Bataan, 1942: views of a father and his son

Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.
Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.

 

(Revised, April 8, 2017) The Philippine Diary Project includes the diaries of a father and his son: Victor Buencamino, and Felipe Buencamino III. At the outbreak of the war, Victor Buencamino was head of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, precursor of today’s National Food Authority. His published diary covers the period from the arrival of the Japanese in Manila, and the first half of the Japanese Occupation.His diary provides an in-depth look into the dilemma facing government officials who stuck to their posts despite the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government and the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese. At certain points, particularly from January-April, 1942, he gets intermittent news about his son (who was, on the other hand, participating in clandestine military intelligence missions, even in Manila).

Particularly gripping are his entries for April, 1942, when on one hand, he is wrestling with increasing Japanese interference and intimidation –including his being summoned to the dreaded Fort Santiago, where other members of his staff had already been summoned and in at least once instance, tortured– and on the other, frantic for news about his son, particularly after the Fall of Bataan, when on the same day he received condolence messages and news his son was alive. Then, he recounted the grief of parents and his own search of the concentration camps.

As for Victor Buencamino’s son, Lt. Felipe Buencamino III, known to his friends as Philip, was a young journalist who became a junior officer in Bataan, assigned to General Simeon de Jesus headed military intelligence. He kept a diary from the time of the retreat of USAFFE forces from the outskirts of Manila to Bataan, and conditions there as well as in Corregidor, which he periodically visited, looming defeat, the eve of surrender,  and then the Death March and then wrote a kind of diary-memoir of the ordeal of his fellow prisoners in the Capas Concentration Campas well as his classmates. At times, his diary intersects with other diaries, such as the diary of Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, since Philip accompanied the General during one of his visits to the frontlines in Bataan. He resumed his diary, briefly, in September to December, 1944.
Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942.
Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942

His Bataan diary prominently features two close friends: the writer and future diplomat Leon Ma. Guerrero (who would later keep a Tokyo diary covering the last months of World War II in Japan and the first months of the Allied Occupation), and Fred Ruiz Castro, future Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and who ended his career as Chief Justice of the Philippines.

After the Death March and imprisonment in Camp O’Donnell, Lt. Buencamino would go home and convalesce. His diary resumed in September, 1944, and covers the start of Allied air raids on Manila, and the preparations of Japanese forces for what would be the Battle for Manila.

During Liberation, he became did a stint in the newspaper published by the Allied forces and then joined friends in setting an early post-Liberation paper. He also became a broadcaster.

He left journalism to begin a career in the new Philippine foreign service.

On April 28, 1949, Felipe Buencamino III, together with his mother-in-law, Aurora A. Quezon, sister-in-law, Maria Aurora Quezon, and Ponciano Bernardo (mayor of Quezon City) and others, were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the Hukbalahap

Leon Ma. Guerrero, in writing about Mrs. Quezon and the ambush in which she was killed, in 1951, also wrote about his friend, Philip:

In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.

The late Fr. James Reuter, SJ, wrote about it in 2005:

On April 28, 1949 – 56 years ago, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon was on her way to Baler. With her eldest daughter, Maria Aurora, whom everyone called “Baby”. And with her son-in-law, Philip Buencamino, who was married to her younger daughter, Zeneida, whom everyone called “Nini”. Nini was at home with their first baby, Felipe IV, whom everyone called “Boom”. And she was pregnant with their second baby “Noni”.

On a rough mountain road, in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, they were ambushed by gunmen hiding behind the trees on the mountainside. The cars were riddled with bullets. All three of them were killed. Along with several others, among them Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.

Adiong, the Quezon family driver, was spared. Running to the first car, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and said: “Malakas pa ako. Tingnan mo” — “I am still strong. Look!” And dipping his finger in his own blood, Philip wrote on the backrest of the front seat: “Hope in God”.

When they placed him in another vehicle for Cabanatuan, his bloody hands were fingering his rosary, and his lips were moving in prayer. This was consistent with his whole life. His rosary was always in his pocket. And on his 29th birthday, exactly one month before, on March 28, 1949, at dinner in his father’s home, he said to Raul Manglapus: “Raul, the Blessed Virgin has appeared at Lipa, and has a message for all of us. What are we going to do, to welcome her, and to spread her message?”

He was echoing the thoughts of Doña Aurora, who wanted a national period of prayer to welcome the Virgin and to spread her message of Peace. Years later, the Concerned Women of the Philippines established the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards, choosing the name in honor of this good, quiet, peaceful woman.

The blood stained rosary was brought to Nini, after Philip’s death. Many years later, she wrote down the thoughts that came to her when they gave her the bloody beads:

“We had joined my mother in Baguio for Holy Week, 1949. As we drove down the zigzag, after attending all the Holy Week services, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Nini, if we were to have an accident now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time for us to go?’ I said to him, ‘You may be ready, Phil, but I still have a child to give life to, so I can’t go just yet.’ And not long after this, his life was taken, and mine was spared.”

Her life was spared, but she felt the agony of those three deaths more intensely than anyone else. In that ambush she lost her husband, her mother, and her only sister. The gunmen riddled their bodies with bullets, on that rough mountain road. But miles away, with her one year old baby in her arms, and another baby in her womb, the gunmen left her with a broken heart. The ones she loved went home to God. But she had to carry on.

Another friend of Philip’s, Teodoro M. Locsin, whose wartime diary is also featured in the Philippine Diary Project, wrote about the murder of his friend, in the Philippines Free Press: see One Must Die, May 7, 1949:

I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.

Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.

Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side…

…As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.

After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.

Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.

He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.

When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.

He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.

Felipe Buencamino III married Zeneida Quezon. Behind the couple can be seen: Victor Buencamino, the groom’s father; groom’s friends newsman Doroy Valencia and broadcaster Arsenio Lacson; bride’s brother, Manuel L. Quezon Jr., and the groom’s other great friend, Raul Manglapus.

A few days earlier, the other friend mentioned by Locsin —Arsenio H. Lacson on May 3, 1949— had also paid tribute to his friend, Philip:

Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.

Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.

Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him, to fret and worry over the distraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.

