Heroes: the Marine Corps

"...In checking the objects, I was surprised to find they were all in new looking condition, and I began to sort through them. I found a raincoat, a velvet purse with bills and coins still inside, cigarettes, two small flags, one a meatball and one a rising sun, various writing tools, including what seemed like a personal stamp, and a photograph album with many pictures of what seemed like young men all about the same age in uniform..."



image of american flag

 Keith W. Johnson

image of Keith Johnson

  • Branch of Service: USMC
  • Unit: 1st Radio Intelligence Platoon
  • Dates: 1942 - 1945
  • Location: Pacific Theater, Guam,
    Iwo Jima
  • Rank: PFC
  • SN: 480706
  • Birth Year: 1922
  • Entered Service: Rockford, IL


Keith W. Johnson, 1943, taken shortly after basic training



Keith W. Johnson
U. S. Marine Corps, USMCR # 480706
the Pacific Theater: Guam and Iwo Jima


    22 July 2003: We have just received new materials from Mr. Keith W. Johnson regarding his ongoing exchanges with his recently found friend, Mr. Izumi Sato of Japan.

    Mr. Sato has recently been informed of this web site: World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words and has had some further exchanges of information with new details of his experiences during the American invasion of Guam.

    The material that follows was contributed by Mr. Johnson as his ongoing tribute to two men who were in two opposing armies -- each with his own mission.Both men survived the war. Their finding each other after all of these years makes for a truely wonderful human interest story.



    The images pictured here are of Keith and Cynthia Johnson visiting with a young lady, named Tomoko Morishima, (who is from Japan). Tomoko was a student at Rockford College and she and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were brought together by a professor of the college's Language Department.

    Tomoko graciously offered her assistance and translated the newspaper story and letter from Mr. Izumi Sato.

    Mr. Johnson was interested in returning a photo album to the owner, Mr. Izumi Sato, who lived in Japan. The photo album, along with other items was found on Guam by Mr. Johnson while he was serving in the U. S. Marine Corps, there during the invasion of the island.

    You can read the entire story related to this cultural exchange between two former enemies by clicking on the link below and then once finished, you can return to this page and read the rest of the story on this page.



Letter of December 18, 2002 to Izumi Sato:

Izumi Sato, of Japan

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Address Witheld

By Request

Dear Mr. Izumi Sato

    I would like to renew our acquaintance from so many years ago. The reason is that there has been a renewed interest in World War Two, through many Films, Television Documentaries, Magazine and Newspaper aiticles because many of the participants who have first hand experiences are dying

    I recently acquired a Computer and have found sites on the Internet where first hand accounts of war experiences have been recorded. I decided to tell the story of the Album Return to you and your miracalous survival on Guam. It has been entered where it can be found by using the following address:


    Your story is worthy of a Movie Drama or Film If you do not have anyone who can access the Web site, I could print it and send it to you. It is rather long.

    I do not know if you are still living at the same address. I no longer live in Wisconsin, but in Belvidere, Illinois. I would be very happy if this reaches you, and you are able to answer, or a relative or friend could do it. I would also like to get in touch with Rea Nagashima, as she was a very vital person to find you to return the album to.

    I remain Yours Truly;


    Keith W. Johnson


Letter of March 7, 2003 to Keith W. Johnson:


Friday, March 7, 2003
Mr. Keith W. Johnson
Address Withheld by Request


    Dear Mr. Keith W. Johnson

    Hello ! I've not written to you quite a long time. And I'm glad to know that you are very fine. I recieved your letter on December 31 in 2002. I'm very sorry for not writing back to you soon. I wrote about my experiences during the war in my last letter. But I'd like to tell you about my experiences in detail.

    After graduating from the local Business High school in December 1942, I was (together with two of my classmates) assigned to the water way section of the Japanese Navy, and had a practical training in Shizuoka prefecture. On May 3, we left Yokohama port, and arrived in Saipan on May 30. The soldiers were assigned to Truk, Tinian, Saipan Island. I assigned to the Fourth Weather Unit of Guam Head Office.

    On June 11, at 4:30 AM, I heard an air-raid alarm, and went out in a hurry to big bombing noise in the direction of runways. The bombing lasted two days, and the next day, we had firing attack from American warships. Finally we retreated to Orita Valley. And then, we suffered the aircraft bombing, and Mishima Yasuo (my senior high school classmate) was finally killed. We fought bravely against the American soldiers, but we were overwhelmed by the fierce attack operated by the American Navy. At last enemy landed.

