Novel races story of Japanese soldier in Vietnam

Richard A. Rajner

Submitted by RICHARD A. RAJNER

Local author Richard A. Rajner has announced the release of his novel, Hiroshi’s Story: The Journals of a Japanese Soldier in Viet Nam, 1941-1968, published by Austin Macauley, New York, NY.  T

During the next few weeks, Rick will be giving short presentations, followed by a question and answer period and a book signing at Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg (April 13 at 2:00) Waterville Branch Library (April 22 at 7:00) and Maumee Branch Library (May 6 at 6:30).   

The book departs from the common themes associated with Vietnam’s twentieth century wars, chronicling the experiences of of a humble enemy private.  Hiroshi Watanabe was one of five thousand Japanese servicemen who volunteered to remain in-country at the end of World War Two, shifting their allegiance from Emperor Hirohito to the Viet Minh. 

Two things separate Private Watanabe from his comrades in both armies:  he recorded his experiences in carefully-written journals, and he soldiered on for a remarkably long time, twenty-eight years, nine months, and four days.
In addition to the conventional accounts of firefights and hardships, Hiroshi takes the reader behind the scenes, describing every imaginable element of life on the other side of the battle lines.  His scope is broader than any historian’s and includes hundreds of little-known (but incredibly interesting) aspects of the wars:  The day-to-day duties of an anti-aircraft gun crew at a backwater airbase; hundreds of miles from the front; The clever propaganda that persuaded thousands of Japanese servicemen to remain in Vietnam; The independence movement’s well-camouflaged base camps, its training regimen, its logistics systems, its rations; and the taxes that paid rebel soldiers. 

Hiroshi also reveals how an ancient remedy used arsenic and other heavy metals to save his life when malaria swept through the ranks; how his unit sawed apart a dud aerial bomb and salvaged the explosives to hand-craft land mines in a jungle workshop; and how teams of locally-based soldiers used the cover of darkness to guide Communist troops and weapons along trail networks that stretched from the Cambodian border to the Mekong Delta. 

Woven among the enemy’s secrets, Private Watanabe also tells the story of his love for Tam, a Vietnamese war widow he acquires in a marriage arranged by his commanders, adding another unusual element to this unique tale. 

The 498-page book is available at Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg, local Barnes and Noble outlets, and Amazon.

Richard A. “Rick” Rajner followed four career paths, all beginning with the letter “S.”  He became a soldier by volunteering for the draft in 1966.  Rick didn’t see the U.S. Army as a vocation; he simply wanted to avoid four years of undergraduate poverty by qualifying for educational benefits offered under the provisions of the GI Bill.  After his unit was attacked near the Korean DMZ, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. 

In 1968, he returned to school, then re-enlisted when he realized his younger brothers were likely to be drafted.  He served two more tours in Vietnam, earning more than two dozen decorations.  After leaving the Army, Rick entered Local 50’s apprentice program; four years later he became a journeyman steamfitter. 

An unsuccessful surgery, which intended to repair a wartime injury, sent Rick back to college where he remained for ten years.  In his years as a scholar, he taught Anthropology and American History, and authored a number of popular, academic, and “history-for-hire” works. 

A few years after he retired, he noticed an a news item announcing a Veterans Writing Workshop offered by Lourdes University and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.  There he found his fourth calling:  storyteller.  Hiroshi’s Story was inspired by one of the in-class exercises in that nine-month course.

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