16th August 1945

The first impression of calm is wearing off. Underneath all this outward placidity Tokyo is seething with rumour, plot, and counter-plot. It appears new that the average Japanese is saying nothing, not only because he is dazed, knocked silly by a blow on the head, carried through the routine of every-day wartime life by that curious momentum that animates a chicken with its head cut off, but also because he is afraid; he does not know what is the correct thing to do or say because he has not yet been told; he hesitates to rejoice openly, for instance, because the war may suddenly start all over again and he will look foolish, unpatriotic, marked for suspicion.

The emperor’s rescript is being challenged by some sections of the army and navy; the old cry is being raised that the emperor was “misled” by corrupt and cowardly advisers. Navy planes dropped handbills yesterday over Tokyo, saying that the fight would go on. The special attack corps is said to have refused to surrender; they are standing by their planes; they long ago made up their minds to die and they will not be cheated of their glory. The rumour persists that the tokotai took off against orders and attacked Okinawa after the rescript had been promulgated.

The cabinet resignd yesterday afternoon, imediately after Suzuki had gone off the air. The war minister General Korechika Anami killed himself at his official residence the night before the rescript was radiocast “to express his sincere regret to His Majesty the Emperor for not having been able to fulfill his duties in assisting His Majesty.” Tozyo and Araki are also said to have committed suicide in protest against the surrender. other Japanese are reportedly killing themselves before the Imperial Palace. Already the miltary police has taken over Tokyo.

Meantime the sequence of events leading immediately up to the surrender has been made public. On the 9th a supreme war council was held in the imperial palace from 10:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. This was followed by an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the official residence of the prime minister from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. As a result of these meetings a conference “in the imperial presence” was held in the palace from 11:55 p.m.
till 3 a.m. on the following day. The conference was attended by the emperor, the prime minister, the president of the privy council, the war minister and chief of the army general staff, the navy minister and chief of the navy general staff, and the foreign minister. At this council the decision was reached to accept the Potsdam ultimatum.

Another extraordinary cabinet meeting was thereupon called at the premier’s official residence from 3:10 a.m. till 4 a.m. of the 10th. A conference of senior statesmen (former premiers) was opened at 1 p.m. an then at 2 p.m. the cabinet deliberated on the manner of making the decision known to the people.

On the 11th at 7 a.m. notification of the acceptance of the Potsdam terms was sent through the Swiss government. The war minister then issued his proclamation that “for the maintenance of the divine state” the army would “definitely and resolutely fight”. The president of the board of information in turn issued the preparatory  statement: “The worst condition has now come.” Both these official announcements hewed close to the line of the condition attached to surrender, namely, the maintenance of the imperial institution, “the national polity”.

On the 12th Suzuki appeared at the imperial palace at 2:08 p.m., carrying the American reply. He stayed till 2:44 p.m. He then called an extraordinary cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. and discussed the new terms with the ministers till 5:30 p.m. Simultaneously a conference of the imperial princes was taking place at the palace.

At 8 a.m. on the 13th the formal text of the Allied reply was received and the supreme war council met to consider it from 8:50 a.m. till 3 p.m. The fundamental question of “safeguarding the basic character of the empire” was discussed. During a recess in the morning the chiefs of the army and navy general staffs had also reported to the imperial palace. Apparently the American demand that the emperor be subject to the authority of the Allied Supreme Commander and that the freely expressed will of the Japanese people would determine the future form of government sharply divided the leaders. A cabinet meeting was called from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m but no “complete agreement” was reached.

On the 14th Suzuki proceeded to the palace twice and was told “the imperial wish” to call a conference in the presence of the emperor. At 10 a.m. the field marshals and fleet admirals of the empire met at the imperial palace. At 10:45 a.m. they gave way to the full cabinet, the military and naval command, and the president  of the privy council. It was at this “unprecedented” conference, held in the presence of the emperor who was attended by his chief aide-de-camp, that the final decision was taken. The Times account reads:

“When all these officers took their seats the conference began. Opinions were expressed by them as to the decision on the final attitude of Japan toward the reply sent by the allied nations. It is said with awe and trepidation that His Imperial Majesty calmly listened to the opinions expressed by his officers out of their truest sincerity of loyalty and mind to save the empire. It is reported that His Imperial Majesty was gracious enough to say the following at the conference:

“‘As a result of carefully pondering over the general trends of the world as well as Japan’s situation, We should like to carry on the policy that has been already fixed, by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable, to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors and to save the millions of Our subjects. You may have opinions of your own but the answer of the Allied Nations, We believe, recognizes the sovereignty of the Emperor and all of you should understand this as We believe. Whatever may happen to Us, We cannot hear to see the nation suffer from further hardships.‘

“All those in attendence,” concludes the Times, “upon hearing these benevolent imperial words, burst into tears in spite of the august presence. This historic conference came to an end at noon.”

The cabinet met thrice more, from 1 p.m. till 3:20 p.m., from 7:20 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. till ll p.m. All the necessary procedures were completed and the imperial rescript was thereupon promulgated, with the imperial seal and sign manual, on the night of the 14th.

So far the official account in the Times. Rumour and the actual experience of friends, however, add an ominous postscript. When the rescript was signed shortly after 11 p.m. on the 14th, several officers from the general staff, believing that the emperor had been “misled” and determined to intercept the rescript before it could be promulgated, broke into the imperial compound.
When the lieutenant-general in command of the imperial guard refused to cooperate with them, they shot him dead, locked up his staff officer, forged divisional orders, and called out the imperial guard to surround the palace. It was about 1 a.m. in the morning of the 15th.

The officers then searched the palace for the rescript. They imprisoned the chief aide-de-camp to the emperor but they could not find either the minister of the imperial household or the lord privy seal. Balked there, some of the conspirators rushed to Radio Tokyo. The rescript was scheduled to be promulgated in the morning and the studio announcers and technicians were staying up all night rushing translations, technical arrangements, and other preparations. But if they could not seize the rescript  itself, the rioters were determined that it should never be heard by the nation. All the radio employees were confident to the man studio (Studio No.1) and kept under guard by sentries with drawn bayonets. The station was also put off the the air.

In the meantime however a loyal officer of the imperial guards had managed to slip through the cordon around the palace. He notified the eastern army commander who was in charge of the area around the capital. He was a former supreme commander in the Philippines, ailing old Tanaka of the flowing moustache who had been shipped back to Japan so gravely ill that he had been given his full generalship almost as a posthumous promotion. But in those tense hours before dawn of the 15th Tanaka won his yellow flag beyond all cavil. Armed only with a revolver and accompanied only by one aide, the old man rushed to the palace, overawed the rebels, roundly upbraided them, shamed them so that the ring-leaders then and there committed suicide.

The mlitary police then took over the survivors and liberated Radio Tokyo.

None of these breathless events were known to the people of Tokyo when the 15th dawned. Extraordinary preparations had been made for the imperial broadcast. Special lines had been laid out to the devastated areas and loudspeakers provided. Long before the scheduled hour the crowd began to gather in front of the radio station until the broad avenue was filled to the edge of the park.

Inside the station, in the same studio where the radio employees had been so recently confined, the audience was also gathering, government officials mostly, headed by the navy minister and the president of the board of information. Whether as a result of the riot the night before or in accordance with the program, the emperor would not broadcast directly.

Instead the people in Studio No.1. saw only at the end of the spacious hall a golden screen with the imperial chrysanthemum. Behind it waited an announcer and a technician to operate the special turntable carrying the recording of the imperial voice. Thus was the illusion kept of a divine disembodied presence bestowing upon the empire and the world the benisons of peace.

when the rescript had been read, there was a reverential pause. Then through their tears, the crowd gave three banzais: ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand years to His Imperial Majesty. Suzuki’s address was prose to this elaborate poetry. Reviewing the course of the war he said that the imperial forces had “endured difficulties and privations beyond imagining”; they had made up for the deficient arms with “unequalled spirit”. But since Saipan the tide of war had turned definitely against Japan; a “powerful” American airforce had wrought “damage” on the factories and communications on the mainland; an atomic bomb had been discovered and employed, so destructive that it had wiped out “the greater part of one city and several thousands of the city’s residents were either killed or wounded”. To have continued the conflict would have endangered the very foundations of the empire and the very existence of the Japanese race. Not a word did Suzuki say about the U.S.S.R.