    According to "The history of the Pacific War ", 13,500 out of 20,800 Japanese soldiers were killed in the battles lasted for a week. After that, we threw away all our personal belongings, and moved on to the north (from Orita to Hiratsuka and Takahara). On one morning, when we were on our way back to the base across papaya after carrying out our mission to carry food and bullets to front line. We were found by U.S. scouting plane. We hid ourselves in the jungle, ate dried bread, and had a short rest. In less than 20 minutes, we were attacked by the U.S. fighters, and 24 soldiers (out of 27) were killed. Our boss encouraged us, and we continued to run away, but one of us was killed.

    At last we got back to our base (which was in a cave), exhausted, couldn't speak for a while. Arrand two hours passed, and we found ourselves surounded by a lot of the U.S. tanks. Many Japanese soldiers in a cave killed themselves. Our boss ordered the living soldiers to retreat to the north cape where a Japanese submarine was waiting fo us. Just when we were trying to get out of the cave, it began to rain heavily, which helped us to escape.

    Fortunately, we came across other Japanese soldiers, and they took us to the north base. But we soon found that the north base wasn't safe. Again we were wandering in the jungle. We came to a diff (which was about 50 meters high), and climbed down to the coconut field.

    There again we met other Japanese soldieres, and we're given some foods (palm and bread). I got well. I got sure imformation about the conditions of the war. We even ate bats in the cave. In December, almost every day the U.S. soldiers attacked the living Japanese soldiers. We smelled dead bodies everywhere in the jungle. Our uniforms and boots were worn out. I once used the uniform and boots of a dead soldier. In the night we went down to beach to get seawater. Out of which we got salt (we had to be careful enough to elase the footprints).

    Sometimes we had to hide in the cave for three days without eating anything. One day when we were taking a nap in jungle, we were suddenly attacked by American soldiers. All of us, except me, were killed (my classmate Kuroki Takemasa was also killed.). I managed to escape. I wandered in the jungle again alone, and found luckly another Japanese soldier, and cooperated with each other. Every day the U.S. army was persuading us to surrender becouse the war was over.

    On the 25 in September in 1945, we surrendered to the U.S. Army, and were imprisoned in the U.S. concentration camp. For a month, we were taken good care of, and worked for them every day. On the 23 in October in 1946, I left Guam and on October 29, I landed on Yokosuka near Tokyo.

    That is my experiences during The Pacific War.

    War is a cruel, inhuman act.
    We should try our best to stop a war
    I don't want to remember the war.

    Sincerely yours


    Izumi Sato

Newspaper Article of 13 February 2003:

NEWSPAPER 2003. 2.18

    Izumi Sato, a Japanese veteran, lives in Notohara, Numakuma-cho, and owns a grocery store. He got a letter from an American veteran after an interval of twelve years. The letter said that his memories about the battle during World War II were introduced on the Internet. Although Mr. Sato used to think that he never wanted to remember terrible memories in WWII, he decided to reply to the letter, and described his memories in detail. It is because the US was planning to attack fraq recently and he wanted to contribute to the world peace by showing his experiences on the Internet.

    The American veteran is Keith. W. Johnson. He is 80 years old and lives in Illinois. Mr. Sato, who wished to join the navy, was in Guam in 1944. Since the battle of the Pacific War was getting worse there, Mr. Sato left his graduation album of Numaminani business school in order to make himself to run away quickly. Mr. Johnson, who was a member of the US Marine corps, picked it up and brought it home. In 1989 an American girl, who exchanged letters with a Japanese junior high school student in Gunma prefecture, asked the Japanese student to find the Japanese veteran, as she knew a person, who had his stuffs such as letters and an album. This correspondence enabled Mr. Sato to get his album back in December, 1990 after 46 years.

    Mr. Sato sent a Japanese doll with his letters for his appreciation to Mr. Johnson by 1991. And he also sent a part of the Yomiuri newspaper, which reported that he could get his album back. They were, however, out of contact after 1991. Last December Mr. Sato got a letter from Mr. Johnson after an interval of twelve years. He said in the letter, "I am strongly feeling again the importance of appealing how terrible the WWII was. So, I would like to maintain a friendship with his old friends once more." Moreover, he said that he wrote about the returned album on homepage, which showed a few experiences during WWII by several veterans.

