Can the Japanese government continue to “ignore” the three waves of carrier-borne planes that attacked the Kanto this morning, or the fleet that shelled Kamamatsu and the Kii peninsula last night, or the 500 B-29’s that set ablaze another constellation of cities on the night before? Pursued by these inexorable facts the generals and admirals must throw behind them a scrap of mendacity, a cheap and flashing trinket of bravado, to amuse and delay the hounds.
The Premier Admiral Baron, waving aside the Potsdam ultimatum as a mere rehash of the Cairo declaration, told the press last night that he was still “firmly convinced of final victory in the decisive battle”. But these were already frayed and shoddy words, their meaning faded by constant use; they were the small change of politics; the feeling remained that they were being traded for time while the big deal was being worked out. Potsdam is a long way from Cairo, as far as Saipan from Okinawa. Tozyo had never seen a B-29 over Tokyo; now Suzuki was talking to the press in his official residence, and not to a scheduled mammoth rally in Hibiya hall, because carrier-planes from a task-force at the coast of Japan had driven him to cover.
Nevertheless the old man had managed to ignore the postponement of his first public appearance as an orator and to reassure as best he could the proxies of his audience. After long delays, he announced, the construction of underground factories had finally been started. “Unusual endeavors are being made in that direction and great expectations can be had for its progress.”
Of course, he admitted, “it is but natural that during the period of transportation of machinery, production should fail to reach the desired figure.” But “efficiency was mounting”. The laborers, men and women, were working 16 hours a day “in absolutely safe areas and in perfect peace of mind. From time to time they were take outdoors and given physical exercise. The air in the tunnels was “not so injurious to health,” he had been told.
At any rate he had made several inspection trips and had found the number of underground factories on the increase. At one such factory “several hundred airplanes” were being turned out every month. The exact figures were secret but “the number is not so small as people may think.” “The other day,” recounted Suzuki,”a certain airman asked me how many hundreds of airplanes were being turned out a month. I said: ‘Why how many hundreds? It is not a question of hundreds but thousands!’”
In case this was not sufficient to distract the people from the deadly dilemma that confronted the country, the General President of the Great Japan Political Association, Jiro Minami, dangled another ambiguous and noncommittal red herring. “It is clear” he told the press, “that a complex intrigue underlies this (Potsdam) declaration. That is most clear in that the enemy is trying to allay war weariness in his own camp and trying to foster as desire for peace in ours.”
Perhaps he was reading his own fears and apprehensions into the designs of others. A kempei captain told Vargas today that in his own limited district in Tokyo alone an average of two Japanese spies are being arrested daily. What was more portentious even than their existence was their motive. Usually they were fumbling amateurs with no means of transmitting the military information they had secured or hoped to secure. They were merely “investing” in it; hoarding it for the day when they might trade it for some measure of safety or advantage from the conquering invader.