Living… on Iwo Jima, a small island 750 miles south of mainland Japan. He’s overseeing the construction of the military’s defense infrastructure and preparing for the inevitable American assault. Though it’s unorthodox, Kuribayashi opts to dig a network of underground tunnels rather than mount artillery directly on the beach.
Profession… general in the Japanese army. Kuribayashi is a patriotic and brave leader of men. He reassures his troops: “I will always be in front of you.” He toured the United States between 1928 and 1930 as a cavalry officer. He befriended many American military officers and received a silver Colt revolver from one as a token of their friendship. Now, however, it’s the Americans that he has to fight.
Interests… dispensing small tokens of wisdom, as if offering a breath mint. “Everything happens in threes,”or, “A good officer uses his head, not his whip.”
Relationship Status… married to his wife Yoshii, with whom he has a son, Taro, and two daughters, Yoko and Takoko. Although Kuribayshi rarely sees his wife due to his military assignment, they communicate regularly through letters.
Challenge… keeping morale high, knowing the odds of defeating the Americans at Iwo Jima are astronomical. “The cave digging may be futile,” he says. “The stand on Iwo may be futile. The whole war may be futile. But would you give up then? If our children can live safely for one more day, it'll be worth one more day that we defend this island!” Perhaps worse than the Americans are the conditions Kuribayashi and his soldiers are forced to work in: intense heat and humidity, relentless mosquitos, food and water shortages, diarrhea, and nothing approaching entertainment.
Personality… hard working and patriotic. Kuribyashi is a man of the people; he never talks down to his soldiers, and is happy to partake in the manual labor himself. He is truly proud to fight for his country. For all of his admirable traits – leadership, compassion, discipline – he is most admirable for his commitment to uphold his honor.
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