My father is the last of the 7 brothers and a sister. 2 of his elder brothers lost their lives at the WWII. His mother, my grand mother, was in deep grief after she lost her 2nd son, not only the 1st one.
Hiroshi Nakazato was born in Ooruicho in Gumma, Japan, on the 17th of August in 1892 as the second son of Chusaku Nakazato, 37, and his wife Haru, 30. After finishing his secondary school at about 14, he was helping his family, who owned huge paddy fields. Hiroshi was 20 years old, when he was called up to the Japanese Imperial Navy. Less than 3 years later, in spring of 1995, he died in the sea far from his home. He was only 23.
According to the Japanese Birth/Death registration, “Hiroshi died off Songkhla in Malay peninsula on 15th May 1945, time unknown. Reported by Saito Noboru to the department of the war veterans in Yokosuka on 22nd July 1947”
My father’s memory is not clear. He was saying Hiroshi died near Saipan, which turned out to be not correct. He also remembered his mother was saying Hiroshi was on the big war ship called “Tottorimaru” when he was killed. So I started to think how to find all these out.
As Hiroshi stayed in the Navy, I sent a request for his war record from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, war veterans department. We had a very quick response from them. They sent a copy of Hiroshi’s war record to my father.
Registration No.: Yoko 1-Ho-Sui-Dai 14714
Affiliation: Yokosuka Chinjufu
Background: Graduate from High School, Occupation Farmer
Date of join: Placed to 1-Ho on 1st December 1942
Section at death: Ship guard (Sen kei), Tottorimaru, Sort No: 1-7222
1942 1 December Recruited as first supplementary member (Dai1 Hoju Heieki)
1943 7 June Transferred to Navy (by Showa 18 command no. 421 )
1943 15 December Transferred to Yokosuka First Navy (Daiichi Kaiheidan) to reinforce the military power
1943 15 December Appointed to Ordinary Seaman (Suihei Nito-hei)
1943 1 November Low change – Retirement age is 45 years old as of 31st March of the year
1944 11 January Shanghai Naval Special Army Force (Shanghai Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusen Tai)
1944 1 April Promoted to Marine 1st class (Suihei Itto-hei)
1944 13 April Transferred to Yokosuka Naval Security force (Yokosuka Kaigun Keibi Tai)
1944 24 April Arrived in Osaka (onboard Ugamaru)
1944 2 May Marine vessel guard department (Senpaku Keikai Bu)
1944 2 June Boarded on the accompanying ship (Tottorimaru)
1944 1 September Assigned to Yokosuka Naval Security force (Yokohama Keibi Tai) as well
1944 1 November Promoted to Able Seaman (Suihei Joto-hei)
1945 1 May Promoted to Leading Rating (Kaihei Suiheicho)
1945 15 May Died, off Singora (Songkhla) of Malay peninsula
1945 15 May Promoted to 2nd Marine Non-commissioned officer
When Hiroshi was called to the war, my father was just 7 years old. Hiroshi died in May of 1945. It was only 3 months away from the end of the war. We can’t change history but I feel so bitter about this fact.
My grand mother, Haru lost 2 elder sons at the war. When the war was over, my father was 10 and Haru was 53 years old. The death of Hiroshi was recorded 2 years after the actual date. Did his family not know his whereabouts for 2 years? Haru’s first son, Kiyosue’s death was also reported 2 years later.
Tottorimaru, that Hiroshi was on board, was infamous among the Allies, and know as a “Hellship” because the ship was often used to transfer POWs from South East Asia to the concentration camps in other places including Japan and Korea. They were crammed into the bottom of the ship in unhygienic and unbearable conditions.
On 15th May, 1945, Tottorimaru was on her way to Singapore from Saigon via Hat Tien, Vietnam. When they reached off Singora, US submarine Hammerhead attacked and destroyed the ship. At the time, Tottorimaru was carrying just cargo and 52 naval officers on board were killed. Hiroshi was one of them.