And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:

no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.

The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: “How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.”

That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.

And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices –men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.

Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whom Philip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign service. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.

On a final note, you can listen to Felipe Buencamino III: He was the emcee for the Malacañan Press Corps, in the first radio press conference of President Roxas broadcast from Malacañan Palace in 1947.

First radio press conference of Manuel Roxas. Felipe Buencamino III was the emcee.

Postscript: August 29, 1945-July 4, 1946

POSTSCRIPT

Possibly the last officially recognized remnants of the Hitler and Mussolini regimes were the Axis diplomats under “technical custody” in the Japanese city of Atami, a seashore holiday resort a little over two hours by rail from Tokyo. There, in a shabby hotel halfway up Peach Hill, overlooking the narrow gray sheds of the railway station and a shaggy stub of peninsula poking into a murky sea, some 27 Germans and 19 Italians awaited repatriation or such other disposition as the Supreme Commander might make. While they were as a whole a good-humored bunch, they had a vaguely pathetic air, slightly unreal, like that of an old political poster on the wall that nobody has bothered to tear down long after the elections are over.

They could be seen strolling down the city’s busy slope to the beach of an afternoon, lean, grave, and rather carefully dressed, thoughfully eyeing the golden oranges in the black net bags, or watching the itinerant fortune-teller’s trained birds as they hopped to the gates of their miniature pagoda, rang a silver bell, and pecked up a tiny scroll. They were inclined to be self-conscious and supercilious, with tight little smiles that were apt to grow tired and fixed. Curious stares followed them for in this country, where a shamed, sullen, superstitious awe of the foreigner had washed back in the wake of defeat, they shared in the renewed prestige of a light complexion. The feline eyes of the Japanese girls ran with an avid restlessness over the coiffures and costumes of the foreign women. Sometimes a forward little boy would trot after the blonde consulate clerks with the familiar wheedle:

“Hello, hello, gum-u?”

The G.I.s who flooded Atami every weekend until, ostensibly as a health measure, all Japanese inns were placed off-limits in the middle of May 1946, fell into the same natural confusion. When they caught sight of the women from Peach Hill, their arms would loosen guiltily on the shoulders of the pudding-faced dancer beside them and they would smile, brightly, shyly, or awkwardly, but always with the identical quality of homesickness and a fugitive hope.

“Hel-lo, beautiful!”

Or “Oh, you babe!”

Or “Excuse me, ma’am, are you American? Do you speak English?”

“Yes I speak English. No, I’m German. I’m Italian.”

Some of the G.I.s would say: “Oh, I see” and move on.

Others were glad enough to keep the conversation going, because their fathers and mothers had come from the old country, or just because they liked talking in English to someone not in uniform. But an awkwardness would have fallen by then. It would not be quite the same, especially since the hotel on Peach Hill was strictly off-limits to all Allied military personnel.

Afterward, when there were no longer any G.I.s in Atami outside of M.P. patrols and the fortunate but bored guests at the enlisted men’s recreation center at the Atami Hotel, a sense of the odd ambiguity of the aimless elegant people on Peach Hill remained among the Japanese. The word went around that they were Germans and Italians, former allies, and, depending on the sympathies of the person concerned, they earned either a latent hostility and contempt or a secret protective affection.

The Axis diplomats did not seem to care much one way or the other. They had reason to be content By virtue of a S.C.A.P. directive and international courtesy, the Japanese government continued to treat them as accredited representatives of their vanished regimes, providing them with quarters (a godsend since Japan was in the gip of an even worse housing shortage than the U.S.), special diplomatic rations (as distinguished from the ordinary foreigner and Japanese rations), and other privileges (such as the withdrawal of 1,500 yen per head of family per month from blocked accounts in yen, instead of the ordinary 100 yen). The Japanese government also paid their hotel bills.

Nobody seemed to be in any particular hurry about liquidating the affair outside of the Japanese government whose anxiety, as the bills continued to mount, could well be understood. But the Army of Occupation had more urgent tasks and had, to all appearances, forgotten its diplomatic charges after an initial flurry of raids, searches, seizures and interrogations. The Atami colony for its part knew when it should be thankful; it wasn’t every German and Italian, in fact there were precious few human beings in the post-war world, that could drift from day to day relieved from the perplexity of the next meal or the landlord’s bill.

This benevolent custody (it was called “protective” at first and later “technical”, a distinction which no one in Atami was quite certain how to interpret) was first imposed shortly after the entrance of the occupation forces in Tokyo. The Aix and Daitoa (Greater East Asia) diplomatic corps had fled the burning capital long before that and had taken refuge in the luxurious Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita, Hakone. This tourst hot-spring resort in the national park near Fuji was the evacuation center officially designated for them, the Soviet embassy having been shunted off to the Gora Hotel in the neighboring village of the same name after excited demarches on the lack of heating facilities in northern Karuizawa, where the other neutrals had been billeted.

The war had scarcely touched the Fujiya. Bombers had growled distantly and fleetingly above on their way to Tokyo from the rendezvous at Fuji but one could away from them by putting his head under the pillow. This was more than could be said for the kempei-tai or military police, whom it was rather more difficult to ignore. They had their headquarters in a converted curio store opposite the main hotel entrance and early risers could glimpse them reporting for work every morning, clad in soiled uniforms which they blandly hung up on the walls within sight of the street in order to assume various clumsy disguises. Every noon one of them would across the unpainted coop next to the gate and feed the pigeons. These plump and gentle birds never did carry any messages, as far as anyone could determine, and after the surrender they quickly disappeared, presumably into a kempei-tai kettle.

But the kempei-tai had more pitiable victims. One day a talkative Italian merchant, who mourned the American market a little too bitterly when in his cups, disappeared from the hotel simultaneously with the nice Japanese student who had been convalescing in the next room. Another time an over-diligent German newspaperman failed to show up for his usual chess game and was thereafter permanently absent. Next, a pale gaunt man, leaning heavily on a cane, made his cryptic and somber appearance; no one dared speak to him; he was said to be a Jew released from a kempei-tai prison in Manchuria for reasons that remained obscure.

