|Lt. Gen. Tachibani surrendering|
Two best-selling books by James Bradley tell the wartime histories of these small islands, Flags of Our Fathers (2000) and Flyboys: A True Story of Courage (2003).
Chichijima is best known for being the site of one of the worst crimes against American POWs, which is the subject of Mr. Bradley's latter book.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit both this Sunday, April 14th. It is a trip of reparation.
After declaring that April 28th is Sovereignty Restoration Day commemorating the end of the US Occupation of Japan in 1952, Abe Administration had to backtrack. Neither the Ryukyu (Iwo Jima) nor Ogasawara (Chichijima) island chains were returned at that time. Both used to host U.S. military facilities, the latter had to wait until 1968 and the former until 1972.
Hoping to placate protesters so that they will accept his narrow definition of sovereignty, Abe plans to visit Iwo Jima (now called Iwoto) to honor the Japanese dead from one the bloodiest battles of WWII and then fly to Chichijima, first settled by Westerners in the 1600s, to talk with its residents. On both islands he will be haunted by these islands' complicated war histories.
The Battle of Iwo Jima is well-known and memorialized. What happened on Chichijima is considered best forgotten. Although Chichijima was never invaded, it is the site of infamous war crimes against American POWs for which four Japanese officers were hanged.
During the Battle of Iwo Jima, U.S. United States Navy pilots tried to bomb Chichijima's two strategic radio stations. Nine crewmen survived after being shot down in the raids. One, Lieutenant George H. W. Bush, was rescued by an American submarine. The others were captured by the Japanese and tortured. And as chronicled by Chester G. Hearn in Sorties into Hell: The Hidden War on Chichi Jima, these POWs were then executed and partially eaten by both Imperial Army and Navy officers. Their livers were fried for a dinner party.
Cannibalism toward POWs or even dead fellow soldiers was reportedly not unusual among Japanese troops. The trials and convictions of 30 Japanese soldiers and four officers on Guam, including the commanding General Joshio Taichibana for war crimes was unusual.
Aides to Abe said the visit to Chichijima was intended to show consideration for those areas that were not covered under the San Fransico Peace Treaty's restoration of sovereignty. But will he show consideration to the reasons for the need for the treaty?
As of 2011, the Ogasawara Islands are a World Heritage site.