15th May 1945

About 400 B-29’s raided Nagoya yesterday, “for the first time dropping incendiaries on a large scale in the daytime”, while 300 carrier-borne planes were raking Kyushu, following up a larger raid the day before by 900 planes. In Okinawa, reports the Asahi, “a confused battle is raging, with indications that the fighting line has been shifted nearer to Shuri and Naha. Evidently the enemy has come out to launch a general offensive both on land and sea.” In view of this, orders the Asahi, “is the enemy inordinately intending to win the war at one stroke?”

And the paper complains: “We have the favor of heaven, the harmony of men, and the advantage of locale. What we lack, it is regrettable to say, is materials.” Heaven favors the longest assembly-line.

Premier Suzuki knows it. At a conference of prefectural governors yesterday he reminded his hearers that the empire was now fighting along, “that it could not fight without an increase in production, and that there could be no increase “without the people’s trust”.

It is probably the chief disadvantage of a bureaucratic government that it must be taught this basic technique of the politician. Certainly it is startling for one who has lived under other forms of government to hear such elementary instructions as the premier felt compelled to give the governors:

“It is necessary that you should live and work in concert with the people…. With modesty and with the attitude of reflecting on your conduct daily, you are called to recognize straightforwardly the prevailing situation, give consideration to the spirit of the people at work, listen to their enthusiastic will, and respond thereto. The result will be that you will be kinder in your leadership….

“Show a good example to the people and take proper and timely measures as necessity arises, without being influenced by the ups and downs of the war situation. In the course of the performance of your duties you will find obstacles in time-honored customs and complicated regulations, but it is hoped that you will judge the situation on the basis of your responsibility…. and act with dispatch and courage.”

The Premier did not forget to give the governors a certain reassurance. As I often say,” he reminded them, “world war history shows that it is not always the big country that wins and the small country that is defeated. The country that fight it out under a moral order gets the ultimate victory.”

Which is no truer than it is to say that right makes might.


11th May 1945

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

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


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….”

 

 

 


25th April 1945

The spirits of 41,318 army and navy dead, including the late Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, were solemnly enshrined in Yasakuni last night. Describing the “spirit convocation ceremony” which started at 6 p.m., the Mainichi writes: “Despite repeated enemy air-raids the atmosphere of the Kudan precincts inspired men with awe and veneration unutterable. First the guard of honor, led by the Commander Akiyoshi, took their appointed places, following which admiral Zengo Yoshida, chairman of the enshrinement committee, and other representatives of the army, navy, government, and the public institutions arrived. Then the members of the committee from the army and the navy, as well as Chief Priest Suzuki assumed their respective seats. Priest Takahara made an offering to the spirits and Chief Priest Suzuki recited prayers while all are ___ bowed in perseverance. Chief Priest Suzuki again recited prayers and without the offerings. The military band resounded throughout the precincts and all torch-lights were put out, turning the ceremonial place into holy darkness. During this time the spirits of the 41,318 heroes were deified and enshrined in the secret precincts of the Yasukuni eternally. After that the torches were lit again and the offering of branches of the sacred tree was solemnly made by Admiral Yoshida, chairman of the committee, and others, bringing the spirit-convocation ceremony to a close shortly after 8 p.m.” This morning in the presence of an imperial messenger (Prince Hiroyoshi Ito), the spring special grand festival of Yasukuni shrine will be opened.

The civilians killed in the air-raids have had their enshrinement in a row of figures. Today the government made public its first announcement on the damage suffered from the 1st March to the 16th April. In Tokyo some 510,000 houses hove been burnt; in Osaka, some 130,000; in Nagoya, some 60,000; in Kobe, some 70,000 Air-raid sufferers numbered in Tokyo some 2,100,000; in Osaka, some 510,000; in Nagoya, some 270,000; in Kobe, some 260,000. Figures for Yokohama and Kawasaki are “under investigation”. No figures on casualties were given. Still the Suzuki cabinet seems to be trying to fulfill its pledge for greater frankness on the course of the war.


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.


9th April 1945

With the cabinet almost complete and the ceremony of imperial investiture held Saturday night, Suzuki yesterday, Sunday, made his first radiocast as premier and gave his first interview to the press. Outwardly it is still a war cabinet; Suzuki is already being compared to Clemenceau, the indomitable old man who led France to victory in the first world war. Perhaps after all the signs were wrong; the old man will not seek peace but death. Still the feeling persists that this is all window-dressing.

