(Revised, April 8, 2017) The Philippine Diary Project includes the diaries of a father and his son: Victor Buencamino, and Felipe Buencamino III. At the outbreak of the war, Victor Buencamino was head of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, precursor of today’s National Food Authority. His published diary covers the period from the arrival of the Japanese in Manila, and the first half of the Japanese Occupation.His diary provides an in-depth look into the dilemma facing government officials who stuck to their posts despite the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government and the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese. At certain points, particularly from January-April, 1942, he gets intermittent news about his son (who was, on the other hand, participating in clandestine military intelligence missions, even in Manila).
As for Victor Buencamino’s son, Lt. Felipe Buencamino III, known to his friends as Philip, was a young journalist who became a junior officer in Bataan, assigned to General Simeon de Jesus headed military intelligence. He kept a diary from the time of the retreat of USAFFE forces from the outskirts of Manila to Bataan, and conditions there as well as in Corregidor, which he periodically visited, looming defeat, the eve of surrender, and then the Death March and then wrote a kind of diary-memoir of the ordeal of his fellow prisoners in the Capas Concentration Camp, as well as his classmates. At times, his diary intersects with other diaries, such as the diary of Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, since Philip accompanied the General during one of his visits to the frontlines in Bataan. He resumed his diary, briefly, in September to December, 1944.
His Bataan diary prominently features two close friends: the writer and future diplomat Leon Ma. Guerrero (who would later keep a Tokyo diary covering the last months of World War II in Japan and the first months of the Allied Occupation), and Fred Ruiz Castro, future Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and who ended his career as Chief Justice of the Philippines.
After the Death March and imprisonment in Camp O’Donnell, Lt. Buencamino would go home and convalesce. His diary resumed in September, 1944, and covers the start of Allied air raids on Manila, and the preparations of Japanese forces for what would be the Battle for Manila.
During Liberation, he became did a stint in the newspaper published by the Allied forces and then joined friends in setting an early post-Liberation paper. He also became a broadcaster.
He left journalism to begin a career in the new Philippine foreign service.
On April 28, 1949, Felipe Buencamino III, together with his mother-in-law, Aurora A. Quezon, sister-in-law, Maria Aurora Quezon, and Ponciano Bernardo (mayor of Quezon City) and others, were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the Hukbalahap
Leon Ma. Guerrero, in writing about Mrs. Quezon and the ambush in which she was killed, in 1951, also wrote about his friend, Philip:
In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.
On April 28, 1949 – 56 years ago, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon was on her way to Baler. With her eldest daughter, Maria Aurora, whom everyone called “Baby”. And with her son-in-law, Philip Buencamino, who was married to her younger daughter, Zeneida, whom everyone called “Nini”. Nini was at home with their first baby, Felipe IV, whom everyone called “Boom”. And she was pregnant with their second baby “Noni”.
On a rough mountain road, in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, they were ambushed by gunmen hiding behind the trees on the mountainside. The cars were riddled with bullets. All three of them were killed. Along with several others, among them Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.
Adiong, the Quezon family driver, was spared. Running to the first car, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and said: “Malakas pa ako. Tingnan mo” — “I am still strong. Look!” And dipping his finger in his own blood, Philip wrote on the backrest of the front seat: “Hope in God”.
When they placed him in another vehicle for Cabanatuan, his bloody hands were fingering his rosary, and his lips were moving in prayer. This was consistent with his whole life. His rosary was always in his pocket. And on his 29th birthday, exactly one month before, on March 28, 1949, at dinner in his father’s home, he said to Raul Manglapus: “Raul, the Blessed Virgin has appeared at Lipa, and has a message for all of us. What are we going to do, to welcome her, and to spread her message?”
He was echoing the thoughts of Doña Aurora, who wanted a national period of prayer to welcome the Virgin and to spread her message of Peace. Years later, the Concerned Women of the Philippines established the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards, choosing the name in honor of this good, quiet, peaceful woman.
The blood stained rosary was brought to Nini, after Philip’s death. Many years later, she wrote down the thoughts that came to her when they gave her the bloody beads:
“We had joined my mother in Baguio for Holy Week, 1949. As we drove down the zigzag, after attending all the Holy Week services, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Nini, if we were to have an accident now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time for us to go?’ I said to him, ‘You may be ready, Phil, but I still have a child to give life to, so I can’t go just yet.’ And not long after this, his life was taken, and mine was spared.”
Her life was spared, but she felt the agony of those three deaths more intensely than anyone else. In that ambush she lost her husband, her mother, and her only sister. The gunmen riddled their bodies with bullets, on that rough mountain road. But miles away, with her one year old baby in her arms, and another baby in her womb, the gunmen left her with a broken heart. The ones she loved went home to God. But she had to carry on.
Another friend of Philip’s, Teodoro M. Locsin, whose wartime diary is also featured in the Philippine Diary Project, wrote about the murder of his friend, in the Philippines Free Press: see One Must Die, May 7, 1949:
I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.
Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.
Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side…
…As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.
After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.
Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.
He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.
When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.
He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.
Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.
Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.
Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him, to fret and worry over the distraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.
And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:
no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.
The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: “How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.”
That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.
And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices –men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.
Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whom Philip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign service. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.
On a final note, you can listen to Felipe Buencamino III: He was the emcee for the Malacañan Press Corps, in the first radio press conference of President Roxas broadcast from Malacañan Palace in 1947.