Now that the end had come, he continued, it would undoubtedly be painful. The fighting spirit of the forces was “still high” and the people were also “resolved to die”. But the emperor in his benevolence had decided. His subjects had no choice but to apologize and to obey. Certainly it was the duty of every subject to “foster the eternal prosperity and glory of the imperial family” whether that duty called for death or for surrender.

The end of the war, he warned, would not “lessen the burden and suffering of the people. The empire would lose “much of its territory”; “the glorious army” would disappear. But “we must develop the permanent racial life of Japan, transcending all past feelings and forgetting all selfish thoughts. There is up other way for us but to foster the new spirit of self-rule, creation, and labor in order to build a new Japan, and devote ourselves to the development of technique and science, the lack of which was found to be our greatest fault in the present war. we must build up a civilization that will contribute to the civilization of humanity. This,” concluded Suzuki, “is the only way to reply to the
unlimited benevolence of His Majesty the Emperor“.

At 3:20 that afternoon the old man who had after all proved to be old enough to commit political suicide by sponsoring the surrender, tendered the resignations of his cabinet. This morning his successor was appointed, the imperial prince who had been expected to lead the Japanese in the last charge and who will instead lead them now on the long road back. Contrary to popular expectation however the prince was not one of the emperor’s brothers but Neruhiko Higashi-kuni, once commander-in-chief in China, whose influence
on the army may now be needed to compel surrender.

That may not be such an easy task. If it is amazing that a nation could turn so meekly from war to peace, from the attitude of defiance to the death to that of humble submission, without warning or preparation, all in those few minutes that it took the emperor to promulgate his will, it is perhaps equally amazing that in this defeated, thoroughly crushed nation, there is danger of revolution, not for peace, but against peace.

Nor is it only the hotheads and the hotbloods, the scowling samurai of the naked sword, who howl for war. Today I heard only two civilian Japanese express their thoughts on the peace and both of them opposed it. One was a Japanese professor, brought up and educated in the U.S.A., one of the most intelligent and tolerant Japanese I have met. He talked earnestly and in all seriousness of an atomic bomb that Japan too was perfecting. At any rate, atomic bomb or not, he thought Japan should have fought to the end.

The other Japanese was at the other end of the scale, intellectually, socially, economically. She was our own maid, Kubota-san. She had two sons in the imperial forces and they were both alive. Was she not happy, I asked her. Soon they would be coming home.

“Happy?” she echoed. “I don’t know. I would have been happier if they had died for the emperor. when they come back to me now, how shall I face the mothers of those who died, the mothers of the men from the tokotai? It would have been better if they had died.”

What can one say to her? In the gaunt groves of the Yasukuni, before the shrines of the war-dead, the mothers and the widows kneel today. They say that already many of these women have committed suicide. They do not want to survive their loves and their defeat.


14th August 1945

Tokyo was still silent on peace today and the rumor spread that an atomic bomb would be dropped on the capital if the American terms were not accepted by the 18th. But in all probability they will be accepted. It has been announced that the emperor will have an important message for the Japanese nation tomorrow morning. Even  the Japanese in the hotel are now talking in excited whispers. Some suspect the truth; others believe the emperor will call upon all his loyal subjects to fight to the end; but most do not know what will come tomorrow. They wait with a silent submissiveness to do what they are told.


11th August 1945

I sneaked up to Gora today to see how the Soviet diplomats were getting along._The village itself was quiet; the streets were almost deserted; the front yard of the hotel where the Russians have been interned was silent and empty; there was not a policeman in sight. The Hakone mountains had never seemed so far away from the war.

Then after lunch the Burmese military attache abruptly told us that Japan had sued for peace. We could not believe the news. And when San Francisco confirmed it, hour after hour, we subconsciously protected ourselves from disillusion by worrying over the condition attached by the Japanese government, namely, that the prerogatives of the emperor as sovereign would not be impaired. would the Americans reject the condition as against the Potsdam declaration? On the other hand, would the Japanese sacrifice their emperor for peace? Once again we tugged and pulled at the puzzle, with the exasperated feeling that the answer was already known.