But these were passing wraiths that everyone tried to forget and the kempei, outside of periodical loutish visitation and interviews, respected the traditional diplomatic immunities, injecting only occasional spurts of panic with the piecemeal disintegration of the Axis. As each satellite government fell, its nationals were forbidden to communicate with the other guests, an arrangement that reached its climax with the surrender of Germany when boundary lines were drawn with a truly European hysteria, the Bulgars glowering at the Finns who scowled at the Italians who nervously and reproachfully avoided the Germans. The pious Hungarian blonde married to a French count was finally compelled to talk to the Parisian divorcee who was not married to the French officer she was living with. However these were minor inconveniences.

It was really not until two U.S. Army photographers in a jeep drove up shortly after the Japanese capitulation that the diplomats at the Fujiya had their first startled look at war and defeat. Newspapermen followed the photographers (who turned out to be undercover men for the Counter-Intelligence Corps) and then various officers and men who seemed to be bent on nothing more startling than a steaming hot sulphur bath and dinner served on a white table-cloth by a pretty waitress. Things had almost settled down to a polite routine when a visiting G.I. gathered the impression one evening that the German diplomats at the next table were snickering at him and promptly started a fist fight.

The next morning the chiefs of all the diplomatic missions lodged at the Fujiya were summoned by a courtly and very correct gray-haired officer who introduced himself to them as Colonel Robert Loughlin, Judge Advocate Service, Eighth Army. The tall old colonel may have found the company that gathered promptly in his richly appointed Chrysanthemum suite in the Flower Palace, exhilaratingly odd. Certainly it would have been of interest to the curious and conscientious historian for nowhere else had the United States Army confronted simultaneously such a comprehensive roster of the Axis and its satellites.

The immaculate and wary German ambassador, Doktor Stahmer, showed his yellow teeth in an uncertain smile. The only other ambassador present, the Manchu Wang, equally tall in his green civilian uniform, stared vacantly; he knew no English. His eyes were troubled and far-away; perhaps he was thinking how he might have got away if the ferry to Korea had not had its stern blown out of the water while still within sight of Shimonoseki. The Chinese chargé, also Wang (a coincidence that tended to confuse the colonel) thrust forward a thin, delicately featured ivory face, pale with dread. The Italian chargé, Colonel Principini, grinned fixedly in exactly the same faintly horrible way he had grinned at the Japanese for the past two years. A twisted deep-purple smile played on the dark square face of the Thai counsellor while the Burmese captain representing the military attaché, sat stolidly, his small piggish eyes cold and watchful.

Whatever the colonel’s reflections were in the face of his mixed company, he did not voice them. Instead he briskly imparted the information that for their own protection the diplomats at the Fujiya would please consider themselves in the charge of the United States Army. The measure had been in contemplation for some time, the colonel explained, and it was in fact the reason he was at the Fujiya at all, but the recent disagreeable incident had forced him to act ahead of schedule. The hotel would be put off-limits for unauthorized military personnel; guards would be posted at the gates; and there would be the inconvenience of securing formal permission before the guests could leave the premises; but otherwise no other restrictions on personal movements was being imposed for the present.

The diplomats appeared to be relieved more than anything else. They had expected more drastic measures; there had been rumors and fears of a concentration camp, at the very least of an internment. No doubt of it, the Americans, after all, were gentlemen.

But almost immediately one of those stubborn conflicts of jurisdiction so common to the military broke out between the Counter-Intelligence Corps, whose agents had quietly started to corner and question the diplomats, and what might be called the Guard, whose commander was determined to respect diplomatic immunities. The progress of the hostilities can be gauged briefly and accurately from the successive ranks of commanders of the guard. The punctilious old colonel, who took his international courtesy so seriously that he personally accompanied the Burmese military attaché to Tokyo and stormed into the office of the C.I.C. to demand the withdrawal of an order of arrest, was quickly replaced by a soft-spoken but still firm major, who was in turn relieved by an indifferent captain, who gave way to a succession of good-natured second lieutenants, who eventually disappeared entirely from the scene and left the C.I.C. in complete control.

The Axis diplomats had ample reason to regret this outcome of the dispute. There was never, of course, any question of secret and confidential documents being seized; there was more than sufficient time to destroy them. But the C.I.C. did not take kindly to diplomatic niceties and placed its charge under a permit system which was succinctly described by an outraged embassy secretary. “I fell,” he said, “like raising my hand everytime I go to the washroom.”

Things were certainly more pleasant in the pre-C.I.C. era. In what, to borrow the terminology of Japanese history, might be called the Fujiya Period, the colonel and the major granted request for permits to travel, as from one gentleman to another, no questions asked. In October 1945 the Fuiya was taken over as an officers’ recreation center and the Axis diplomats were hustled over to the fomer Soviet quarters at the Gora Hotel, 10 minutes by train up the mountain. In this the Gora Period, after a perplexing interval when no permits at all were required, the captain and his successors the second lieutenants gradually surrendered their pass-issuing prerogatives to the C.I.C., which required written applications and granted them only in dire emergencies. In mid-April 1946 the Gora Hotel in turn was designated as a recreation center for enlisted men and the Atami Period was inaugurated during which the diplomats were entirely isolated and compelled to submit their applications on specific days twice a week when a C.I.C. agent from another city called to pass upon them.

This permit system, perhaps by design, impressed upon the Axis remnants, as nothing else could have done, the fact of their defeat. While avoiding outright bars and barbed wire, it contrived to place them in the exasperating and humiliating position of convent-school girls waiting on Mother Superior in a dither for a Sunday afternoon out. Since the inmates of Peach Hill had considerably more complex and urgent needs to satisfy than the ordinary boarding-school adolescent, the system led to rather more dissatisfaction and brooding than would at first sigh seem warranted.

