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….”

 

 

 


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.”


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.


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?”


12th April 1945

Our neighbor takes the Times although nobody in the house can read English because he wants the big four-page sheet of paper for wrapping or fuel…. The tobacco rations may be restored to the old quota of seven cigarettes per person per day next month…. A special distribution of one tin of sardines per person was made today.


8th April 1945

After she first flurry over the cabinet change the press has had time to take up an even more significant development, the Soviet notice of abrogation of the non-aggression pact.

The Times, in its role of unofficial spokesman for the foreign office, is grimly optimistic in an editorial entitled “Neutrality: Pact and Fact”. “A formal document like a neutrality pact,” it argues, “does not of itself constitute an activating determinative of neutrality; rather it is the existence of the fact of neutrality which may give rise to such a legal instrument as a neutrality pact as its formal manifestation. With or without such a pact, Japan’s consistent policy of striving for neutrality and amity with all neighboring countries… is too thoroughly grounded in the nation’s inherent fundamental character to admit of any fluctuation. Hence neutrality will be preserved.” But the Times conclude with feeble menace: “Fully alive to the rapidly developing situation in Europe, however, Japan, in keeping with its consistently maintained policy, is fully prepared to cope with any eventuality in the international situation.”

The thesis of the Times is undoubtedly sound and even classic. Treaties do not make situations; it is situations that make treaties. But its hopeful conclusion that Japan can control the situation and preserve neutrality because she wants neutrality is only the worse half of the story. Soviet Russia now wields the initiative and it is Soviet policy that will enforce or destroy neutrality.

The Yomiuri is even more naive. In its editorial yesterday it invited Soviet Russia to step into Nazi Germany’s shoes. “The core of Nippon-Soviet relations” it insinuated blandly, was the fact that the “Soviet Union, which fights in Europe, wants to rebuild Europe and desires to establish there an unshakable national foundation” while “our country, which wants to eliminate the evil hands of exploitation from the lands of East Asia, aims to contribute toward the establishment of eternal world peace on the basis of the stabilization of greater East Asia.”

Once more the thesis is plausible, as plausible as it was in support of the axis with Hitler’s Germany. Japan, like Stalin’s Russia, seeks security in regional hegemony and there is consequently “no great difference in the ultimate aims and world outlook” of both. But once again the thesis stops short of the decisive reality. Japan and the U.S.S.R., unlike Japan and the Third Reich, are neighbors and by themselves threaten each other’s security.

The Mainichi is less tortuous. It is frankly resentful. The anomalous situation which the U.S.S.R. gave as the reason for abrogation “is nothing new”, it complains. “It has been in existence since more than three years ago. Yet throughout the subsequent extremely complicated international situation, our nation has most scrupulously observed the spirit and provisions of the treaty to the letter…. In spite of that… and based on its own will alone, the Soviet government has told us that the neutrality pact will no longer be effective upon its expiration…. Be that as it may,” concludes the Mainichi petulantly. “We do not ask what soviet Russia has up tor sleeve, what sort of tangled affairs there are between Nippon and Soviet Russia, how Soviet Russia is going to solve them, and what kind of measures she has broached to Nippon for their solution. We only wish to clarify our attitude at this opportunity. That is “concludes the Mainichi weakly, “there is no change at all in our desire that friendly Nippon-Soviet relations and the peace of East Asia be maintained during the next one year during which the Nippon-Soviet neutrality treaty remains valid.”

The Japanese are frightened, sorry that they did not scrap the pact when the U.S.S.R. needed it more than Japan, desperately anxious to postpone the inevitable. And the Soviets know it.

An Italian diplomat pointed out to me a curious thing. In Russia’s bad days in 1942 the Soviet diplomats in Japan went slinking in the streets, shabby and with heads hanging. Now all the men are flashily dresses; they walk arrogantly, twirling canes; and all their women wear hats (which nobody else does in Japan). I suppose they deserve it.

A Chinese diplomat told me that one must now pay 6,000 yen to hire a truck one way from Tokyo to Karuizawa; 3,000 yen from Tokyo to Miyanoshita (two hours and a half by train).

In the Fujiya lobby I found another Italian diplomat absorbed in a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

“What are you looking up?” I asked.

“Matches. I can’t get any and I want to see if I can make them myself.”


