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27th May 1945

The imperial palace was burnt down in the last raid. A communique issued by imperial general headquarters yesterday revealed that about 250 B-29’s from southern bases raided Tokyo for some two and a half hours from about 10:30 p.m. on the 25th May. “As a result of the raids the front palace and other structures in the imperial palace grounds and the Omiya palace were destroyed by fire.” For its part the office of the imperial household announced earlier in the day that “damage was suffered by the imperial palace and the Omiya palace. Their Majesties the Emperor, the Empress, and the Empress Dowager are safe. The Kashigodokoro, one of the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace, was unscathed.” The implication is that little else in the imperial compound escaped.

There is not much official news to be had. The Tokyo papers were forced to issue a common edition today. Among the buildings burned they listed the mansions of the emperor’s brothers, seven other princes, all the diplomatic establishments except the British embassy and our own, two universities (Kaio and Burika), the foreign office, the Daitoa office, the ministry of transportation, numerous hospitals and temples, and two newspaper offices.

The areas affected in the last two raids were listed as Ebara, Shinagawa and Omori wards (23rd-24th raid), and Kojimachi, Shibuya, Keishikawa, Hakare, ?, Shinagawa, and Akasaka wards (25th-26th raid). Damage was also suffered in some sections of Azabu, Yotsuya, Itabashi, Kyobashi, Setagava, and Arakawa wards, in Tokyo, and in parts of Yokohama and Kawasaki.

The papers also reported that at an extraordinary cabinet meeting held yesterday Suzuki “expressed regrets for the damage done to the imperial palace” and released the following statement: “The present air-raid was conducted on a comparatively large scale and,  as it was favored by a strong wind, the damage done must have been considerable. However we should be strictly on our guard against any inclination to magnify the damage just because we see it all around us. The extent of damage is quite natural in war. As for the cabinet, the government intends to petition the throne for pardon by fighting out the war….”

Underneath the official communiques and statements however a premonitory rumble of discontent can be heard against bureaucratic and militaristic inefficiency. The Japanese are shocked by the destruction of the imperial palace and they are more inclined to blame its official custodians than the Americans. They claim that no bombs hit the palace directly; it caught fire from adjoining structures and, due entirely to the panic of the officials of the imperial household, the fire was allowed to spread unchecked.

Our students had a personal experience of their own. When the fire spread to the vicinity of their dormitory the police shouted instructions to run away. The neighborhood association officials, for their part, stubbornly adhered to instructions and ordered all windows opened although originally these structures had been planned against the blast of explosive bombs. Open windows only let in the sparks in case of an incendiary raid. If the dormitory was saved at all, the only structure in the neighborhood that did so, it was entirely due to the efforts of the students themselves.

After the fire both official muddle-headedness and general demoralization combined to sharpen popular sufferinf. In one neighborhood the people lined up for an unexpected distribution of tinned fish, salvaged from the wreck of a warehouse. Everything went well until a group of army officers drove up in a truck and appropriated the food.

In another neighborhood the people were not so disciplined. When the emergency rice-ball rations were distributed they refused to line up and fought for the food. Most of it was spilled on the ground. Yet, though many were hungry, none would sacrifice pride so much as to pick up the balls and or two even kicked them away.

But there have been no serious riots so far. A Japanese explains it this way: “How can the people rise against the government? The government is their last hope for food.”

The trains were running out of Toyko only from Shinagawa station and when I boarded mine, I scarcely found room to wedge myself into a platform. By some coincidence I was next to a second-class coach; the press in third class was so great that presently grumbling and shouting broke out. Dishevelled men and women, reeking of sweat and smoke, and staggering under huge bundles, finally burst into the more expensive compartments. Some voices of protest were raised. But they were quickly silenced when a burly worker, his eyes flashing, shouted: “This is no time for distinctions! This is no time for second-class and third-class cars! We are all the same, all Japanese!”