As a raw Probational Officer stationed in western Sumatra in September, 1942, Kan Nakamura was concerned about how he would perform when leading his platoon in combat. The goal he held for himself was to become like the name of the steamship he boarded for the Solomons, the Kiyosumi Maru -- "very clear" -- and to put behind his longing for family and native country, and he eagerly imbibed the stories of veteran officers about their experiences campaigning. With American pressure mounting on the garrison at Guadalcanal, Nakamura's regiment was sent to Rabaul, New Guinea, for assignment, arriving on October 4. Captured almost a year before, Rabaul was relatively securely held, and, according the Nakamura, would have been a pleasant stopping place if not for the looming presence of battle and the regular threat of air raids. Within a short time of his arrival, however, the inevitable guests, malaria and dysentery visited, also worked to spoil Rabaul, laying Nakamura low with a high fever, but not quite dampening his ardor or anxiety for the front lines.
During October and November, the Japanese Imperial command attempted to saturate Guadalcanal with enough reinforcements to mount an offensive, and thus on November 9, Nakamura got his chance at the front lines. However upon his arrival, it became quickly clear that the situation on Guadalcanal was not what Nakamura had come to expect from listening to Pacific veterans. "I can hear the constant roar of guns from the direction of the front lines," he wrote, "It seems as though our forces aren't firing a single shot as they have no ammunition or rations. Sometimes the enemy planes would come and strafe us. It makes me boil with anger when they come to strafe us" (1942 November 11).
Allied air superiority subjected Japanese forces to a relentless pressure from above, creating in many soldiers, like Nakamura, a mental state that fluctuated between demoralization and anger. The addition of an effective naval bombardment in December only added to the mix of emotions. Nakamura's platoon, stationed near the Isamu River, entrenched themselves ever deeper, camouflaging themselves to make tougher targets, but one after another soldier fell out of the ranks, killed or wounded. As at Rabaul, disease was a constant companion as well, exacerbated by the poor rations and exposure. Nakamura's malaria frequently flared up, and on December 2, he reported a fever of 39.4 degrees.
By mid-December, the Japanese command reached the decision that their position on Guadalcanal was no longer tenable, and decided to withdraw. The conditions among the Japanese troops had reached an alarming state as a result of badly depleted stores and uncertain lines of supply. Nakamura was reduced to whole days without food, and he and his comrades made do by foraging for crabs, coconuts, and the occasional pineapple. After eating a day's worth of yams, fried rice, and yam soup, he wrote "I didn't even dream that we could eat things like these on Guadalcanal. Well, I guess I can die anytime now" (1942 December 21). On the last day for which we have information on Nakamura, January 7, 1943, he wrote "I hope we'll execute a night attack as I want to eat the enemy food."