(Updated, February 1, 2019) February 3 to March 3 traditionally marks the period of commemoration for the Battle of Manila in 1945. The first diary to cover this period featured on The Philippine Diary Project was the first-hand account by Lydia C. Gutierrez, who was a young girl at the time. In fact her diary covers only ten days: from the start, to the end, of her family’s ordeal.
Civilians interned by the Japanese were in two locations: Natalie Crouter an American civilian, with her husband and children, had recently arrived in Old Bilibid Prison after years of being detained in Baguio; Albert A. Holland and Raymond Leyerly were civilian detainees in the University of Santo Tomas. Their diaries actually end just at the point when their imprisonment ended –while Holland would, afterwards, have a distinguished career, Leyerley died soon after being freed –of starvation.
American Prisoners of War included Ike Thomas, a staff sergeant in the Medical Department of Old Bilibid Prison, and his chief, Major Warren A. Wilson, who was overall-in-charge as the senior American medical officer in the prison. Both also end their diaries soon after their freedom was restored.
Outside Manila were the Spanish Dominican Fr. Juan Labrador, OP, who was in Pangasinan but would make his way to Manila; he would chronicle for posterity, the destruction and suffering of the city. Secretary of National Defense and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, General Basilio J. Valdes was with President Osmeña; his diary also peters off at the point he finally returned to Manila. In Tokyo, Leon Ma. Guerrero a junior diplomat in the staff of Ambassador Jorge B. Vargas, would get snatches of news about home.
The prelude to the Battle of Manila can be seen in the September-December, 1944 diary entries of Felipe Buencamino III, a veteran of Bataan who’d stopped writing in his diary in September, 1944, when the first American air raid of Manila since 1942 took place.
Here are the days with relevant entries in The Philippine Diary Project.
There are reports – fairly reliable – of landings at Nasugbu Batangas 2 days ago and at Subic Bay 3 days ago – Nasugbu is to the South on the West Coast – Subic to the North on the West coast – the Subic landing aims at the capture of Olongapo, the naval repair base, the cutting of the communication of the Japanese forces resisting our advance over the mountains from the Zainbiales Coast, and our advance from Olongapo over the mountains to the East to cut the Japanese retreat into Bataan– The Musugbu landing will aim, of course, at the Cavite naval base, at cutting off a possible Japanese retreat to Teinate [Ternate] & Maic [Naic] & this evacuation to Bataan– And incidentally, after passing the Tagaytay ridge, will turn towards Manila.
Again these landings to the North & South of Manila Bay, the terrific bombings of Corregidor, Cavite Naval base, Fraile Island may be the prelude to an advance by task force into Manila Bay – the mines will have to be cleared and there are many wrecks in the harbor –
Gradually, the Japanese are being forced to decide what to do in the South – In a short time, any troops they have there will not be able to join the Northern forces –
Men are dying from starvation every day and day before yesterday, the Japs put two of our doctors in jail because they refused to change the death certificates from starvation to heart trouble, or some other ailment. Over 3/4 of the people in camp are starving. There are some who have a few cans of food left but even they no longer have enough to eat.
Very heavy explosions in and around Manila all during the day. About 10:30 PM, a series of detonations lasting well over an hour, were heard to the southeast of the compound. The explosions varied in intensity from small ones to big ones, all mixed together. Artillery or destruction of installations? Reverberations from explosions were heard intermittently all during the night. Many of the personnel thinks it’s about over for us – that the Americans will take Manila within the next four days.
The same half-boring, half-scary life. Early in the afternoon Papa, Frank and Nong came home with 3 bayongful of money. (Papa had mortgaged the farm.) We knew that the Americans were near so we decided to spend the Japanese money quickly…
Baby and I spent the night in Frank and Josie’s at Georgia St. It was 9 p.m., but the skies were red and orange and bright like sunset because of the fires. We watched the fires from the porch and then went to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake. I was very impatient and homesick. By midnight, we could hear faint machinegunning and shooting. But the sound was so far, far away. The night seemed so long.
Well, looks like the Japs are getting ready to evacuate Manila and suburbs. Lots of fires early this morning — they are destroying supplies and from the looks of things, burning up half of the country in doing it.
It was about 5:30 p.m. when we heard repeated and long bursts of heavy caliber machine gun fire along the North road. There was a deep rumble which sounded like airplanes but as there were no planes in sight, it boiled down to — tanks. Very soon the sound drew nearer and the machine gun fire hotter together with heavy tank guns 2.8″, I believe the caliber is. The boys were meeting with a little Jap resistance; but they soon overcame the weak and surprised opposition of the mighty Imperial Japanese Army and drove on to Bilibid and the Far Eastern University. There at the F.E.U., our boys had quite a fight. Some were killed and quite a number wounded. But they blasted the place all to hell, set fire to it and came on about their business.
At nine o’clock, it was very dark — the moon came about midnight; one big thirty ton tank drove into the front gate and another came through the Seminary road and just took the gate with it. The Japs were caught napping and a bunch of them ran into their quarters in the Education Building.
At dusk, we saw a silent line of Japanese in blue shirts creep from the gate to the front door. They went through the long hall, upstairs, and out on the roof—of all places—with machine gun and bullets, grenades and gasoline. This made us extremely nervous, to put it mildly.
