Nobuaki Iwatake

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Nobuaki "Warren" Iwatake (岩竹信明. born 1923) is an American citizen who was drafted by the Imperial Japanese Army to serve as a radio operator and communications intercepter.[1]

Family history[edit]

Born in Kahului, Hawaii, Iwatake was the eldest son of six children and was raised in Kahului. His father, a Kobayashi store employee, presumed drowned from a fishing trip at Peahi. With the loss of the family breadwinner, his mother, four brothers, and one sister moved to Hiroshima, Japan, to live with an uncle in November, 1940. Warren stayed on Maui to graduate from Maui High School 1941. Six months before Pearl Harbor, he left to rejoin his family in Japan.[2][3]

Service in Imperial Japanese Army[edit]

Iwatake was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army from a Japanese college in 1943. Iwatake missed the Battle of Iwo Jima due to a submarine attack on his ship's convoy, and was subsequently stationed on Chichi-jima, 150 miles north of Iwo Jima.[4] American forces bombed Chichi-jima to cut radio communications between the islands. He was present when former United States President George H.W. Bush was shot down over the Pacific in his Avenger bomber, in September 1944, and was later rescued by a submarine. Two American crewman with Bush were killed. Bush's task was to bomb the island's communication towers, and any Imperial Japanese forces. Due to the "island hopping" strategy by American forces, the island was spared an invasion.[5][6]

Iwatake was also present when Japanese Imperial forces captured an American pilot from Texas by the name of Warren Earl Vaughn. Mr. Iwatake was assigned to guard and work with Warren Earl Vaughn on Chichi Jima. Iwatake and Warren Earl spent many hours talking and developed a personal relationship.[7]

According to Iwatake, one evening after a bath, the two were walking back when Iwatake fell into a bomb pit. "It was pitch black and I couldn't get out. He reached to me and said take his hand," and Warren Earl pulled Iwatake out. Shortly after the fall of Iwo Jima in March 1945, the pilot was taken away by other Japanese naval officers and beheaded. Iwatake adopted and kept the name "Warren" in honor and remembrance of his American friend. The story of Warren Earl Vaughn, Iwatake's observation of the rescue of George H.W. Bush, and the experiences of other Americans on the island is recounted in the book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley.[8] Warren Iwatake and President George H.W. Bush met on Chichi Jima in 2002 in a symbolic reunion of veterans from both sides of the conflict.[9]

Iwatake lost his youngest brother in the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack. The youngest brother, attending school, was 500 yards from ground zero. Reportedly, the only thing left was a US Army canteen, as the youngest brother was vaporized in the atomic attack. Iwatake's uncle, Dr. Hiroshi Iwatake, was badly burned in the atomic explosion, but regained his health and lived into the 1980s. Dr. Hiroshi Iwatake's true story is recounted in the 1966 (1969 Kodansha English translation by John Bester) historical novel Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse.[10] This title is not to be confused with the 1989 Michael Douglas movie of the same name, also set in Japan. The Ibuse Black Rain, though centered around fictional characters, is based on interviews with actual atom bomb survivors, including Hiroshi Iwatake. Graphic details in the novel, such as the maggots eating away at Hiroshi's earlobe, are true. The nephew in the novel is Warren Iwatake's youngest brother Takashi. The novel states that Takashi's metal ID tag was found. However, Warren's brother Masaru reported that all he could find when he searched for Takashi amongst the ruins of Hiroshima was Takashi's U.S. Army canteen.[11]

After the war, Iwatake served as a translator for the American embassy in Tokyo for 35 years.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Talmadge, Eric. "Tree goes up for 70th Christmas". The Japan Times. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ Talmadge, Eric. "Tree goes up for 70th Christmas". The Japan Times. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  3. ^ Burger, Matthew (March 13, 2005). "Lifetime in Wartime". The Maui News. 
  4. ^ Hoover, Will (March 31, 2003). "Nobuaki's odyssey". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ Talmadge, Eric. "Tree goes up for 70th Christmas". The Japan Times. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ Bradley, James (2004). Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. Back Bay Books. 
  7. ^ Murphy, CAPT Neil F. (May 29, 1999). "Childress vet 'was a great man'". Amarillo Globe-News. 
  8. ^ Bradley, James (2004). Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. Back Bay Books. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Warren Iwatake". Associated Press. 2002. 
  10. ^ Ibuse, Masuji (1988). Black Rain: A Novel. Kodansha USA. 
  11. ^ Ibuse, Masuji (1988). Black Rain: A Novel. Kodansha USA. 
  12. ^ Murphy, CAPT Neil F. (May 29, 1999). "Childress vet 'was a great man'". Amarillo Globe-News. 

Verbal References:

  • Associated Press interview December 21, 2007 with photograph of Iwatake and President George H. W. Bush
  • CNN aired October 19, 2003 - 20:00 ET
  • Personal accounts obtained from interviews with the Iwatake Family