4th May 1945

The Times today publishes in translation the letter of a Japanese mother, written to a lieutenant in the Shimbu unit of the special attack corps who had sent her a photograph of her son, a corporal in the same unit. “The letter,” notes the Times, “was written on a piece of rolled paper. The calligraphy was pleasing to the eye. The Letter itself, a revealing struggle between the conventions of patriotism and an elemental anguish, follows:

“It is spring and I am full of a profound sense of gratitude to you. I am the mother of X, whose photograph you were so kind as to send me some time ago. I am in tears under the influence of the strong emotions that come upon me at the thought that you were good enough to send me the last photograph of my son, after you had done so much kindness to him. I know from the newspapers and the radiobroadcasts that were young men are ending their lives gloriously by ramming enemy vessels. It pains my heart to think that our country Japan is facing such a severe trial. I was anxiously hoping for the speedy arrival of the day when my son, a man utterly inexperienced in military service, would go into action without doing anything that might expose him to the charge of delaying in the demonstration of his loyalty to the national cause. Then I was informed of his selection for your (special attack) unit. There could be no greater joy for me, as a mother in a military country, a mother of Japan fighting the decisive battle. All I have to do now is to pray that he performed a great deed for our land Japan. After I received the photograph I stared at it for a long time. I tool it out of its envelope many times, with the thought that my son wished to speak to me. But I looked at my son in the photograph not as my son but as a soldier of the empire. Still I find it difficult to think that my son is no more. Whenever l hear the roar of a training plane it is with difficulty that I keep myself from running out; I think then that it is my son who has come to say goodbye after all. Please do not laugh at this, considering it the fancy of a foolish woman. My only wish, I assure you, is for the day of victory.”

3rd May 1945

“Is it true that Hitler has been killed?” asked our maid this morning. I told her that it was only a rumor but that it was definite Mussolini had been shot. She did not seem to care about Mussolini but she mourned for the Fuehrer.

“What do you care?” I asked her. “He was not a Japanese and besides, you do not know the many bad things he did.”

But nothing could shake her admiration for the bold ruthless man whose picture she had so often seen in the newspapers. “He was a great man,” she insisted. “He loved his country and he died fighting for it.” She groped in her mind for the words that would make me understand. Then she said decisively: “He should have been a Japanese.”

2nd May 1945

There was more than the usual touch of unreality to the business at the chancery when a telegram was received conveying greetings on the occasion of the Burmese new year from the Burmese foreign minister to the Republic’s. Recto is now detained by the U.S. Army while his Burmese colleague is, so far as it is known, in full flight from _____. Letters were also received from the local Indonesian organization, thanking all the Greater East Asia ambassadors for the resolution on the independence of the East Indies, approved at their recent conference. Apparently the Indonesian association is now out in the open. One of its officers told me in passing that, following their usual tactics, the Japanese had invited them to the East Asia People’s Rally yesterday in separate island groups, that is, as Javanese, Sumatrans, Borneans, etc. They had promptly refused to go until they had been given a united invitation as Indonesians. A good dinner was served, he said. Every guest was given a hard-boiled egg, an extravagance in wartime Japan that only the army, which sponsored the celebration, can afford.

Meantime, with Daihonei admitting that the Americans “were allowed to make some advances” in the southern part of Okinawa, the Japanese navy went into a significant reorganization. The headquarters of the combined fleet has been absorbed into a new general headquarters of the entire navy, with the former commander-in-chief of the fleet, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, at its head. Explaining the change a Japanese told me in all seriousness that there was no point in having a commander for the combined fleet. Naval operations have practically ceased to exist. The naval front line is now on the coast of the homeland.

1st May 1945

Today the Mainichi brought the first reaction to the surrender of Germany. “In the supposition that this report is true,” the paper writes the following analysis: “In the first place we want to remind our readers that the European war and the war of Greater East Asia are not one and the same thing. In their underlying causes they may have an extremely close resemblance. But they were by no means planned together…. Therefore the end of the European war will not mean the end of the war of Greater East Asia. The second question is what effect the surrender of Germany and Italy will have on our fighting strength. The answer has two parts. The first concerns the amount of support we are losing. Although we are not experts in military affairs, we can easily imagine whet amount and what kind of help we have been receiving from our allies far away in Europe. Consequently it cannot be said that we shall suffer any particular loss in this direction. The other point is this: what are America and Britain going to do with the surplus of fighting strength they have now obtained in Europe? It would be of no use to make any light conjectures. It is possible to imagine certain things…. However, at the present moment, it is better to refrain from doing so….”