A flame thrower tore through the building next to the men’s barracks just outside the wall, and the building was a seething mass of flame immediately. It made me sick to see how quickly it happened and to wonder if any people might be inside. Fires began to rage in all directions. The sky was ablaze all night. The oil-gray pall has hung over us ever since, some of it a greasy brown color. At sunset, the sun was a copper disk in the sky, as it is during a forest-fire time at home.
Everyone went around talking about whether it was or wasn’t the American army. It wasn’t very long before we were sure. Some of the usual nervy, hardy camp members went up on the roof to see what was going on, and when the tank went by outside our walls, it stopped and they heard a Southern voice drawl, “Okay, Harvey, let’s turn around and go back down this street again.” Another pair of tanks was heard “God damning” each other in the dark. There was no mistake about this language—it was distinctly American soldiers! The Marines and Army were here! And they had caught the Japanese “with their pants down.” There couldn’t have been good communication or the Japanese would have had time to leave.
A fire broke out just behind us to the north, and the flame piled high and bamboo crackled and popped like pistols. I was so excited all night that I almost burst. I would doze off, waken with a jump at some enormous detonation. Win and Jo and little Freddie came down to our cement floor space for the night. I was up most of the night, going from one end of the building to the other to watch new fires that leapt into the sky. Jerry, who was tied to crutches (legs swollen with beriberi) and to his bed, scolded me—“You darn fool, go to bed. You’ll be dead tomorrow if you don’t stop running around.” He was right but I didn’t care and just answered, “I don’t care if I am. This is the biggest night of my life and I’m not going to miss it.”
A very bright-red red letter day! Everything went along as usual, performance of routine duties, exchanging of rumors; evening chow, and then—six American planes flying extremely low and slow passed over the compound. “Tenko” (the Japanese word for roll call) as usual at 6:00 PM. At 6:30 PM, the sound of artillery in the distance. Then heavy machine gun fire. Then the machine guns seemed to come closer and closer and closer. Finally all hell broke loose in the city. Light artillery (or artillery on tanks), heavy machine guns, light machine guns, rifles, pistols –everything– sounded on the north-northeast and east of us. The Americans had come into Manila just before dark. It got dark but not for long. A huge fire was started in or close to the adjoining compound. This illuminated our compound. The buildings on the north and east of us caught fire and blazed up. The electricity went out about 10:30 PM to remain off. Guns and ammunitions dumps went off steadily until the close of Saturday Feb, 3rd, 1945.
With the Americans at the gates of Manila the official Imperial Rule Assistance Association called a “Victory in the Philippines” rally at the Hibiya public hall today. It was piercingly cold even in mid-afternoon and the steep backstairs were slippery with crusted ice. Backstage distinguished visitors were shown into a shabby clingy waiting-room and served the usual tea. Japanese officers and dignitaries arrived in succession, glum and blue with cold, and with a strange and awkward air, half-defiant and half-apologetic. Nobody talked about the war but it was obvious that for the Japanese the news was bad.
After Mass we went to market again. The girls dropped by from home and told us that Emy said that there was news from the Quemas that the Americans arrived last night in Caloocan and were coming towards Rizal Ave. That’s why we heard the machinegunning. It was so hard to believe! The majority of the people heard the good news and rushed to the market. The market was almost empty. There were just hard kernels of yellow corn, a few coconuts and kangkong and talinum…
The Japs look desperate. They were very, very strict with the people. People were slapped more often without knowing why.
About 10 A.M. we saw Carl go out the gate to join Major Wilson in receiving orders and release from Major Ebiko and Yamato, who at last satisfied his correct soul by turning us over with all the proper formality. About noon Carl came back and we were all called into the main corridor. We crowded about the small office space, then someone said, “Gangway.” We all pressed over to one side as the clank of hobnails and sound of heavy feet came from the stairs. The eight soldiers had received their orders to come down from the roof. This was the most dramatic and exciting moment of all. It pictured our release more vividly than anything could. They had been persuaded to withdraw so that our danger would be less. They were giving in that much and were leaving Bilibid. They filed through the narrow lane we left, they and we silent, their faces looking sunk and trapped. The corporal’s fat face was sullen and defeated. One short, beady-eyed, pleasant fellow looked at us with a timid friendly grin—a good sport to the end. With machine-gun bullets and grenades in their hands, they trooped out the door, joining the still jaunty Formosans at the gate. They all went out without a backward look, and the gate stood open behind them. We were alone—and turned toward Carl who read the Release. We cheered and then Carl took the hand-sewn Baguio American flag out of the drawer and held it up high. The crowd broke up and began to move away singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” I went out the front door and around in our door at the side where June was trying to tell Jerry, who had his face in his hands, his head bowed. I put my arm around his shoulders, and the three of us sat there with tears running down our cheeks for quite a long while, not saying anything.
The sound of tanks running, artillery firing, and small arms explosions continued unabated until about 2AM. The fires burned until everything was burned up. Great clouds of saffron colored smoke reflected the light. Finally everything quieted down, except in the distance where heavy artillery was in action. But the Yanks with tanks with steaks and cakes had not come into Bilibid at 7:30 AM. Last night everyone KNEW it was over. This morning there was much talk of last nights activity being just a commando raid. The Japanese guards, most of the morning, appeared to be on the point of leaving. At 11:00 AM, Major Wilson, the Senior Medical Officer, was called to the Japanese office, where he was informed that the Japanese “had been assigned another duty” and were going to release the prisoners of war, also the civilian internees in the upper compound. At 11:45 AM, the Japanese left. We had three meals; all of them heavy. A light plane circled over Bilibid many times during the day. About 6:00PM, a wooden shutter on one of the walls of Bilibid had a hole knocked in it with a rifle butt. The American guard (guards were posted to maintain order and to prevent anyone from trying to get out of or into the compound until American Forces came in) went up to see what was happening. Maybe it was Filipino, maybe Japanese.
