16th May 1945

In a formal decision of the cabinet Japan recognized yesterday that the tri-partite treaty, the subsequent Axis military alliance, the anti-Comintern pact, and other related treaties have been “rendered null and void”. As if by pre-arrangement the vernacular are full of portents and warnings.

“The ground fighting on the main Okinawa island has become more difficult and has come to assume aspects admitting of no optimism for the future,” broods the Mainichi in a lengthy summary of the battle there. “It is considered inevitable,” adds the Tokyo Shimbun, “that the number of enemy planes raiding the mainland shall rapidly increase in number.” Both articles are tomely and typical of Japanese expectations. They may be worth reproduction for future comparison with the facts and with the corresponding American versions.

The Mainichi on Okinawa: At first the Japanese forces resorted to the tactics of enticing the enemy forces to complete their landing instead of attacking them on the beach, because the latter method would have entailed serious sacrifices on our part as was the case in the Peleliu campaign. Afterward it was planned to subject the enemy forces  to serious losses by taking advantage of the well-constructed positions in the interior of the island.

“Thus our forces aimed to smash the enemy warships and other vessels on the sea, cutting off the supply-line, while on land they aimed to inflict losses on the enemy and shatter his fighting-power and fighting-will. Accordingly the enemy landed on the main Okinawa island on the 1st April without meeting the customary resistance and easily occupied the north and central airfields. But when the enemy advanced to the line connecting Oyama and Tsuha via Shinoushi bay, he met our full-fledged counter-attack. Since then a sanguinary battle has raged between the two opposing forces….

“Our counter-attack which started in the evening of the 12th April broke the first deadlock. This counter-attack, short in time and limited in area, caused the enemy serious losses and delayed his second offensive one week. Our side however suffered considerable exhaustion in its fighting power.

“Thereafter the enemy reorganized his positions and resorted to another offensive, mobilizing four full divisions in the southern section of the island alone. The enemy however met strong resistance and on the 23rd April or thereabouts he was compelled to withdraw the 96th and 27th divisions to the rear.

“The enemy advance, notwithstanding, continued steadily though slowly. On the 12th May the enemy reached high ground menacing the line connecting [illegible] and Shuri. Of course the fate of the Okinawa battle does not depend on this line alone and we have still bases back of it but so long as the enemy finds it possible to obtain reinforcements and so long as the enemy can use tanks and other fire-power arms effectively against us, future ground fighting is expected to become more intensified.

“Our air units, including the special attack corps, have been causing the enemy sea forces serious losses to such an extent that already more than 500 enemy vessels, large and small, have been sunk or damaged. This has had the effect of paralyzing the enemy’s Pacific fleet….

“(But) whatever losses the Japanese may force or the enemy in his sea strength, if they allow the enemy to advance on important lines on land, the war situation will have to be declared disadvantageous to our side…. Due to our valiant fighting on land one-third of the enemy ground force has been disabled but our losses have not been small. The resent margin of strength between the two opposing forces is so large that if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue, it is calculated that the enemy will outlast our forces on the island. No further delay is therefore permissible. At this moment we can only attack and do nothing but attack.”

The Tokyo Shimbun on the air blitz: “The number of enemy planes that came over on the 13th and 14th May totalled some 630 b-25’s and over 2000 carrier-borne planes and seaplanes of varying size. Their aerial invasion covered almost the entire area of the mainland.

“Since the construction of the air base in the Marianas has evidently been completed, it is but natural that the enemy air-raids should increase in number…. Accordingly we are not taken aback by the frequency of the latest air-raids. We have also fully anticipated correspondingly heavier losses.

“The question facing us now is how the losses can be minimized. Frankly speaking the work of air defense in the large cities has not been successfully conducted and is still far from complete…. In some localities indications are seen that the authorities, in giving advice to the farmers, only succeed in frightening them. It is to be hoped that the government and local authorities, both military and civilian, will make further efforts in this direction.”

10th May 1945

As the last breached wall of Hitler’s Reich crumbled and collapsed, Japan peered through the choking cloud of rumor, report, glimmering hope and thickening despair and as it settled over the ruins of the new order in Europe, found herself alone against the world. There could no longer be a doubt; Germany had surrendered; Germany had ceased to exist. In Tokyo, lying naked in her wounds a under the shadow of this disaster, the Imperial Japanese Government hurriedly called an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet in the premier’s official residence at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. By 6:30 p.m. an official statement had been adopted. Half an hour later, in awe and trepidation, the tall old admiral, proceeded in his sagging corpulence to the imperial palace and “reported the matter to the throne.” At 7:30 p.m. the following statement was released by the board of information.

