Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

13th March 1945

For once a foreign office circular has arrived on time. Yesterday all diplomatic missions were requested to warn their nationals to stay out of the bombed areas to avoid incidents. There is indeed a possibility that the suffering Japanese may take it out on any “foreign devils” around. The 1923 earthquake was blamed on the Koreans, who were massacred by the thousands. In wartime superstition is sharpened by spy-mania.

Our students, who have the most intimate contact with the ordinary Japanese, have given us many instances of this. One aircraft factory which was bombed blamed the raid on some Chinese students who had been working there on labor service. The suspicion arose from the fact that, by some unfortunate coincidence, all the Chinese students were absent on the day of the raid. One of our own students, riding in the streetcar, was accosted by a fanatic who demanded to know why he was reading “enemy propaganda”. The book was Papini’s “Life of Christ”. Another day he and an Annamese student got into a similar scrape in the streetcar because they talked in the “enemy’s language”, English. During the altercation that followed with the Japanese diehard, they kept insulting the ignorance and intolerance of the Japanese people in English asides to each other. The matter was finally fixed up by a policeman who had been standing nearby all along. He spoke perfect English.

But the currents of hate and discontent are various, unpredictable. Another student had witnessed a different kind of incident. A young Japanese peasant had got into the wrong compartment in a train. He was immediately upbraided for his insolence by an arrogant army major who slapped the boy around until a navy officer, apparently of higher rank, intervened. It was now the turn of the army major to be scolded and slapped for maltreating one who might be “a future leader and hero of Japan”. The navy man ended up by ordering the major to get off at the next station and walk. So it is, according to the story, that the Japanese speak of “the army — their government — our navy.”