But — it was AMERICANS. They had Bilibid completely surrounded and were trying to get in and see what was inside the walls. They said that they had expected Japs and were surprised to see Americans and we were happy to see them. The detail at that particular point, passed cigarettes through the bars, and kept saying, let us in. We’ve come to get you out. After seeing Major Wilson, the officer in charge of the American force surrounding Bilibid, Major Wendt, bivouacked his men and then came into the compound and told us that they had been averaging 20 miles a day on their advance, but that they had only made 15 miles today, that we would no doubt be taken over tomorrow. Later, men from his organization, the 37th Division, Ohio Regiment, came into the compound and visited with the ex- prisoners.
The Japanese left the hospital area about 1:00 P.M., about 1:30 P.M. we locked the front gate with a chain and padlock and put up a red cross flag. Guards were place at sally port, outer compound gate, chapel (guard house) and west wall. I have kept the two compounds from fraternizing because they are not under military jurisdiction, however, I called on them this afternoon and we split stores left us for the Japanese – prorated their 465 to our 810 and gave them sugar, rice, tea and cigarettes to rate of 5 per person in each compound. Met the doctors including Dr. Marshall Welles formerly L.R.C.G.H…
Requested the outer compound to take down an American flag on their building as I felt this was premature.
The advance troops of the liberators entered Manila last night after thirty-seven long months since the remaining troops of the USAFFE retreated to Bataan. We cannot tell how many districts of Manila are already liberated. News dispatches are a little confused. All we are sure of is that the first place recaptured is the University of Santo Tomas with all its residents, priests and internees. We were told that the rest of the city had been turned into a battlefield, won not amidst psalms and cheers but amidst firings and shellings “…that this city and all its people might be protected…”
Got up at 5 a.m. Attended Mass at 6 a.m. Left at 9 a.m. on a B-24 with President Osmeña for Lingayen. Our plane was escorted by four pursuit planes. Arrived at Lingayen 11:30 a.m. Left at 3 p.m. for Hacienda Luisita. Spent the night.
I was awakened by feminine shrieks of delight and men’s cries of “Hooray!” Little Walter came rushing in calling to his mother, “Mummie, come, come! Do you want to see a real live Marine? They are here.” I was too worn down to go out and join the crowd, so I just rested there letting the tears run down and listening to the American boys’ voices—Southern, Western, Eastern accents—with bursts of laughter from our internees—laughter free and joyous with a note in it not heard in three years. I drifted into peaceful oblivion, wakening later amid mosquitoes and perspiration to listen to the rat-a-tat-tats, booms, clatter of shrapnel, explosions of ammunition dumps, seeing scarlet glare in every direction. There is battle all around us right up to the walls; two great armies locked in death grip. Today we watched flames leap and roar over at the Far Eastern University building just two blocks away. It is the Japanese Intelligence and Military Police Headquarters. The building was peppered with bullet holes Sunday morning, and a dead soldier is slumped out half across the window sill of an open window.
At 9:00 PM Bilibid was reported surrounded by fire on three sides and we were ordered to evacuate to the Ang Tibay shoe factory on the outskirts of Manila, where 7th Division Headquarters were located. Members of the 148th Infantry assisted in the evacuation by carrying litter patients, helping the weak to trucks, and seeing that Bilibid was cleared. The litter patients were evacuated in ambulances and jeeps. At 11:35 PM Bilibid was cleared of all personnel, staff 126; patients, 664; total Bilibid Hospital 810; civilians in the upper compound, 494; and the records that could be located in the dark.
At 6:00 AM opened hospital headquarters at the Ang Tibay shoe factory, and awaited orders. Ward surgeons and corpsmen continued to care for the patients who had been under their care at Bilibid. Ordered to return to Bilibid because of better sanitary facilities and quarters. Upon return found Bilibid had been looted, surgical equipment wrecked, typewriters, food and personal possessions, stolen or destroyed. Cases of medicines broken open and looted but the bulk of the Red Cross medicines in Bilibid were intact. Many records were either stolen or inadvertently destroyed by the Filipinos who had been employed to clean up the wreckage. Had our first American chow this AM and it was as good as we thought it would be. Canned ham and eggs, a prepared cereal milk, “K” biscuits, butter, jam, coffee with milk and sugar, cigarettes and matches.
At 6 a.m. left General Head Quarters with Major General R.J. Marshall, Major General Stivers, Colonel Egbert for Manila. Arrived 10 a.m. Fighting still going on. Found five dead Japanese in front of Tata’s house. Many dead Japanese in the street. Went to R. Hidalgo Street. Prayed at Rita’s tomb. Saw my family.
Reorganization of hospital as it was before the evacuation. Water pressure extremely low, finally no water. Rations and water requisitioned from Santo Tomas. Philippine Civilian Affairs unit #2, took over mess and continued cleaning up of Bilibid, employed Filipinos to carry water from 4 wells which the Japanese had had the Americans dig in case of such an occurrence. General MacArthur made a tour through Bilibid, visiting every ward and the civilian area.
