11th May 1945

A small peace clique is now taking shape in Japan. One of its leaders is sopposed to be General Ugaki who has, according to the story, openly announced his readiness to negotiate a peace through his former good friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Ugaki has never been on good terms with his army colleagues; the army overthrew him when he was premier because he tried to cut the army budget. Now the military police is keeping an eye on Ugaki. The former Japanese ambassador to London, Yoshida, has already been arrested.

But the mass of the people is still for the war; while the Suzuki cabinet is none too popular, the premier himself has won the hearts of the people with his opening statement calling for victory “even over my dead body”. The army however is definitely out of favor. The present cabinet is a navy cabinet and, as one indication, its war minister stood in the last row in the official photographs. My informant had one more version of the fall of Koiso. The former premier, he said, has resigned because he disagreed with the army chiefs on strategy; that as the core of the official and semi-official explanations hinting at a lack of coordination between the armed forces and the administration. The army wanted to fight in Burma and the Philippines; Koiso, perhaps with an eye on internal conditions, favored withdrawal, at least of the bulk of the air force, to the homeland for defense against the B-29’s. Koiso seems to have won his point in defeat because it is said that the air garrison in Tokyo has been considerably strengthened while the Philippine and Burmese armies have been practically abandoned.


10th May 1945

As the last breached wall of Hitler’s Reich crumbled and collapsed, Japan peered through the choking cloud of rumor, report, glimmering hope and thickening despair and as it settled over the ruins of the new order in Europe, found herself alone against the world. There could no longer be a doubt; Germany had surrendered; Germany had ceased to exist. In Tokyo, lying naked in her wounds a under the shadow of this disaster, the Imperial Japanese Government hurriedly called an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet in the premier’s official residence at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. By 6:30 p.m. an official statement had been adopted. Half an hour later, in awe and trepidation, the tall old admiral, proceeded in his sagging corpulence to the imperial palace and “reported the matter to the throne.” At 7:30 p.m. the following statement was released by the board of information.

“The empire regrets from the bottom of its heart the surrender of Germany, a country which was an ally of Japan. The war objective of the empire, from the start, has lain and still lies in the right of the empire to existence and self-defense. This is the immutable conviction of the empire and a sudden change in the European war situation does not cause the slightest alteration in this war objective of the empire. The empire seeks together with its allies in East Asia to crush the inordinate ambition of the United States and Britain to trample East Asia underfoot with their selfish designs and brute force. The empire seeks thereby to guarantee the stability of East Asia.”

Ringed by foes, at bay on her burning island, with the earth already shaking and slipping underneath in the first echoing tremors from Europe, Japan fiercely assured herself that she had never known defeat and would never know it. The Germans were different. “I hate the idea of whipping a dead body,” wrote Lieutenant-General Yahei Oba in the Asahi today, “but I feel that there was one important thing lacking in the fighting strength of the Germans. That was the spirit of the special attack corps and also the morale of the close-in attach with drawn sword in hand.” The postmortem had started and would continue for some time. Germany, according to the vernaculars, lost because she failed to invade England in 1940, because she put too much faith in the submarine-counter-blockade, because she went to war with the U.S.S.R. because the Nazis clashed with the Reichswehr, because Hitler lost control of the party, because Himmler quarreled with Goering and Goering quarreled with Goebbels and Ley. The Tokyo Shimbun said what to the Japanese must have been the last word: “There is something in the attitude of the German people that is incomprehensible to us Japanese. For us the word surrender does not exist in the dictionary.” But a Japanese told me a meaningful story today. When the tripartite pact was announced in Tokyo, the former foreign minister Katsuoka had an ominous comparison for it, one familiar to every Japanese. Germany and Japan, he said, were lovers who had made a suicide pact.

 

 

 


9th May 1945

Language has its subtle treacheries and they are probably nowhere more plentiful than in the ordinary translation from Japanese into English. This morning’s Times carries two articles on the special attack corps that, largely perhaps from differences in expression and ways of thought, stumble from the pathetic to the silly and then step suddenly into genuine emotion.

