Bushido was really a code of chivalry to have respect for your enemy. During WWII the Japanese Army turned it to something more sinister.They turned it more into a code of death and destruction. Fortunately there were still some soldiers who decided to honor the real Bushido code.
Mario Tonelli was just one of 72,000 men who took part in the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March, in which the Japanese Army forced defeated Filipino-American forces to walk from their former bastion of Bataan to nearby concentration camps. During the days-long march, thousands of prisoners fell by the wayside due to disease or injuries. They also had to endure the brutal treatment of captors who beat, bayoneted, and shot those too weak to trudge on.
Like his comrades, Tonelli was exhausted and on the verge of giving up, when he encountered the unlikeliest source of inspiration. It all started when a Japanese soldier took Tonelli’s class ring from him. Tonelli had been a college football star at Notre Dame and wore that ring with him to the Philippines. Shortly afterwards, a Japanese officer came up to the astonished Tonelli and handed him back his ring. He explained that he had once been a student at the University of Southern California and had watched Tonelli’s Notre Dame decisively beat his team in 1937. He knew how much that ring meant and he just had to return it. That little incident gave Tonelli the hope he needed to survive the rest of the war.
Probably one of the last things you could expect from a Japanese soldier during the Second World War was mercy. Yet in the closing days of the war, one Japanese pilot broke that stereotype and showed his sense of honor by sparing a defenseless enemy. Corporal Hideichi Kaiho and his fellow pilots had been engaged in a dogfight with American B-29s over Tokyo in 1945. The Japanese managed to down one bomber and force its crew to bail. One of the men, navigator Raymond “Hap” Halloran was parachuting at 3,500 feet when he was spotted by Kaiho and two other Japanese planes. Halloran knew full well the Japanese took no prisoners—so he figured he might at as well wave at the three planes.
Miraculously, two of the planes went away, while the one flown by Kaiho continued to fly around and protect him.
Over five decades later, Halloran would meet and thank the man who saved him that day. Kaiho later revealed that his commander encouraged him and his fellow pilots to observe the real Bushido code (the one not corrupted by the Japanese military), which espoused graciousness towards the enemy.
The USS Indianapolis, led by Captain Charles McVay, was ordered to head toward Guam by going through the Leyte Gulf. What the U.S. Navy didn’t tell him was the Leyte Gulf at the time was a haven for Japanese submarines, and that ships passing through should do so with extreme caution.
Lacking the intel that he was in unfriendly waters and exercising his order to perform evasive maneuvers “at his discretion,” McVay told the crew to just head straight forward, and bid them a good night. Unfortunately the Japanese submarine I-58, captained by Mochitsura Hashimoto, noticed the Indianapolis heading straight toward it and immediately sank it.
McVay survived and World War II ended, but soon thereafter he found himself in a court martial for negligence in the sinking of his ship (probably as a scapegoat to cover for the other Navy guys who completely botched the Indianapolis’ travel instructions and subsequent rescue.
In the trial, the U.S. Navy made the fairly unprecedented step of bringing in Hashimoto as a witness . He was brought in as a witness for the prosecution, expected to talk about the gross incompetence of the American captain, hoping he would seal McVay’s fate. Rather unexpectedly, when Hashimoto took the stand he outright defended McVay, stating that no matter what he had done, the Indianapolis still would have been hit by his torpedoes.
The U.S. Navy still found McVay guilty regardless of what Hashimoto said, demoting him and basically ruining his naval career. Though Admiral Nimitz would wind up promoting McVay back to his old rank soon thereafter, the trial decision still stood — that is, until Hashimoto decided to help McVay out again. Hashimoto sent a letter to Senator John Warner, an action that helped lead to McVay being exonerated.