Friday, November 8, 2013

The Rest of the "Japanese" Stories

I was just talking with Dad's old Marine buddy, Don Provin, the other day.  He was asking what stories I had from my Dad's time in the USMC and when he was deployed.

I figured I'd steer him in the direction of this blog, but there are still four stories I can remember about that time that I haven't shared here.  I hope these help Don and I hope they are all the ones there were.  If anyone can remember more please let me know so I can post them.

The first two are what Dad called his:

"Japanese Toilet Stories."  

As they are toilet related I don't think they are appropriate for this blog, and they really wouldn't help Don as he was looking for combat stores which these are definitely not.
"Japanese toilet" in Dar Es Salaam

Let me just say this about them.  The first one involves fecal matter and what Dad always called a "Japanese toilet."  I've included a photo of a toilet of that kind.  They are sometimes called Asian toilets. I call them "floor toilets."

The second story involves stitches.  I will not relate the story but if you watch the movie, "Something About Mary" and you know the story you might recognize the situation there.

The other two stories are disconnected in my memory.  I really don't remember where or when they were supposed to have taken place, but I assume they were sometime while he was deployed overseas (primarily to Japan).  I could call them the:

"Japanese Knife Stories."

The first isn't really a story, but rather a quip or anecdote.  Dad said there were these UN soldiers who each had a knife.  Their tradition was that if the knife was unsheathed it must "taste" blood before being re-sheathed.

I know of two sets of people who have knives with this as a rumored tradition.  The first is the Gurkhas, but I think it is just a myth with them and their kukri knives.  I know Dad did admire the Gurkhas and may have met some, but the tradition seems to not be true.

The second group that I know has a knife tradition (real group, not the fictional Fremen of Dune) is the Sikhs.  One of the five K things they need to have or do is carry a kirpan knife.  It is true that the kirpan must taste blood before being put away.

Compare them yourselves
The story is that the Marines wanted to compare knives.  They showed their Ka-Bars and asked to see the kirpans.  The other soldiers obliged and when they were done the Sikh soldiers pricked their thumbs and put their knives away.

This was very curious and amusing to the young Marines.  They returned to their own group, sitting not too far from the other soldiers.  When another Marine joined their group who had not seen the kirpans before the first group would tell them to go over and ask to see their knives.

The Sikhs were good-natured about this for the first one or two times, but they quickly caught on that the Marines were really just trying to see how many times they would cut themselves.  The next time they sent a Marine over to ask about the knives they took one out as asked, but before putting it away this time they stuck the Marine before putting it away.

The last story really upset me when I heard it and so I never asked for a retelling or further explanation.

If you are squeamish then you should stop reading right now.

Dad said he was cutting tall grass with some Australian soldiers.  They would take a handful of grass and twist it around to hold it up.  Then they would come along with their knives (machetes or Ka-Bars or whatever, I didn't get the details) and cut the bundle of straw at the base.

Dad said he was working near this Australian who, when he made the bundle with his left hand, left his thumb sticking out.  He brought the knife across too close to his hand and cut his thumb.

The way I remember it, and I was prone to imagine the absolute worst when I was younger, what that he cut his whole thumb off.  Later I rationalized that he probably one cut the tip off.  Now thinking about it I'll bet my Dad had said something like, "He cut the whole thumbnail off."

Regardless of how much he cut, it was substantial enough that the Australian could pick up the severed piece.  The story goes that the Australian was so tough that he just picked up his thumb and kept right on cutting grass.