A former Imperial Army soldier has vowed to keep coming back to Saipan to pray for those who perished in the brutal Battle of Saipan.
Private First Class Teruki Okazaki, a former Imperial Japanese Army heavy artillery unit soldier, came to Saipan in June 2014 to participate in the commemoration of the 70th year of the battle that claimed the lives of more than 20,000 of Teruki’s fellow soldiers.
Okazaki-san, who lives in Sakaide-city with his wife, and son’s family, came to Saipan with his granddaughter Yuki-san and four other family members.
Having learned of the island’s intent to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the invasion that led to war’s end, he conveyed his appreciation through Yuki-san for the Northern Marianas’ invite for them to come over and join the celebration.
His coming to Saipan and mingling with fellow World War II veterans from the United States is by huge measure a testament to the two former World War II enemies’ resolve to promote peace in the region.
It has indeed been 70 years and Japan and the United States have come a long way in the process of healing.
Okazaki-san was born on September 28, 1921 in Sakaide-city, Kagawa prefecture in Shikoku island, Japan.
He arrived on Saipan in early 1944 from Manchuria by ship as a part of the Heavy Artillery 9th Regiment.
During the Saipan invasion, he was seriously injured, but rescued by American troops and sent to the POW camp in Ohio.
After he returned back to Japan, he married and had one son and two daughters.
He has been growing olive and orange trees and running a plastics bag factory. He lives in Sakaide-city with his wife, and son’s family.
Okazaki-san shares his perspective and experience as a Japanese soldier during WWII with his fellow veterans and the community at the Camp Fire Chat on June 13, 2014 at the American Memorial Park. He shared the stage with American veterans Carl Matthews and Raymond Kelly.
It was truly a reunion of honor, a celebration of peace.