It was commonly perceived that under Bushido, the Imperial Japanese Army was full of warriors ready to sacrifice their lives anytime anywhere for their Tenno, the imperial emperor. Interestingly, however, few would ever believe that there existed a unit, the Osaka Fourth Division, called “Good-for Nothing” division by Japanese historians, yet its numbered designation was somehow preserved after World War Two. This unit is now the Fourth Division of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force.
Established in 1888, formed mainly by vegetable vendors of Osaka, the Fourth Division was one of the oldest army units. Consisted of four regiments and armed with first-rate weapons, the Fourth Division might have been an elite unit of the Imperial Army. Unfortunately, not long after its formation, its “Good-for-Nothing” bad name had been spread over Japan, especially its core unit, the Eighth Regiment. Because of its record of repeated defeats in the Russo-Japanese War, the unit was nicknamed the “The Eighth that is not afraid to be defeated.” Therefore, the Fourth was never deployed frontline overseas until the breakout of Second Sino-Japanese War. Nevertheless, not being sent to the front did not mean that it lost any opportunities to prove the unit’s rash courage. In 1933, a private of the Fourth disputed with police officers because he ran the red light in downtown Osaka. In the name of “preserving the dignity of the grand Imperial Japanese Army,” the division commander personally led his men to smash the police precinct, resulting in the “Osaka Go-Stop incident” that let Japanese public witness how brave domestically the Fourth was.
In 1937, the Fourth Division was deployed to northeastern China as reinforcement under the command of Kwantung Army. Several generals, including the notorious Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, later known as the “Tiger of Malay,” were appointed as the division commander; however, they all failed to shake up the slack and sloppy Fourth.
After two years of intense training, in 1939, during the Battle of Mukden, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Japan on the China-Mongolian border regions, the Second Division and the Fourth Division were called up to mobilize and reinforce the front. Despite of the fact that the order to move out was issued, the Fourth remained in its barracks because hundreds of the Fourth’s soldiers were asking for sick leaves to immune themselves from going to the front. The regimental commanders had to sit at the front door of the infirmary to kick those who pretended sick away. When the Fourth finally managed to get enough men to move the front, the Soviet Union and Japan announced armistice. Those asking for sick leave all became very excited but made a gesture regretting how sorry they were to lose a good chance to fight.
Ironically, the Fourth that never fired a shot in the battle returned home as a well-spirited hero-like unit and in contrast, the Second Division, which arrived earlier in the battlefield, suffered bitter losses and had as many casualties. The press officers of Kwantung Army were so indignant with the Fourth that they changed the title of their news release from “The great return of our invincible Fourth Division” into “The great return of our unharmed Fourth Division” to indirectly taunt this chickenshit unit.
In August 1945, when Japan surrendered to the Allies, the Fourth Division was put in rest and regroup in Thailand. Unlike other Japanese units that were unwilling to accept the fact of Japan being defeated, the Fourth gladly laid down their arms and was praised by the US Army as “peace-loving.” Records showed that among all the units under Japan’s Southern Expeditionary Army, the Fourth Division had the least combat casualties and equipment losses. Upon its return on Japanese soil, the Fourth showed how “peace-loving” they were, they immediately went to the nearest US barracks and could not wait to set up booths selling war memorabilia for profit. Indeed, they were not called “Good-for-Nothing” for nothing.
Translated from Chinese: