(Orion Publishing Group, Limited)
5. Testament of Youth
By Vera Brittain
The daughter of a well-to-do paper manufacturer, Vera Brittain left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to join England’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in London, Malta, and France. Like so many others of her generation, she felt called to be a part of something larger than herself. By the war’s end — and before she turned 25 — she had lost her fiancé, her brother, and two of her closest friends. Her chronicle of the war years, her return to Oxford, and her attempts to forge a career as a journalist is both an elegy for a lost generation and a landmark of early 20th-century feminism. Upon the book’s original publication in 1933, the New York Times declared that no other WWI memoir was “more honest, more revealing within its field, or more heartbreakingly beautiful”. Eighty-five years later, that assessment still rings true.
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
6. Goodbye to All That
By Robert Graves
This spellbinding autobiography is by turns poignant, angry, satirical, and lewd. It’s also, according to literary critic Paul Fussell, “the best memoir of the First World War.” A lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (where he fought alongside his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon), Graves was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme and reported killed in action. His family had to print a notice in the newspaper that he was still alive. As befitting a man returned from the dead, Graves breaks all conventions, mixing fact and fiction to get to the poetic truth of trench warfare. Sassoon, for one, objected to the inaccuracies, but Good-bye to All That touched a nerve with war-weary readers and made Graves famous. It has gone on to influence much of the 20th-century’s finest war literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honourtrilogy to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
(Penguin Publishing Group)
7. Storm of Steel
By Ernst Jünger
An international bestseller when it was originally published in 1920, this fiercely lyrical memoir is the definitive account of the German experience during WWI. Jünger, a born warrior who ran away from home at the age of 18 to join the French Foreign Legion, fought with the German infantry in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Cambrai. He was wounded seven times during the war, most severely during the 1918 Spring Offensive, when he was shot through the chest and nearly died. He received the German Empire’s highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite, for his service. Taken from Jünger’s war diary, Storm of Steel has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that separates it from other WWI autobiographies. Some have criticized it as a glorification of war, while others, including Matterhorn author and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, think it’s one of the truest depictions of the combat experience ever written.
(Random House Publishing Group)
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
By Erich Maria Remarque
This iconic German novel was first serialized in 1928, 10 years after the armistice. The book version sold millions of copies and was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. By then, the Nazi Party was the second largest political party in Germany; Joseph Goebbels led violent protests at the film’s Berlin screenings. Three years later, he banned and publicly burned Remarque’s books in one of his first orders of business as Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. Why the intense hatred for the story of a young man who volunteers to fight in WWI? Because it is one of the most powerful anti-war novels in Western literature. In Remarque’s downbeat tale, one nameless battle is indistinguishable from the next and the lucky survivors are doomed to lifetimes of disillusionment and alienation. No other book, fiction or nonfiction, conveys the existential horror of trench warfare so clearly.
(Penguin Publishing Group)
By Pat Barker
This audaciously intelligent, powerfully moving historical novel, the first in a trilogy, opens with the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s letter refusing to return to active duty after receiving treatment for gastric fever. The declaration, which was read in the House of Commons, earned him a mandatory stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was treated for shell shock by the noted neurologist Dr. William Rivers and became friends with fellow poet Wilfred Owen. From these facts, Barker fashions one of the most original works of WWI literature, intertwining fact and fiction to explore Freudian psychology, the doctor-patient relationship, nationalism, masculinity, and the British class system, among other fascinating topics. Foregoing battlefields and trenches to explore the terrain of the human mind, Barker gets to the essential truth of WWI: No one who lived through it — man or woman, soldier or civilian — saw the world the same way again.
Refugees wait at the gates of the Japanese Consulate. (Photo courtesy of Nobuki Sugihara/Retrieved from TimesofIsrael.com)
In 2019, a Japanese man traveled from Antwerp, Belgium, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to meet with a Jewish Rabbi at Shofuso, a Japanese house and garden in Philly. Though the two men had never met, their lives were decisively intertwined in 1940 by a war, a genocide and one man’s determination to do the right thing.
On January 1, 1900, Chiune Sugihara was born into a middle-class family in Japan. Receiving high marks in school, his father wanted him to be a physician. However, Sugihara had no desire to study medicine; he was far more interested in the English language. Sugihara failed his medical school entrance exam, writing only his name on the test, and entered Waseda University in Tokyo to study English. There, he became a member of Yuai Gakusha, a Christian fraternity founded by a Baptist pastor, to fortify his English.
In 1919, Sugihara passed the Foreign Ministry Scholarship exam. After two years of military service, he resigned his officer’s commission in 1922 and took the Foreign Ministry’s language qualifying exams in 1923. He passed the Russian exam with high marks and was recruited into the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
On assignment from the Foreign Ministry, Sugihara attended the Harbin Gakuin National University in China where he studied German, Russian and Russian Affairs. During his time in Harbin, Sugihara converted to Christianity and married Klaudia Semionovna Appollonova. In 1932, serving in the Manchurian Foreign Office, he negotiated with the Soviet Union to purchase the Northern Manchurian Railroad. In 1935, Sugihara resigned his post as Deputy Foreign Minister in Manchuria in protest of the harsh treatment of the local Chinese people by the Japanese. He and his wife divorced and Sugihara returned to Japan.