Suzuki’s radio address was tuned to a note of sacrifice and immolation rather than victory. “I believe that there are not a few people who were rather surprised that I should have received the imperial order to assume my new post. I who am nearly 80 years old have tried to serve faithfully. However I have had no part in active politics before so that I am naturally not fit to serve. In view of the pressing war situation I have accepted the imperial order with the idea that though I die in this my last post, standing as the very head of the 100 million people, you the people shall ride over my body and overcome the situation our country is now in.”

But the premier’s first interview, as reported by the press this morning, was not so forthright. The interview follows in question and answer form:

Q.– How do you propose to solve the present situation?

A. – I am very old and I doubt if I can do much. Why, at this serious crisis, have I, a mere soldier, had to come to the front? I leave it to your imagination. In regard of the prospects of the war, I think we shall win…. It is a mistake to conclude that we have been defeated, looking only at the superficial aspect of the war. I don’t think we lost in Yiojima. In that battle we gave the enemy & great spiritual blow. If we all get into this frame of mind, if the people are really united and push the war through, we shall not be defeated. That is my belief….

Q. – What will you give priority in your administration? What is the basis of the policy of the new cabinet?

A. – I am a mere soldier and don’t understand politics…. My individual view is that we are at war and war needs no slogans.

Q. – Have you any new ideas for adjusting relations between the high command and the administration?

A. – I don’t know the present state of affairs so I have no ideas as yet on the matter.

Q. – Have you any plans for a smaller three-minister or four-minister super-cabinet?

A. – I am a mere soldier and I have had a great dislike for politics so I have no ideas on the subject. Clemenceau was a statesman from the first and was well versed in political affairs from early youth. I am his diametrical opposite. I have always devoted my attention to military affairs. I shall push everything onward to win the war by all means.

Q. – How about concrete measures for the formation of the national volunteer corps?

A. – As regards this matter, all I know is what I have read in the papers.

Q. – What counter-measures are contemplated concerning the notice of abrogation of the Soviet pact?

A. – I wish to see to this after appointing a full-time foreign minister.

Q. – What measures shall be taken for the production of munitions, especially scientific weapons?

A. – From the strategic viewpoint, the time of fighting with bamboo spears does not come until the final stage so that there is need of securing plentiful supplies of arms. As this is absolutely necessary, even the manufacture of hand grenades from empty tin cans should be undertaken and thus we should endeavor to have as many weapons as possible.”

And so on and so on.

The interview is scarcely credible. Is this the premier of the great Japanese Empire, this naive octogenarian who does mot understand and does not like politics, who believes that Yiojima was a Japanese victory, whose strategical plans are apparently reduced to making hand-grenades out of tin cans, a “mere soldier” who has “no ideas on the subject”? Is this merely a shrewd pose in a country that dislikes and distrusts politicians? Or is Suzuki really the man he appears to be from his interview, a bumbling dreamy old hero, wetting his thumb as turns the pages of his newspapers, bewildered and frightened by his tremendous responsibilities, yearning with all his heart to be off again in a quiet garden, dozing in the sun with fugitive memories of his torpedo attack on the Imperial Chinese fleet half a century ago?

Nor is the quality of the rest of the cabinet reassuring to the Japanese. The Times earnestly tries to make a virtue out of the cabinet’s mediocrity; it “presents no surprises”. The Times prophesies with unconscious lugubriousness: “No radical innovations of questionable soundness, no strong-arm methods of coercion, no frantic search for panaceas, will be indulged in by these men if their background is any criterion. Rather, a vigorous persistent execution of time-tested orthodox means….” The Mainichi is more sensitive to realities. “The Suzuki cabinet is not exactly young blood. Nor can it be called a group of men of the first magnitude. If anything it embraces quite a few bureaucrats.” But the Mainichi notes sharply: “The new prime minister has striven hard to enlist the services of mellow and scrupulous statesmen… (But) mellowness and conscientiousness are not the sole qualifications for those at the helm of the state. The state must be administered by real go-getters who have absolute control of the situation.


7th April 1945

With 120 bombers over Tokyo and 150 more over Nagoya, Suzuki requested “the visits of ministerial candidates to his cabinet-organizing headquarters” from 8 o’clock this morning and “entered into direct negotiations with them.” The press expected that some of the Koiso ministers would be retained, among them Admiral Yonai for the navy, “to organize the most powerful cabinet available, one that will be the last of the war, ” a phrase of double meaning.

In the Fujiya I was surprised to meet the Manchu ambassador. We had received the official notification of his return home on leave. He explained that he had left Shimonoseki on the ferry to Chosen but one of the magnetic mines sown by B-29’s had exploded 15 meters behind the ship, lifting it out of the water and damaging its propellers. It had to be towed back to Shimonoseki. Now the ambassador is waiting for a plane.