The Burmese military attache thought that perhaps the Japanese had purposely put a condition that would at the same time appear reasonable and yet be unacceptable in order to solidify public opinion at home and divide it abroad. The suggestion did not sound far-fetched. The emperor was eminently the one condition on which the Japanese could agree, the one condition for which they would all be ready to perish. He was also one condition which could be calculated to divide the Americans who believed so passionately in leaving other people alone to choose their own form of government. What a masterful intrigue if it were true!

But the new bomb floated ominously over these intricate and subtle calculations; what did the cunning of diplomatists and the fanaticism of peasants avail against this imponderable atom dangling from its parachute? While the air crackled with its secret offers, the vernaculars published today the first eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima. The Yomiuri, which also noted briefly that another “new-type bomb” (in the singular) had been dropped on Nagasaki on the 9th, carried the following description by one of its correspondents:

“On the morning of the 8th August I entered the suburbs of Hiroshima in a truck with a group of civilian defense corps members from the city of Kaidaichi… All buildings on the ground had been razed and turned into heaps of debris. All the trees along the road, which once must have had an abundance of green leaves on their branches, were burnt black, bare to the trunk. The city had been turned into such a ruin that we covered our eyes….

“Judging from what I have been told by some of the inhabitants, the bomb may be a sort of high-heat flash-bomb which explodes with strong power and simultaneously emits a high~heat flash. One of the eye-witnesses of the explosion, Ai Miyano, told me: “when I heard the droning sound of an enemy plane I went outside and looked up. I noticed a black object falling lightly through the air. At this moment a red-and-blue flash struck me, causing  me to feel as if I had been burnt by a blast of extreme heat. I grew dizzy.”

“According to others, the enemy plane was seen over the city but it was gone at the time of the explosion. This shows that the new bomb, after being dropped, apparently continues to float in the air until the plane which had dropped it gets outside the range of the explosion….

“Many of the people killed were buried under the falling houses; those who were in the open were burnt by the heat. Only those who sought shelter in air-raid-defense trenches were saved.”

The Times in turn quoted today another eye-witness, Seiichi Miyata of Higashiku, Osaka, who was in Hiroshima at the time of the attack. “When the enemy super-forts appeared over the city,” recalled Miyata, “I was at an hotel some kilometers from the central section. First I heard the faint roar of a plane flying at a high altitude. I went to one of the windows facing south and a friend of mine went to the opposite side. In the meantime the roar of the plane had ceased. Then suddenly a dazzling flash came, as bright as a photographer’s flare covering the whole area. when, in no time, I felt a hot pressure, immediately followed by a deafening detonation. My friend and I rushed into the room and flung ourselves flat on the floor. My friend suffered a burn in the corner of one eye. Fortunately I myself escaped injury.

“Looking around I saw the bedding, that had been put out to dry, torn to bits. Flecks of cotton from the mattresses and quilts were lying about the room. All the glass windows and paper sliding-doors were scattered over the place.

“Later, walking around the streets, I saw that most of the wooden buildings had been demolished, the glass windows of concrete structures smashed, and furniture hurled here and there. At a certain national school, the children, who had been doing physical exercises in the open without much clothes on, suffered severe burns The skin had been torn off and they were in agony although the scorched parts were not bleeding much. some were covered with blisters. Most of the city residents near the area where the bomb was dropped suffered more from burns than from wounds.

“Solid wooden buildings, such as shrines, temples, and hotels, remained intact and those who quickly took shelter in them as soon as they saw the flash, escaped injury. Considering this, it is apparent that speedy action in taking shelter is absolutely necessary…. The effect of the new-type bombs is not so absolute as generally imagined.”

Presumably on the basis of these first-hand experiences the air defense headquarters has issued further instructions on how to deal with the new bomb. There is a frantic reiteration about them that borders on hysteria.

“1. It is very effective to seek safety in an air-raid shelter. It is necessary to repair and strengthen shelters which are covered.

“2. In regard to dress, one should expose as little of the body as possible. Otherwise one will suffer burns.