Things couldn’t have ‘gone worse if I had. tried this A.M.; clothes dirty, unshaved for 2 days, the hospital littered with debris & in come Gen. MacArthur & Staff. He was very nice- visited all the wards & the internees, shook hands with dozens, talked to a few of his old soldiers etc. – many cried. There was a battery of news cameramen who took pictures of us everywhere as the Gen. & I led the parade.
Hired Filipinos who cleaned up the area, PCAU Units # 1 & 21 were set up to feed us tomorrow. The K rations last thru noon, then B ration which we will cook on our old wood stoves tonight.
The Japanese press has now been allowed to reveal that the United States army entered Manila on the 3rd and that fighting is now going on within the capital.
The news of street-fighting in Manila plunged us all into deep anxiety. “The Filipinos will never forgive for this,” I told one of our interpreters. “The Americans declared Manila an open city in 1942 and withdrew without fighting. Why couldn’t you do the same?”
He was decent enough not to argue about ”blood-letting tactics”; he grew thoughtful and said nothing. Later he came up to me with a Japanese newspaper. Japanese marines, he said apologetically, were doing all the fighting; the army had withdrawn according to plan but the navy had refused to cooperate.
Few people walked out in the streets because of the shelling. The shrapnels fell like scattered stones on rooftops. By midnight shells came nearer. Frank and Josie got up and brought Bobby down. Baby and I followed. It was damp and cold at the landing of the stairs. But we spent the rest of the night there. Frank brought a small suitcase and foodstuffs in case we’d have to run. Then I went up to get more blankets but when I reached the top of the stairs I couldn’t move because I was afraid. But I ran into the room, pulled the blankets and ran down the stairs. The cement steps where we lay were so cold and my bones ached. Frank put an oil lamp and played with cards to keep awake. I slept very little.
The PCAU Units – Capt. Green & Maj. MacKinsey – fed us from their gasoline ranges this A.M. There is much griping about “seconds” from the pts. They can’t realize that they can’t eat a full messkit of stateside food as they would with rice.
There was much artillery fire on our part the last two nites with same return of it; hence, there has been little sleep & everyone is jumpy. Several psycho cases were hanging on the bars this A.M. like a bunch of monkeys. They started a hunger strike, said the Americans were starving them. I called Col. Allen, surgeon 14th Corps who promised to evacuate them to Tarlac Tomorrow.
Returned to Manila with food supplies for the family. Saw the destruction by three direct hits on Tata’s house by six inch Japanese shells. Five hits on the garden. One neighbor killed, several were wounded.
A ranking officer from the war office had dinner with him last night. With the help of numerous military maps he took the trouble of bringing along, he explained Yamashita’s strategy in the Philippines. His version was substantially that given in every newspaper in Tokyo: a strategy of “blood-letting” or attrition from mountain positions dominating Manila, Clark Field, and the gate to the Cagayan valley in northern Luzon. Cagayan will be Yamashita’s Bataan.
In the diet the fall of Manila led the lower house to pass a nagging resolution calling on the Koiso government to get going.
We awoke hearing the rumbling of tanks. We thought they were American tanks but we were mistaken. We spent the whole morning downstairs. We only went up in the afternoon but were alert and ready to run down, whenever a shell burst. The time passed so slowly. How dreary! We ate early and decided to sleep on the cement steps and the landing.
Around 10 p.m. we heard a big commotion. There were two big fires, one in Irasan and one on Leveriza St. All the people were running back and forth carrying their possessions, and piling them up on the sidewalks. The streets were noisy and crowded with people talking and running with their belongings. Frank brought Josie and Bobby home and told Baby and I to watch the house. We were so afraid. We started folding blankets and packing. Frank came back with the others from home with a pushcart. They made several trips. Frank and I brought down the refrigerator with Baby putting a sack underneath so we could slide it down the two flights of stairs, into the yard and on the sidewalk. But the fire was getting nearer so we left it and saved the other things. From home we watched the houses burn one by one…
Reorganization well under way. Rosters about completed. Records show that on Feb. 6, 88 patients were transferred to Santo Tomas which is better equipped to handle seriously ill patients: 3 patients AWOL. 8 mental patients transferred this date to Tarlac. 11 additional patients to Santo Tomas because of family there or desire to remain in the Philippines.
The Japanese are blaming the Americans for the destruction of Manila. A Domei dispatch carried by the Mainichi today quotes the spokesman of the Japanese forces in the Philippines as follows: “With a view to saving the traditional cultural establishments of Manila from the havoc of fire and to prevent innocent inhabitants from suffering untold distresses, the Japanese forces in this city (Manila) had beforehand removed or destroyed the important military facilities and taken away the munitions elsewhere. Leaving only a small force necessary for the maintenance of order, we had withdrawn our main strength from Manila. This step was endorsed by the Philippine government which also moved from Manila to attend to administrative duties so that the present city of Manila should be considered a mere cultural city without military or political significance. “Acting from political motives,” continues the spokesman, “the enemy American forces set an excessive strategic value on Manila…. Without regards to the means employed, the Americans behaved in such a manner as to force street-fighting in Manila. The bandit units nurtured by the Americans beforehand, as well as ill-principled men, have taken advantage of this opportunity to precipitate the city into a condition of tragic and horrible misery. For this act of robbing a free nation of its welfare and happiness, the invading American forces should be held responsible.”