The first is the account of a visit by a staff-member of the Asahi to a tokotai unit. It follows: “The quarters of the members of the special attack corps were located in a very plain building. There were no mats to be seen on the floor. Instead there were two quilts and two mattresses per man, gifts from the people of the neighboring village. In an inner room was an altar. Before it were placed two caskets containing the ashes of comrades who had given their lives to keep the enemy away from their beloved country. All the men wore their flying suits throughout the day. They had no other clothes. It was exactly six hours before their departure on a campaign from which they had no hope of returning alive, that I visited their quarters. Sergeant-Major Shimote of Hiroshima prefecture and Sergeant-Major Watanabe of Ehime prefecture were bending over a map that was spread out on the floor. In their left hands they held rulers. They were drawing lines lengthwise and crosswise. Sergeant Takeda of Shizuoka prefecture knelt down beside Sergeant-Major Shimote, asking: “We are to change course at x degree, aren’t we?” The heads of the sergeant and the sergeant-major came into contact. As one of them said something, the other nodded. This they did several times; each time their heads bumped together. But they made no attempt to prevent their heads from colliding. They were so deeply immersed in their work that it seemed they found infinite pleasure in it.

“Sergeant-Major Hashimoto of Hiroshima prefecture was sharpening a pencil nearby. He kept sharpening it only to keep breaking off the point. He repeated this several times. At length when the pencil had grown too short, he put it away and, producing another pencil, set about sharpening it. He was equally unfortunate in this attempt. But he kept sharpening with untiring energy, which was a quite a wonder to me. As I watched him at his work I felt an excitement such as is produced by the sight of some dramatic event. I felt as though my heart were being wrung. I found difficulty in breathing. Then a thought flashed across my mind. I felt my throat tightening. The four men before me were truly wonderful. There was nothing unusual about them. It would have their movements and speech had suggested even in the remotest manner that these four fliers were on the point of going to meet death. But there was nothing of that.

“After much hesitation I suggested that people in general were under the impression that the men of the special attack corps were doomed to die. The answer to this came from Sergeant-Major Watanabe: “Everybody is wondering about that. It is of no importance to us. From the time I change over to aviation I determined not to get married.” He added after a short pause: ‘To tell the truth, I do not remember having got it into my head to have a definite view of life and death.’

“Here Sergeant-Major Hirate entered, holding a casket containing the ashes of a comrade of his, Sergeant-Major Nakamura. Saying it was getting late, and that it was time to go to bed, he lay himself upon the mattress.

“‘We are to leave the ground in formation so be careful not to be half-asleep and crash into my buttocks,” said Sergeant-Major Watanabe to Sergeant-Major Hirate as he also went to bed.

“Presently a man from the communications corps came in. To him Sergeant-Major Shimote said: “Be sure to be on your guard. It will not be for more than an hour from X to X o’clock. Be sure.’ He repeated this several times in a loud voice. What the signal man was asked to do was to get in touch with the base by wireless the moment the members of the special attack corps rammed into the enemy. The report should be a confirmation of the fact that the members had fulfilled their mission and at the same time it would be something of a farewell to their mother-country.

“I produced a cigarette and asked Sergeant Hashimoto to give me a light I pressed the end of my cigarette to the lighted one of Sergeant Hashimoto and puffed away vigorously. I did this two or three times in the belief that by inhaling the smoke of a cigarette lighted by a member of the special attack corps, I would become imbued with the spirit of the corps. Sergeant Hashimoto was looking at me in wonder as I went through this performance. As I returned his cigarette to him, my hand touched his. I felt that there was nothing to distinguish my hand from his. I and the members of the special attack corps bathed together. We drank together. We sang together. We joked with one another. Essentially we were the same and yet we were different. Aloud I wondered why. Sergeant-Major Watanabe, who had overheard me, turned to me and said: ‘It is because you think about death too deeply.…”

