18th — 20th January 1945

Four Japanese Catholic nuns called. They had a small cake baked for us by their Mother Superior. The icing represented the Philippine and Japanese flags. One of the nuns apologized because they had been compelled to make the cake without sugar, butter, or baking powder. Another, who had been in the Philippines, wistfully rehearsed her scant Tagalog and afterward insisted on borrowing a new textbook, Tagalog-Nippongo, brought out a few months ago by one of the Filipinos in Japan. She talked cheerfully of going back to the Philippines which, it seemed, she had grown to love. How shall one make them understand that no Japanese will ever be able to step on Filipino soil for the next generation without running the risk of being torn limb from limb?

Eddie Vargas returned to Tokyo today. All civilian communications to the Philippines have been suspended. When he landed in Taiwan, he said, the airport was still littered with the wreckage of about 70 planes. The planes taking off for the Philippines the next three days had been all shot down and finally he had been forced to give up the trip. On Taiwan he had been constantly shadowed by kempei. He was frisked once after coming from church. One particular kempei, apparently because he did not know anything else in English, kept asking his name. He barely resisted the temptation of giving a different one every time. The kempei in Fukuoka on the mainland proved to be more amenable. Eddie gave him some Taiwan candy every time he wanted to ask questions.

One of our students in Japan, a former guerrilla in the Philippines, shared some of his experiences with me when he called. One youngster in his outfit had cold-bloodedly shot down a town treasurer, in full view of his daughters, purely because the man was making himself unpleasant by too much whining on the way to their hideout where he was wanted for questioning. Another, after a raid on an occupied town, wanted to go back because he had not had a chance to kill his first man. A third, who used to go hunting cows with a heavy machine-gun, finally ended up by betting his coming bonus on the possibility that his revolver, after the half-loaded roller had been twirled, would not go off. He put the gun to his head and it did go off. The young are bloodthirsty, I thought. Possibly they do not know the value of human life.

It was the same student who told me with some relish that since the total blackouts began to be enforced, increasing numbers of women had been found dead in the sidewalk shelters in Tokyo and Yokohama. They had been raped and robbed. When he told me about it, I could not tell whether he was happy because they were Japanese or shocked because they were women. His eyes would fill and deepen and then a teasing, calculating smile would light up his smooth unlined baby’s face.

I have often wondered about Danny. He was in his teens when the war broke out (I think he still is). His father, whom he loves and respects more than any other man, works with the Japanese; he went out to kill them. They did it for the same reason; the independence of our country and the welfare of our people. Was one right and the other wrong; must one and one alone be right and other wrong; or are these shining phrases mere words, habitual disguises for the individual instinct and choice?

Danny was caught, thrown into a dungeon, tortured perhaps, then released on an amnesty (it was the emperor’s birthday). Then he came to Japan as a government scholar. Why? I have never asked him. But I have gathered from loose ends in our conversations and from the stories of his friends, that he wanted to “give the Japs a chance”. Perhaps they meant what they said; perhaps they had something worth learning and working over: a code of honor (even before the war bushido was a good word in the Philippines), the ideal of Pan-Asianism (Asia for the Asiatics, the Philippines for the Filipinos).

But it hasn’t worked out. Danny is too much of an American or too much of a Filipino or too much of both. He thinks in English (although he never could spell), he loves the boogie, he is used to asking questions and getting answers instead of a slap in the face. He hasn’t touched his books in Japan; he wanted to study architecture and they put him in an engineering school; he says he will not be “broken” by the drill sergeants who pass themselves off as teachers.

Now he spends his days making love to Niseis, collecting “military information” for future use, writing poetry, not love poetry as one would expect but “native land” poetry and “peace” poetry and “humanity” poetry in the vein of the “brotherhood of man”. For he has not forsworn Orientalism; he has cut it up and spread it out; he talks of the U.S.S.P., the United States of the Southwest Pacific, and of the “Sepia Federation” which will unite all the Malays; he talks also of writing a book on peace and how it can be found and kept.

One can see that he is no longer bloodthirsty; he can afford to talk tolerantly when he tells his stories of guerrilla murders and raids. He no longer hates the Japanese; he has lived here too long. He only despises them with a contempt that is softened with pity; “These people are crazy. They don’t know what’s good for them. But by God, a few more bombs will l’arn them.” What will his comrades in the guerrilla bands think of him now? Will they think he has gone soft, that he has betrayed them, that he has gone over to the enemy? Or will there be one among them who will comprehend something of the tortured indecision that eats at the secret heart and shakes the brooding soul of every man cursed with understanding, tolerance, and a sense of the kinship of all men?


