Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

26th February 1945

Having slept through several alerts and alarms we woke up to find the apartment and the neighborhood without water, electricity or gas. Our own apartment was somewhat luckier than the rest. For some mysterious reason one of the two gas burners in the kitchen range was working although with scarcely a centimeter or two of visible flame. But our neighbors could use neither gas range nor electric stove and they had to go down to the basement for a pail or two of water since the pipes had frozen and the pressure was down.

We did not have the heart to complain after going through the hit areas. The snow was two feet deep in the streets but early risers, going sightseeing like ourselves or off to work, had tramped down lanes where it was comparatively easy to walk. No streetcars were running but the town seemed to be out on the streets. There were no grimier or gloomier faces than usual even when we got to the bombed areas four or five blocks away. Everyone seemed to be taking it stoically although the damage had been considerable. The fire had spread irregularly but there were corners from where the ruins seemed to stretch as far as the eye could reach. The elevated railway was unharmed and its rails ran uninterruptedly overhead. All the bigger reenforced concrete buildings were also still standing, smudged, solitary, forlorn in the wastes of Kanda. It was easy to see that the new fires had started almost at the very edge of the old ones; there was a checkerboard pattern of snow-covered ruins and fresh ones, still black, dirty, like unbandaged wounds.

Those who had congratulated themselves on being spared the fate of their next-door neighbors were now themselves poking about the debris of their own homes. Still they comported themselves admirably. Those who had sheltered their neighbors only a week before now moved in on their neighbors. One family, evidently more foresighted, had pitched a green canvas tent on the sidewalk in front of the ruins of their home. Others had put up amid packing cases under the elevated railway causeways. Still others were crouched among their belongings in the public toilets. Possibly all these people were still numb and dazed by disaster. At any rate no one wept except a child of two or three on the back of its mother. She was busy, absorbed in counting some glass beads she had salvaged and carefully knotting the frayed and burnt thread that held them together. But all of a future of wretchedness and misery could be seen in the gay Japanese quilts scattered about on the snow or left on top of last night’s air-raid shelters, half-burnt, still smouldering. Without bedclothes these people would spend many terrible nights although perhaps only the very old and the very young would die.

Already one family was having recourse to a pathetic source of heat; they were huddled together around a blazing timber from their own house. Others were more energetic; they dug up chairs that had been hastily thrown out of the window and now lay buried in the snow. Or they salvaged what they could or dared from the smoking ruins: a brazier, cracked and dented, a blackened ladle, a stray cup astonishingly whole. There were many of these people, mostly bedraggled woman, carrying their load of odds and ends in a pail, a handcart, a wet and muddy kerchief.

Where were they going next? We were puzzled by the problem until we met one of the Filipinos who had had personal experience of the solution the night before. A bomb had fallen through the roof of the house next-door to his but had fortunately failed to explode. In the expectation however that it would go off sooner or later, all the neighbors had been ordered out of doors and into the shelters. Then they had been moved to a nearby schoolhouse where their name’s were taken and where they were asked to spend the night. Our man found himself in a small room with 10 or 12 women, their babies, and one small charcoal brazier. For supper the neighborhood association served rice and bean-paste soup; the same for breakfast in the morning. It is to these schooolhouses, most of them closed down for the duration and now made available to neighborhood associations, that air-raid victims are sent pending more permanent arrangements.

Later in the day we asked a Japanese doctor how long he thought the people would stand it. He answered us by giving some samples of the horror propaganda spread to stiffen the Japanese will to resist. One is that the Americans plan to castrate all the male Japanese and turn the women over to Negroes, thus destroying the Yamato race. Another is that Japan will be turned over to the Chinese who will be permitted to pay back in kind all Japanese excesses in China. Prospects for peace do not seem so bad when men have to be told such monstruous lies in order to get them to kill one another — unitl one sees how easily men may be made to believe them.