After returning to Japan, Sugihara married a woman named Yukiko with whom he had four sons. He continued his government service as a translator for the Japanese delegation to Finland. In 1939, Sugihara was made a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania. In addition to his diplomatic duties, Sugihara was instructed to report on Soviet and German troop movements.
Photographic portrait of Chiune Sugihara. (Public domain/Author unknown)
Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, many Jewish Poles had fled to neighboring Lithuania. The Soviets also had begun to take over Lithuania, establishing military bases in 1939. By 1940, Polish refugees, along with many Jewish Lithuanians and Jewish refugees from other countries, sought exit visas to flee the country. At the time, the Japanese government only issued visas to individuals who had gone through official immigration channels and already had a visa to another destination to exit Japan. Sugihara contacted the Foreign Ministry three times to make exceptions for the Jewish refugees; he was denied three times.
Aware of the dangers facing these people, Sugihara did what he knew to be right. Beginning July18, in deliberate disobedience of his orders, he issued 10-day visas to Jews for them to transit through Japan. He also made arrangements with Soviet officials who allowed the refugees to travel through the Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Railway (at five times the regular price). Working 18 to 20 hours a day, Sugihara hand-wrote visas, producing a month’s worth of them every day. He continued his life-saving work until September 4, when he was forced to leave his post just before the consulate was closed.
The holder of this Czech passport escaped to Poland in 1939 and received a Sugihara visa for travel via Siberia and Japan to Suriname. (Public Domain/Scanned by username Huddyhuddy)
Witnesses report that Sugihara continued to write visas on his way to the railroad station from his hotel and even after boarding the train. He threw the visas out into the crowds of refugees even as the train departed the station. Out of visas, Sugihara even threw out blank sheets of paper bearing only the consulate seal and his signature for people to turn into visas. According to Sugihara’s biography written by Yukiko Sugihara, one of his sons, as he departed, he bowed to the crowd and said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.”
Someone exclaimed from the crowd, “Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!”
The exact numbers of visas issued and Jewish people saved is in dispute. Hillel Levine, an author and professor at Boston University, estimates that Sugihara helped, “as many as 10,000 people,” though fewer than that number survived. Some Jews carrying Sugihara’s visas did not leave the country before the German invasion of the Soviet Union and were murdered in the Holocaust. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that Sugihara issued transit visas for about 6,000 Jews and that around 40,000 descendants of the refugees are alive today as a result of Sugihara and his visas.
In 1984, Sugihara was recognized by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, as Righteous among the Nations. This honorific title is given by Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust for altruistic reasons.
The Righteous Among the Nations Medal. (Credit Yad Vashem)
Despite his fame in Israel and other nations for his actions, he lived in relative obscurity in Japan until his death in 1986. His funeral was attended by a large Jewish delegation from around the world, including the Israeli ambassador to Japan. After this, Sugihara’s heroic story spread throughout the country.
Chiune Sugihara and his youngest son, Nobuki, in Israel 1969. (Photo by Nobuki Sugihara)
The Japanese man from Antwerp, Belgium, was Nobuki Sugihara, youngest and only surviving son of Chiune Sugihara. He met in Philadelphia with Rabbi Yossy Goldman, son Rabbi Shimon Goldman. The elder Goldman was a teenage student that fled Poland, and then Lithuania, with his class and teachers on one of Sugihara’s visas. Shimon Goldman passed away in 2016 at the age of 91, leaving behind more than 100 descendants, including 80 great-grandchildren. “Every time he clutched a great-grandchild to his heart, it was not only love but also an indication for him that Hitler did not win,” Yossy remembered of his father. Yossy was joined by his own son, Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, and the three men sat down to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. “I would not be here, my son would not be here, none of us would be here if it was not for your father,” Yossy said to Nobuki, “God bless his soul. I’m sure there’s a special place in heaven for him. Thank you.”
(Left to right) Nobuki Sugihara, Rabbi Yossy Goldman, and Rabbi Yochonon Goldman at Shofuso. (Photo by Sharla Feldsher/Retrieved from WHYY.org)
Today, Sugihara has streets in Lithuania, Israel and Japan, and even an asteroid named after him. Further tributes to the Japanese diplomat include gardens, stamps and statues. However, his greatest legacy is the thousands of Jews that he saved and their tens of thousands of descendants. In Sugihara’s own words, “I may have disobeyed my government, but if I didn’t, I would be disobeying God. In life, do what’s right because it’s right, and leave it alone.”
Finance innovator Leo Melamed and his wife Betty visit the Chiune Sugihara memorial at Waseda University. Melamed fled Europe on one of Sugihara’s visas. (Photo by Waseda University)