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A Memento for a Marine

(Reading time 4.5 minutes)

On one the South Pacific Islands, immediately following the surrender of the Japanese forces, there were still hundreds of Japanese troops hiding in caves, deep in the island jungles. The war was now over, but some of the scattered forces had been isolated, with no operating communications equipment.  They were unaware the “A” bomb had been dropped on Japan.  They had no idea that their country surrendered.  A single Japanese platoon was still at war and pursuing battle. They knew it would probably be their last action on this earth.  The band of Japanese soldiers was still scouting to attack U.S. forces. Their platoon decided to raid the village for food and supplies.  They quietly made their way into the colony, only to find a native celebration in progress.  Coincidentally, U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Arnold Bachelder was granted liberty for that same day.  He decided to go to an island village to celebrate the end of the war, with the natives and some of his Marine comrades.

As the Japanese soldiers lay hiding in the coverage of the tropical foliage, they noticed a few uniformed American Marines attending the celebration.  It was then that they decided to capture some Marines. The plan was to strip them of their uniforms, and wear them as a disguise to infiltrate their enemy’s lines.  Wearing U.S. uniforms they planned to wipe out whatever Marines they could. Agreeing on the strategy, one Japanese soldier jumped a Marine from the bushes, rendered him unconscious, removed his uniform and left him for dead.  It was Marine Sgt. Bachelder.  Shortly thereafter, Bachelder regained consciousness and made his way back to camp in his underwear. His fellow Marines decided to locate these Japanese soldier stragglers, capture the unit to give them the good news.  The war is over! When the Japanese troops were discovered, the Marines surrounded them. The soldier who stole Sgt. Bachelder’s uniform was among the surrendering troops.  He was surprised to see Bachelder still alive. The Japanese soldier posing as a Marine with the stolen uniform, planned to kill one or two Americans before being discovered. Surely he thought he would be killed himself in the attempt.

The troops in the Japanese scouting platoon, now peacefully surrendered when they were convinced that “the war is over”.  Because of the language difficulties, it took a little while to communicate.  With the aid of one English speaking Japanese, and one of our Marines who spoke broken Japanese, the message was understood.  After several minutes seeing they were not going to be killed, the Japanese settled down to an amiable surrender.  Both groups of soldiers, these most recent enemies, all went to the native celebration of the war’s end.

The soldier, who stole Sgt. Bachelder’s uniform, was very grateful that the Master Sergeant spared him.  He bowed respectfully offering his hand in gratitude.    The war was over, but after the incident, the Japanese soldiers were confined temporarily to a prison camp.  Later, some of the captors and captives, even exchanged addresses for future correspondence but Sgt. Bachelder’s uniform was lost.

Over fifteen years later in the 1960s, Sgt. Bachelder received a letter from the Japanese soldier, once again thanking him for his life.  The letter mentioned that the Sergeant would be receiving a gift of what he was manufacturing in Japan as a thank you present for saving him from and early and unnecessary grave.  This enabled him to follow his career as a manufacturer.  The gift was delivered, crated in a huge box. Inside was a brand new motorcycle, with a package inside a carryall saddlebag compartment.  The package was his Sergeant’s uniform, all nicely cleaned and pressed, which the Japanese soldier borrowed under protest in 1945.  Marines save lives as well as take them in times of war.  Our unsung hero in this story was Sgt. Arnold Bachelder.  He saved the life of one Japanese soldier who lived to be a post war industrial giant.

That is the rest of the story as far as I know.  What I don’t know is this; was that Japanese soldier Mr. Honda, Mr. Suzuki, Mr. Mitsubishi, Mr. Kawasaki or who?  That’s the part we don’t know. It isn’t important to us.  What is important is that we do know Sgt. Bachelder is an unsung hero and he was alive and had a new motorcycle.