It’s horrifying to realize how much the price of war is. At battle field, there are only limited choices left. You wake up one minute, you have to choose, moving forward as a brave man, pulling backward as your winning strategy, staying just where you stand as a coward -or so they say-. Either way, life and death are somewhere in between. The thing is, you never know in which choice you take does death awaits. It follows and haunts every single step you made, that what you can think and feel of is only your very basic animal instinct, to survive. Some of those fighters may have had strong idea on what they are doing, whilst some others may have never known why they are there and what they are fighting for, they just happen to be very ‘lucky’ to be chosen as those who serves the country. One thing should be noted, nobody wants to die in vain.
I never know what a war is like, thus, those words I wrote before was merely my opinion. However, of all the war movies I’ve watched, stories I’ve read, news I’ve seen, I got a lot of that impression that builts my previous opinion. Movies, though it may not be real, I do believe some of them do catch the reality. Like the most recent war movies I just watched, Letters from Iwo Jima, thanks to Ninin, my dear friend who dragged me to cinema with a feeling I might just end up crying like a baby –ps: she even brought tissue paper for me-.
It was about Iwo Jima Battle that happened more than 60 years ago, and the movie is from the Japanese viewpoint. -note: the US’ viewpoint was pictured at Flags of our Fathers, directed by the same director, Clint Eastwood-. The script was written based on letters found buried under the island’s soil, which was written by Japanese soldiers who once fought for their country. You can find more about the movie from its official website here. In short, the movie pictures the life of Japanese soldiers when the battle was about to begin and when it happened. That includes the defense leader for the battle, Lt. Gen. Kuribayashi, portrait of an honor, tactical, and coherent type of leader; Saigo, portrait of a civilian man trapped in the middle of the war as a soldier, when all he wanted was to be with his pregnant wife and to see the newborn baby; Nishi, portrait of a patriotic Olympic athlete sent to war as a battalion leader, brought along his precious stallion only then to be blowed into pieces by bomb; Shimizu, portrait of a young Kempeitai-Japan’s military police- who was sent to Iwo Jima in exchange for his desertion, for not be able to shoot a dog of a family when it barked and considered as annoyance for military operation; and several other characters that portraits true Japanese spirit.
In reality, the battle itself took about 7.000 lives of US soldiers, and more than 20.000 lives from Japanese side, with only 1.000-something survivors from Japanese side. The battle lasted for more than 20 days, from the first D-Day battle in 19 February 1945 –the day my mom struggled to get me out of her womb and succeed the next day, 37 years later; and the day my grandfather died 43 years later-, to the last day in 26 March 1945 when the island was annouced as secure for US troops. However, on the 5th day of the battle, US troops had managed to raise US flag at the highest point, top of Mt. Suribachi. The flag raising was famous througout US as successful war propaganda. The Iwo Jima Island itself was very important for both Japan and US, as it was considered as the gate to Japan main island for US, and it served as Japan’s inner line defense. This is a good quote from Wikipedia about the reason why US decided to do Operation Detachment:
“Iwo Jima was strategically located to provide an airbase for Japanese aircraft to intercept the long range bombers (B-29’s) thereby diminishing their effectiveness. It also provided a haven for Japanese naval units in dire need of any support available. Transforming Iwo Jima from a strategic asset of the Japanese to an allied stronghold able to serve as staging area for the eventual invasion of the Japanese mainland was particularly enticing. In addition to nearly halving the distance and time required for the B-29’s, Iwo also could serve as a base for fighter escorts, P-51 Mustangs, to accompany the bombing missions, further intensifying the damage meted out by the bombing raids, which was already devastating“
Watching the movie, once again it hit my consciousness, that war, no matter for what reason, is one of the most horrible thing in the world. How could a man declared a war with -or without- thinking that it’s going to take so many lives? How could a man send someone to kill someone else’s father, child, grandfather, grandchild, husband, lover, sister, brother, etc?It is someone’s someone that is taken there. It’s insane, and it’s just so vicious.
