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Takeichi Nishi: The Ungovernable Baron

Few people areinherently brave. It has been your destiny since birth to be a warrior. You are fearless andyou will fight to the bitter end. You cannot run away, you will act as a warrior should. Allof your years of training and discipline have steered you to this profession. This is youressence. Every fiber of your being is that of a warrior. Being a Warrior is your religion. Thisis what you have prepared for your entire life. This is your destiny.
You are a Warrior, so this is what God wants. This is your mission. Your duty is to bea Warrior. You cannot run from your duty, from your essence; you must stay true toyourself. Following that which you do not possess is dangerous. Let others sit under atree and watch it grow, as it is their purpose. They need it, but you do not. True religionis what sprouts from the depths of the heart. Being a Warrior is your religion. Walk thatpath to the end.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"


Nishi with Olympic steed, Uranus

Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi (西 竹一 Nishi Takeichi, July 12, 1902 – c. March 22, 1945) was an Imperial Japanese Army officer, equestrian show jumper, and Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. He was a tank unit commander at the Battle of Iwo Jima and was killed in action during the defense of the island.

 Do not live in indignity and defeat. Live proud and victorious – as a man, justifiably proud, should live. As the Master of this life should live.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

Nishi was born in the Azabu district of Tokyo. He was the illegitimate third son of Tokujirō Nishi, a danshaku (baron under the kazoku peerage system). His mother was not married to Tokujirō and was forced to leave the house soon after giving birth. His father had various high-level positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Imperial Privy Council, leading up to Ambassador to China's Qing Dynasty during the Boxer Rebellion.

Nishi went to Gakushuin pre-school and, while in elementary school, repeatedly got into fights with students of nearby Bancho elementary school. In 1912, at the age of 10, he succeeded to the title of Baron upon the death of his father. In 1915, he entered Tokyo First Junior High School (now Hibiya High School) in accordance with the dying wishes of his father; his classmates included Hideo Kobayashi, future pre-eminent literary critic, and Hisatsune Sakomizu, who would be Chief Cabinet Secretary in 1945.

In September 1917, Nishi entered Hiroshima Army Cadet School, a military preparatory school established on Prussian models, and in 1920 took courses at Tokyo Central Cadet Academy. One of his classmates was Masanobu Tsuji, formerly head student of the Nagoya Academy. He completed his studies at Central Cadet School in six months in April 1920, due to the reorganization of the military schools, and began courses at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Midway through his studies, he was attached to the First Cavalry Regiment based in Setagaya, Tokyo. In 1924, he graduated from the Academy, the 13th of the 19 students in his class, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in October. He went on to the First Cavalry after graduating from Army Cavalry School. He was promoted to lieutenant in October 1927.

A man who clings to life will not become a hero. A man who fruitlessly gives up life will not become a hero. A man who lives without a goal will not become a hero.

A. R. Basov, "Legend"

In 1930, Nishi encountered what would be his favorite horse, Uranus, while in Italy. As the army wouldn't pay for the horse, Nishi bought Uranus with his personal funds. Nishi and Uranus competed in competitions around Europe, doing well. In 1932, when Nishi was a first lieutenant, they participated in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, winning a gold medal in show jumping individual. This remains Japan's only Olympic medal to date in an equestrian event. His victory broke through the general hostility towards Japan that followed from the Mukden Incident and invasion of Manchuria. Westerners, especially Americans, referred to him as Baron Nishi. He was also popular among Japanese Americans, who were ostracized by American society in this period.

During his stay in Los Angeles, Nishi became the topic of conversation both for his love of driving convertibles around town and for becoming part of the social circle led by movie legend Charlie Chaplin, movie star couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

After the Olympics, he was reassigned to the 16th Narashino Cavalry Regiment and promoted to be a cavalry instructor at the regimental school with the rank of captain, which he was promoted to in August 1933.

A man should always remember his heroic mission in life, and he will achieve everything he desires.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

Nishi and Uranus participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany but Nishi fell off his horse mid-course. There is speculation this was intentional and done for the benefit of host country Nazi Germany, with whom Japan would sign the 1940 Tripartite Pact, forming the Axis Powers. The 1936 Show Jumping individual event gold medal was won by Germany. Following this, Nishi was reposted to the Tokachi Subdivision of the department responsible for supply of military horses. He was promoted to major in March 1939.

In this period, Japan was cutting its cavalry forces and forming tank regiments. Nishi was reassigned the regimental commander of the 26th Tank Regiment, based in Mudanjiang, in northern Manchukuo on defensive duties. He eventually gained the rank of lieutenant colonel in August 1943.

In 1944, the 26th Tank Regiment was reassigned to the defense of Iwo Jima under the command of Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. On July 18, 1944, while en route from Pusan to Iwo Jima, the ship Nisshu Maru transporting the regiment was struck by torpedoes fired by submarine USS Cobia (SS-245). While only two soldiers were killed, all 28 of the tanks in the regiment were lost.

Danger, risk, and war are integral parts of a warrior’s life; he feels in his element in this environment.
At war means at home!