x x x

The second article is by a correspondent of the Mainichi at the base of the Koma unit of the special attack corps. He writes: “One night when the members of the Koma unit were in their barracks, warming up for the action scheduled on the next day, an officer came up to me. In his hand was a square notebook which he asked me to place in his mother’s hands. A glance at the book showed that there were two Y100 notes between the pages. On the cover were written the words: To Mother, as well as his full name and the unit to which he belonged. ‘I’ll be glad to oblige you,’ I told him. A short silence fell. ‘I suppose you would not like me to see the contents of the book,’ I said, looking into his face with the air of a man who is afraid his request will be refused. ‘I have written nothing of a confidential nature there,’ he replied. ‘But I am ashamed of my writing. I was so poor at composition when I was a boy.’ He smiled and continued: ‘I was a spoiled child and must have caused my mother a great deal of trouble.’ The young sub-lieutenant spoke very quietly. I found it hard not to bow to him when he finished speaking. Here are some of the entries in sub-lieutenant Watanabe’s diary:

“Mother, I think that you will rejoice at my having joined the special attack corps. I and the rest of us have been the recipients of great imperial favors, as were our ancestors. Nothing is a greater honor to me than to be able to requite even the smallest portion of the imperial favor which has been granted to us and those who went before us….

“‘We came into the world to die. We have now learned to die….

“‘Mother, I am going along young airmen, some of whom are barely 20, and all of whom I have taught. Oh, Mother, shed tears for them. In their youthfulness, assailed by momentary thoughts of home, they are said to have shed tears throughout the night after receiving orders to take the field….

“‘Since I came to live at the barracks it has been my custom to go out to the middle of the airfield in the dead of night and pray that I may not be behind the others in offering my life for our country. Tonight there was a half-moon in the sky. As I looked up to it many thoughts crowded into my mind. I remembered a spring festival at a shrine, which I attended with my mother. I was dressed in a brand-new dark-blue suit with a knitted shirt that smelled strongly of camphor. In my right hand I clutched some candy that my mother had bought for me along the way….

“‘Today I find myself overwhelmed by emotion. This base is the last corner of Japanese land upon which my feet will stand. Tomorrow I am to take off. My mind is as clear as the bright sky of Japan. Mother, sayonara.’”

 

 


7th May 1945

For the past four days the Japanese government and press have mourned for Hitler and his Reich, Mussolini and his Republic. In the afternoon of the 3rd Suzuki expressed his “profound sympathy”. At the same time Togo called on the German ambassador to express deep condolences. The next day Iguchi, the official spokesman, eulogizing Hitler, declared that “his spirit, his labors, and his ideals will surely live in the hearts and minds of the German people. He will leave an indelible mark in history as one of the greatest leaders of nations, as a man of great vision who peered far ahead into the future, and as a man of action and labored with messianic zeal to create an order in Europe which would ensure stability, peace, and progress.” The press was not slow to follow the official lead. The Mainichi on Hitler and Mussolini: “Two great stars falling from the sky, trailing a magnificent glory behind them….” The Nippon Sangyo Keizai: “Tears of sympathy…” The Times on Hitler: “One of the towering characters of world history..”

But now the mourners are back from the graveyard and they are sitting uneasily in the lawyer’s office, waiting for the will to be read. The new heir does not look too friendly and the estate is bankrupt. Yesterday, calling a press conference hastily, the foreign minister made it clear that if the new Doenitz government was, as reported, making a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans, it was violating the tri-partite pact and Japan was consequently reserving freedom of action. Dutifully echoing the new line Asahi grumbled: “It is very regrettable that Germany has lost her political vision and virtue and ignored international goodfaith….”

 

 

 


6th May 1945

There was quite a heavy downpour today. A French brother laughed after Mass: “It’s a hailstorm. But now it is no longer Heil Hitler but Hail Columbia.” Coming down afterward from Gora to Miyanoshita on the electric tram I noticed, that there were two cars instead of the usual one. The First was packed to the doors; the other, completely empty except for two Soviet diplomats. The Japanese police are now so suspicious of them that they will no longer allow them in the same cars with the rest of us.


