Japanese American Soldier Saves 130 in WWII — Now His Son is Searching For Their Families

The son of a Japanese-American infantry man who saved 130 Japanese soldiers and civilians in the Battle of Saipan in 1944 has started looking for their family members.

Lawrence Kubo, 67, expressed his intent to hear the families’ stories of his father, Hoichi “Bob” Kubo of Puukolii, Maui, who persuaded eight Japanese soldiers to release 122 civilians held in a cave.

Photo: Lawrence Kubo via The Japan Times

Many Japanese soldiers and civilians refused to surrender during the Battle of Saipan which began in June 15, 1944, committing mass suicide to preserve their honor.

Bob learned of a group of soldiers surrounding themselves with civilians in a cave.

When Bob volunteered to reach the soldiers on July 26, they asked him how someone of Japanese descent could actually fight against Japan.

“I am also the son of Japanese parents but I was born in the United States. The United States is my country and I fight for it,” Lawrence quoted his father as saying in an interview with Kyodo News.

The soldier then shared the story of a Japanese military commander, Taira no Shigemori in the Heian Period, who said, “If I follow my duty to the emperor, I go against my father. But if I am filial, I fail in my obligation to the emperor.”

Kubo eventually gained the respect of the soldiers, and hours later, all 130 Japanese left the cave and surrendered.

The Battle of Saipan, which lasted for three weeks, resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Americans, with more than 13,000 injured. Among the Japanese, at least 27,000 soldiers perished.

Kubo was reportedly awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with the 27th Infantry Division on Saipan in July 1944, according to MIS Veterans Hawaii. He died at the age of 78 in 1998.

Saipan, the largest of the Mariana Islands, had been under Japanese rule since 1920, History noted.

Lawrence Kubo can be reached at lhkubo@aol.com.

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