Meantime San Francisco accuses the Japanese of burning and blowing up the downtown business center, entrenching themselves in pillboxes in all big buildings, massacring political prisoners in Fort Santiago, holding the entire population of the old walled city in hostage, and wreaking the most savage and unspeakable vengeance on the Filipinos within their reach. The burned and mutilated corpses of the victims of mass executions have been found in the portions of Manila taken by the Americans. It is the story of an army gone mad in the last agony of desperation, looting, burning, raping, killing, torturing every living thing within its reach, obsesses by the ferocious determination that nothing shall survive it.
For us it does not even matter, not any more, who is telling the truth. We are conscious only of a vague, impalpable, but oppressive and inescapable horror, like a poisonous fog — horror, tortured anxiety, fear, a dark anger at the whole of life, a nameless bottomless pity that pulls and wrenches us toward those we love, those we know, and those we do not know, in our burning and dying city beyond the horizon. We have not yet the heart to listen to the evidence, to fix responsibilities, to apportion the blame, to concern, to hate. We can only think in terms of a faceless ruin, death with a hidden visage and an impartial hand, blindly reaching out and striking down and squeezing and tearing — whom? One of us has a wife and six children in Manila: another has a father and mother, brother and sister; each and everyone of us has left someone behind. What has happened to them?
When it got bright we started fixing our house. We were preparing the whole day to run away. For my knapsack I got a nepa bag and put one change of clothing, my veil, rosary, and some clean strips of cloth in case anyone got wounded. Mama gave each of us rice, red beans and some money. We also were given a tag with our name and address (613 Remedios Malate, Manila) written in India ink. We pinned it with our blessed Miraculous medals. We were never to remove it.
We packed our pushcarts with food, clothes and cooking utensils and left one empty for the children to ride. The shelling was getting worse and worse, so that we could not even go outdoors to get water from the well.
2 additional patients transferred to Santo Tomas, 1 Medical Department Sgt. Placed on DS at Santo Tomas (wife there). 108 patients not able to make 170 mile ride, transferred to Quezon Institute. Remainder of patients and Staff transferred to 12th Replacement Battalion, APO.Transported by 14th Transport Company. Left Manila at 2:30 PM, arrived 24th Field Hospital, Camp Del Pilar at 5:30 PM and were fed and rested. Left one patient, Pvt. Heather (British Army) there due to inability to continue trip. Arrived 12th Replacement Battalion 1:30 AM. The Bilibid hospital unit ceased to function as a unit upon leaving Bilibid. This report closed out as of midnight Feb 10…
The Japanese were buoyant this morning. All the vernaculars have headlined a delphic boast from Yamashita: “The enemy is in my stomach.” It is, I suppose, the equivalent of the American “It’s in the bag”. The immediate unanimous but private reaction of the Filipinos here was: “He’ll have indigestion.”
We had breakfast and started doing our housework but once in a while we would jump down the trapdoor to the dugout because of the shelling. Biring and her husband decided to butcher their pig and we all helped. Mama and Biring fried all the pork chops, made adobo, and salted the rest. We were in the shelter most of the time. Then a bunch of Japanese soldiers stopped in front of our house planting dynamite. We shivered! We noticed a fire nearby getting bigger and bigger. It was the Masonic Temple in Vermont and Taft burning and the wind was blowing the fire towards us. Burning particles were flying again, Papa and Frank thought it would be safer under the Gonzales’ house which was concrete, so they broke down the stone wal. We all ran under the Gonzales’ house. Then the Japanese passed on Wright st. with rifles ready to shoot. We lay flat but since there was no dugout we went back home.
Suddenly bunches of people came running towards our house. Some were wounded, some were carrying possessions, many were hysterical. They said the Japanese threw hand grenades at them in their shelters. They got separated from their families. We gave them water to drink and they ran out again. The fire was coming nearer and the smoke made our eyes water. It was time to go. We pushed our pushcarts and made trips back and forth. Among last night’s burned ruins we found many little roofs with refugees under them. Frank found an empty corner of a house in Florida st. The walls in one corner still stood and we pulled a piece of zinc from among the ruins and placed it across the walls. We put our bundles of clothes on the hot debris and sat on them. We could not save all our things as the Japs came to patrol. We could hear the crackling and we could feel the heat of the houses burning: Five of us had to go to another place under a small table. Our legs were popping out. We could hear the kids arguing and later two more came with us. At dawn we started for home cause our house didn’t burn after all.
…The houses all burned immediately whenever a shell hit. Our house, the Hemingway’s, Bagasan’s, Amador’s, were all burning now. It was getting hotter and hotter. Then the smoke came under the house as the Gonzales’ house caught fire too. We crawled to the next house on the left. There was a shallow hole and it was soft and sandy soil so we started digging with our hands just so we could lay flat on our stomachs. We found a mattress which we used to cover our bodies. We stuck out our heads and watched the people passing on Wright st. They were dragging their wounded. Then we saw some of the Amadors walking. We found a bottle with brown sugar and gave the children some. The heat became intense. We had to go. When we came out into the street it was very quiet –not a living body, all were dead. We could not turn right to go to Remedios and Florida as the heat from Amadors’ and Montes’ house made the road like an oven. We turned left. We stumbled and walked nervously holding on to each other, afraid of stepping on parts of dead bodies. We reached Vermont and the Vasquez house but they didn’t let us in because it was a Red Cross headquarters and none of us were wounded. We reached Tennessee st. and turned left. At Georgia st. we saw four Japs and they saw us! We ran fast into a building. We hid a while but were afraid there might be Japs in the building. Then Nong peeped and they were gone. Thank God! We turned left on Georgia and came to Vermont and turned right till we reached the corner of Florida st. at last! Two blocks away was our shelter among the ruins but it was too hot to pass. But if we stood there, the Japs might see us. So Nong thought we’d better dash through the hot street. Irasan was burning. We saw many dead bodies. Most of them we knew. We came near the place where we had our shelter. It was very, very quiet, not a soul. There were dead bodies all over the place. When we came to our place what a mess it was! We came nearer and called Frank, nobody answered. Then we called Chars and Ini and Chito but nobody answered. We approached reluctantly. We saw Ini and Frank but we saw blood. We didn’t know who was wounded. It was Chito! We did not expect it to be him. When they saw us they were so surprised! Most of us cried and cried. They said they saw our house being hit directly and then bursting in flames and they were sure we were all dead. They told us that Chito was sitting and a shrapnel went through his leg, took out a piece of his hand and hit the other leg. When Chito heard that his friend Ding-ding died, he cried and cried.
