Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

13th May 1945

Signs of the times: the fourth and fifth sections of the bureau of political affairs of the foreign office are moving out of Tokyo to the provinces. They deal with European and American affairs.

My informant, a Japanese diplomat, said also there was no question of surrender for Japan. “It would be foolish to give up now,” he said. “We have little left to bargain with.” Was he hoping for a clash between the Anglo-Americans and the Soviets? No, he was not so stupid as that. What was the way out then? He shrugged his shoulders. His face was haggard. They would just have to keep on fighting till there was nothing left in Japan. He was too honest to speak about Japan’s allies in Asia; Japan, he knew, was not fighting at the head of Asia; she was facing Asia, as well as the rest of the world.

Listening to him I remembered the cadets at the Japanese military academy from various countries in Greater East Asia. These boys might be taken for Japanese; they were popular Japanese uniforms and receive the salutes of all Japanese soldiers lower in rank. They get the same rations; lodging; supplies, and equipment as Japanese cadets. As a matter of fact the academy authorities have bent over backwards in some cases to keep them happy. In response to a half-joking complaint of the Indian cadets, who asked that everyone stand at attention when the name of Subhas Chandra Bose was mentioned just as they were required to do when the emperor was named, instructors and students now stiffened up at the names of all the Daitoa heads of state. For the rest of it, they were not too unhappy; they were young enough to like the discipline and special privileges of the army. They were being rushed through military training; they had run through a year’s course in a few months; the academy, they had been told, was above all “the school where men where taught how to die.” Thus tank-busting reduced itself, they were taught, to hurling one’s self upon the armored vehicle, explosive in hand. It was surer that way, and cheaper.

But already they were too old to believe in Japan and Daitoa. They had seen to many things in their native countries. They exhibited the curious recurrent phenomenon of all Japanese attempts at indoctrinating the youth of Asia: at the academy all the other Asians would gang up against the Japanese. This, I thought, was all that remained of Japan’s intoxicating dream of leading the “one billion Asian” to the conquest of the world. How many were they in all? Not more than a hundred boys, running irreverently on the edge of contempt, suspicion, and insubordination, while he who would have been master bowed ingratiatingly at the names of his creatures. All those phantom armies of fanatics, irresistible, innumerable, had dwindled down to this poor raw handful of cynical youngsters who must be coddled lest they sulk in their barracks. Now in this desperate pass Japan was reaping the harvest of arrogance, distrust, tyranny and wanton cruelty. It was no longer mere foreboding. Samson had pulled the temple down over his head and the deadly avalanche had broken all over Asia.

Returning to Miyanoshita in the evening I saw the Burmese military attache for the first time in many weeks. He was feverish with excitement. The secret plans he had confined in me so often had matured. The Burmese national army had gone over to the British. He was in an anguish of impatience and regret. He had been one of the founders of that army. He had trained with it in secret hideouts off the coast of China even before the war. He had marched with it into Burma at the heels of the British. He had shared its disillusionment, its rage, its plane for revenge on the Japanese. Now, at the crucial moment, he was sitting in an hotel room at the foot of Fuji. He was my best friend in Japan. He had shared many secrets and I had always thought I knew all there was to know about him. But now, as he laughed his curious laugh and strode and stamped about the room, he seemed to me for the first time to be a symbol for all of Asia. He had suffered much at the hands of the white man, whom he had hated. Thrown into prison at 19, his career in medicine ruined at the very start, his private life thenceforth harried and hurt by police, he had spent 10 years agitating for the independence of his people. He had believed in Japan as the liberator of Asia and he had been betrayed. Liberation had become a mockery. The liberator, a clumsy and hateful tyrant. And now, if he still hated Britain, he hated Japan even more. Asia had found a new master and a new enemy.