    Mr. Sato replied as the following: "I am remembering my memories during WWII one more time". He wished that his message on the Internet would lead to the world peace. He described a graduation of Numanimami business high school, which was held forward. Moreover, he depicted terrible days when his friends were killed in the battle one by one. He gave concrete descriptions of the battle, as he wrote, "The sound of the squall deaden my footsteps, and helped to hide my presence". "He could barely go down a cliff which had about 50 meters".

    Mr. Sato will ask to translate his description to English, and send it to Mr. Johnson in February if possible. Mr. Sato said, "I hope my description helps to make many people to realize we should have no more war".


Letter of 3 July 2003 to Mr. Sato:

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Keith W. Johnson

Address Witheld by Request

    Dear Mr. Sato;

    I was pleased to receive the translations of the newspaper article and your letter this morning and glad you do not feel I was wrong to introduce your story on the Web page. Each time I read another account of your experiences surviving on the island of Guam, you seem to recall more facts of your time there which was really very short.

    My memory has dimmed some what, but I also can remember the terrible effects of the bombardment from airplanes and warships. I landed on the island D+3 amid a scene of destruction and carnage, both Japanese and American, as the dead had not been taken care of yet. There was a cave on the shore where a large caliber gun was pointed to cover the harbor and the gunners had made direct hits on amphibious landing boats, killing most of those aboard. Both sides paid a heavy price in casualties, both wounded and dead.

    As a result of the casualties, the flies multiplied so fast as to be everywhere, landing on our food and producing sickness like flu only longer lasting. I and most everyone lost many pounds in weight and did not feel like eating. It took us several weeks to gain back our health.

    Well, enough of those memories. I was happy you have been well and have been playing golf everyday. I, too, played golf until I was near 79 years old two years ago and have played twice since then. In fact, I played on Tues July 1 st, with my son and a son-in-law. I was exhausted as my body tires very easy now, which is why I had to quit. That may be my last time to play.

    It takes quite awhile between writing, sending and translating our letters, so we do have to be patient. Fortunately, I found a Japanese student at Rockford College who was kind enough to do it and I printed the Web pages for her to take home as background to the story. So any future letters you may send, I will send to her to do it. She graduated in May and has returned home to seek employment, and that has taken up a lot of her time. She is such a nice young lady and wishes us to continue keeping track of each other. In my wildest imagination, I never imagined, after leaving the Island of Guam, I would be writing and sending letters and e-mail to persons in Japan. Some events in life can be stranger than fiction!

    Sometime, if you feel like it, I would like to learn more about your family and your life since.

    I do feel that the war going on now was not for the United Stated States to take the responsibility upon ourselves and that the United Nations should have resolved to accept that mission. We are mired in two countries with goals left unaccomplished, and no finish in sight. A victory in battle does not guarantee a lasting peace and that should have been our major objective. Although I had no immediate family members serving in either conflicts, I feel a sadness for those who have lost loved ones. Their lives changed instantly forever when that happened. No one can know if they have not experienced war firsthand. I know my family life was changed when my brother was killed on Iwo Jima.

    Maybe I have written more than I should, however these thoughts remain in my mind from those days long ago.

    Thank you for responding and continue in good health. I would like to call you friend.


    Keith W. Johnson

Letters of 20 May 2003 to Mr. Johnson:


Letter No. 1

    I am very sorry to be late to replying. It took time to translate your letter to Japanese. The guy on the picture in the newspaper is not my son but a chief in Numakuma-cho.

    I do not feel uncomfortable at all with showing my experiences in WWII on the Internet. I rather feel very honored with it. I had no idea of how I should live in the battle. Besides, most of my friends died in the battle. So, I had no energy to live, and I was thinking that I could let myself dead after I could see my father and my mother, and I ate Japanese food as much as I could.


Letter No. 2

    As for my computer skills, I do not have PC, and I do not know how to use it. I am 77 years old now, but I am very healthy. I am playing golf everyday. As the end of the letter, please take care of yourself and live as much as you can.


Story received on 21 July 2003
Story placed on website on 22 July 2003

We are deeply grateful for the material provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Keith W. Johnson. This happy ending to his World War II story was made possible through the tireless efforts of the following wonderful folks: Priscilla Stillwell, Rie Nagashima, Tomoko Morishima and Keith's wife, Cynthia.

Without their dedication, this human interest story would not have been written.


image of NEWNow you can read updates and NEW information regarding the continuing story of "The Returned Photo Album".

Keith Johnson has recently returned an additional item that he had found on Guam during the invasion. He has returned another family treasure to yet another family of a former Japanese soldier.

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album"

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album" Part 2

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album" Part 3



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