22nd April 1945

Commenting on the “war precepts” issued to the imperial forces, the Times notes that the fifth calls on them to assume the leadership of the people. The reality of army dictatorship has in this case outrun the theory but its assertion at this time may well be a warning against any doubts that the army is the nation. Along the same lines that the Mainichi declared, yesterday that the “precepts” were needed, not so much by the armed forces as by the people at large. “The people too must make them their own.”

If the press is any indication however the people feel that it is rather their leaders who must be reminded of their duties. In the last three days alone Tokyo’s editorialists have come out with a crescendo of criticism. The Nippon Sangyo Keizai, after announcing that inflation has gotten out of hand, blames “mistakes and clumsiness in the economic control heretofore enforced. Many instances of mistaken control could be quoted,” it says. One has been “a lack of understanding” of the problem which has been regarded merely as a currency phenomenon. As a result “black-market transactions are being conducted on an extremely wide scale” and “in all fields, including armament materials, foodstuffs, and labor.” The Asahi, commenting on the recent shifts in central and regional administration officials, accuses these officials of giving themselves up to “idleness, laziness, and ways not befitting the emergency.” Refusing to be optimistic over the changes introduced, it continues: “Just because the chiefs of the regional councils have been raised in rank, it is impossible to expect freshness and vigour if meticulous and senile senior officials are appointed.” The Mainichi, worrying about the situation on Okinawa, complains: “Our armament production in the past could by no means be called smooth. While it is not a pleasant thing to say, one cannot help admitting that because of the weakness of Japanese politics, much material has been allowed, to remain dormant.” Some of this material was concealed; the rest was not utilized because of bureaucratic inefficiency.

21st April 1945

As an historical document for future students of Japanese military psychology, the “five-point army precept” issued yesterday by general Korechika Anami, the war minister, is worthy of reproduction in full: “On the occasion of a divine chance that is now available for smashing our foes, the officers and men of the imperial forces are specially given the following instructions:

“1. The officers and men of the imperial forces, guided by the divine message, shall strictly observe the imperial rescript to the army and navy. Observance by His Majesty’s instructions is the very life of the fighting men of the imperial forces. The officers and men shall have a thorough-going conviction of the invincibility of the empire, recite the imperial rescript day and night, and do their best to put into practise. Herein lies the basis of sure victory.

“2. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall defend the imperial land to the death. The imperial land is the one where His Majesty graciously resides and the gods are enshrined. The officers and men shall pledge to smash the invader and defend the land in spirit even after death.

“3. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall depend on thorough preparation. He who has thorough preparation surely wins. They shall undergo strict training, establish an impregnable stronghold, and complete a sure-victory structure.

“4. The officers and men of the imperial forces must thoroughly imbibe the spirit of body-crashing. To live the everlasting life of righteousness is the tradition of the empire’s men of the sword. The entirety of the imperial forces shall strictly adhere to the spirit of body-crashing and, fighting courageously, shall kill every invader so that none shall survive.

“5. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall lead their 100 million compatriots. The 100 million brethren are their comrades in she protection of the imperial land. Under strict military discipline the officers are men shall also show kindness to their comrades and, displaying the true character of the imperial forces, shall complete the great task of defending the empire.

“The officers and men shall strictly observe the foregoing five instructions and, by crushing the enemy promptly, set the imperial mind at ease.”

Here then is the blueprint of the suicide pilot. The reality is a man for whom the meaning of life has become death. We meet him every day shuffling along the broken streets, with that peculiar open-toed walk of the Japanese, swinging a bundle wrapped up in a dark-colored kerchief. Or jerking stiffly to attention as a streetcar rattles by; he has glimpsed an officer hanging to a strap. Or sprawled on the ragged green plush of a third-class train seat, his head thrown back, his mouth open and noisy, working in the contortions of a dream. He is the troubled younger brother of the grinning conqueror whom we knew in the Philippines, “the guardian god of Greater East Asia,” dark and slippery with the sweat of victory, and, in his tight black cleft rubber shoes, as graceful and bold as a stalking tiger. Curiously enough this Japanese soldier of 1945 is neater, cleaner-shaven, better equipped. The seamstress’ stitches are fresh and white on his new olive-drab. His boots are solid, heavy, equally new. But his face has changed. It is no longer the eager audacious face of the conqueror of Asia, stretched forward in a confident and impatient stare across the ocean to the fabled towers of the U.S.A. It is no longer bearded with many battles and seamed with the cruelties of a hundred victories. Now it is clean, smooth, empty, and a little pathetic. This Japanese soldier of 1945 will not stumble clumsily through the intricacies of the boogie in a Manila nightclub; he will not imperiously halt a streetcar and clear himself a seat with a snarled command. He clings patiently to a strap in the choking subways, looks wistfully at the empty show-windows along the ruins of the Ginza — this heir to the veterans of Guadalcanal and Ikyab does not even know his way around Tokyo.