Actually the C.I.C. was more considerate than the Axis would have been had the roles been reversed. In the Fujiya Period the diplomats were allowed to move freely only within the hotel grounds; in the Gora Period the zone was extended to include the Catholic chapel, two doctors, the park, and the village tram station, a pleasant if monotonous 10-minute walk; in Atami, the liveliest section of the city was open, including the central shopping district, several restaurants, one movie theater, a doctor and two dentists, and a strip of beach. The New Atami Dance-Hall was a few tantalizing steps off limits but the red-light district was well outside. A more intolerant vindictiveness might have been expected considering the fact that the C.I.C. lieutenant who fixed the boundaries was naturalized American Jew whose family in Germany had either been killed or driven into exile by the Nazis.

This balding paunchy young man with the diamond ring was replaced by a taciturn and wealthy New York painter but was some time before the German diplomats could consider his memory with equanimity. Their favorite joke about him was that he surely deserved a decoration from the fuehrer; he had made more Nazis among the local Germans than Goebbels. The Italians had slightly more reason for resentment against him. A frantic Neapolitan, despairing of ever securing a permit to go to Tokyo, screamed her way into his office one day, brandishing a tooth and demanding to see her dentist (there were none in Gora). The tooth was not examined too closely, which perhaps was just as well, and the permit was granted. There was talk afterward of passing the tooth around but it never did materialize. A more serious incident occured when a six year-old Italian boy caught a bad cold and his parents were refused permission to buy medicines in Tokyo; the cough developed into double pneumonia and a minor scandal ensued which prompted an investigation from the head office in Yokohama.

Basically, however, the diplomats’ impatience with the restrictions placed on their movements was of a puzzled and envious character. No one, not even the local C.I.C. agents themselves, seemed to understand why similar restrictions had never been placed on those Axis diplomats who did not happen to be at the Fujiya when the self-conscious G.I. opened his personal D-Day. By virtue of what appeared to be a purely arbitrary distinction, these diplomats in Tokyo, Hakone, or Karuizawa, enjoyed liberty of action with the spacious limits of the prefecture in which they were residing. The situation weighed upon the minds of the people on Peach Hill in their hours of discontent although the other considered them lucky devils, and even tried to join them, because they didn’t have to worry about bills. It was in a way a parable on the modern dilemma of liberty and security or on the older problem of human envy.

Possibly the envy hypothesis was the more valid; certainly it reduced the Axis orphans in Japan to the childish indignities of a shrill “You too!” and “He did it!” A considerable amount of intrigue was to expected among diplomatic gentry but the panic of self-preservation stimulated more sleeve-clutching behind-cupped-hands slander than an oil concession.

The Italians, who normally would have been satisfied to blame it all on the Germans, had their lives complicated by Mussolini’s “Italian Socialist Republic”. The Japanese kempei-tai did not stand much on ceremony and, upon Badoglio’s surrender, they packed off the Italian diplomats into an internment camp without giving them much of a choice or consulting any other rules of protocol but their secret dossiers. The only exception made was for the press attaché who was known to a personal friend of the fallen dictator. However, upon Mussolini’s resurrection, the Italian embassy was reestablished in Tokyo in the charge of the former military attaché in Nanking. The minor embassy employees and other Italian nationals in Japan were thereupon required by the Japanese to swear allegiance to the new regime at a ceremony in a Tokyo Catholic church, embellished with the appropriate Latin touches of melodrama.

The line thus drawn may have remained reasonably clear and undisputed even after Japan’s surrender had not the Badoglio diplomats, upon their liberation from internment, embarked upon an all-out vendetta. They hounded the erstwhile fascists out of their precarious jobs with the new military government, protested loudly when American officers took fascist girls out dancing to the same hotel where they were guests, and, having failed in persuading the Americans to throw the fascists into a concentration camp, reeled off long telegrams of denunciation to the government at Rome. This seemed somewhat presumptuous to their victims since, if fascism were the issue, the former embassy members had been fascists too and in fact the former ambassador, Indelli, had signed the tri-partite pacts in Tokyo. The squabble reached its clamactic end when Rome announced that it was paying for the repatriation of all Italian diplomats, whether pre- or post-Badoglio. The Badoglio group swallowed this rebuff quite literally. They omitted notifying the rival group until 24 hours before sailing time by which time it was too late to do anything but shake a fine Italian fist and put the evil eye on the successful conspirators (as a matter of fact, some them had their baggage dropped by a crane into the sea when trans-shipping at Panama).

Intrigue among the Germans was more tortured, more savage. It was imbued with that ponderous and deliberate frenzy, that implacable extremism, that is so unmistakably Teutonic. Where the Italians resembled two vain and petulant children quarreling about who first took the jampot down from the shelf and ate most of the jam, the Germans were nothing less than a couple of harridans snarling at each other over a scrap of bone they had dug out of the garbage-can. Where the Italians brought to mind the malicious gossip of a seminary for young ladies about what darling Mary was seen doing in the conservatory, the Germans were seized by the same degrading and terrifying cunning that impels the criminal to turn state’s evidence and pile all the blame on his accomplices.

The issue among the Germans was simply who was or was not a “real Nazi”. Not one of the 3,000-odd Germans in Japan seems to have been a “real Nazi”, outside of a few hopelessly compromised leiters and even these tried to argue that their positions were non-political and their main duty, the protection of the community. Since it is manifestly impossible to follow the tortuous course of each and every one of these allegations, it might be more convenient to concentrate on the higher embassy circles. Here the conflict was shaped early during the war, a handy starting point being the curious Sorge case.

Sorge was a German newspaperman, a surly and unkempt fellow from some accounts, who succeeded in some unexplained fashion in insinuating himself into the good graces of Ott, the German ambassador in Tokyo at the time. He won Ott’s confidence to such an extent that was gradually given access to secret files. When the Japanese discovered that Sorge was the head of Soviet spy ring, they asked for the relief of Ott who was sent in disgrace to Peking to sit out the war. Ott’s place was taken by Dr. Stahmer, then German ambassador in Nanking, who had previously been in Tokyo as Ribbentrop’s personal representative in the negotiations for the tri-partite pact. However Ott had left behind a latent source of opposition in a group of loyal subordinates and, upon the collapse of Germany, they came out into the open with a communication to the Japanese Foreign Office repudiating the leadership of Dr. Stahmer.

