Destroying your enemy

by Ranjan Abayasekara

(January 13, Whyalla - South Australia, Sri Lanka Guardian) ‘Nahi Verena Verani’- 'Hatred ceases not by hatred but by love' the words of Lord Buddha echoed at the assembly of Nations gathered to decide the future of the wartime enemy Japan after the end of World War II. It was in San Francisco on 6th September 1951. The words were uttered by HE J R Jayewardene, then Minister of Finance and representative of the Government of Ceylon.

Although the words are well known, often taught in schools and highlighted during religious instruction, are these words more ‘theory’ with no chance of practical application?
Even between individuals and families there are vendettas and rifts which last long periods of time. More so inapplicable it would seem, when such enmity is between communities or nations.
Is it practical in modern times to be asked to honour one’s enemy?
Is chauvinism and hatred the only way forward when one is victorious?
Is plotting of revenge and festering of grievances the only avenue for those defeated?
What chance when the enmity is between nations that have vastly different cultures and have fought bitter wars on far flung battlefields?

Two examples from Australian war involvements of the twentieth century, may provide some insights.

During deepening twilight on the night of Sunday 31st May 1942, three Japanese midget submarines were launched from their parent submarines located outside Sydney Harbour. These midget-subs’ mission was to destroy Australian/Allied naval vessels and facilities.

Midget-Sub No 14 was caught in an anti-torpedo net, and to avoid capture of themselves and their craft demolition charges were fired by its crew, Lieutenant Kenshi Chuma and Petty Officer Takeshi Ohmori. Both of them perished, and most of their craft was destroyed. Midget-Sub A, with Sub-Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer Namori Ashibe, was able to fire both torpedoes and although it attracted fire from Allied vessels, appeared to have got away that fateful night.

Midget-Sub No 21 failed to make it far into the harbour, before it was spotted and attacked with depth charges by naval harbour patrol vessels. Its crew Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer Masao Tsuzuku, shot themselves. As a result of the midget-sub attack that night, there was an explosion caused by a torpedo hitting the naval depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, a converted harbour ferry, which was in use as an accommodation vessel. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors on the Kuttabul died.

The bodies of four dead Japanese crewmen were recovered from Midget-Sub No 14 and Midget-Sub No 21. They were cremated in Sydney on 9th June 1942. The officer in charge of Sydney Harbour defences, Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould arranged for the funeral to be carried out with full naval honours, the coffins covered with the Japanese ensign and a volley fired by a naval saluting party. The rear admiral’s decision to accord the enemy a military funeral was criticised by many but he defended his decision to honour the enemy submariners’ bravery. In a radio broadcast, he delivered a stinging rebuke to his critics, claiming that "courage … is not the property or the tradition or the heritage of any one nation" and that "these men were patriots of the highest order".

Later in 1942 Mr. Kawai, Japan's ambassador to Australia, was repatriated. He returned to Japan with the four dead submariners' ashes, which were gratefully received by their families. In 1968, Lieutenant Matsuo’s mother travelled to Australia to visit the spot where her son had died. During her visit she scattered cherry blossoms in the water where her son’s midget submarine had been located and later she presented a number of gifts to the Australian War Memorial.

A postscript to the missing Midget-Sub A story occurred in 2006.
In November that year, amateur divers discovered its wreck off Sydney's northern beaches. On 6 August 2007, nineteen relatives of the two Japanese submariners, and dignitaries from Australia and Japan attended a day of commemoration. There was a service at the HMAS Kuttabul Naval Base, which included a parade by 150 members of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force Training Squadron and laying of wreaths. Next was an at-sea ceremony aboard the HMAS Melbourne, at the site of the largely intact wreck of Midget-Sub A. It is believed to still contain the remains of Sub-Lieutenant Ban and Petty Officer Ashibe.

The niece of Petty Officer Ashibe, said she was grateful for the opportunity to see her uncle's last resting place and take home sand from the wreck site to place on his empty grave in Japan.
"I realise how much the Australian government and the Australian people care about the commemoration of my uncle and his comrades," Ms Takemoto said through an interpreter.
"The fact the Australian government put so much time and effort into this commemoration, I was really impressed. The sense of closure is there because for a long time the midget submarine was not found and we wondered what happened to it."
Kazutomo Ban, 74, the younger brother of Sub-Lieutenant, commander and navigator of the midget sub, said he was similarly touched by the service.
"I am very honoured to know that the Australian people remember him even today," he said.

Japan's Ambassador to Australia, Hideaki Ueda, said World War II had been a "dark period" for both countries but that the improvements in the nations' relationship had been inspirational.
"This memorial is a solemn reminder not to repeat the mistakes of the past," Mr Ueda said.
Neil Roberts, 83, the only living Australian survivor of the attack, was also present. He greatly admired the bravery of the fallen enemy. "I admire what they've done," Mr Roberts said.
"If you think about what they did, travelling in those midget submarines was an incredible feat."

Australia’s war dead from all its wars are remembered throughout the country annually on ANZAC DAY, 25th April, a public holiday when commemorative events take place. War veterans & family members march in the main cities. The original date marks 25th April 1915, when Australian & New Zealand Army Corps forces, part of the Allied armies in Europe, landed on Turkish beaches, with the aim of capturing the Gallipoli peninsula. The ultimate objective was for the allies to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), then capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany in WWI. It was a stalemate which lasted 8 months finally leading to the evacuation of ANZAC forces, after costing 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. Turkish soldiers defending their home soil from invasion are thought to have lost over 60,000 dead, and suffered 200,000+ casualties.

In 1998, eligible Turks in Australia were allowed to march for the first time in Australian ANZAC Day parades. For the Turks, the march was the culmination of two decades of campaigning in the name of bringing the spirit of friendship out of extreme tragedy and phenomenal loss of life. The Turks had to overcome opposition from various sides. The Australian Returned Services League argued that anyone who shot at Australian soldiers cannot be part of this special day. Some Greek Australians were also hostile to Turks, due to years of conflict between their two nations. Finally, they had to overcome opposition from other Turks who were against marching alongside Australian soldiers who had invaded their country.

The chief inspiration for the Turks was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, their first president and mastermind of the Turkish resistance in the Gallipoli campaign. In respect for those who fought and died on both sides, Ataturk said:
"Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."
In modern times, large numbers of Australians, the majority born in the past three decades or less, make their way to Gallipolli in Turkey every April, to partake of remembrance ceremonies for those whose remains lie on Turkish soil, many of them hardly twenty years old when they paid the supreme sacrifice…...

"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" – Abraham Lincoln

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