Saturday, October 9, 2010

Of Gilligans and Mary Ann

For those of you out there obsessed with Lost, Survivor, and Gilligan's Island (so many of you out there, I know--GET YOUR OWN WEBSITE ALREADY!), or who haven't been able to shake Lord of the Flies out of their head since high school (mostly because it's the only good book they ever finished), get ready for this fascinating (and true) tale as old as time, courtesy of this strange but informative website:

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June 30 1951 - Anatahan Island
A group of stranded survivors of a Japanese vessel sunk by the American military found their way to the island of Anatahan, 75 nautical miles north of Saipan. The island's coast line is precipitous with landing beaches on the northern and western shore and a small sandy beach on the southwest shore. It's steep slopes are furrowed by deep gorges covered by high grass. This brooding cone jutting from the sea floor is a large, extinct volcano with two peaks and a grass covered flat field, the final resting place for a B-29 Superfortress that crashed upon returning from a bombing mission over Nagoya, Japan on January 3, 1945 killing the aircraft's crew.

By 1951 the Japanese holdouts on the island refused to believe that the war was over and resisted every attempt by the Navy to remove them. This group was first discovered in February 1945, when several Chamorros from Saipan were sent to the island to recover the bodies of the Saipan based B-29, T square 42, from the 498th Bomb Group, 875th Squadron, 73rd Wing under the command of Richard Carlson Stickney, Jr. The Chamorros reported that there were about thirty Japanese survivors from three Japanese ships sunk in June 1944, one of which was an Okinawan woman.
Pamphlets had been dropped informing the holdouts that the war was over and that they should surrender, but these requests were ignored. They lived a sparse life, eating coconuts, taro, wild sugar cane, fish and lizards. They smoked crushed, dried papaya leaves wrapped in the leaves of bananas and made an intoxicating beverage known as "tuba", (coconut wine). They lived in palm frond huts with woven floor matting of pandanus. Their life improved after the crash of the aircraft . They used metal from the B-29 to fashion crude implements such as pots, knives and roofing for their hut. The oxygen tanks were used to store water, clothing was made from nylon parachutes, the cords used for fishing line. The springs from machine guns were fashioned into fish hooks. Several in the group also had machine guns and pistols recovered from the aircraft.

Personal aggravations developed as a result of being too long in close association within a small group on a small island and also because of tuba drinking. The presence of only one woman, Kazuko Higa, caused great difficulty as well. Six of eleven deaths that occurred among the holdouts were the result of violence. One man displayed thirteen knife wounds. Ms. Higa would, from time to time, transfer her affections between at least four of the men after each mysteriously disappeared as a result of "being swallowed by the waves while fishing." In July 1950, Ms. Higa went to the beach when an American vessel appeared off shore and asked to be removed from the island. She was taken to Saipan aboard the Miss Susie and, upon arrival, informed authorities that the men on the island did not believe the war was over.

Meanwhile, officials of the Japanese government became interested in the situation on Anatahan and asked the Navy for information "concerning the doomed and living Robinson Crusoes who were living a primitive life on an uninhabited island", and offered to send a ship to rescue them. The families of the Japanese holdouts on the island of Anatahan , were contacted in Japan and requested by the U. S. Navy to write letters advising them that the war was over and that they should surrender. In January 1951, a message from the Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture was delivered.

The letters were dropped by air on June 26 and finally convinced the holdouts that they should give themselves up. Thus, six years after the end of World War II, "Operation Removal" got underway from Saipan under the Command of James B. Johnson, USNR, aboard the Navy Tug USS Cocopa. Lt. Commander James B. Johnson and Mr. Ken Akatani, an interpreter, went ashore by rubber boat and formally accepted the last surrender of World War II on the morning of June 30, 1951 which also coincided with the last day of the Naval Administration of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

For more information, read Saipan Oral Histories of the Pacific War by Bruce Petty, page 78, 119-120.

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Wow, right? A formal surrender to a US Navy tugboat captain six years after the war ended? From 29 tattered, stir-crazy, deranged, horn-dog Japanese soldiers who had been chugging coconut moonshine and chasing some poor woman around a small uninhabited island with their dirty dicks for five years when not busy brutally murdering each other in order to increase the odds of getting her all to themselves for the rest of the interminable war they were so busy fighting (in spirit)?

War is such gentlemanly sport.

Hey, you know what? Somebody get Aaron Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, and Rip Torn on the phone like yesterday--I think we've got the next hit series here and we need to meet up in the Bahamas and start writing episodes immediately.

We'll shoot one version of the story for every country in the television world, simultaneously so that it's cheaper. It will be the biggest undertaking anyone in Hollywood has ever imagined (eat your heart out, Ron Howard).

Also, somebody track down that recipe for tuba--that coconut moonshine is the best chance I have of finally achieving my billionaire supervillain dreams.

Kazuko Higa with rescuers


Wondering what ever happened to Kazuko Higa? Well, naturally the comely lass joined a burlesque tour in 1952 and regaled audiences with tales of her sexytimes on the island. Moral of her story: "...and THAT is why you never move to a deserted island with your husband!"

Hollywood legend Josef von Sternberg became obsessed with her story and, as one does, wrote/directed/photographed/narrated a movie about her called Ana-ta-han (1953), which has since been remade twice. It was a financial bust and the last movie he ever made. He died of a heart attack 16 years later.

Incidentally, three years after that, Ayn Rand sold Von Sternberg's custom-built, architecturally-significant house (for seven times what she paid for it) to a developer who demolished it--one of her many vile offenses against art and philosophy.


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