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

Nishi briefly returned to Tokyo to obtain replacement tanks, and eventually received 22 of them. While there, he borrowed the car of Daijiro Kawasaki, future CEO of Daihyaku Insurance (eventually bought out by Manulife Financial), a close friend and a son of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries zaibatsu. When he had a chance, he visited his horse Uranus, who remained at the Bajikōen Horse Grounds, Setagaya.

On Iwo Jima in 1945, Nishi commanded the 26th Tank Regiment under the Ogasawara Corps (IJA 109th Division). He would walk about the island wearing his Hermès brand riding boots and carrying his favorite crop. The regimental headquarters, which was located near the village of Maruman, was moved to the eastern part of the island when the battle began. Due to the topography of the island, some of the medium Type 97 Chi-Ha and light Type 95 Ha-Go tanks were placed in hull defilade (buried up to their turrets) and used as fortified emplacements, in particular, against the American M4 Shermans.

After extensive air and naval gunfire bombardment, the United States Marine Corps launched an amphibious assault on Iwo Jima starting February 19. The American forces, who knew that Nishi was an enemy commander, broadcast daily appeals for him to surrender, stating that the world would regret losing "Baron Nishi"; Nishi never responded to those appeals. The American intelligence officer responsible for this attempt was Sy Bartlett of the 315th Bomber Wing out of Guam, who would later write the novel and film screenplay Twelve O'Clock High. In 1966, Bartlett visited Nishi's widow in Tokyo and paid his respects at Yasukuni Shrine.

Heroes perish, but the Ideal persists. Even if disregarded by someone, it attracts and reaches out to people, proselytes the hearts.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

The circumstances of Nishi's death are unknown and subject to competing theories. One theory is that he found himself in the midst of enemy forces on the morning of March 21 and was killed by machine gun fire while moving to the regimental headquarters. Another is that he and his aide killed themselves with their pistols near Ginmyōsui or Futagoiwa. Yet another is that he was burnt to death by American flamethrowers on March 22, or that he and several subordinates carried out a final assault and were killed in action.

John C. Shively, in his novel The Last Lieutenant, recounts a story told by his uncle in which his platoon fires upon a group of Japanese soldiers during the night. In the morning, a body resembling Nishi's was found wearing riding boots and jodhpurs. Shively's uncle was almost certain that this was the body of Nishi.

Nishi was 42 years old at the time of the battle.

Never give yourself up as a prisoner, it will bring you dishonor!
A samurai does not surrender into captivity under any circumstances. Those who surrender are not samurai – they are simply cowards who disgrace themselves, their family, and their ancestors.

A samurai must do everything for victory, his life is a means to accomplish it. A samurai must accept a battle under any circumstances and preserve his life while there is a chance to keep fighting, but he never lets the enemy rejoice at his humiliation or capture. The very thought of surrendering should be unacceptable to a warrior, it must induce his fury and make him desire outright to struggle until the end.
If one of our hands is cut off, fight with the other. If you have no hands left, fight with your legs. If you have no legs, clutch at the enemy’s throat with your teeth and do not release it even if your head is cut off…

A samurai must go straight on till the last moment of his life. He must die silently, with a smile and a sword in his hand, and fall forward facing his enemy. A samurai is mortal like all other people. He can be killed or wounded, but he must never be afraid. He must never retreat or leave the battlefield. Never.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

Nishi was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel. His son Yasunori Nishi (currently vice president of the Association of Iwo-Jima), succeeded him as the 3rd Baron Nishi. His hereditary title was abolished during the American occupation of Japan after the war.

Ōno states, "Few people comprehended him and only Uranus understood him."

Uranus died one week after Nishi. In 1990, Uranus was commemorated at the War Horse Memorial in the History and Folklore Museum in Honbetsu, Hokkaidō.

Unlimited will is the determination to fulfill any volitional order until you are alive.
To know that you would die tomorrow and to do what you see proper is aristocratic.
This is the backbone of the Master’s morality.

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

A true samurai always remains a samurai, even if he is seemingly weak and in adesperate situation. Probably, powerlessness and hopelessness are the greatest ordealsthat may befall a person – including a samurai. We all live in a world where the mainordeal is helplessness, meaningless limitation of human life in the eyes of many, and thetriumph of death.
Awareness of their helplessness in the face of death forces most people to lose theirresolve, fortitude, and Faith.

However, for a samurai the time of his death does not matter, because all of us willdie anyway, and time is just an illusion. A samurai will always find strength to live in aproper way as if he is immortal. It does not matter when death comes.
A true warrior can confront anything; he can create a foothold even in emptinessand push off of it to continue his Way leading to Heaven…
When every action in life is guided by the aspiration to reach a sacred goal, lifeacquires a special sense. Every act has its meaning and consequence. A samurai goesstraight ahead until the last moment of his life, he dies marching while setting his footfor a new step…

And he smiles: he sees the Sun in front of him…

A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeichi_Nishi
https://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=368

 

 




I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

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