Not even the CIC, apparently, was able to weigh with any degree of assurance the relative merits or demerits of Stahmer, who negotiated the tri-partite pact, and Ott, who signed it in Tokyo. Stahmer, kept under room arrest throughout the Gora Period, was subsequently confined in Sugamo Prison but the opposing faction did not feel quite at their ease, Ott having been taken from Peking to Tokyo in the meantime. In fact if anyone gained any prestige from the shoddy business, it was the Stahmers. Dr. Stahmer himself contrived to maintain a steadfast dignity, standing stolidly on the rather shaky proposition that the tri-artite pact was designed to keep America out of the war and was thus defensive rather than aggressive, a contribution to world peace rather than to global war. Mrs. Stahmer, a handsome aristocrat inclined to worry about her husband doing his own laundry and her two soldier sons of whom she had no news, expressed, like her husband, a well-bred distaste for trading calumny for slander. She appeared to have more faith in the efficacy of her frequent protestations of friendship with such elegant figured as the Dukes of Windsor and Coburg.

The other Germans were rather less discreet and the agents of the CIC found most of their work done for them by a veritable Gestapo of informers. When two Germans were caught off-limits without a permit, they hastily pointed out that there was a third German a little further up the road who might just as well be taken in too; this third German, it might be noted, fully avenged himself by drinking down all the sake the party had gone out to obtain. When a DNB correspondent, in a belated access of prudence, decided to cache a file of his wartime cables to Berlin, someone saw to it that the C.I.C. knew exactly how to get to the tiny cave behind the hillside waterfall. The correspondent in turn, in the grip of an obscure impulse, sought consolation in charging a colleague with complicity.

With such eager volunteer assistants, the C.I.C. was able to hack away at the last remnants of the Axis with a minimum of overt measures. There were so few of these in fact that the outside observer might have found reason to fancy an unforgiveable lassitude or complaisance on the part of the C.I.C. One exasperated contributor to Stars and Stripes charged that the Axis diplomats were living in a fairy-land, a “veritable Shangri-la”.

It was not quite so pleasant. One day the Germans awoke at the Gora Hotel to find sentries posted at the doors of their rooms. A search was made of their persons and baggage, Army nurses having come up the night before the raid to take care of the women, who even had to comb out their pompadours. All cash and gold bars (into which many Germans had converted their cash through the former embassy courier to Shanghai) were taken away. Most of this was later returned except for such amounts as there was reason to believe belonged either to official embassy or Nazi party funds. But a shiver of apprehension ran through the hotel thereafte whenever a WAC or nurse showed up in the dining-room.

Subsequently the Germans the were ordered to submit sworn statements of their assets. Their bank accounts were blocked and frozen and they were forbidden to dispose of any personal property of any sort. However since, as far as the diplomats were concerned, their living expenses were borne by the Japanese government, this did not entail any excessive discomfort.

Sometime after the baggage search the Germans were also ordered to turn in all their tinned food (mostly Australian pork sausage, corned beef, marmalade, and evaporated milk, taken from prize ships captured by German raiders in the Pacific, as well as Japanese tuna, salmon, and sardines, originally canned for export to Germany and later purchased by the German embassy for distribution among its nationals in Japan). These too were later returned without explanation and the affair would have passed off without incident except for a naive German newspaperman called Bacher, the same one who had disappeared into a kempei prison during the last months of the war. Possibly because this experience had impressed on him a scrupulous devotion to literal exactitudes, he left impelled to ask the guard in charge of the collection for guidance.

“Does this order include American canned goods?” he inquired.

“Sure it does. What do you have?”

The conscientious Bacher thereupon brought out an armful of K-rations.

Since trading in G.I. supplies was then being rigorously suppressed, Bacher found himself being asked a number of embarrassing questions. How had he secured these supplies? From an American. Aga, and who was the American? Bacher, by now thoroughly terrified and seeinf visions of another term in a dungeon, blurted out the name of a C.I.C. agent who had until lately been assigned to Gora but who had recently left for home with one of Mrs. Bacher’s kimono.

The revelation was more embarrassing to the C.I.C. than to Bacher but he had no way of knowing it and he imagined the worst when was sternly bundled off to MP headquarters at Hiratsuka. The episode ended rather agreeably for Bacher but not before he had suffered agonies of apprehension. The MP commander turned out to be an understanding fellow who told Bacher to forget it, gave him a G.I. dinner and a spring mattress, and had him escorte the next morning to the railway station, when an impressed station-master cleared a whole compartment for him. He had not gone many stations when a couple of air-corps officers, just back from a profitable run from Manila, came in.

“Chum,” they asked him after some reflection, “would you care to buy some K-rations?”

Bacher nearly fainted. He couldn’t get out of the train fast enough.

Other C.I.C. interventions however were more conclusive, if slightly distorted by the press. For a considerable time during the Gora Period, the Thai ambassador, the German ambassador, the German military attaché ( a sturdy scar-faced general called Kretschmer), and other German embassy members were under room arrest. This confinement was lifted when Dr. Stahmer was taken to Sugamo, an affair which was widely publicized as a “sensational raid” but which was actually a question of the arresting officer stepping out of his room, down one floor, to the ambassador’s. The breathless excitability of the press relations officer concerned betrayed itself again when the C.I.C. impounded the funds of the German community association, which had been extending relief to hundreds of indigent German hausfrauen evacuated from the East Indies. These fund, amounting to 50,000 yen and used mainly to purchase food and pay rent, were inflated in the press to a thumping 50,000,000 yen, described as a secret fund of sinister implications. It was publicity such as this which gave the Germans reason to quip that the C.I.C. was really looking for Hitler in Japan.

Such widely spaced shocks and surprises scarcely distracted the Axis diplomats from their main preoccupations, intrigue, food, and repatriation. Food attained the proportions of an obsession among them. While they were provided far more than the average Japanese or foreigner in Japan, and in addition received special Foreign Office rations of sugar, butter, cigarettes, and whiskey, the gastronomic habits acquired and indulged during a long career of diplomatic cocktail-parties and state dinners rendered them proportionately more fastidious and exacting. Neither the wartime fare at Fujiya (fish and noodles) nor the food-crisis fare at the Gora (noodles and fish) was calculated to satisfy these long-thwarted appetites. As a consequence, much of the cash the diplomats were allowed to withdraw monthly from frozen accounts was spent on eggs, black-market steaks, cheese, fruits, coffee, and sweet preserves.