5th May 1945

About 800 families, who were burnt out in the last raid on Tokyo, have set up housekeeping in their air-raid shelters, reports the Times. A typical group of 45 families, after subsisting on the emergency ration of rice and dry biscuits, has worked out a “relay system of rationing” under which they take turns going to the distribution centers unharmed by fire. They take their baths in an open stone pool in the neighborhood; there is plenty of fuel in the debris. But their biggest problem of course is housing. The shelters are usually shallow ditches, floored with mats. In some districts water seeps through, two feet below the surface. Drainage will be a universal problem when the rains come. In preparation for this, most of the households have put up rude roofs over the ditches, using the rusty iron sheets scattered throughout the raided areas. Over or under the sheets earth is packed closely. One physician is quite happy over his new home. “It has one great advantage,” he says. “When the air-raid signal is blown, you don’t have to get out of bed.”


4th May 1945

The Times today publishes in translation the letter of a Japanese mother, written to a lieutenant in the Shimbu unit of the special attack corps who had sent her a photograph of her son, a corporal in the same unit. “The letter,” notes the Times, “was written on a piece of rolled paper. The calligraphy was pleasing to the eye. The Letter itself, a revealing struggle between the conventions of patriotism and an elemental anguish, follows:

“It is spring and I am full of a profound sense of gratitude to you. I am the mother of X, whose photograph you were so kind as to send me some time ago. I am in tears under the influence of the strong emotions that come upon me at the thought that you were good enough to send me the last photograph of my son, after you had done so much kindness to him. I know from the newspapers and the radiobroadcasts that were young men are ending their lives gloriously by ramming enemy vessels. It pains my heart to think that our country Japan is facing such a severe trial. I was anxiously hoping for the speedy arrival of the day when my son, a man utterly inexperienced in military service, would go into action without doing anything that might expose him to the charge of delaying in the demonstration of his loyalty to the national cause. Then I was informed of his selection for your (special attack) unit. There could be no greater joy for me, as a mother in a military country, a mother of Japan fighting the decisive battle. All I have to do now is to pray that he performed a great deed for our land Japan. After I received the photograph I stared at it for a long time. I tool it out of its envelope many times, with the thought that my son wished to speak to me. But I looked at my son in the photograph not as my son but as a soldier of the empire. Still I find it difficult to think that my son is no more. Whenever l hear the roar of a training plane it is with difficulty that I keep myself from running out; I think then that it is my son who has come to say goodbye after all. Please do not laugh at this, considering it the fancy of a foolish woman. My only wish, I assure you, is for the day of victory.”


3rd May 1945

“Is it true that Hitler has been killed?” asked our maid this morning. I told her that it was only a rumor but that it was definite Mussolini had been shot. She did not seem to care about Mussolini but she mourned for the Fuehrer.

“What do you care?” I asked her. “He was not a Japanese and besides, you do not know the many bad things he did.”

But nothing could shake her admiration for the bold ruthless man whose picture she had so often seen in the newspapers. “He was a great man,” she insisted. “He loved his country and he died fighting for it.” She groped in her mind for the words that would make me understand. Then she said decisively: “He should have been a Japanese.”


2nd May 1945

There was more than the usual touch of unreality to the business at the chancery when a telegram was received conveying greetings on the occasion of the Burmese new year from the Burmese foreign minister to the Republic’s. Recto is now detained by the U.S. Army while his Burmese colleague is, so far as it is known, in full flight from _____. Letters were also received from the local Indonesian organization, thanking all the Greater East Asia ambassadors for the resolution on the independence of the East Indies, approved at their recent conference. Apparently the Indonesian association is now out in the open. One of its officers told me in passing that, following their usual tactics, the Japanese had invited them to the East Asia People’s Rally yesterday in separate island groups, that is, as Javanese, Sumatrans, Borneans, etc. They had promptly refused to go until they had been given a united invitation as Indonesians. A good dinner was served, he said. Every guest was given a hard-boiled egg, an extravagance in wartime Japan that only the army, which sponsored the celebration, can afford.

Meantime, with Daihonei admitting that the Americans “were allowed to make some advances” in the southern part of Okinawa, the Japanese navy went into a significant reorganization. The headquarters of the combined fleet has been absorbed into a new general headquarters of the entire navy, with the former commander-in-chief of the fleet, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, at its head. Explaining the change a Japanese told me in all seriousness that there was no point in having a commander for the combined fleet. Naval operations have practically ceased to exist. The naval front line is now on the coast of the homeland.