Osaka was hit by 250 B-29’s yesterday morning; two days before, about 350 had pounded the city of Kobe. The raids were far away and to those of us in Tokyo they were more of an excuse for reminiscing.
The Thai naval attache related an experience during the great raid of the 25th-26th May. He was at a drinking party at the Dai-Ichi hotel with other naval officers, when the alert was sounded. They paid no attention to it, he said, until, happening to look out of the window, they found the hotel almost surrounded by fire. They hurried down and barely managed to drive their automobile out of the surrounding chaos. They went about uncertainly, searching for a safe passage out of the thick and suffocating smoke. They might have been trapped had it not been for the German assistant naval attache, an expert in motors, who nursed the car along until they got to a bridge. They stayed there until dawn because it was the only place where they could get a breath of fresh air. He was one of those who, like myself, went home the next day to find their house gone.
Nor was he quite sure that his home had not been looted before it went up in flames. There has been an increasing number of thefts during air-raids. Some of the thieves hide in the shelters during the attacks and let the neighbors do all the fire-fighting. Then the latter go to sleep, exhausted by their labors, the thieves steal out of hiding and loot whatever has been saved from the flames. Others are more daring; they go about their business even while the fire is raging. The other day, after a heavy raid, a man was tied to a lamp-post along the Ginza. Around his neck he carried the placard: “I looted my neighbors goods during a raid.” He survived the ordeal.
When I heard by accident that one of our students, the only one we had in the north of Japan, had “disappeared”, I hurried to the International Students’ Goodwill Society, which has direct charge of our government scholars. I was met with uneasy evasions. Even blunt old Ambassador Taketomi seemed to be afraid to talk.
“Is it true that he has disappeared?” I asked.
“But why were we not notified?”
“Oh, weren’t you? I was sure somebody had called up your embassy by telephone.”
“No, nobody did.”
“Ah, I am very sorry.”
“When did he disappear?”
“Oh, about — about 10 days ago.”
“Have you notified the police?”
He looked a little startled. “No, no,” he mumbled.
“What has been done to locate him?”
“Oh, we have asked here in Tokyo, at the place where we thought he might have gone to.”
“But surely you should ask the the help of the police.”
“I believe the school authorities in Hakodate have been working with the police. I am sorry. I cannot give you more details. You had better talk to the man from Daitoasho.”
But the man from Daitoasho was “out” although I heard his voice clearly over the telephone receiver. I pitied honest old Taketomi; as he scratched his gray head and shook it, I knew he was dying to tell me the truth, that our student had been arrested.
There is a general expectation that the change in the imperial Household ministry is only the forerunner of more extensive changes, possibly the fall of the cabinet after the fall of Okinawa. One indication of the crisis: Vargas has an appointment today with the war minister. It was put off from hour to hour and finally called off entirely because the general was kept unexpectedly long at some conference or other, either a war council or a cabinet meeting.
The minister of the imperial household, Marquis Tsuneo Matsudaira, resigned after more than nine years in office yesterday “assuming responsibility for the burning of the imperial palace and the Omiya palace.” His successor was a surprise, Sotaro Ishiwata, former finance minister, who has had “little or nothing to do with the affairs of the Imperial Household,” according to the Asahi.
It is said that Ishiwata was chosen because, not being a peer himself, he can be expected to fulfill with more impartiality and less embarrassment one of the minister’s chief duties, which is to discipline the nobility. The minister is in and yet above the cabinet; he does not fall with the different governments and exercises a great deal of unofficial and unconstitutional influence in their formation as one of the emperor’s closest advisers.
Roaming in the second-hand bookshops still in Kanda I found in nearly everyone a shelf of dictionaries: Nippongo-Burmese, Nippongo-Thai, Nippongo-Tagalog, Nippongo-Malay. Nobody was buying these fading souvenirs of the Co-Prosperity Sphere.