The shells never stopped one after the other and when they burst the smoke and ashes came under the tables and we were all fainting one by one. There was a man with one arm gone and he was delirious and quarreling with another man under a roof nearby. The judge was drinking and he was desperate and crying. He said his wife and all his other children died. He told us to take his daughter if he dies. Chars ran out to look for medicine and came back with a sleeping tablet from Mrs. Kalaw but the Japs almost saw her on her way back. A man just pulled her back as she was beginning to cross the street. Then the Japs came to the street and we had to stop the children from crying and had to remain very quiet. Again all the shells fell in our vicinity and debris, stones and shrapnels were falling all over. The people were screaming and crying around us. We clung to our medals and prayed and prayed. One shell fell right near us and we choked and coughed and most of us were fainting and we could see figures getting out of our shelter.
Maximo went to get water, it tasted like gunpowder and smelled like the dead. We put a few drops of listerine in it and drank one sip each. The shelling never stopped the whole night.
…Near noon planes came and dropped bombs near the rotonda. We just prayed and prayed “Miraculous medal save us,” over and over again. There were shells again and no more lulls. Just shells and bombs and shrapnels. We were just waiting to die, we thought it was the end of the world! People ran past our place. One man was carrying a turkey and one was dragging a goat. There was an old man with a dying baby in his arms and Nong ran out to baptize the baby. We found a bottle of brandy and we all sipped so we’d stop fainting. Then we saw clothes of the Japanese hanging in poles and we did not know what that meant and we were so afraid. Then the rice was cooked, we ate. The Amadors opened red pimentos and asparagus and even fruit cocktail.
Then there was a lull and we saw people walking with their hands up. They told us that the Americans were on Taft ave. and the guerrillas told them to go there. They told us to go too because this was going to be the battleground. We watched them but couldn’t decide whether to follow or not. Then Niño our neighbor, came to tell us that Taft until Paco was liberated already. Now we really had to go. Joseling told us to leave him as he cried from pain when he was moved. But Niño and Tony carried him into a pushcart. We put a board over the other pushcart loaded with things and put Chito on top. In the other one we put the children. We also brought the mattress on top of the table. There were many guerrillas directing the people… They told us to hurry up. We recognized many of them from Irasan and also the man selling bananas in the market. There were big holes in the streets and electric posts and wires and we had a hard time pushing the pushcarts.
When we reached the corner of Taft and Remedios we thought we saw some Japanese with dark green uniforms and helmets and guns. But they were big and as we approached they weren’t Japanese. They were Americans! Americans! We were so happy! Some people ran to them telling them what happened. The other Americans were in foxholes with their machine guns ready. A Spanish lady ran and kissed the hand of one of the American soldiers. The people thanked them over and over again. Some people gave them bottles of wine. Then we came to a big crater and we could not let the pushcart through. So we just carried the things.
Then we went to the first aid station among the ruins. George and Joseling had been treated and lay on the cement. Then I lined up carrying Cila and holding Pichy. We were way behind the curved line and watched the people being treated. It was very frightening. There was a man with stones and clothes stuck to his back wounds and the doctor had a hard time taking out his stuck shirt and he was in so much pain. The doctor amputated fingers and removed little shrapnels but not the ones way inside that needed an operation. The doctor ran out of medicines and we had to go away without Pichy and Cila being treated. The Philippine Red Cross nurse made soup for the wounded lying among the ruins. We put Pichy in a pushcart and she was crying very much thinking about her parents who died. An American soldier cheered her up a bit. There were several American soldiers and they also carried their wounded and dead. We found the rest of the family in a ruined house where Madre Maria Sausa brought them and gave them corned beef. The American soldiers told us to walk on and we’ll be picked up by trucks.
We walked on and waved at the trucks that passed by but they only picked up those who were wounded. We met a friend who said Chito, Papa, Chars, Nong and Toots were headed for Malacañang. Everyone told us to go to Malacañang cause there were bread and apples there. Then we sat in front of a Pandacan schoolhouse waiting for a truck to take us to Malacañang but it was getting dark so we joined the crowds going to the schoolhouse. It was full of refugees, so we slept under the schoolhouse. We put the mattress on the ground for the children. I slept on top of our bundles of clothes so they wouldn’t be stolen. We opened the can of corned beef but we didn’t care to eat. We were so very tired and sleepy.