6th April 1945

Admiral Baron Kantaro Suzuki is the new premier. The Mainichi, in reporting how he “received the imperial command” to form a new cabinet, gave an interesting peek into Japanese government. “When Premier Koiso submitted the resignation of the cabinet to the throne yesterday, His Majesty the Emperor summoned to the imperial palace Marquis Koichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and commanded him to recommend the successor. In view of the seriousness of the situation both at home and abroad, Marquis Kido desired the opinions of the senior statesmen and asked them to assemble at the imperial palace. Accordingly, Baron Reijiro Wakatsuki, Admiral Keisuke Okada, Koki Hirota, Prince Fuminaro Konoye, Baron Kiichiro Hiranuma, and General Hideki Tozyo, all former prime ministers, and Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, president of the privy council, presented themselves at the imperial palace. They sat in conference at 6 p.m. and deliberated in earnest on the selection of the head of the succeeding cabinet until 8:40 p.m. Marquis Kido reported to the throne on the results of the deliberation. Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, who remained at the palace after the conference, was received in audience by His Majesty the Emperor (at 10 p.m.) and was commanded to organize the succeeding cabinet.” According to the Asahi, Admiral Suzuki, overawed by the imperial favor, asked for time and retired. The premier designate will now establish his “cabinet-formation headquarters”. Pressmen and politicians will watch who calls and is called and will make up their dope-lists of probable cabinet members. When the cabinet is completed, Suzuki will present the list to the throne and an imperial investiture will quickly follow.

There are several points about Suzuki that have immediately been brought up. He is known as an “emperor’s man” because he was grand chamberlain for many years. He is of course a navy men and his chief aide in lining up a cabinet seems to be another navy man and elder statesman, Admiral Okada. He is considered a “liberal” as liberals go in Japan; both he and Okada were on the “wanted” list of the young officers’ revolt in 1936; he was wounded while Okada was saved when the conspirators killed his brother-in-law by mistake. Most significant of all, Suzuki is old, only one year short of 80, old enough to be a hero of the first Chinese and Russian wars, old enough to commit political or actual harakiri by making peace. Long before this everyone agreed that an old premier meant defeat and peace. Certainly if the goal were still the active and unrelenting prosecution of the war, a younger man would have been chosen, possibly a prince of the blood royal as was expected after Tozyo. The Filipinos in Tokyo have a word for it; the new premier is not Suzuki but Susuku (which is Tagalog for “will surrender”).

There is of course no open talk of peace. In resigning, the Koiso cabinet expressed the hope for a stronger government, presumably stronger for and in the war. For their part the vernaculars all call for one grim united effort to avert invasion and conquest. They assign many causes for the downfall of Koiso. Koiso’s policies were not “coordinated”. He failed to rally the people. He lost their confidence. He was purely a transition premier from one “strong man” to another. Most of the vernaculars hint at the insoluble problem of “coordinating” the administration and the high command”. But no one has mentioned Yiojima or Okinawa or the great Tokyo raids or the fact that Soviet Russia has given notice of its desire to abrogate the neutrality or non-aggression pact. These causes, and peace, were just as decisive. The people were tired of the army and they have turned to the navy; they were tired of the younger officers and they have turned to the elder statesmen; they were tired of defeat, ruin, hunger, homeless insecurity, and they have turned to — what? They do not say because they do not know. They shuffle in their long weary queues, bundle up their frayed and scorched belongings, and hide their faces. Koiso has been jerked out of the stage as suddenly, noiselessly, and simply as Tozyo. It is not hard to see that it makes little difference to the puppet show. But the profound weariness and melancholy of the people cannot be healed by a change in the cast. It is convenient to give them someone to blame and hiss and boo and throw out. It may assure them for a time. But their mood is too deep to be lifted by anything short of glorious victory or at least the surcease of peace. Now if they cannot take it out on the cabinet, they take it out on what they can lay their hands on.

Going to the chancery we sniffed something of this reckless desperate spirit. A volunteer wrecking squad was tearing down the houses in our neighborhood to clear a fire-break. They seemed possessed by a lust for destruction. A laughing student hurled down a window to the street and it crashed amid a shower of broken glass. Another student was furiously at work with a heavy hammer, smashing down, the plaster partitions. A heavy rope was coiled along the street. Later the squad would noisily pull down the light framework, splitting and rending irreplaceable timber in a roar of dust, splintered tile, shattered glass, and that strange satisfying exaltation of blind destruction. And then they would sit on their haunches, their mirthless laughter slowly dying; they would stare at the ruins, breathing heavily, and their faces would grow sad and empty. We had seen many of these squads at work and passing them today we felt once more a twinge of uneasy apprehension.