“3. The use of an air-raid-defense hood and gloves will prevent burns in the head, face, and hands.

“4. If there is no time to seek safety in an air-raid-defense shelter or if there is none in the neighborhood, one should lie flat on the ground or utilize a solid building for protection. But it is important to seek safety in an outside shelter.

“5. If the above points are remembered together with thos -previously announced, the new-type bomb will not prove to be so powerful.”

Meantime the Japanese government has filed a protest against the use of the bomb. The note was sent through the Swiss yesterday. Possibly it is important for the record. At any rate the Japanese can get from it their first accurate idea of the new bomb.

“On the 6th of August,” reads the note, “an American plane dropped a new-type bomb in the city area of Hiroshima and instantly killed and wounded many citizens and destroyed a major portion of the city. The city of Hiroshima is a common ordinary urban community without any particular military defense facilities and, as a whole, does not possess any characteristics which can be called military objectives.

“By the actual damage done, the area which has been hit extends widely. The persons within that area were killed or wounded by the vacuum caused by _____ and the heat radiating from the bombs, whether they were combatants or non-combatants, men or women, old or young. The scope of the  damage done was general as well as great. Moreover, judging from the individual cases of injury, it was unprecedentedly cruel.

“A combatant has no right to use indiscriminately means of doing harm to the enemy. He ought not to use weapons, missiles, or other substances which will give pain to others unnecessarily. These are the fundamental principles of international law. This is the reason why these principles are set forth in Articles 22 and 23 of the regulations concerning laws and customs of land fighting in the document attached to the treaty concerning such laws and customs.

“The American government has stated on more than one occasion since the outbreak of the war that as the use of poison gas or of any inhuman means of warfare is regarded as illegitimate by public opinion in civilized society, it would not use these means unless the other party did the same. The bomb which has been used by America is far more inhuman than poison gas and other weapons whose use is prohibited because they cause harm indiscriminately and because they are cruel.

“America, in disregard of international law and the fundamental principles of humanity, has bombed various cities and towns over a wide area in Japan, and has killed numerous old persons, children, and women. It has demolished and burned shrines, temples, school buildings, hospitals, and houses in general. It has now committed a sin against the culture of the human race by using a bomb which harms more indiscriminately and is more cruel than any weapon  or missile which has been used in the past.

“The Japanese government, in its own name and in the name of the entire human race and of civilization, hereby accuses the American government. At the same time it demands strongly that America refrain from using such inhuman weapons.”

So far the official note. Yesterday the Times accented the protest with unofficial rhetoric. Hiroshima was “no mere excess committed in the heat of battle. It was an act of premeditated wholesale murder.” It was not even murder; it was pure nihilism“, “a crime against God and humanity which strikes at the very basis of moral existence.”

“What more barbarous atrocity can there be than to wipe out at one stroke the population of a whole city without distinction –men, women, and children; the aged, the weak, the infirm; those in positions of authority and those with no power at all; all snuffed out without being given a chance of lifting even a finger in either defense or defiance! The United States may claim… that a policy of utter annihilation is necessitated by Japan’s failure to heed the recent demand for unconditional surrender,” concluded the Times, “but the question of surrendering or not surrendering certainly can have not the slightest relevance to the question of whether it is justifiable to use a method which, under any circumstance, is strictly condemned alike by the principles of international law and of morality.”

Aside from the obvious relish with which the Japanese, standing at last on sure ground, pay back the Americans with their own coin or atrocity charge and moral indignation, the note and the editorial raise a legitimate point. But it is a point as old as war itself, as old as the question of the end justifying the means.

How much does victory justify? Whatever the moralists and the lawyers may say, the brutal fact, of course, is that victory justifies anything. That may not be a moral fact but it is a psychological fact. The Japanese warlords know it as well as any other soldier; if they had discovered the “atomic” bomb, they would not have hesitated to use it in spite of any Article 22 or Article 23. This has been true since men first started killing one another; the ultimate consideration was kill or be killed. Modern wars have been increasingly more horrible not because human nature has grown more corrupt and callous but only because human ingenuity has conceived and fashioned more terrible weapons. He who can, does; he who cannot, dies.

