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Military swords for the troops

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Lucky to get the right one..

 

 

 

 

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Interesting. I'd never seen the swords handed out formally like that before. Usually you just hear about the soliders being allowed to take one from the captured stockpile.

 

I wonder if they did this for the benefit of the military film crew? Or if that was something more common in the Australian Army? 

 

Thanks for sharing this, Peter!

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2 hours ago, Mister Gunto said:

Interesting. I'd never seen the swords handed out formally like that before. Usually you just hear about the soliders being allowed to take one from the captured stockpile.

 

I wonder if they did this for the benefit of the military film crew? Or if that was something more common in the Australian Army? 

 

Thanks for sharing this, Peter!

It was done quite a bit, by all the Allies.  These are from Fuller & Gregory:

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I remember the picture of army nurses being formally presented swords as souvenirs. I believe it was a bit of a mix how they were handed out, whether collected after a battle, picked from a pile or formally presented in a ceremony. 

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My Dad was in the RAAF during the war.   He was in a construction squadron, which built forward air - strips.     He finished in Borneo and was there for the surrender.  To attain a sword there was a pecking order.  However, because he was so low on the Totem,  he was in a raffle, but missed out.

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5 hours ago, David Flynn said:

To attain a sword there was a pecking order.  However, because he was so low on the Totem,  he was in a raffle, but missed out

That's an interesting window into history David!  Shows how desired these swords were, even back then.  That they were treated so poorly, once they got back home with them, seems puzzling in light of this.  I understand the front-line troop who faced the enemy in horrible combat, resenting Japanese and treating the sword with disrespect (weed whacking, etc) after the war, but even that - why bring a war trophy home at all if it isn't valued?  Maybe it was taken as a prize after a battle, but when the guy gets home, and PTSD starts having it's affect, the sword becomes a trigger of his pain?

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Can you imagine the heaven the few were in who were already Japanese sword collectors or students before the war? There were a few, and they must have had an awesome time buying and trading. Can you imagine being there and knowing something?

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Danny Lynch aka "The Great Stromboli" was one such man. Apparently he ran a nice line recovering Gunto from the harbour bottom after they had been dumped, courtesy of a couple of Ama diving girls.

 

 Not really my story to tell, but a couple of people here remember him well. Oddly enough a Lady friend of mine remembers him as her trainer in fire eating, but was not at all surprised to find out about his endeavors in Japan. 

 

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/great-stromboli-daniel-lynch-death-16151487

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Sometimes things collected with interest during wartime end up holding unexpected bad memories for the former soldiers. I remember, once I left the Army after the 1st Gulf War, there was a period of a couple years where I didn't even want to look at my old uniforms, medals, gear, etc. Just boxed them up and ignored them. Threw some of it out. And it was a long time before I could once again enjoy shooting any of the guns in  my collection.

 

So I can imagine someone being excited to bring home a Shin-Gunto, show it off for a bit to the folks at home, only to put it away soon after. Then comes a new life, a family, kids, work, and an overall desire to forget what they saw in the Pacific. Except for other veterans, who would really understand what they saw, and went through? By that time, the sword might just remind them of long dead friends and bad events. So it got tucked away in a closet, or the attic, and more or less forgotten for years. 

 

For those of us into Nihonto and WW2 Japanese military swords, it seems awful to treat such blades so casually. But for the soliders who went through the war? I can understand the love/hate feelings they may have harbored for their "souvieners"...

 

 

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As i was 10 or 12 years old my uncle had some swords in his working room. I can remember that one of this was a type 95. At this time i had no idea what it was but i was impressed by the swords. 

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13 hours ago, David Flynn said:

My Dad was in the RAAF during the war.   He was in a construction squadron, which built forward air - strips.     He finished in Borneo and was there for the surrender.  To attain a sword there was a pecking order.  However, because he was so low on the Totem,  he was in a raffle, but missed out.

To bring home a legendary Japanese sword had to have been one of the top priorities of returning allied troops. It must have been very disappointing to miss out on winning a raffle.  ( Making it back alive was obviously the first priority )

I think the chances of returning home with a sword  had a great deal to do with availability, and your location. My father for instance, was involved with weapons collection in northern Japan, and handled hundreds of swords. Plenty to choose from, I occasionally think had they had just a little sword evaluation knowledge what they may have made it home with.

 

Dave M.