9th January 1945

Eddie Vargas called up today by long-distance from Taiwan; he is stranded there. All civilian air travel to the Philippines has been suspended. We are now definitely cut off from home; no more couriers, no more letters, even telegrams will be difficult unless they are official and urgent.

As the situation deteriorates, the press is allowed to say more and more, are they learning to let the people down slowly? Or are the authorities trying to frighten the people of Tokyo out of the threatened capital? Now the vernaculars are saying, that the Americans have more ships in the Philippines than the Japanese have planes. So much for the “one ship, one plane” strategy.

The Asahi also carries a “special today from Manila bemoaning the fact that the Japanese could have “annihilated” the American convoy off Mindoro on the 15th December if they had had enough planes. It was, the paper said, “a serious mortification”.

But the people of Tokyo are still looking at the war as something fantastic and far-away. They are now amusing themselves with the report that the Americans are having to fall back on “artificial earthquake” plans to destroy Japan’s main cities. And when there was a full-scale air alarm this noon, there was no one in the basement, which is supposed to be the apartment air-raid shelter.

Instead our French neighbor, Yvonne, who ran away from Paris to escape the war, came rushing in, wringing her hands. She had come back from her apartment to find the gas sealed. She looked terribly thin and anxious; she brought us a present of four eggs and asked for the loan of our gas stove. “Life is so complicated,” she wailed in the way she has of repeating her English lover’s clichés. “They only do it because I’m French.” But in some respect it is her own fault. She had been warned about the limitations on the consumption of gas but she had kept her stove burning practically the whole day for days on end “to heat the apartment” and “because I drink a lot of tea”.

Of course about 70 sen worth of gas (the official limit for one person for one month) is not much but they will probably cut off her gas for the time equivalent to her excess consumption.

Poor Yvonne, life will be so much more complicated without tea.


3rd January 1945

Eddie Vargas enplaned for Manila this morning, his baggage mostly medicines for his family, parcels for home from the students, a letter or two from each of the rest of us.

The Nippon Times carries an article by General Homma. in a reassuring review of the present Philippine campaign he states: “We need not be unduly apprehensive as even if oil will no longer be forthcoming from the southern regions, we can fly our planes with alcohol produced from pine resin.”


2nd January 1945

Koiso ate his words yesterday or perhaps took a bigger mouthful. In a New Year’s Day radiocast he proclaimed that Leyte was no longer decisive; “the entire Philippines…is the crucial battlefield.”

The Burmese military cadets are out on furlough over the holidays and the Burmese military attache has been hunting all over the city for a pig to give them one decent meal before they go back to their rations of rice and pickles. Today he called us up again to ask if our cook could help him locate a pig in the black market. At first it seemed hopeless. The cook knew where to get the pig but he claimed that his friend the meat-dealer had a son going into the army today and that nothing, not even a thousand yen, would persuade him to go out to the black-market pig-farm. My friend the colonel however was his usual persistent and resourceful self. He asked for the man’s address and in one hour he had the pig. One bottle of Japanese whiskey had worked it. Cost of the pig: 600 yen; of the whiskey: 300 yen.

In the evening there was a farewell dance for Eddie. It was the first ever held in the chancery. The cold hall looked different with the desks out of the way, a fire actually blazing in the shuffling dimness; a phonograph provided dance-music muted to a whisper to defer to Japanese prejudices. We all took a turn or two but most of the dancing was done by Nisei girls and all those young Filipino students who were going to be made over into grim and earnest Japanese.


1st January 1945

Almost on the stroke of twelve the air-raid siren sounded. We were having a New Year’s Eve dinner at the embassy and the sound of the signal made everyone homesick. We fell silent around the table and looked at one another, remembering Manila before the war where the sirens of the government ice-plant and the ships in port had always joyously called in the new year with one great and happy shout. The past teased us with a lawyer’s question: where were you on the eve of the 1st January 1941? I found I could not answer, it seemed so many lifetimes ago and there was nothing to link us with it except this thread of sound, a sound that we remembered as strangely eager and exultant and which how had turned shrill and lonely with tortured apprehensions.

Outside the skies were empty but there was a tiny blaze in the distance and the fire-engines were already out hooting to work. All around us the darkened city seemed to wait breathlessly; only that small bold flare challenged the uneasy night like the first campfire of a conquering army, glimpsed over the horizon.

A few minutes later one of our interpreters came rushing in. He had feared that it was the embassy on fire and, laughing at his fears, we shook off our own depression. He had with him airplane tickets to Manila which he had bought the afternoon before for Eddie Vargas. We were congratulating Eddie when the neighborhood association patrol went howling outside the compound. It seemed there was a light showing. After a futile search all over the building it turned out to be in the chauffeur’s quarters, which was rather disconcerting because the chauffeur is the head of the association.