All the fine distinctions and delicate scruples of theologians are swept away by that awful compulsion. The Americans, who recoiled in horror from the bombing of London, were just as ruthless in wiping out Berlin, Hamburg, and a hundred other cities in Germany; when it came to saving the life of one American soldier, what did a hundred thousand krauts matter? The winners are decorated, the losers are shot as war-criminals. Slaughter by your side is military necessity; slaughter by the other side is an atrocity, “inhuman”, “unjustifiable”, “a crime against God.”

The truth is that war itself is an atrocity. War produces only gradations of atrocity. Is a blockade, strangling an entire people in slow death by starvation, any less “indiscriminate” than pattern~bombing or “atomic” disintegration? Does a jagged scrap of bomb-casing, tearing through the intestines, cause less “unnecessary” pain than a blast of heat that tears off the skin? If their condition for peace is rejected, the Japanese warlords will hurl their people into national suicide. Will this be less “cruel” or more “justifiable” than national murder?


9th August 1945

As San Francisco announced that the second “atomic” bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki shortly before noon, the vernaculars started to open up a little on the subject. It seems that “the authorities of the various government departments concerned have dispatched officials to the scene of destruction.” “According to a survey made, the new-type bomb drops toward the ground with a parachute and issues a strong light when the bomb is about 500 to 600 meters above the ground and then explodes. Simultaneous with the explosion, a large detonation is heard and a strong blast and strong heat accompany it.”

“Full caution,” warns the Asahi, “is considered necessary but it is pointed out that in case or a new-type weapon, its effects are usually exaggerated. For instance, when the V-1 made its appearance, considerable confusion and disturbance were Witnessed in England before counter-measures were devised. Upon completion of the counter-measures, the composure of the people returned.”

What counter-measures were contemplated against this “new-type” bomb?The Asahi also published a statement of the air-defense headquarters giving directions as to the methods of defense against it:

“If attention is paid to the following points, damage will be restricted to a minimum. Since they are effective measures, all persons are called upon to obey them without fail:

“1. Don’t be off-guard even if the enemy aircraft happens to be only one plane. When a large-size enemy plane comes near, it is better to seek safety even if it is only one.

“2. In seeking safety, it will be effective to escape into air-defense shelters. It is taboo to be outside the house without purpose. Safety must be sought in shelters.

“3. In seeking safety in shelters, one should take care to choose a shelter which has a covering. In case it happens to be without a covering, one should protect one’s self with a blanket or a mattress.

“4. If one is outside the house or shelter, one is likely to suffer burns. Accordingly one should expose as little of the body as possible. A summer suit usually exposes much of the body  but in coping with the new type bomb the hands and legs must be given full protection.

“Fires occurred in many of the houses that collapsed and in seeking safety out of the house, one should not forget to extinguish fires in the kitchen or elsewhere.”

There is almost a touch of the sinister in this stupidity. Get into a trench and pull a blanket over your head — but don’t forget to put out the fire in the kitchen! It is impossible to believe that air defense headquarters really thinks a blanket and possibly a pair of gloves can ward off the gigantic flame that dissolves an entire city. It is more reasonable to see in these “directions” a deliberate attempt to assuage the alarm of the people; if that is all that is needed, then the new~type bomb is just a bigger incendiary which burns people as well as houses. There is authentic art in that artless reminder not to forget the kitchen fire.

How long will the Japanese continue to believe it? When they learn the horrible truth, will they rise at last to cry enough or will there be anyone left to rise?
And yet, what could the authorities have said? What defense is there against this new “atomic” bomb? Tonight we were discussing heatedly the relative protection afforded by a swimming pool and a deep cave. But what was there to say? We did not even know whether the bomb killed by heat, by concussion, by radioactive radiations, by gas, or by some other terrifying mystery of dissolution. A blanket over the head seemed just as good as anything else.

Then just before dinner some of the evacuated Japanese school-children in the village ran up to a Burmese cadet with whom they had made friends. They were laughing with excitement. There was a new war. The radio, they said, had announced at five that afternoon that Soviet Russia had declared war on Japan. We flicked on the short-wave radio. San Francisco confirmed it.

