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Tadamichi Kuribayashi
7 July 1891 - c. 23 March 1945
Tadamichi Kuribayashi1
Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi
Place of birth Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Place of death Iwo Jima, Japan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1914 - 1945
Rank General
Unit 109th Division, Ogasawara Army Group
Battles/wars World War II
- Battle of Hong Kong
- Battle of Iwo Jima
Awards Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Star (2nd class),
Order of the Rising Sun Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon (3rd class),
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
In this Japanese name, the family name is Kuribayashi.

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (栗林忠道 Kuribayashi Tadamichi?, born 7 July 1891 in Nagano Prefecture, Japan – 23 March 1945 on Iwo Jima, Japan) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, best known for his role as overall commander of the Japanese garrison during most of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

His name became well-known outside of Japan in the 2006 movie Letters from Iwo Jima, in which he was portrayed by actor Ken Watanabe.

BiographyEdit

Life before the warEdit

Kuribayashi was born into a low class samurai family in Hanishina District Nagano prefecture. Although he had originally aspired to be a journalist, Kuribayashi was persuaded by his high school teachers to join the Imperial Japanese Army.

Kuribayashi graduated from Nagano High School in 1911 and from the 26th class of Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1914, where he had specialized in cavalry, and he continued on to the Army's Cavalry School in 1918. In 1923 he graduated from the 35th class of the Army War College with splendid marks and received a military sabre from the Taisho Emperor. Kuribayashi married Yoshii Kuribayashi on December 8th of that year. Together they had two daughters and a son (Taro, Yoko and Takako).

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. He accurately evaluated the overwhelming industrial capacity of the United States. In one of his letters to his family he said, "It is desperate to enter the war with the USA." After returning to Tokyo he was promoted to the rank of major and appointed as the first Japanese military attaché to Canada in 1931. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1933.[1]

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.

Pacific WarEdit

In December 1941, Kuribayashi was ordered into the field as the Chief of Staff of the Japanese 23rd Army commanded by Takashi Sakai, in the Invasion of Hong Kong. In 1943, he was promoted to lieutenant general, and reassigned to be commander of the 2nd Imperial Guards Division, which was primarily a reserve and training division. On 27 May 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.

Kuribayashi led a force of 21,000 men without air or naval support against the United States invasion force of 100,000. In the ensuing battle almost all Japanese soldiers fought to the death. Only 1,083 surrendered[citation needed]. Kuribayashi died near the end of the battle and has since been recognized by the Japanese government for his dedication in commanding the staunch defense of the island against overwhelming odds, with the certain knowledge that he and his men would perish in the inevitable defeat.

Kuribayashi sent many letters home to his family prior to the engagement. The letters remain a valuable chronicle of the battle on Iwo Jima as information about what the Japanese soldiers were feeling and thinking at the time.

His wife Yoshii was only about 40 when Kuribayashi died on Iwo Jima at the age of 53, and she subsequently worked hard to bring up their children without a father. It was reported that she once saw Kuribayashi returning home in a dream[citation needed]. Many years later, she would visit Iwo Jima to commemorate her fallen husband.

Battle of Iwo JimaEdit

Main article: Battle of Iwo Jima
Tadamichi Kuribayashi

Commander of Iwo Jima

Kuribayashi recognized that, without possibility of resupply, reinforcement, naval support, or air support, he would not be able to hold Iwo Jima against the overwhelmingly superior military forces of the United States. But loss of Iwo Jima would place all of Japan within range of American strategic bombers, so Kuribayashi determined to make the fall of Iwo Jima as late as possible and planned a campaign of attrition, by which he hoped to inflict such severe losses on the Americans that they would reconsider the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland.

Kuribayashi had studied other American assaults carefully and decided not to contest seriously the Allied beach landings. Instead, defense of Iwo Jima would be fought almost entirely from underground.

The Japanese honeycombed the island with more than 18 kilometers (11 miles) of tunnels, 5,000 caves, and pillboxes. Kuribayashi also instructed his troops that each man should kill ten of the enemy before dying, and he strictly forbade the banzai charge, which he viewed as ineffective. His men proceeded with the "silent" charge, which confused the Americans, who were accustomed to the traditional loud "banzai" charge, as they faced on Saipan.

Kuribayashi addressed his soldiers:

We shall defend this island with all our strength to the end.
We shall fling ourselves against the enemy tanks clutching explosives to destroy them.
We shall slaughter the enemy, dashing in among them to kill them.
Every one of our shots shall be on target and kill the enemy.
We shall not die until we have killed ten of the enemy.
We shall continue to harass the enemy with guerrilla tactics even if only one of us remains alive.

Kuribayashi's death remains a mystery. His men provided contradictory reports and his remains could not be traced. He was most likely killed in action upon leading the final assault. The general's body could not be identified afterwards for he had taken off his rank badge to fight as a regular soldier. Less credible theories of his death include suicide (seppuku).

The US declared Iwo Jima secure on March 26, 1945, after 6,821 U.S. Marines were killed and 19,189 wounded. Only 1,083 of the 22,786 Japanese defenders survived to be captured.

Portrayal in filmEdit

Kuribayashi is portrayed by actor Ken Watanabe in Letters from Iwo Jima, a film directed by Clint Eastwood about the Battle of Iwo Jima largely from the Japanese perspective. The film was released in December 2006. Eastwood also directed a precursor, Flags of Our Fathers, which told the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima largely from the American perspective. It was released in October 2006.

A tentative title for Letters from Iwo Jima was Lamps Before the Wind, taken from a line in a letter from Kuribayashi to his son, Taro: "The life of your father is just like a lamp before the wind." [2]

ReferencesEdit

External links Edit

Notes Edit

  1. Ammenthorp, The Generals of World War II
  2. James Bradley, Flags of Our Fathers, page 148
af:Tadamichi Kuribayashi

ca:Tadamichi Kuribayashi cs:Tadamiči Kuribajaši de:Tadamichi Kuribayashi es:Tadamichi Kuribayashi fr:Tadamichi Kuribayashi ko:구리바야시 다다미치 hr:Tadamiči Kuribajaši id:Tadamichi Kuribayashi it:Tadamichi Kuribayashi he:טדאמיצ'י קוריבאישי hu:Kuribajasi Tadamicsi ja:栗林忠道 no:Tadamichi Kuribayashi pl:Tadamichi Kuribayashi pt:Tadamichi Kuribayashi ru:Курибаяси, Тадамити sr:Курибајаши Тадамичи fi:Tadamichi Kuribayashi sv:Tadamichi Kuribayashi tl:Tadamichi Kuribayashi vi:Kuribayashi Tadamichi uk:Курібаясі Тадаміті zh:栗林忠道

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