So Sad We Fall

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So Sad We Fall
        Kuribayashi Tadamichi 1891-1945

Unable to complete this heavy task for our country
Arrows and bullets all spent, so sad we fall.

But unless I smite the enemy,
My body connot rot in the field.
Yea, I shall be born again seven times
And grasp the sword in my hand.

When ugly weeds cover this island,
My only thoughts will be the Imperial Land.
Chirazu Kanashii

Translated by Kumiko Kakehashi in her book Letters From Iwo Jima, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, and another edition, So Sad To Fall In Battle published by Random House.

Kumiko comments; 'Kuribayashi had no way of knowing that the Imperial General Headquarters would alter (this) his telegram, but he must have known that the phrase "empty-handed and ill-equiped" (which was in the complete telegram) was sure to rub the higher-ups the wrong way. He must also have known that the expressing of grief for dying soldiers with the word "sad" was unacceptable behavior, quite unsuitable for an officer of the Imperial Army. Yes, Kuribayashi did know all that, but he wrote it nonetheless. Such was the nature of his farewell telegram.'

Imperial Headquarters did publish his telegram, but with alterations, deleting the phrase' utterly empty-handed and ill-equiped' from the official publication, and adding the phrase 'I together with all my officers and men reverently chanting banzais for the Emperor's long life.' And of course no mention of so sad they fall. For full details see the prolog to Kumiko's book.

Special thanks to Ritsuko Hikage for locating and sending us a copy of the Japanese edition so that we have the original poems.

Related Items:
Suribachi 摺鉢
Iwo Jima 硫黃島
Japan 日本