A haunting aura of broiling meat hung over the Gora Hotel during their stay there, and the enlisted men now billeted in yhe matted Japanese rooms may perhaps still catch a lingering whiff or two of fried eggs. Even in Atami, where a more competent or more honest cook slung out a respectable meal, the denizens of Peach Hill might still be glimpsed haggling over a fresh lobster or bartering their Foreign Office Hikari cigarettes for box of dusty strawberries.

Curiously enough the Germans, who possessed whole cases of tinned goods distributed by their embassy during the war with typical efficiency and thoroughness, were also the center of the greatest number of disputes about food. The Italians were usually content with emotional displays that were scarcely filling. One excitable Italian dashed his plate of noodles at the feet of the Gora Hotel manager; another periodically sobbed when confronted with dried herring; a third brooded on a calculation of the daily number of calories served. He refused to stir from the armchair in the lobby to which he retreated after reading that he was consuming just enough calories for someone who did not move around too much. “Do you know,” he confided, “if you walk 100 meters on the number of calories we are given, the body will begin to live upon itself, to consume itself!”

The Germans were more ruthless. They approached the question of food with the true furor teutonicus. Two close friends stopped talking to one another and formally returned the gifts they had exchange through five years because they disagreed on the partition of a pound of butter. Another German, caught secreting a community barrel of lard and marking it with his name and destination “Hamburg”, squatted upon it in a dull stubborn rage and refused to allow its distribution until he was hauled off bodily. The violence of his feelings was due perhaps to the fact that he was under the influence, not only of the obsession with food, but also of the equally deep-rooted anxiety about repatriation.

The problem of repatriation haunted every inmate of the hotel on Peach Hill, once misnamed the Inn of Ten Thousand Tranquilities and after the surrender renamed more pointedly the Tourist Hotel. Periodically the community was shaken by rumors: dates for the departure, now imminent, now distant, were set by grapevine. Most of the time these rumors died out when they were proved false or when their place was taken by fresh conjectures and canards. Sometimes they had disagreeable consequences as when the Germans, in a panic at the report that they would be shipped off the next day with two suitcases per person, proceeded to dump all their tinned goods on a sagging market; there were black inquiring looks directed afterwards at those who seemed to be eating more than usual. The Italians became just as agitated by rumors that an ancient gunboat by the name of Eritrea was coming to take them all away, or to take only the fascists for trial, or only the seamen, or only certain personages on a secret list; they would proceed via the Panama canal, or the Suez; that they would sleep in cabins, or sleep on the deck; that they would have to pay for the passage, or that the Italian government had advanced it; that their silks and silver would be confiscated; that their dollars would be taken away; that they would be given $250 apiece.

There were constant reminders of this inevitable homecoming. The community had already contracted gently since the Fujiya Period. The Manchus and the Chinese were early taken to China via Sugamo; the Thai ambassador was flown home although the saturnine counselor remained at the Fujiya with full recognition from the Army of Occupation; the Burmese were nervously escorted to a ship by the British, desperately anxious not to antagonize the powerful party of the revolution. Dr. Stahmer had almost been flown back to Germany. The order was not countermanded until he had actually been taken to the airport. In Atami only Colonel Principini remained of the varied company that had first met the United States Army in the Chrysanthemum Suite of the Fujiya. With him there were only actually a handful of diplomats and their families; the others were consular officials or clerks not too anxious to call attention to themselves. They spent their time packing and repacking, nailing up huge cases of food, books, the curios accumulated during an extended tour in East Asia. The pessimistic scattered their essential belongings among different suitcases that if all except one were stolen, some sort of complete outfit would still remain. They were mostly Germans who had grown the hard cunning of the exile and refugee, like a callous shell on their bruised vanities.

The national differences of character between the erstwhile Axis partners was revealed by their attitude toward repatriation as much s by the quality of their intrigues. The Italians took a simple peasant pleasure in the though of going home. If they worried at all, they worried about small immediacies, such as the price of a pair of shoes, the duty on coffee, the damage to the old olive grove. The Italians in Atami were there because they remained loyal to Mussolini and served in his “Social Republic”. But even these, who might be called the last of the fascists, did not seem to mourn fascism or, what is more to the point, to feel guilty about it. Fascism to them was just a political party, a big company union. Italy itself, one suspects, not so important to them as Naples or Vittorio Veneteo or wherever it was they had a vineyard or a square stone house overlooking the bay. They wanted to go home because they were frightened, because life abroad had suddenly grown harsh and uncertain, but one felt that once they had ensconced themselves in their familiar corners, they would be content to survive if nothing else survived.

The Germans made a complete contrast. They were afraid to go home; they did not want to; they expected to because they had to but almost all intended to get out as soon as they could. More than the Italians, they were disheartened at the announcement thatonly those Axis nationals who had resided permanently in Japan before 1 January 1939 could expect to remain and, if they were former diplomatic officials, only in case they could prove they would make some contribution to Japanese social welfare. It was not only that many of these Germans lived in what is now Poland or Soviet Russia or the Soviet zone; fundamentally it was because they felt that Germany was gone and they had nowhere to go home to. Some talked bitterly of retiring to a remote farm where they would have nothing more to do with national ideals and racial destinies. But the very nature of their escape showed how futile it would be. A German without a Weltanschaung is a vacuum that will sooner or later attract a creed or collapse. He craves a loftier significance for life than mere personal survival or parochial calm. He requires a philosophy and a leader for which he can immolate himself. Naziism was such a philosophy and Hitler such a leader; he enfolded and consumed the very heart of the German and drove a whole frenzied people to the extremities of savagery and heroism. The utter annihilation of all this system left the individual German in Atami with an inner emptiness that crumbled under the renewed pressures of existence. He wanted desperately to stay a little longer in the rarefied atmosphere of Peach Hill.

