“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.” ~ Dwight David Eisenhower
It was probably a lazy day at the office in the fall of 1944 or spring of 1945. Having finished a shift full of mundane duties and boring watches, perhaps a few decided to enjoy the sandy beach and pristine waters immediately adjacent to this wooded site. Others were probably enjoying their time off, tending to personal business nearby. Being stationed on a remote island far in the southern reaches of the Ryukyu Chain, and then being billeted to such a small, isolated communications station in a completely rural part of the island, the War in the Pacific seemed many thousands of miles away, if not of a different time.
Then, without warning, death rained down from above. And nothing was ever the same again.
Ishigaki Island is the most inhabited and developed island of the Yaeyama Islands (Yaeyama-shoto) in the deep southwestern waters of Okinawa Prefecture (Ryukyu Islands) and the second of this grouping of sub-tropical isles. The Yaeyama Islands are, at the same time, the mostly southerly and westerly parts of Japan, located approximately 430 kilometers/260 miles south of Okinawa.
On a small peninsula out to the west of Ishigaki-jima is a former Japanese Military Undersea Telegraph Station, built at the turn of last century (1897), which operated until attacked during World War II. While not the easiest place to find, and certainly not a well-visited “touristy” destination, the unimproved road leading to the coastal site is well signed off the primary road in the area. Be prepared though; the long and winding path leading down to the facility can be very rough on your vehicle! We had a rental (wink).
During the time in which Taiwan (then Formosa) was administered by Japan, this small structure served as a critical node in the larger Japanese Imperial Army communications system between Taiwan and headquarters in Honshu. Numerous relay stations were located all the way from the Japanese mainland to Taiwan, all connected by huge undersea cables. From the Sino-Japanese War until World War II, this station, known as Denshinya, was used by the Japanese military.
During WWII, it was attack by carrier-based aircraft, was abandoned, and has been in this damaged state ever since. Severe damage can be seen, and although it appears the building escape a direct hit by bombs, it certainly was well-strafed with heavy machine gun and aircraft cannon fire. Some locals claim that many ghosts haunt the area, but on the bright, warm sunny day of our visit, we unfortunately (fortunately for my wife) encountered none. I cannot find any reports of casualties or of the actual attack in my research (read about the frequency and magnitude of attacks across Ishigaki-jim). Ishigaki was frequently attacked in the lead-up to the Battle of Okinawa, particularly its airfield. Read about an unfortunate American crew that was shot down perhaps at the same time this station was attacked in Beauty and Honor Entombed, and about their particular story Shipley Bay.
The facility was never repaired or reclaimed, and continues to deteriorate. The day we visited there was some archeological study going on, where a Japanese man was taking meticulous measurements which annotated some amazing sketches of the facility he had done. There is no English here, but there are what appears to be a couple of memorial plaques in Japanese. As simple and small as the building may appear, it was once played a key role for the Japanese Imperial Government.
Surveying the scene today, one can only imagine the horror of the day when the facility was attacked. Set in a rustic yet beautifully bucolic setting, I’m sure the death from above was both a shock and a surprise to the Japanese that were pulling duty here. The remoteness of the site, along with the preserved state of battle-damage and ensuing decay, allows this particular location to certainly convey somber and silent commentary on the darker complexion of war. There certainly was no glory here at this station, even though blood was surely shed.
To Visit: Denshinya (Imperial Japanese Army Telegraph) 556, Sakieda, Ishigaki City (Ishigaki-shi), Okinawa Prefecture. There is no fee, nor hours; the site is not lighted, and no facilities are anywhere nearby. Easy beach access is adjacent to the site, but parking is very limited.