Overhead the planes were roaring past, flight after flight, so low that the identification letters and numbers on the stately bombers could be read with the naked eye, so low that the swift black fighters almost grazed the trees in the park. Outside the city, on Atsugi airfield, the air trains were dumping their first Americans on Japan. But here in the heart of Tokyo, in the sunlit dining-room of the Imperial Hotel, one could only hear the planes. The guests chatted softly of little things. The steward in his black coat checked his ration tickets. Waitresses in wartime slack-suits walked by swiftly, balancing the graceful jugs of Japanese rice-wine on their pink hands.
I was having lunch with the editor of the Times and we were at the fish course when the door at the end of the room was opened and four Americans in green cover-alls, streaked black with sweat and the dust of the road, entered slowly. It was suddenly quiet. A fork clattered on a plate. These were the first Americans in Tokyo. What would they do?
One of them turned and stared at me. Hesitantly at first, and then with rapid decision, he advanced toward our table, hand outstretched. I uncertainly. Then: “Dave!” By some freak coincidence it was an old friend from Manila, David T. Bugoslav, formerly editor of the Tribune, now correspondent for the Chicago Sun.
As everyone stared he explained rapidly that he and three other American correspondents had slipped through the cordon around Atsugi; they wanted to be the first into Tokyo. Could they have lunch?
The steward, his hands trembling a little, bowed gravely. Did the gentlemen have ration tickets? No? He shook his head reprovingly and took them to a table. He would have to ask the manager.
Abruptly Dave laughed. “Tell them,” he said, “Who won the war.” The steward bowed again. “The gentlemen will be served.”