Strangely enough both Germans and Italians were agreed on despising the Japanese, the Italians out of the usual racial vanity the Germans because of that and something more, possibly an obscure resentment that they fought ruinously to the very last gutter and cellar while the Japanese, for all their kamikaze, made a better deal with a meek surrender. Defeat has a way of exaggerating and distoring values but among the poor remnants of the Axis left over in Atami are found valid hints of the basic weakness of that once-monstrous alliance. The Italians were afraid of the Germans with an odd mixture of incomprehension and respect; the Germans frankly despised the Italians as opportunists and cowards; both were equally baffled and repelled by the Japanese who, in turn, after the surrender, affected toward them a virtuous indignation and horror.

The whole complicated snarl seems a little clearer when one considers the case of the Italian interpreter whom the Germans avoided because they suspected him of being a Japanese spy. It seems to sum up thing neatly.

The gossip from Nara is that the exiles there are getting on each other’s nerves. I suppose it is only natural; these proud, sensitive men, accustomed to adulation and power, now find themselves isolated, disgraced, under the perpetual strain of physical danger and mutual recrimination. And yet is is tragic to find them reduced to quarreling about their few shreds of precedence and dignity. The President is offended because the Speaker does not rise to his feet when he enters the hotel dining-room; the Speaker refuses to rise because, he explains to a curious Japanese, the President after all owed his election to him, the Speaker. The [manuscript ends here]

 


8th February 1945

A heavy snowfall did not help to cheer us up. All of us were in a bitter mood. Vargas has definitely rejected the proposition that, due to the possible suspension of funds from Manila, he be put on the Japanese government payroll. “It would put me in the position of a querida,” he exclaimed. And he added: “I don’t love the Japanese government that much.”

A ranking officer from the war office had dinner with him last night. With the help of numerous military maps he took the trouble of bringing along, he explained Yamashita’s strategy in the Philippines. His version was substantially that given in every newspaper in Tokyo: a strategy of “blood-letting” or attrition from mountain positions dominating Manila, Clark Field, and the gate to the Cagayan valley in northern Luzon. Cagayan will be Yamashita’s Bataan.

In the diet the fall of Manila led the lower house to pass a nagging resolution calling on the Koiso government to get going.


7th February 1945

The Japanese press has now been allowed to reveal that the United States army entered Manila on the 3rd and that fighting is now going on within the capital.

The news of street-fighting in Manila plunged us all into deep anxiety. “The Filipinos will never forgive for this,” I told one of our interpreters. “The Americans declared Manila an open city in 1942 and withdrew without fighting. Why couldn’t you do the same?”

He was decent enough not to argue about ”blood-letting tactics”; he grew thoughtful and said nothing. Later he came up to me with a Japanese newspaper. Japanese marines, he said apologetically, were doing all the fighting; the army had withdrawn according to plan but the navy had refused to cooperate.


6th February 1945

The evacuation program is still meeting with difficulties. The Mainichi reports today that some of the evacuees are even re­turning to the cities, either because they could not get along with their new neighbors in the countryside or because they could ‘ find no work. Calling for better planning on the part of the govern­ment and a more patriotic attitude on the part of the evacuees, the Mainichi emphasises that “evacuation does not mean to take re­fuge but to take a new post in the fighting line.”

I had lunch today with the president of the local Indone­sian Union. The organization is unofficial and semi-secret because the Japanese have not made up their minds about Indonesian indepen­dence and meantime have tried to divide the Indonesians in Japan, for instance quartering the Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaya stu­dents in. separate dormitories. However they manage to keep in touch with one another at religious festivals. The Japanese would be surprised to learn, the president of the union told me, that at least 15 of the Indonesians attending these Mohammedan festivals are Christians.

Later one of the Filipinos in Japan called to ask for advice. He had published a Tagalog-Nippongo grammar-dictionary and now his Japanese publisher was trying to cut down on his royalties by claiming that several hundred copies had been “spoiled” and that some sort of new tax was payable on the rest. A Nisei friend chimed in with the story that after he had gone through the Nazi blitz on London the Japanese consul there had asked him to write an article on his experiences for the instruction of Japanese school-teachers. The article had been duly written and published but he had never been paid what he had been promised for it.

The Nisei stayed late into the night. He was obviously lonely. I asked him about his family and his home. He answered bluntly that he was not happy there. “I can’t even trust my own sister,” he grinned mirthlessly. “I think the police have gotten her to spy on me.” She was brought up in Japan; he was born and reared in London and was in Japan only for a short visit when the war caught him.

The Niseis are not very happy in Japan. He claims he has suffered more from discrimination in Japan than he ever did in England. In a way it is not to be wondered at so much in his particular case. The first time I met him he could not even read the signs in the subway stations; we lost our way and he had to sleep in my hotel. His Nippongo has still a very pronounced British accent. His thoughts of course are British. It is not difficult to tell what he wants; he is quite frank about it; he wants to “go home” to London. In the meantime he reads and re-reads his collection of Reader’s Digests, listens for hours to American swing, and hangs around the Filipinos in Tokyo because he can share with them some of his nostalgia. He is very young, very short, and very friendly, with a sharp humorous face. In the daytime he works with an oil company; he was designing improvements for the wells in Balikpapan and would have been sent there eventually if the war had not taken & turn for the worse. Some nights he gets extra pay for sleeping in the office and acting as air-raid warden; his experience in London has made him quite an authority and he is contemptuous of the American fire-bombs. The Germans used really big ones, he said; once he was thrown out of his bed by an explosion in the next block.

Somehow, perhaps because he is English and not American, he is different from most of the other Niseis, many of whom are so terrorized by the police that they spy on one another, bending over backward to prove they are true Japanese. My friend is nice. He never thinks of himself as a Japanese; it just never occurs to him.

He uses “we” and “they” in the wrong places. “We” do it in this way and “they” are crazy. But he does not hate or despise the Japanese; perhaps an atavistic memory helps him to understand, to forgive, to sympathize; his defense is not bitter, quarrelsome, it is tolerant, humorous, that of a sympathetic stranger.


