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21st April 1945

As an historical document for future students of Japanese military psychology, the “five-point army precept” issued yesterday by general Korechika Anami, the war minister, is worthy of reproduction in full: “On the occasion of a divine chance that is now available for smashing our foes, the officers and men of the imperial forces are specially given the following instructions:

“1. The officers and men of the imperial forces, guided by the divine message, shall strictly observe the imperial rescript to the army and navy. Observance by His Majesty’s instructions is the very life of the fighting men of the imperial forces. The officers and men shall have a thorough-going conviction of the invincibility of the empire, recite the imperial rescript day and night, and do their best to put into practise. Herein lies the basis of sure victory.

“2. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall defend the imperial land to the death. The imperial land is the one where His Majesty graciously resides and the gods are enshrined. The officers and men shall pledge to smash the invader and defend the land in spirit even after death.

“3. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall depend on thorough preparation. He who has thorough preparation surely wins. They shall undergo strict training, establish an impregnable stronghold, and complete a sure-victory structure.

“4. The officers and men of the imperial forces must thoroughly imbibe the spirit of body-crashing. To live the everlasting life of righteousness is the tradition of the empire’s men of the sword. The entirety of the imperial forces shall strictly adhere to the spirit of body-crashing and, fighting courageously, shall kill every invader so that none shall survive.

“5. The officers and men of the imperial forces shall lead their 100 million compatriots. The 100 million brethren are their comrades in she protection of the imperial land. Under strict military discipline the officers are men shall also show kindness to their comrades and, displaying the true character of the imperial forces, shall complete the great task of defending the empire.

“The officers and men shall strictly observe the foregoing five instructions and, by crushing the enemy promptly, set the imperial mind at ease.”

Here then is the blueprint of the suicide pilot. The reality is a man for whom the meaning of life has become death. We meet him every day shuffling along the broken streets, with that peculiar open-toed walk of the Japanese, swinging a bundle wrapped up in a dark-colored kerchief. Or jerking stiffly to attention as a streetcar rattles by; he has glimpsed an officer hanging to a strap. Or sprawled on the ragged green plush of a third-class train seat, his head thrown back, his mouth open and noisy, working in the contortions of a dream. He is the troubled younger brother of the grinning conqueror whom we knew in the Philippines, “the guardian god of Greater East Asia,” dark and slippery with the sweat of victory, and, in his tight black cleft rubber shoes, as graceful and bold as a stalking tiger. Curiously enough this Japanese soldier of 1945 is neater, cleaner-shaven, better equipped. The seamstress’ stitches are fresh and white on his new olive-drab. His boots are solid, heavy, equally new. But his face has changed. It is no longer the eager audacious face of the conqueror of Asia, stretched forward in a confident and impatient stare across the ocean to the fabled towers of the U.S.A. It is no longer bearded with many battles and seamed with the cruelties of a hundred victories. Now it is clean, smooth, empty, and a little pathetic. This Japanese soldier of 1945 will not stumble clumsily through the intricacies of the boogie in a Manila nightclub; he will not imperiously halt a streetcar and clear himself a seat with a snarled command. He clings patiently to a strap in the choking subways, looks wistfully at the empty show-windows along the ruins of the Ginza — this heir to the veterans of Guadalcanal and Ikyab does not even know his way around Tokyo.

But he shares with his predecessors one tremendous secret: he knows how to die. In a strange but very real sense, he is already dead. He has said, his last goodbyes; not even his mother expects or wants him to survive defeat and surrender. On this terrible, almost incredible, fact the ultimate strategy of the Japanese empire is based, the strategy of suicide, a vast and intricate design balanced delicately on the heroic-credulity of a peasant boy. His superiors know that the combined fleet is “in the air and under the sea”, that they cannot muster one plane for every ship of the enemy. They have only one weapon left: a dead man who has yet the force and energy of life. This man must hide in a hole with a drum of explosives in lieu of a land mine. He must hurl himself with bayonet and saber against flame-throwers and machine-guns operated with the impersonal accuracy and speed of an electrical impulse. Trapped in a seamless web of electronic vibrations, he must dash his lonely plane against all the massive panoply of battleship or super-bomber. With his naked will to die he must make up for radar, rocket, and bomb-sight. His masters think he can even up the odds which patient cunning resourceful science has accumulated. He is the last romantic, engaged in the hopeless task of providing that the human spirit can conquer the machine.

The futility of his mission is a fact even more terrifying and ominous than his will to die. This Japanese soldier of 1945 is no less a man than anyone else; he is not a robot off the assembly line; he too is that marvelous inimitable irreplaceable compound of flesh and spirit that we call man, called, like us, to the dominion of created things. But his manhood avails him nothing against a photo-electric cell, the quivering vibration of an invisible wave, the cold emanation of a lump of pitchblends. There is something to touch the human heart in that stern equation; how many grams of radium, how many pounds of nitroglicerine, equal the human spirit?