The movie also gave me insight, on how Japanese true spirit is, as well as where it lies. I, being a foreigner, would probably never understand why those battalion leaders, feeling guilty for not be able to defend their posts, preferred to do suicide rather than joining other battalion. Not to mention brought along all of his battalion in his suicidal action by ordering them to do the same thing. And as a soldier, what order do you listen besides your leader’s, even if it against your will, even if it means the last glympe of your loved ones in your head, even if you’re scared to death to take your own life? But they did it anyway. Those soldiers, they took their own life, because they were ordered to do so. I prefer what Saigo said, “There is no use of dead soldier, we could die here, or continue fighting”. I see this thought as more.. logic. But maybe not to Japanese. They would take their own life, because it’s a more honorable way of dying than to surrender to enemy, or because it’s your obligation to pay your failure with your own life. This philosophy is part of them, it runs through their blood, it is totally understandable to do so. It was and still is in their culture, from those samurai era long long time ago, to what now we recognize as the trigger of high suicidal rate in Japan. Thinking about this, I couldn’t help but saying, how admirable that is! To have such an old old value passes and runs strongly within generations.
Continuing the dilemma, what if previously, you, as an ordinary soldier, had listened an opposite direct order came from the general himself to your battalion leader, ordering not to do the suicide but joining other battalion? And yet, your battalion leader still order you to do the suicide? Would you do what you once told as right, or would you do what you now think is right? Another quote from the movie, “Do the right thing, because it is what you think is right.” And what was right for those Japanese soldiers, is that they were battling for their country. For the reason of patriotism. And that means, following their battalion leader’s order. Because it also means, お天皇のため [O tenno no tame], お国のため [O kuni no tame].
If I were Japanese, this movie would have raised my patriotism. Maybe the same as the Flags of our Fathers for Americans. I wonder if ever we, Indonesian, has this kind of thing, the thing that moves our patriotism amongst the big cynicism, pessimism and our underrated actions to our beloved Indonesia. I wonder if ever, for example Tjut Nyak Dien, affected Indonesian the way this movie does to Japanese. –Ha! did you, dear Indonesian, watch that movie?– Well, I shouldn’t compare it, I know, this movie is a Hollywood class, with its Clint Eastwood, and its huge production funding support, and its cute actors –hehe.. I just have to say that😀-. But seriously, for you guys and girls, have you ever feel like something tickles your patriotism? Maybe patriotism is not the right word, but how about nationalism, or your love to Indonesia?
To be honest, I am so tired of people complaining and keep complaining about how bad Indonesia is. Sure I feel the same sometimes, with its.. you know.. everything that is going on there.. but seriously, at some points, I just got so fed up with those complaining people. If we want Indonesia to change, shouldn’t we do it by ourselves? Who else would do that besides us, the young Indonesian generation? –yes readers, I am still young😉-.
The point is.. just like what made those Japanese soldiers willing to sacrifice their life and fought to death in Iwo Jima battle, would we be able to make such kind of sacrifice to our Indonesia? Our ancestor would, they actually did. That’s why we are now able to enjoy the noisy, busy, wealthy life of Jakarta, or the fun, happy, relax life of Bandung or Bali. We owe them something. That we do appreciate their sacrifice back then, that we will continue their effort to build Indonesia, that we don’t hate our own land just because some jerks playing monopoly games for real, that we would try to make everything better for other fellow Indonesians.
For me, the question remains, as much as my doubt on how much my work counts for the whole country, would I be able to ‘pay’ may obligations to my ancestors? to Indonesia? お国のため [O kuni no tame]?自分のため [Jibung no tame]?
お国のため [O kuni no tame] = For the country
お天皇のため [O tenno no tame] = For the Emperor
自分のため [Jibung no tame] = For yourself
PS: this writings is written after watching only Japanese version of the movie. No intention to discredit US troops or any other party.