Somebody laughed. “We won’t have to worry about that new bomb anymore. It’s all finished.”


8th August 1945

The details of the new bomb are still “under investigation”. One feels that the authorities are just an puzzled and bewildered by the whole thing as anybody else; they are certainly withholding the extent of the damage but do they know any more than the average man about the nature of its cause? was it one bomb or several? Was it an incendiary bomb, an explosive, a combination of both?

The first accounts in the local press are cautious. The Asahi’s is typical. “Shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning of the 6th August,” it reads, “a small number of B-29’s invaded the city of Hiroshima and dropped a small number of bombs. Due to this action a considerable number of houses in the city collapsed and fires were caused at various places. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. These bombs were dropped by parachute and exploded before reaching the ground, it is indicated. The force
of the new bombs is now under investigation but it appears that it cannot be made light of”.

“Because of the possibility that the enemy may again employ this type of bombs,” the Asahi continues after a paragraph on “inhuman cruelty”, “counter-measures against it will be shown by the authorities concerned without any loss of time. In the meantime an early dispersion of cities, an adjustment of the so-called side-cave anti-air-raid shelters, and other air-defense measures should be pushed. Judging from the latest enemy attack, it is dangerous to exceedingly despise an air-raid even though it is done by a small number of planes.”

The Americans have announced that leaflets have already been dropped warning the Japanese of the new bomb’s unprecedented destructive power and the Asahi ends its story by calling on the people “not to be misguided”. Perhaps in preparation for an official declaration on the bomb the Times today, which has not yet carried a story on Hiroshima, editorializes on “The incalculable Reserve”.

“The enemy attacks with a meticulous precision awesome to behold,” begins the Times. “He brings into effective play his slide-rule and compass, his charts and instruments. He apparently knows through photography and a vast and well-laid espionage network the locations and nature of the vital organs which are necessary to the conduct of this war. Even of the things that he does not know, he seems to have the technical craft and equipment with which to calculate the greater part of the same. There is only one thing which completely defies his diabolical calculations and that is the spiritual reserve of the Japanese people.

“Such a reserve has been noted elsewhere in the recent past. Surely Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Moscow could not have been held with guns alone. If material weight alone had been the final criterion in the conflict, Yiojima and Okinawa should have fallen weeks sooner at a far cheaper cost to the enemy. In the Japanese eye the special attack force is not a ‘suicide’ squad, as our materialistic enemy sees it; it is one of the incalculables in its most concrete expression…”

After contrasting Germany and Japan the Times continues: “The present war is likely to be regarded as a conflict between science and the spirit. Fundamentally the present move into Asia is an encroachment of Western science upon Oriental spirit. In this light the unfathomable reserve of the Japanese people takes on significance of a new hue. That spiritual strength becomes not merely the reserve; for Asia it becomes the very ultimate of the
war in the Pacific.

“To the factors of material, money, and men that go to make possible the prosecution of war, science and spirit must also be added. Just as science finds motivation from the brain, so spirit gets inspiration from the heart. As the movements of material and money must await the guiding hand of science, so the action of men must find its root in spirit. While there is the flash of genius in one, there is imperturbable resolution in the other. While one must necessarily have a limit, the other is limitless…”

And the Times concludes: “It is not wishful thinking but a statement of fact that while there remains the possibility that the stupendous weight of material the enemy possesses can be entirely consumed, the spiritual resolve of the Japanese people is not only incalculable but imperishable and inexhaustible.”

There is an exasperating emptiness to these eloquent and elegantly-balanced phrases. It is like listening to a professor belaboring a syllogism while the classroom burns. The man is splitting hairs when a bomb is splitting atoms. Perhaps a year of a hundred years from now philosophers and historians will have the perspective to weigh the relative values of Western science and Oriental spirit. Right now we are more interested in what will happen to us, whether it is safe to take the train to Tokyo tomorrow, whether the new bomb will poison water, whether peace will come.

