Prologue: Submarines in Deadly Combat
On Christmas Day morning in 1941, shortly after the outbreak of the Pacific War, the submarine Hr.Ms. K XVI of the Royal Netherlands Navy was celebrating its victory over a destroyer of the Imperial Japanese Navy off the shores of Borneo , when it was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166. None of the 36 crew members survived. The Japanese submarine continued its mission successfully until it was sunk by the British HMS Telemachus in the Malacca Straits on July 17 1944. All 88 Japanese soldiers drowned, including the chief engineer of the submarine and the author’s father, Tsuruichi Tsurukame.
Chapter 1: The Vow at Monument Valley
The author, in his early 60s, had been reflecting on his post-retirement life when he meets an elderly gentleman visiting from Japan. Through his generous help, the author obtains information on his father’s submarine that had perished during the Pacific War, and for the first time in his life, the actual date and location of his father’s death. Looking for a place to commemorate the 59th anniversary of his father’s passing, the author travels to Monument Valley and its natural landscape unchanged from time immemorial. There he sees the “Submarine Rock” submerged in the desert sand and gazes the star-filled sky in the darkness of the night. Watching the falling stars, the author resolves to visit the Straits of Malacca, where the I-166 submarine and his father lay in eternal rest.
Chapter 2: In Search of Father
The author is introduced to two volunteers, age 80 and 78, residing in Japan. With their assistance, the research begins to locate the sunken I-166 submarine as well as the wartime propaganda movie “Gochin” in which his father appeared. The author travels to Japan and visits the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry and National Institute for Defense Studies Military Archives, successfully tracking down military records on his father – from the time he joined the Navy at the age of 20 until his death at the age of 38.
Chapter 3: In the Golden Glow of Sunset
Upon identifying the area where his father’s submarine perished, the author flies to Kuala Lumpur with his wife. As he gets closer to the location of his demise, the author recalls the hardships he experienced as a child growing up without a father. A well-known local yacht club provides assistance and the reunion with his father finally becomes reality. The author offers red bougainvilleas in a silent prayer to his father, and feels as though he could hear the voices of his father and his shipmates in the golden glow of sunset.
Chapter 4: An Unexpected Encounter
On the way back to Los Angeles after the reunion with his father, the author goes to a naval base in the Netherlands to offer flowers and pay homage to the HR.MS. K XVI submarine crew. The I-166 sank this Dutch submarine with all 36 hands off the coast of Borneo on Christmas Day of 1941. While intended as a personal gesture of respect, the incident unexpectedly attracts public attention. The author receives an email from Katja Boonstra, the surviving family of a K XVI crew member and is invited to her home where he finds friendship, understanding and goodwill.
Chapter 5: In Search of Surviving Families
Blessed with offers of assistance from numerous individuals, the author continues to find further records on I-166. But the surviving families of the Japanese submarine crew know nothing besides an imprecise location and conflicting dates and times of death that were announced in official war casualty reports. The author and his wife visit Japan again to find surviving families and share what information they had. Through the generous cooperation of the media, the journey is filled with surprising and heartwarming encounters. Photographs are found of the author’s parents taken during a date before their marriage.
Chapter 6: A Startling Discovery
While the search continues for surviving families, the author joins a gathering held in Tokyo to foster reconciliation between British soldiers who were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese Army and the Japanese people. Introduced to Sir Peter Anson, Bt., formerly of the British Royal Navy, the author learns about the 94-year old Commander William King of HMS Telemachus that sank his father’s submarine. The author flies with his wife and son to Commander King’s castle in Ireland where he experiences a most extraordinary and memorable moment.
Chapter 7: Reconciliation and Friendship
After the emotionally inspiring four-day stay in Ireland, the author and his family visit Katja in the Netherlands again, and exchange memories about their parents and life after the war. While some Dutch still feel resentment towards the Japanese, the author encounters many others willing to nurture friendship and trust with Japanese people. He also meets with the Japanese ambassador and the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Spending time with the surviving families of men whose death was caused by his father’s submarine, the author sees hope for peace and understanding between former enemies.
Chapter 8: The Memorial Service and a Promise of Peace
The author receives an email from a woman in Nagasaki whose elderly mother longed to know about her elder brother who died in action. Together they confirm that this man was one of the I-166 crew. She calls upon other surviving families and the first memorial service is held on July 17, attended by 30 people, 60 years after the submarine perished in the Malacca Straits. The author travels to Japan and joins the service with his wife, where he meets individuals who had known his father.
Chapter 9: A Gathering of Three Generations
The Japanese, British and Dutch families continue communicating by email and telephone, and envision a reunion in summer. The three families and three generations meet again at Oranmore Castle in Ireland, where Commander William King resides. Together they plant an apple tree on the estate to symbolize peace and friendship, and the memorable event is featured widely in the local newspaper and television. The words of a renowned local Irish poet leave a lasting impression at the farewell party.
Chapter 10: In Search of the Lost Submarine
The author receives an unexpected email regarding a search for the I-166 submarine organized by the Malacca Straits Council. In October 2004 he flies from Los Angeles to Singapore and boards a ship provided by the Indonesian government to participate in the 8-day search for the submarine. No remains are found, but the author is grateful for the opportunity to see the sunset, hear the roll of thunder and feel the sea breeze that his father surely must have experienced 60 years ago.
Chapter 11: Reflecting on the Past
While the emotional journey in search of his father continues, the author makes another fascinating discovery – the yacht club manager that assisted his ‘reunion’ with his father a year earlier had actually served under the British naval officer who located Commander King. The author travels to Penang in Malaysia, the last dry land where his father would have stood before his death, and reflects upon the many years he had spent without knowing his father.