5th February 1945

Kobe was raided yesterday by 100 B-29’s. She eight-day theory seems to be working.

Manila’s fail was announced last night by San Francisco but the Japanese press still has the Americans at San Fernando, 70 kilometers away.

At the diet a curious little exchange took place. The story goes that someone was indulging in the usual platitudes about “divine assistance” when a representative arouse to remind his colleagues that there was also such a thing as “divine punishment”.

I wonder if the story is authentic. It sounds almost too pat to be true.

The cabinet had to run another gauntlet of questions in the upper house yesterday. The Koiso government seems to be on its last legs. Who will be next? It is said that a powerful clique is gathering around the old men who did not want the war and now seem to have known beat. If and when one of the old men takes over, possibly Admiral Nomura or General Ugaki, it will be the beginning of the end.


4th February 1945

A warning went out today for a possible big raid, Someone has figured it out that the Americans come every eight days and they came in force last Saturday week, All the girl workers in Tokyo were sent home early. But nobody came.


3rd February 1945

With the Americans at the gates of Manila the official Imperial Rule Assistance Association called a “Victory in the Philippines” rally at the Hibiya public hall today. It was piercingly cold even in mid-afternoon and the steep backstairs were slippery with crusted ice. Backstage distinguished visitors were shown into a shabby clingy waiting-room and served the usual tea. Japanese officers and dignitaries arrived in succession, glum and blue with cold, and with a strange and awkward air, half-defiant and half-apologetic. Nobody talked about the war but it was obvious that for the Japanese the news was bad.

Presently the distinguished guests filed out to the stage. Overcoats were taken off and hurriedly put on again. Only the officers with ostentatious asceticism remained coatless, sitting with an easy arrogance, their hands clasped over their sword-hilts. When the curtain went up, it was seen that the pit was full but there was only a handful of people in the galleries; not until an hour or so later were they to be comfortably packed with officials and members of the association as well as “invited” representatives of firms and other organizations with interests in the Philippines.

The stage itself was decorated with huge Japanese and Filipino flags, as well as patriotic slogans. All the speakers bowed deeply before each of the two flags before addressing the audience. The whole thing started of course with a general obeisance in the direction of the imperial palace and a silent prayer for the imperial forces.

The first speaker was General Matsui, grandfather of all Pan-Asian, precursor of the empire-dreamers and the empire-builders, apostle of Greater East Asia. He was a pathetic figure as he read from a classic scroll that tumbled and twisted, as it fell from the rostrum to his polished boots. His voice was quavering and his head shook and jerked in nervous spasms, the spasms of senility, cold, or profound embarrassment. He was not going over; there was only perfunctory applause at the end of those high-pitched periods for which the old man must have dreamt the deep roar of exultant victorious armies imposing dominion over Japan’s Asia. In the end, amid a silence that was almost poignant, the old general slowly and with deliberate dignity, touched with dreamy pride, rolled up his scroll again, turn after turn, until it was all neatly wrapped around its wooden core. Then he tied it up carefully with a broad red ribbon and walked unsteadily back to his seat. They were bungling his grand design, he seemed to be thinking, these younger men were bungling it all. Well, that was the way it went: a man had a great idea, an idea to shake the world, and others would laugh at it at first, and then they would get into trouble and snatch at it and steal it away from its owner, and then they would bungle it. Look at the way they were bungling Daitoa. And they would not let him do anything but take trips where he was bundled off very courteously from one airport to another or else make speeches before clerks and crooks and stenographers and shopkeepers who stared stupidly and slouched in their seats and smoked their stinking cigarettes. The general sat down.

Now a short stocky young man bounded up from his seat. As he bowed to the flags, one could feel the nervous eagerness in him, impatient and barely restrained for these formalities. Then he strode to the rostrum and grasped its sides tightly with his sinewy hands. This man could speak. Even to those who could not understand a word he was saying, he conveyed all his meaning with his fine vigorous voice, his impassioned gestures, even his shrill grimaces which in English would have been utterly ridiculous. He leaned over to every man in the audience, hungrily, commandingly, until it seemed he would knock the rostrum over and fall over the footlights. He shook his fists in the air, he stamped his feet, ranged and prowled from one end of the stage to the other. He was an angry man. A member of the diet, he had incurred the displeasure of the warlords, been called to the colors as a buck private, and packed off to Yiojima. Now he was back in Tokyo; a friendly commander had commissioned him to bring back the ashes of his fallen comrades and the mounting American bombings had cut off all communications with his post. He was back, and he was angry. His anger flamed and flared and shrivelled up the husk of language; he was angry at the stupidity, the complacency, the selfishness, the blind pride and paralyzing prejudice, the consecrated incompetence and gold-braided stripetrousered folly that were ruining his country and his people. He did not say a word about the Philippines but he said every word that could be said about Japan and Japan’s tragedy. He had been scheduled to speak for five minutes; he spoke for almost an hour. The befuddled chairman frowned, rapped on his little table, sent him indignant scrawled notes, and finally, unable to stand it any longer and trembling in his frayed gaitered trousers, rose and whispered to him insistently. But the audience, this picked and packed and guaranteed and certified audience of lingers-on and joiners, petition-signers, parade-marchers, pay-roll ciphers, even these had caught something of his anger and they shouted him on and shouted the chairman down, they called him back, when he made as if to go to his seat, they cheered, they chorused, they stamped and whistled and cheered again. The generals and secretaries on the stage frowned and gaped and, catching themselves leaning forward, pulled themselves up and frowned again. But they did not count any longer, only they did not know it as the old general knew it, grasping his scroll with a distant and melancholy smile.


2nd February 1945

The government still cannot make up its mind whether or not to bother issuing clothing-ration coupons this year, reports the Asahi. For months now it has been impossible to buy anything with the coupons except neckties, hats, an occasional scarf, and ersatz curtains and table-runners. And not even the Japanese have been able to bring themselves to cut up this paper-stiff paper-thin composition into drawers and diapers.

The Italian charge d’affairs has a good story on the point. When he was in Germany, he says, everything was “verboten” (forbidden). Here in Japan everything is “arimasen(there isn’t any).