3rd April 1945

All the way from Miyanoshita to Tokyo was marked by send-off, parties for men called to the colors. The school-children in the village were lined up at the tram station, singing at the top of their voices, for an excited spectacled youth with the usual banner slung over his shoulders. Apparently he was one of their teachers. In Odawara a group of students formed a ring and clapped and cheered in the approved American collegiate fashion; it seemed to fascinate the staring crowd of peasants on the platform, who would no doubt have been scandalized to know the spiritual affiliations with “enemy culture”. And so, all the way to Tokyo, we were accompanied by this obligatto of farewells, tearless, a little shrill, a little solemn. But the reservees had only these brief moments of glory; when the station bells rang their warnings, the singing, swaying, paper-flag-waving circles broke up amid bows a shade more profound than usual and more hurried, more submissive to the decree of fate. “Sayonara” — if it must be so. Then the reservees were lost and ignored in the crowded train and had to scramble for their seats like the rest of us.

But the people at home will be joining an army of their own, the “national volunteer force” with the premier as “commander- in-chief”. “All existing bodies wiil be dissolved and absorbed into it,” explains the Times. “It is believed that the force will be the backbone of all war activities such as munitions and foodstuffs production and transportation.” But nobody seems to know very clearly what it will be like.


21st March 1945

The Times today carried two remarkable stories, both hand-outs of the military press corps.

The first comes from Yiojima. “With the fighting on Yiojima reaching a state of ever-increasing bitterness,” it states, “Unit Commander Masuo Ikeda decided to ‘win by dying’. His determination was carried through completely to each of his men. So many volunteered for his close-quarters combat force that he was hard put to select his men. When the force was picked each man was given a mark with the word, ‘flesh’ written in red in the center of the cherry blossom. The conversation of the men in this force dealt mostly with the ideas on how to kill the greatest possible number of the enemy. That each would die himself was a foregone conclusion. The training was furious; it was simultaneously training to kill one’s self. Supreme commander Kuribayashi and his staff expressed amazement at the furor of the training. They said they had nothing more to ask nor did they see any necessary revision in their scheme of training. Standing by his men practicing to die, Unit Commander Ikeda felt a pain in his heart.

“Whenever I give the command, these men will die, and willingly,” he used to say, pointing to his force….

“Holes were dug in the ground and empty drums lowered into each. A man with a land-mine entered each drum. The drums were covered with earth and the surface made to appear natural. The man in each can sat in the cramped space with his mine, listening intently for the approach of the enemy. One enemy soldier was allowed to pass — or two, small prey. When a 40- or 50-man force came overhead the Japanese soldier inside the drum seized his chance. Now was the time to die. He set off his mine and blew himself and the enemy force to bits….

“This was a new method of attack which the enemy could not have thought of. It was a method of attack which only the Japanese could carry out. The will of the Ikeda death band to die in order to win was more fiery than the boiling sulphuric water which shoots up from. Yiojima.”

The second story would be of particular interest in the Philippines. It follows the adventures of Yokohama-born 18-year-old Miss Komaji Okada who is said to have escaped from Saipan three days after the invasion. “As one of the escaping party she was helped by natives who provided food and a simple dug-out boat which they rowed down a small river. For two days and two nights they drifted in the open sea when suddenly an enemy plane appeared and rained a hail of machine-gun bullets on the poor defenseless party. There was no recourse but to jump into the water to protect themselves from the deadly missiles. Miss Okada was hit in the thigh and though the surrounding water was reddened with blood that was oozing out, she never lost consciousness, and ever driven by the thought that no enemy should dare kill her, she applied a tourniquet with a towel as she precariously clung to the side of the capsized boat. The eight hours that ensued as she swam or floated around until she was picked up by a Japanese warship were a nightmarish inferno of anguish and torture.”

Miss Okada was taken to a “certain island” (apparently in the western Visayas) where she was receiving medical treatment when she had once more to flee. “This time the boat she was fleeing on was attacked by enemy submarines. Swimming about in the water she was sure that luck would not desert her. The bodies of many of her dead companions came floating by and bumped against her. As she saw these poor victims, she could not help but renew her determination to live.” By means unrevealed, Miss Okada turned up in Cebu. For a third time she had to flee. And again the vessel on which she was escaping was sunk, this time by planes. But she reached Luzon by lifeboat only to find that fighting there had already begun. For the fourth time Miss Okada fled. She is now in Taiwan and the people in Taiwan must be feeling a little apprehensive.

These two stories should be material for historians of propaganda and students of national psychology. Miss Okada seems to flee right out of Hollywood, via Ferry and the Pirates, Wild West Magazine, and possibly C.W.L. unit Commander Ikeda has more the tragic dignity of the insane.