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17th February 1945

The air-raid alert is still on. Sights on the way to the embassy: schoolgirls in their quilted hoods giggling as they sunned themselves on the sidewalks near the dugouts; three children playing in the middle of the deserted street, scrawling rude drawings of bombers on the pavement with colored chalk; a horse-drawn cart moving slowly up the empty hill, laden with the pots and pans of a family moving out of Tokyo.

The strain of the air-raid is telling on the radio system of bulletins. The warnings and announcements have more than once been late, when not actually wrong. Even the sirens are being blown at the wrong time. The press, having more time to think, is more reliable. The main body of the task force, it reports this morning, is composed of 10 aircraft carriers launching more than a thousand planes which have been attacking airfields, trains, ships, and factories. The raiders have also been dropping pamphlets “of an absurd nature”. “The government authorities desire,” the press announces, “that persons picking up such bills turn them over to the authorities concerned.”

“The enemy,” it is further explained, “is apparently operating to capture Yiojima. The enemy came attacking by taking advantage of inclement weather, in accordance with his usual strategy. The enemy is bent on taking Yiojima because the island is serving as a serious, barrier for the enemy’s raids on Japan with Mariana-based B-29’s. Moreover if the enemy captures Yiojima he will be able to use P-38’s, long distance fighters, as escort planes for B-29’s. The enemy raids on the mainland of this country can be regarded as a strategy to interfere with our long-distance serial assistance to Yiojima.”

There is no question that this raid, the first task-force assault on the capital since 1942, is serving more purposes than screening the Yiojima operation. More than the B-29 raids, which so far have been limited to a few hours and specified objectives, the carrier-borne plane attacks have brought war nearer to the common people, soaring them off the streets and out of work, keeping them under tension for all of two days now. Already the sale of tickets to the general public on the elevated trains has been stopped. Only holders of passes and season-tickets can now get in.

A Japanese newspaperman, dropping in for a chat, underlined these impressions. The Japanese, he thought, are no longer thinking about their mission in East Asia or the Co-Prosperity Sphere; they no longer care much what is happening or what will happen to their “brother Orientals”. They are now apprehensive of their own safety. The task-force attack in particular has shaken them. He recalled that his neighbors, huddled for hours in their freezing dug-outs, had asked bitterly: “But what is the navy doing? Where is the navy?” And a strange officer, standing beside him in the suburban train, had suddenly blurted out that maladministration was hindering production, that crooks and bunglers in high places were to blame because there were not enough planes.