But he shares with his predecessors one tremendous secret: he knows how to die. In a strange but very real sense, he is already dead. He has said, his last goodbyes; not even his mother expects or wants him to survive defeat and surrender. On this terrible, almost incredible, fact the ultimate strategy of the Japanese empire is based, the strategy of suicide, a vast and intricate design balanced delicately on the heroic-credulity of a peasant boy. His superiors know that the combined fleet is “in the air and under the sea”, that they cannot muster one plane for every ship of the enemy. They have only one weapon left: a dead man who has yet the force and energy of life. This man must hide in a hole with a drum of explosives in lieu of a land mine. He must hurl himself with bayonet and saber against flame-throwers and machine-guns operated with the impersonal accuracy and speed of an electrical impulse. Trapped in a seamless web of electronic vibrations, he must dash his lonely plane against all the massive panoply of battleship or super-bomber. With his naked will to die he must make up for radar, rocket, and bomb-sight. His masters think he can even up the odds which patient cunning resourceful science has accumulated. He is the last romantic, engaged in the hopeless task of providing that the human spirit can conquer the machine.

The futility of his mission is a fact even more terrifying and ominous than his will to die. This Japanese soldier of 1945 is no less a man than anyone else; he is not a robot off the assembly line; he too is that marvelous inimitable irreplaceable compound of flesh and spirit that we call man, called, like us, to the dominion of created things. But his manhood avails him nothing against a photo-electric cell, the quivering vibration of an invisible wave, the cold emanation of a lump of pitchblends. There is something to touch the human heart in that stern equation; how many grams of radium, how many pounds of nitroglicerine, equal the human spirit?

20th April 1945

Returning to Miyanoshita from Tokyo I had my first glimpse of the damage inflicted during the last big raids. From the river Tama to the rim of Yokohama nothing remains but 15 minutes of gray and orange desert.

19th April 1945

Back in Tokyo I was told by Vargas that an ambassadors’ conference will definitely be held on the 23rd. He was notified by Togo when he made his first official call on the new foreign and Daitoa minister. A slight change has been made in the original schedule which called for the conference to open on the 26th, corresponding to the American 25th, when the San Francisco conference will be convened. And it will last one day, not one week.

One of our interpreters excused himself from work tomorrow; everyone in his neighborhood has been drafted for labor service on that day. They are all going to cut pine roots for fuel oil.

Our maid was jittery the whole day yesterday. It was the anniversary of the first American raid in Tokyo. The anniversary mania was unjustified as usual. There was only a short alert last night.

18th April 1945

The Mainichi today carries more “last words” from suicide pilots:

“Although the expression ‘shichisho hokoku’ (firm resolve to serve the nation by being born seven times) is popular nowadays, it does not apply to us. We have only one chance to strike.” — Flight Chief Warrant Officer T.

“Oh, but Nippon is a beautiful country!” — Lieutenant N.

“I will be hopping off soon but I have nothing to worry about. Many more will follow.” — 2nd Lieutenant N.

“I am not saying farewell. I shall meet you again at Yasukuni shrine (where the spirits of the war dead are enshrined).” — 2nd Lieutenant K.

“I hate this rain. It has prolonged my life another day but I hate to think of those who are losing theirs on Okinawa. Really, I feel as if I were committing a crime.” — Cadet S.

“We are about to body-crash into an enemy battleship.” — last report from a tokotai formation.

The emperor had an ominous word of his own to contribute, in an imperial rescript granted yesterday morning; the rescript, an event in Japan, reads: The war situation having become increasingly grave, the enemy has been encroaching upon Our land with added intensity. We regret exceedingly that some of Our subjects have fallen victim to enemy raids or have been wounded, while some have lost their property or have been deprived of their means of livelihood, and many barely maintain their sustenance. We have commanded the disbursement from the Privy Purse of sums for relief and rehabilitation. The competent authorities are hereby commanded to give the people something to rely on in accordance with Our wishes.” The sum released, according to an official announcement, is 10 million yen.

But the principal topic of discussion in diplomatic circles is the sinking of the Awa Maru. The vice-minister of Greater East Asiatic affairs and many Japanese in charge of Philippine affairs went down with the ship. Had it not been for a last-minute hitch the ship would have carried the Laurel party, at present stranded in Taiwan. The facts of the case are summarized by the Times thus “The Awa Maru, 11,000 tons, (was) dispatched by the Japanese government on her relief mission in humanistic compliance with the repeated American requests to be allowed to send relief goods to American and other prisoners and internees. Promised safe-conduct by the American and allied government, the Awa Maru carried relief goods from the Soviet Union to the regions in the South. She left Koji on February 17 on her outward journey and, having fulfilled her humanitarian mission, departed from Shonan (Singapore) for home on March 28. From April 1 onward however all contact with the vessel was lost. With all Japanese efforts to contact the vessel futile, the government on April 10 requested information from the United States; whereupon the Washington government announced on April 12 that an American submarine had sunk the Awa Maru. In issuing a safe-conduct for the vessel the United States had pledged not to attack her on both her outward and homeward voyages and not to offer any interference whatever in regard to searches and stopovers. The vessel also was fully illuminated and carried clear identification marks. The last dispatch from the vessel also showed that she was strictly on her course.”

