It was July 1944. The Americans had destroyed the Japanese naval forces at Saipan and taken the island. Captain Sakae Oba of the Japanese Army refused to acknowledge defeat. The Imperial Japanese Navy was bound to return and he would be there on that day.
Oba and his loyal followers found others hiding in the jungle and hills surrounding Mt. Tapotchau: stray soldiers and civilians. He organised the soldiers, pooled all weapons; set the civilians up in camps and kept them hidden and fed. For eighteen months he and his band of followers held out, harrying the Americans, continually fighting and outwitting more than 4,000 Marines. And the Americans had declared Saipan secure!
As we watch the moves of the cunning and courageous Japanese, we also witness their profound inner struggles. Four of the older naval officers prepare to commit hara-kiri. To die for the Emperor is honourable, but to be taken prisoner, a disgrace. Younger followers prepare to die another way, in a gyokusai, a suicide attack. But to uphold personal honour and remove oneself from the fight may be a losing tactic. Would it not be better to live and have the chance to fight for the Emperor and win? It was not an easy decision.