About 400 B-29’s carried out another concentrated daylight raid yesterday, this time on Osaka, and the Times feels compelled this morning to write: “The enemy’s terror raids upon the major cities of Japan have recently reached a new height of intensity and it cannot be denied that the damage which they have caused is shockingly great…. There is no longer any need to give heed to the enemy’s claim that he is trying to hit at Japan’s military or industrial power…. The deliberate strewing of fire bombs over wide areas of the distinctly residential and commercial districts of major cities cannot be regarded as anything but an attempt to break civilian morale through sheer terrorization…. But in this objective the enemy failed decisively.”
Recalling that the Japanese had shown their true mettle after the 1923 earthquake, the Times proceeds: “Today the destruction is even greater than at the time of the Great Earthquake, to be sure. Today the destruction is not confined to one blow but continuous to mount in extent. Today, with the battle at the front absorbing the major energy the nation, there is only limited possibility of succor and aid from non-evacuated regions. But the [illegible] served to call [illegible] compensating magnitude of determined effort.”
But when the Times goes on to give “widespread evidence” of this effort it slips into wishful thinking. One may grant the Japanese “a poise and stability of heroic stature” but no one who is in Japan today can believe that “transportation and communications facilities are being restored after each raid with unbelievable rapidity” or that “rations are distributed under unusual conditions with ingenuity and dispatch”.
The truth is that the untold hoard of loyalty and patience accumulated by the Japanese in centuries of seclusion is being wasted by their rulers with cruel and criminal prodigality. Harried and hunted from their burning homes, starved, robbed, deceived, despised, driven like cattle from barracks to factory, from stinking sidewalk cave to a beggar’s hovel in thorny hills, their “unconquerable fortitude” is a tribute not so much to a “defiant, triumphant, and even buoyant patriotism” as to the naked human will to survive.
The authorities are going [illegible] about the effect of the propaganda pamphlets dropped on Tokyo and Yokahama. “The contents of the leaflets,” cries the Asahi today, “are of such a fantastic nature that anyone who reads them is provoked to laughter. But someone off his guard may play into the hands of the enemy. We should therefore believe in the sure victory of the imperial land and block the plot of the enemy.”
The commonest pamphlets, reports the vernacular, is a “letter from the American president, Harry S. Truman.” It gives a timetable of broadcasts from the south as well as the wave-lengths used. The pamphlet, with “reasons of a twisted nature, attempts to make the Japanese people tired of the war and to estrange them from the military.”
Other pamphlets, according to popular rumor, are reproductions of 10-yen bills with the legend: “You can buy only such-and-such a quantity of rice with this amount.” Or else they contrast the ordinary civilian ration of rice with the army ration.
The rice angle is one of the most effective that the Americans could have used. The life of the ordinary Japanese after a heavy raid is not one calculated to attract gourmands. In one neighborhood association the ration issued was five rice balls (the size of golf-balls) for three persons for two days. In another, two small onions were issued per family for two weeks. In the same association an allotment of two cigarettes was made for 40 persons; they had to be raffled off. Others have been luckier; they received special consolation rations of rice. The general rule however is bad organization worsened by the “squeeze” system. It is now almost impossible to draw the emergency rations of shoyu without slipping the distributor a bribe.
The trains were running to Tokyo again and I had an opportunity to see for myself what remained of Yokohama. Once more I was reminded of the fact that all ruins look alike. But there was one thing that struck me. I had never thought Yokohama was so small a city. It looked bigger when it was crowded with houses. Now it looked strangely, pitifully small, a pitted excavation between the bluffs and the sea.
Yokohama was hit by 500 B-29’s accompanied by some 100 P-51’s, according to the official communique. They worked on the city for barely an hour and a half from 9:30 a.m. “This is the first time that the enemy has sent so many planes,” notes the Asahi.
It was a bad time for the navy to announce a reorganization. Admiral Toyoda has been appointed chief of the naval general staff and Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa has taken his place as commander-in-chief of the combined fleet and naval general headquarters. Ozawa, says the Asahi, is “virtually unknown to the public” but “it has long been expected that he would someday become commander-in-chief.”