I know I should be thinking of the implications of a bomb that can wipe out two-thirds of a great city at one fell stroke but somehow the mind refuses to pick up the problem and it lies at my feet ticking with a quiet insistence. The question of peace is the farthest that the mind will reach. Some say: “It’s over. The Japs will have to give up.” Others are not so sure. They mumble about exaggerated propaganda or they cry in despair that the Japanese are crazy; they will die rather than surrender. To them the measured cadences of the Times editorial today have the sinister sound of a man walking to the gallows.

Yes, the Japanese will stick it out, they say. They will burn in their cities, disappear in a sickening flash, and then the gaunt roasted survivors will dig in, in the caves and crevices of mountains, by a last lonely beach. The Yomiuri today quotes von Clausewitz on the requirements for successful guerrilla war-
fare and notes with satisfaction that all are present in Japan. Can the Americans split the Japanese atom? Or will Japanese “spirit” prove tougher than U-235?

Psychological speculation is scant comfort for those of us who are caught here between scientific murder and a suicide complex. Presently the tight groups, heatedly debating peace and war, break up; the mind, frightened by its own reflections, scurries away to its favorite corner and toys with the familiar com-
monplaces of the day’s paper. Let us see now….

The Japanese army in the southern regions has announced its “assent to the establishmnt in the middle of August of a preparatory commission for East Indian independence.”

The cigarette ration has again been cut from five to three per person per day. In case the production of cigarettes becomes impossible the equivalent amount of cut tobacco will be supplied.

A certain factory in Nagano prefecture has succeeded in producing a substitute for Manila hemp from dwarf bamboo creepers; it is cheaper by 20 yen a pound.

A group of scholars has called for donations of materials for an Okinawa museum and library in Tokyo.

Real summer has started, according to the papers. The rice is flowering about 20 days behind schedule but the rising temperature during the past week may save the situation.

(It is pleasant out here in the garden by the miniature waterfall, sparkling and laughing as it tumbles over, while the red, black, and golden fish wheel silently in the quiet pond.)

Let us see now… The classified ads are always good. Wanted to exchange: bicycle, foreign make, 22 inches, in good condition, for men’s shoes, size 10% men or larger size.

For sale: a set of sofa and three armchairs; easel, almost new, in perfect condition; gentleman’s white linen summer suits and also one white waistcoat; Nippon Gakki upright piano, 85 keys; Vacumatic Parker fountainpen, for immediate sale to highest bidder, also ivory mah-jong set.

Wanted to buy: baby’s perambulator, shoes for girl 5-8 years, linguaphone language series for Russian and others, English books on China, razors, sewing machines, accordions.

(The mind drowses contentedly. Whatever happened to that gentleman who was selling shirts, three white second-hand, two black perfectly new? I wonder what they will serve for lunch…)


7th August 1945

The San Francisco radio announced today that a new “atomic” bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima yesterday the 6th, wiping out 60 per cent of the city at one blow. Apparently the bomb is built on an entirely new principle, the splitting of the U-235 atom. From another viewpoint, the principle is as old as war, mass murder.

But if we do not know much about it, and do not know how much to believe of what we have heard, the ordinary Japanese knows  so little that he does not even seem to care. A brief communique from imperial general headquarters, issued at 3:30 p.m. today, reads in full:

“1. Due to the attack by a small number of B-29’s on the 6th August considerable damage was caused to the city of Hiroshima.

“2. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. Details are now under investigation.”

The man in the street cannot be blamed if he sees nothing particularly alarming about that. “Considerable damage” is several notches above the usual “negligible”, “very slight”, and “slight” but it is still below the occasional “heavy”. “New-type bombs” is vaguely disquieting but the Japanese are still sufficiently naive, scientifically speaking, to take even the splitting of the atom for granted. It is a curious novelty, like an electric torch, but these things are always happening in the strange surprising world of modern times. What will these “new-type bombs” do? We are forbidden of course to discuss with the Japanese the information we receive by short-wave. But I could not resist asking the boy who mops out our bathroom the same question: what did he think these “new-type bombs” were like? He shrugged his shoulders. He had not thought too much about it. Then, head cocked to one side like a little bird, he said: “Well, maybe they kill a hundred people instead of 10 or maybe they burn concrete houses like wood. I don’t know.” He bowed and sidled out, leaving me to wonder if he cared at all.