Wargame Wednesday: 自身の掩護 (Shelters for the Self)

Wednesday , 20, February 2019 2 Comments

Shelters for the Self is a book by James La Fond and your’s truly. I was fortunate to be asked by James (a Wargame Wednesday fan) to take a look at a transcription of an Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sailor’s diary drafted during the 1944 battle on Biak Island.  The original diary was lost and the typewritten transcription was almost certainly translated by a Japanese (presumably after the war in Japan during the Occupation period) not fluent in English. The translator’s English was good enough for most of the text but did leave a few questions on what he meant from the original.  An example was the sailor’s first name given on the translated document: Kiwiwojo.   There’s no such name in Japanese though I made some educated guesses. In the end I decided to only refer to him by his last name throughout the text.

The book title, Shelters for the Self, gives another example of trying to work with a second-hand document translated from one language to another then trying to reconstruct the Japanese without the original available. The diary entry for 22 May 1944 ends with “We also dug shelters for the self”.  Obviously, the sailor, Koyama-san, was talking about digging in but the nature of that digging in was lost in the original translation.  I took my best shot at translating the title back into the Japanese (see my end note).

The book is advertised on Amazon with 150 pages for the paperback edition. Please note that there are blank pages between diary entries. I’m not sure what the formatting issue was and also keep in mind that this is a translation of a diary, written by a sailor on active service in a war zone. This isn’t a memoir but only some quick and brief notes, probably jotted down in a small notebook. The entry for the ebook states 30 pages.  There are more than 30 pages of texts and content but remember, the diary entries are short and the eBook page count probably means full pages of text.

I am proud of what we could discover and deduce from a secondary document.  I’m am reasonably certain of Petty Officer Koyama’s unit and general location as the battle unfolded.  Much is speculation or educated guesses based on what Koyama jotted down. I believe we exhausted all resources for amateur military historians and any more information can only come from archival research in Japan.  There may be a few Koyama’s in either of the two IJN anti-aircraft units on the island but a surviving muster of those units showing but the odds get better as we know his rank plus the diary gives us a clue of his home prefecture.

Finally, if you are not a Amazon fan, you can purchase a .pdf file direct from James but making a donation here. and make sure you state in your Paypal order that it is for a copy of Shelters for the Self.  Not just for Shelters but for any of James’ ebooks or .pdf’s he lets the reader decide the amount of the donation. For quicker turn around best to accompany your Paypal order with an e-mail to Lynn’s gmail account:     lynnlockhart328

And the reason you won’t find me in the Japanese archives anytime soon is I probably got the Kanji wrong for the title and many folks have different interpretations.  There is a modern version of kanji for protection from air attack and I probably should have used that. Next issue is that Japanese kanji has been simplified since WW2.  For those interested here is my attempt:

自身の掩護, literally “自身 oneself 掩 (enjo) war related 護 protection”

Believe the kanji used for protection in my translation is more for protection one can wear or don, not tunnels or trenches.



  • Scott, thank you so much for bringing this book to a wider audience! It offers an austere and affecting view, at a human scale, of the massive war about which so much has been written.

    In formatting the text, it was my intention to have the diary text always on the left hand page and any commentary on the right hand page. As there wasn’t commentary for every entry, this did result in some blank pages. Prospective readers should know that it comes in at about 5,200 words, and could be presented in around 30-40 pages of condensed text.

  • james lafond says:

    Scott, there was no way I could have done this document justice that I found in my landlord’s collection of family papers, all of which have since been turned over to the brother of the man who found the diary, who was killed in a car accident soon after his return home to Baltimore, Maryland in 1947, I believe.

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