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They weren't classed as "Legendary"  during the war.   To the average Digger,  it was just something  to prove they won.   Pretty much the same as collecting Luger's from the European Theatre.  Also, the surrender ceremonies were used to rub salt into the wound.

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I once worked with a man whose father had been in the service in WW2 and during the occupation of Japan he was assigned to Nagoya, possibly Nagoya Arsenal.  He stated his dad's job was the destruction of heaps of Japanese weapons, firearms and swords among them.  It was just a crappy job for his dad, for people like us it would be like diving into a pile of gold.

 

Back in the '70's I personally got to talk to a former soldier who did the same thing in Germany after the war, he hauled truckloads of captured weapons to locations where they were destroyed.

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This film shows swords being presented by the CO of the 13th Field Coy , Major Carmichael to  members of his Company . This occurred at Rabaul on New Britain .

The Japanese had dug an extensive tunnel system ( 150 miles according to one report ) at Rabaul and the swords were stored in the tunnels under guard to keep them safe from souvenir hunters. There is a photograph in the Australian War Memorial ( number 98687 ) showing Capt Williams of the 11th Division Headquarters issuing swords to a unit which appears to be at the mouth of one of these tunnels. The photo caption states that there were 7000 swords issued to troops at Rabaul as souvenirs . Years ago I bought a sword off a man who said that they found a back way into the area of the tunnels where the swords were stored . He and his mates drove a jeep into the tunnel, loaded it up with swords pistols and binoculars and drove out again..

Records show that there were 53212 Army  troops ( including 3661 officers ) 16218  Naval troops ( including 1222 officers ) and 19861 civilians on Rabaul at the end of the war . If all the above figures are correct then it means that about nearly eight percent of ( or one in every thirteen ) Japanese had a sword with them.

There is a list dated 2 Nov 1945 which sets out how the swords were to be allocated . Larger units such as infantry battalions received from 250 to 350 swords depending on their size .Small outfits were allocated smaller amounts commensurate with their size . For example  the 11th Div postal unit only received four . The 13th Field company who appear in the film received 96 swords . It was interesting to me that all of them seemed to have tags with the owners name on them and some seemed to have multiple tags .

Many years ago I came across a sword which had been bought back by a very senior 11th Division officer . This had a piece of paper with it saying that it was the best sword on Rabaul The blade was signed Kunihiro ( Horikawa ) and it was dated 1606 . It had been carried by a Japanese Captain and was in average quality shin gunto mounts with no mon. Unfortunately it was not for sale so never became part of the Brooks collection.

Ian Brooks

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Thanks for that interesting and comprehensive answer Ian. 

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9 hours ago, David Flynn said:

They weren't classed as "Legendary"  during the war.   To the average Digger,  it was just something  to prove they won.   Pretty much the same as collecting Luger's from the European Theatre.  Also, the surrender ceremonies were used to rub salt into the wound.

 

I agree David, I used the term "Legendary" more in reference to todays frame of mind as opposed to then.

 

Dave M.

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23 hours ago, Bruce Pennington said:

That's an interesting window into history David!  Shows how desired these swords were, even back then.  That they were treated so poorly, once they got back home with them, seems puzzling in light of this.  I understand the front-line troop who faced the enemy in horrible combat, resenting Japanese and treating the sword with disrespect (weed whacking, etc) after the war, but even that - why bring a war trophy home at all if it isn't valued?  Maybe it was taken as a prize after a battle, but when the guy gets home, and PTSD starts having it's affect, the sword becomes a trigger of his pain?

 

A interesting point Bruce !  When my father showed me his "Bring backs" , I may have been four or five years old. I recall the occasion as if it were yesterday,

he explained to me what they were, and how he had acquired them. I also recall having the feeling he was only remembering a time and place in his life. Even though he was a 11th airborne paratrooper having gone through the Philippines, Okinawa, and on to Japan, and surely witnessed some horrific situations , I don't ever remember him expressing abject hatred. However, I always suspected extreme feelings were always there but were somehow suppressed. I guess how each Vet handled post war feelings varied greatly. As far as his swords, they remained in the closet, not to be touched ( And trust me, were not), only when he agreed to do so...

 

Dave M.

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Thank's for sharing, 6000 Nihonto under one million military swords...

We have an Ittosai in another forum, right now ?

 

Best

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4 hours ago, robinalexander said:

For the interest of members, an article from 'Morning Bulletin' Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia 15th Feb 1946 titled "Jap Sword Makers Unhappy"

 

That is a really cool find.

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