“The empire regrets from the bottom of its heart the surrender of Germany, a country which was an ally of Japan. The war objective of the empire, from the start, has lain and still lies in the right of the empire to existence and self-defense. This is the immutable conviction of the empire and a sudden change in the European war situation does not cause the slightest alteration in this war objective of the empire. The empire seeks together with its allies in East Asia to crush the inordinate ambition of the United States and Britain to trample East Asia underfoot with their selfish designs and brute force. The empire seeks thereby to guarantee the stability of East Asia.”

Ringed by foes, at bay on her burning island, with the earth already shaking and slipping underneath in the first echoing tremors from Europe, Japan fiercely assured herself that she had never known defeat and would never know it. The Germans were different. “I hate the idea of whipping a dead body,” wrote Lieutenant-General Yahei Oba in the Asahi today, “but I feel that there was one important thing lacking in the fighting strength of the Germans. That was the spirit of the special attack corps and also the morale of the close-in attach with drawn sword in hand.” The postmortem had started and would continue for some time. Germany, according to the vernaculars, lost because she failed to invade England in 1940, because she put too much faith in the submarine-counter-blockade, because she went to war with the U.S.S.R. because the Nazis clashed with the Reichswehr, because Hitler lost control of the party, because Himmler quarreled with Goering and Goering quarreled with Goebbels and Ley. The Tokyo Shimbun said what to the Japanese must have been the last word: “There is something in the attitude of the German people that is incomprehensible to us Japanese. For us the word surrender does not exist in the dictionary.” But a Japanese told me a meaningful story today. When the tripartite pact was announced in Tokyo, the former foreign minister Katsuoka had an ominous comparison for it, one familiar to every Japanese. Germany and Japan, he said, were lovers who had made a suicide pact.




16th March 1945

The roads out of Tokyo are crowded with refugees, each with his bundle strapped to his back. The last raid has done more to push the dispersion program than all the “powerful politics” of the past year. This morning a man with an ugly purple blister across half his face asked me shyly if I knew what time the next train was leaving for the north. He seemed self-conscious about his disfigured face, as if he had not had much time as yet to get used to the stares, half of horror, half of pity, that it automatically provoked.

An over-all picture of the present state of dispersion was given today by the Mainichi in an interview with the vice-president of the general headquarters for air defense. Foreseeing that “the enemy will surely come seeking to destroy what still remains,” the spokesman outlined measures for the calling for the distribution of non-essential personnel among the previous prefectures and the, if necessary, forcible detention of essential personnel in the capital. “Evacuees are being encouraged to take as little with them as possible. This emergency measure may appear excessive but the authorities ask the evacuees to put themselves in the same position as air-raid victims.” Excess household articles will be bought by the government or held in official custody.

The Tokyo Shimbun in turn complained that minor officials were holding up relief measures “by sticking to peace-time formalism” and called for emphasis on the protection of life rather than the extinction of fires.

24th February 1945

“The fighting situation is becoming ever more fierce,” warns the Tokyo Shimbun today. “The enemy has landed on Yiojimu, which may be said to be Just in front of the gate of our mainland…. By now it has become evident that the enemy is intending to strike directly against our mainland and his fighting will cannot be splighted.” The paper then goes on to warn the people against “propaganda tricks” tending to divide them from the military or to persuade them that surrender will not mean slavery. These labored arguments are possibly an indication of what the Japanese people are beginning to think. Another is the following story that is going the rounds of the capital. A B-29 is shot down and one of the pilots bails out. He lands in the midst of a crowd. They all stare at him and cry out: “Wonderful, wonderful!”

“What is it?” asks a late-comer. “What’s so wonderful?”

“Look there,” he is told. “What wonderful shoes he has on!”

16th January 1945

The press is still beating the tom-toms over the Ise bombing. A noted Japanese historian says that “the enemy are not men for men fight a man’s way”. An editorialist cries that “all the American devils should be slaughtered”. The Asahi openly accused the Americans of bombing Ise “according to pre-arranged plan”. The question is interesting. Was the bombing an accident or was deliberately executed to shake Japanese morale, to prove that the old gods are dead? Still, no Christian stops believing in God because his church can be burnt down.

Indeed if one is to believe the newspapers, the bombing has fortified home morale rather than weakened it. “We are convinced,” writes the Tokyo Shimbun, “that by this time there is not a single person in the entire nation who still entertains lukewarm ideas about this war…. There could be nothing to strike the people with greater awe and indignation.” The Americans, the paper goes on to point out, did not hesitate in the past to sink Japanese hospital ships, run tanks over Japanese wounded, desecrate the bones of the Japanese dead; now lse provides the “climax of American atrocities”. And the Mainichi for its part adds: “We cannot imagine anything from which the enemy will hereafter refrain.”

It is an interesting peek into national psychology. The Japanese atrocities that the Americans play up deal with man’s inhumanity to man. The Japanese like their atrocities in the theological stratum. The American wants to be a man; the Japanese wants to be a god, or at least the servant of a god.