With such an air-tight case the Japanese press has been having a field day. Even the Times, always the most discreet, screams: “Inexcusable crime… inconceivable depravity… unprincipled action… ruthless savagery without precedent… lawless barbarians!” Discussing Japanese technique in propaganda, a German newsman (DNB) told me of some annoying experiences with local red tape. One was the fall of the Tozyo cabinet. The story was officially released to the local press and put on the air since morning of that day but only by noon was it officially released to foreign correspondents. Then, when he tried to cable the story home, the telegraph office refused to do so because no permission had been secured from the communications ministry; the board of information release did not count. The upshot of it was that Reuter’s beat DNB to the story in Europe. Another instance he cited was an interview with Dr. Ba Maw, the Burmese chief of state. As usual all Questions had to be submitted a week in advance by foreign correspondents. But to give an appearance of spontaneity and freedom, the Japanese official supervising the conference blandly asked at its opening whether there were any questions. One of the correspondents dutifully popped the question he had submitted beforehand. Ba Maw was not taken in and he did not like the procedure any more than the newspapermen did. He smiled roguishly, raised an eyebrow at the Japanese official, flicked over the pages of a memorandum. “Let me see, he said, “that was question No. 5, wasn’t it? Well, I’ll tell you. Why don’t you just subscribe to the Nippon Times?”

17th April 1945

Approximately 200 B-29’s carried out the last raid on Tokyo “causing fairly large fires in the urban areas”. The Japanese claimed the fantastic total of 105 B-29’s a downed or damaged. Another communique issued simultaneously yesterday afternoon said with a note of querulous complaint: “The enemy forces In the southern port of the main Okinawa, island have sustained tremendous blows due to our counter-attacks but now appear to be preparing for further offensive.” This in spite of another fantastic total of 379 warcraft sunk or damaged off Okinawa. A summery of “war results” so far claimed by imperial headquarters, made by the Mainichi, includes 16 aircraft carriers, 17 battleships, 54 cruisers, 53 destroyers, and 47 transports! It is an endurance contest between Japanese capacity for lying and Japanese capacity for believing.

Meantime all the vernaculars are being fed “human interest” stories on the suicide pilots who are credited with these marvellous feats. Here is a collection of typical incidents:

A bombardier, zooming upward after hitting the stern of a battleship, shouts out: “Wash your decks clean and wait for me. I’ll come every day!”

Sublieutenant K, after shooting down seven B-29’s in a single night, explains modestly: “There is nothing special in the technique of attacking B-29’s. I meant to ram myself against the enemy but in the dim moonlight I could not see the planes very clearly.” So he shot them down instead!

The members of the Kamishio (Divine Opportunity) special attack corps, before taking off for a suicide attack, collect all their money, Y400, and leave it behind “in the hope that it will contribute toward the production of better aircraft”.

Five naval cadets meet again at a tokotai base for the first time since a farewell student rally in the outer-gardens of the Meiji shrine in 1943. Four have become suicide pilots; the fifth cannot qualify because of poor eyesight. Before the pilots take off the grounded officer grasps them by the hand. “Fight my share of the fight too,” he cries and, cutting his finger with his sword, stains four ceremonial towels with his blood and gives them to his friends.

A suicide plane, lust after taking off, crashes into the sea. Four members of the ground crew immediately jump into the bitterly cold water and swim out to the wreck. A sergeant follows in a lifeboat with a large hole in the bottom which he has stuffed with his coat. The pilot is rescued. “Thank you for saving me,” he gasps. “I did not want to die alone.”

Before taking off, Lieutenant T. commander of the Shitei special attack corps, instructs his youngsters: “If we find only one aircraft carrier, I shall sink it. Let nobody else ram it. In case you do ram an enemy warship, be sure not to close your eyes.” The lieutenant, a newsman notes, has a wrist watch tied with a cherry-colored ribbon.

A formation of the Shitei special attack corps is about to take off. Solemnly its members tie ceremonial towels over their helmets. They are gifts from a navy captain and on each of them Admiral Toyoda, the commander-in-chief, has written the character “Trust”. The leader explains the objectives. He takes too much time. The take-off is overdue. “I am sorry I delayed you,” he apologizes. “Let us take three deep breaths.” They inhale and exhale quietly and then run off to their planes.

