From the Orlando Sentinel
by Richard Sanger US Submarine Veterans World War II
About 15 years ago, the daughter of the Atule Captain was teaching at a school in Japan. She decided to track down the former prisoner her father's ship had saved. Eventually, she found him. By then Kojima was an Admiral in the Japanese Navy.
Kojima began corresponding with the pharmacist mate who treated burns and hosted him on a visit to Japan. Then he began writing occasionally to other Atule crewmembers.
He first came to the US mainland as a naval officer to study at an U.S. Navy school in Tennessee. His second trip to the United States was just to say thanks to the remaining Atule veterans who saved his life 45 years ago.
Friday, Kojima and about 20 veterans who were Atule crewmembers-- former enemies--shared lunch.
Once dedicated to killing each other, these veterans now face only the barrier of language, and Kojima speaks English well. They don't dwell on the irony of former enemies relaxing at a resort as friends.
"It's long gone," said Church, who helped make arrangements for Kojima's visit. "Old time, enemies fight each other," Kojima said. "But after the war, just friends.
Kojima, 68, said his is getting old and this will probably be his last trip to the United States. But that does not bother him. He has had his chance to say thanks.
Among the World War II veterans at the convention, only Kojima fought for the Axis powers. In 1945, as a 22-year-old Lieutenant, his fob was to use magnetic detectors on planes to spot U.S. submarines.
"He was perfectly willing to drop that bomb on us," said Hollis "Tony" Church of Avon, Conn., an Atule veteran. "That was his job and he damn near did it."