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27th of January 1945

At noon the sirens blew the air-raid alarm, the short blasts sounding like quick choking gasps while we hurried breathlessly down to the basement. It was dark there as we listened to the radio bulletins. Silence and the soft purring and crackle of the loudspeaker. Then a long buzz, a short buzz, and the high-pitched intimate voice of the announcer. We grasped at one or two familiar words in the stream of technical Nippongo. “Hentai” — formation. “Keihin” — the Tokyo-Yokohama area. Proceeding — what was that? From what direction to what direction? Silence, purr, crackle. Nobody seemed to feel like talking. A baby whined uneasily. We started to whisper. Buzzzzzzz, buzz, voice. Entering, entering the Keihin district. Please be ready to put out fires. Silence, crackle, purr. What was that? A slight concussion. Anti-aircraft, somebody said reassuringly. How did everyone feel? It was hard to tell? Faces burrowed, into quilted hoods or bid behind hunched-up shoulders and turned-up coat collars. Buzzzzzz, buzzz, voice. Dropping bombs now. Incendiaries and explosives. Silence, crackle, purr. We waited tensely; in the soft yellow cold of the basement, we looked at the square box of the loudspeaker, dented, chipped, the gray paint peeling. Buzzzzzz, buzzz, voice. What was the man saying? Do you know? Did you hear? Can you understand? Pardon, could you tell me? Crackle, buzzzz, purr, silence, buzzz, voice. It is difficult to be scared in a foreign language,

While the B-29’s were flying over Tokyo, the diet kept asking about aircraft. Why had the construction of aircraft factories been restricted? Was there something wrong in metallurgical techniques causing inferior products? The president of the aircraft arsenal headquarters admitted that factory construction had been restricted but claimed that it was only to save certain materials; at any rate it had not hampered the production of aircraft. Yes, the forging and casting technique was for a time “at a low level” but a “great improvement had been achieved recently,”

Meantime the president of the board of technology became more communicative, “I firmly believe,” he told the diet, “that the divine wind of new weapons has already begun to blow,” He spoke of “new weapons of simple and low-degree kinds which are achieving considerable results” and of future “sure-hitting weapons which would not entail the death of their operators”. A reaction against the suicide attacks? At any rate, he warned, “it is difficult to expect a single type of new weapon so powerful as to be capable of clearing the Pacific of all enemy troops.”