4. The Unlikely Femme Fatale
The Japan Times described Kazuko Higa as “a diminutive, lantern-jawed woman who could have been charitably called handsome“. Truth be told, she did not look like Hollywood’s image of a femme fatale. However, fate and the vagaries of war cast her into that role in real life, and forced her into a series of marriages that always ended up catastrophically – especially for her husbands. It all began in June, 1944, when the US Navy sank a convoy of three Japanese supply ships off Anatahan, a small Marianas island about 75 miles north of Saipan. 36 soldiers and sailors survived and swam to Anatahan, where they were taken in by the Japanese head of a coconut plantation and his wife. Soon thereafter, American forces invaded the Marianas, seized the main islands, and bypassed smaller ones like Anahatan.
The Japanese there lacked means of communications with their chain of command, and were cutoff and effectively isolated from the outside world. Matters soon grew dire on the resource poor island, as the castaways barely managed to keep body and soul together, and had to survive on coconuts, lizards, bats, insects, taro, wild sugar cane, and any edible that they could find. Things improved somewhat in January, 1945, when a B-29 bomber, on its way back from a raid on Japan, crashed on Anatahan. The castaways scavenged the wreck, and fashioned its metal into crude instruments and useful items such as knives, pots, and roofs for their huts. Parachutes were turned into clothes, the oxygen tanks were used to store water, springs from machine guns were fashioned into fishing hooks, nylon cords were used as fishing lines, and some pistols were recovered.