Three suicide pilots wait for the zero hour. Corporal laughs: “I would like to have a bellyful of nice juicy bananas. They steady my nerves. A bunch of bananas is the same to me as a pack of cigarettes to a heavy smoker.” Sublieutenant Y draws his favorite sword out of its jewelled case. His eyes follow carefully every inch of the gleaming blade. “I regret extremely that I will not be in a position to confirm my war-results,” he says slowly. Corporal T says nothing. They enter their cockpits. It is impossible to talk above the roar of the engines. They nod their heads briefly. A paper doll, his mascot, flutters in the vibrating cockpit of Corporal T. In a few moments they are off, like arrows in full flight, never to return”.

16th April 1945

Some of the people in the hotel who tried to go to Tokyo today had to turn back one station before Yokohama. Apparently rail communications were cut by the big raid last night. We heard hundreds of bombers thunder over us like a passing storm, with the comfortable feeling that they had no business with us. The deep bed seemed suddenly softer, the blankets warmer. It was like hearing rain beating on closed windows. I wanted to laugh but I turned over and went back to sleep.

15th April 1945

As was to be expected, a Japanese newspaper (in this case the Mainichi) has brought up the inevitable “Roosevelt has died. It was heaven’s punishment. As the incarnation of American imperialism he had a cursed influence on the whole of mankind.” The English edition of the same paper added today: “He was undoubtedly the outstanding criminal of the century.” The Times, like the official statements, was more sober. “Brilliant and spectacular as he was, Roosevelt will be found on sober analysis to have been a clever opportunist who rode on the crest of the wave of the times rather than a creative statesmen who actually shaped the course of events.” The New Deal, said the Times, would have “arisen with or without Roosevelt.” And America, under the drive of a Messianic complex and over-expanded industry, would have entered the war “sooner or later” with or without Roosevelt. “Although he may always be remembered as a brilliant man,” concluded the Times, “he will hardly be honored as a truly great character.”

There was enough bad news yesterday, however, to sour any taste of satisfaction in Japanese mouths. An imperial headquarters communique on Okinawa could list only defensive “successes”. Another communique issued simultaneously revealed that in the heavy raid of the night of the 13th to the morning of the 14th about 170 B-29’s had, among other things, set fire to “parts of the edifices of the imperial palace, the Omiya palace, and the Akasaka detached palace” while the main hall and worship hall of the Meiji shrine had completely burnt down. “It is learned however,” added the Mainichi respectfully,” that Their Majesties, the Emperor, the Empress, and the Empress Dowager are safe and that no damage whatever was suffered by the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace.” Suzuki promptly took to the air last night. After announcing “with awe and trepidation” that Their Majesties were safe, and that “the sacred object of worship at the Meiji shrine is reported to have been removed to safety”, he pledged first determination to avenge these “hideous crimes beyond description”.

A board of information announcement, also issued yesterday, revealed how the Japanese people will be organized on the basis of a cabinet decision made the 23rd March. A “national volunteer force” (also called people’s patriotic corps” depending on the translator) will be established. Apparently the membership will not be drafted; “the welling will of the people” will be “the motive power”. There will be no central command (at first it was expected that the premier would be commander-in-chief). The duties and functions of the corps have not been defined but “if the situation becomes tense, the people’s patriotic corps in the localities that bid fair to become battle theaters” will be “converted into battle units” under the command of the local army, navy, or naval station leaders. Other straws in the wind:

About 100 girls in an airoplane factroy have banded themselves into a “women’s death-defying defense corps”. They are determined to “safeguard aircraft, give first aid and act as messengers in case of emergency.

Members of a reservist society in Akita have decided to refrain from drinking for one year.

Newspapermen from now on cannot resign, be fired, or be transferred without official permission.

The latest rumor has it that the Japanese government may move to the mountains in Miyanoshita.

14th April 1945

On my way back to Miyanoshita I walked past the now familiar landscape of ruin and chaos, all the way from the embassy on Kudan hill to Tokyo station. No streetcars, no elevated trains, no subways were running. In our vicinity there was once more no electricity, gas, or water. In front of the kempei-tai headquarters someone had made a neat pile of rusty iron roofing, and beside it another pile of scorched and twisted bicycle frames, but nobody had come to take them away.

There was a long line of squalor and ragged fear waiting for the trains out of Tokyo. Two days ago the Tokyo metropolitan food section announced that the rationing system will be remodelled on the basis of the abrupt decrease in the capital’s population, which will be officially determined in a survey on the 20th. “There should not be even one single dishonest declaration,” urged the Yomiuri, squarely facing the problem of Tokyo’s “ghost population”, the non-existent residents whose names are used by many to pad their ration rolls.