Waiting for the tram at Miyanoshita, I came across an Italian acquaintance, a former naval officer, together with a Japanese girl and a Japanese man. The man bowed cordially to the Italian, when the tram finally came around the bend, wishing him a safe trip and a speedy return. He acted like a solicitous old friend. The girl did not say a word to either of the two; she appeared tovbe a complete stranger. She boarded the tram without a look behind her and stood quietly in a corner. Only those who knew them were aware of the fact that the girl was the Italian’s common-law wife, a former barmaid from Kobe. She had come up to the hotel for a short visit to her lover. But Japan was at war with the white man and, although she loved one, she must do so secretly, behind closed shutters. She was not pretty but she knew, as few Japanese girls do, how to wear European clothes. They made her look even lonelier in her corner of the tram, by the smudged window, out of which she was looking with a defiant misery. The man, neither of them knew. He was a military policeman who had conscientiously shadowed them during her entire stay.

The trip to Tokyo was interesting in itself. Yesterday morning 200 bombers and fighters raided Tachikawa, Hiratsuka, and Atsugi for about an hour. Hiratsuka is on the line from Odawara to Tokyo and when we neared it, we were ordered to pull down the blinds. Supervision was not very strict however and I caught a glimpse of the new landscape, flat and streaming under the dusty sun.

30th April 1945

Amid rumors of Germany’s unconditional surrender, the board of information yesterday announced that on the 27th April the prime minister and the highest army and navy leaders exchanged “frank views” particularly on “the unification and manifestation of the fighting strength of the army and the navy”. A vernacular explains: “There had been rumors circulating among the people about a disagreement between the army and the navy. It is considered regrettable that such doubts should have arisen even in the slightest degree in this critical situation.” Not too sanguine about the solution of the perennial problem which has helped to ruin the other two war cabinets, the Asahi “wonders what concrete measures were decided upon. At present there are no means for curing details.”

29th April 1945

The emperor was 44 years old today. Apparently there will be no elaborate celebration; the state banquet has been cancelled, as it has been every year of the war. The only public ceremony (outside of the rites at the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace today) was the visit which he paid yesterday to the Yasukuni shrine, where, “after graciously removing His cap” and going through the ritual of ablution, he offered a branch of the sacred tree to the spirits of the war dead.

28th April 1945

With a new American attack under way in Okinawa, the spotlight has been turned again on the tokotai. Both the English papers today carry their quota of last-minute interviews with the suicide pilots.

A second sub-lieutenant remarks: “Fire is cool, as the Zen Buddhists say, to those who have attained an impersonal beatitude. “Even if our flying suits catch fire, we shall surely manage to hit our targets.”

A 31-year-old lieutenant with 2,000 flying hours to his credit, composes a farewell poem:

The golden chance has arrived.

Surely will I make the death attack,

Crashing my plane and all in the dive

Thunder-sinking a carrier as I smack.

A sub-lieutenant, member of the Shimbu unit, plans to crash-dive in the company of a snow-white rabbit. It is one of three presented to his unit by the boys in the national primary school near the base. The other two rabbits have already made suicide dives.

A sergeant, the only survivor of his squadron, intends to take along the ashes of a fallen comrade. “These are the remains of Sergeant Nakamura”, he explains. “Sergeant Nakamura, Sergeant Koyama, and myself were class-mates in aviation school. The three of us pledged to crash-dive together. Unfortunately Nakamura died before we could do so. In order to fulfill our promise, Koyama and I divided the ashes of our friend. Koyama has already fulfilled his mission. Now it is my turn.”

27th April 1945

“In view of the increasing skill of the enemy,” the siren signals will be shortened. The alert (one continuous blast) will be cut from three minutes to one and the actual alarm (a series of blasts) will be blown for four seconds five times instead of 10, starting the 1st May.

It was announced today that Manchoukuo Premier Chang Ching-hui arrived in Tokyo last Monday, when the ambassadors’ conference was held, “to commemorate the Manchou emperor’s first visit to Japan 10 years ago. Chang promised to present 30,000 tons of soy beans and 2,300 tons of salt “as a token of Manchoukuo’s sympathy toward air-raid victims.”

26th April 1945

Today is the 25th on the other side of the international date-line and the Japanese press is obsessed with the opening of the San Francisco conference. The tenor of the comment is uniform.

Distracted by the problems of voting procedure, the Polish governments, the discontent of the small nations, the conference “cannot possibly succeed”. But it is the first time that the U.S.S.R. has consented to sit at the same meeting as the allies against Japan and all the papers, keeping their collective fingers crossed, console themselves with the hope that the “basic rivalry” between the United States and the Soviet Union will develop into “a steady tug of war, if not an open clash”.