A provost official –one of the many new friends with whom we had been fraternizing– offered me a trip to Manila in his jeep. I accepted willingly, in order to have a personal knowledge of what is happening in the Capital.
We left at 7:00 in the evening and we were at Balintawak by midnight. It was a very fast trip by the standards of these times. All the bridges had been blown up by the Japanese and had been replaced by pontoon bridges constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The way these soldiers are working is admirable.
We did not attempt to enter the city. Shelling was very intense. We spent the night in the jeep, parked in the middle of thick grasses. I did not sleep a wink as I watched the shrubs and grasses move, not by the wind but by some snipers. I heard the thundering booms of the guns and the whistling flight of shells as they rent the air over our heads, while in the city, vast columns of smoke were rising and big fires were raging.
At the break of day I entered the main gate of the University for the first time in three years. I found the Seminary filled with refugees. Most of them came from this northern sector of Manila where several blocks of houses had been burned by fire caused by Japanese, or started by Filipinos who had been paid or forced to burn them. The Education building has been converted to a hospital for civilian casualties who came from the south in uncontrollable influx.
The internees are still living in the main building in other smaller ones. They were huddled in rooms and corridors, but free, happy, well fed and properly clothed. Many of them are gradually recovering from their skeletal countenance and their cadaveric paleness due to starvation under the Japanese regime.
The evenings are a nightmare. They bring a rosary of shocks produced by powerful guns which, from New Manila and Grace Park, strike at Ermita and Intramuros, shaking the air, the earth, the doors and the nerves. Projectiles fly over our heads, whistling their funereal song of destruction. We cannot look at them: we can only follow their trajectory with our ears. Mortars from the Far Eastern University and the Osmeña Park batter the eardrums with metallic poundings. Machine guns, crackling like coffee grinders –Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac! rattle in, from behind, at the sides, in search of Japanese snipers. The fires from the Japanese side which reach our vicinity add to the confusion. A mortar hit the tower of the main building where the Americans had set up an observation post, and from which General MacArthur observed enemy lines this morning. Others fell on the Education building and on the intern’s garden. However, there were no casualties.
But more shattering than the dissonant harmony of war engines is the news about the tragedies suffered by survivors who escaped from the southern part of the city. The accounts are so terrifying and so macabre that my spirit was filled with infinite bitterness, and I wept with tears of pain and indignation. From the sadness and sympathy arose an impotent anger against the infernal forces which vented its desperation and hate among the civilian populace. So many families of acquaintances and friends exterminated. So many mutilated. So many who escaped the Japanese hell lost everything but their lives. The hospitals –the few old ones which still remain, and a number of improvised ones– are filled with the wounded, whose hands or feet or body are perforated with bullets or shrapnels. Many are searching desperately for their lost loved ones. Manila is a picture of sadness impossible to describe.
The Japanese plan of attack against the defenseless Manilans is as diabolic as it is organized. Its defense strategy consists in positioning themselves behind the civilian residents, and as the conquerors advance within a dangerous distance, they flee or burn the buildings and retreat a few blocks backwards. They machinegun the residents who attempt to put out the fire or run for their lives. The only way to save themselves is to jump into a ditch and stay there. Anyone who raises his head is fired at. They stay for four to eight days without eating or drinking, tortured by a rabid thirst. I was told of cases where persons, dying of thirst, drank human blood mixed with mud.
In many cases, the soldiers would approach the ditches and kill the occupants with bayonets. That was how they killed the De La Salle Brothers –Irish and Germans–, the Padres Paules of San Marcelino among whom were Fr. Visitator Tejada and Fr. José Fernández, and Irish Fathers of Malate, together with the evacuees in their buildings. The same fate fell on fifty others, almost all of whom were Spanish, who took shelter in the Spanish consulate. Aside from being attacked with bayonets, they were also attacked with hand grenades. Only a little girl escaped alive.
Another way of liquidating the people is by herding them into a house and setting fire to it, at the same time hurling hand grenades inside. Anyone who attempts to escape is shot.
There were frequent cases where soldiers threw hand grenades into the ditches or air raid shelters, and those who attempted to escape were hunted like animals. In order to economize on bullets, the assassins usually would tie entire families to post or pillars and kill them with bayonets. It was not rare that a hundred or more persons were lined up and machinegunned.
In the shelter at the German Club, some four hundred persons of different nationalities were attacked and massacred by drunken soldiers. Only about half a dozen escaped. The young Enrique Miranda, son of Telesforo Miranda Sampedro, told me that his mother and five brothers were taken by the Japanese. He did not know what happened to them. We learned later that their bodies were found mangled –those of his two brothers, in the street. Enrique said that he was made to kneel down and they hit him on his neck. He lost consciousness. He came to his senses when a soldier was prickling him with the point of his bayonet to find out if he was already dead. He tried to bear the pain and feigned death. The soldier covered him with earth. He was able to bore a hole through which he breathed. Later, he squeezed himself out and, bleeding all over, he hid among the stones until he was found by the Americans.
In Singalong, the Japanese marines gathered the men to send them on forced labor. The men were made to line up and were herded on groups of ten into houses where their heads were cut off. As those who were in the streets could not hear anything, they entered the houses confidently, believing they were only to register their names. A son of Mr. Ynchausti, among others, escaped, but was badly wounded.
It was providential that in almost all cases, someone among the victims was able to escape and was able to relate the fate of his companions.
The Japanese installed machineguns on the towers of the Paco and Singalong churches, not to counterattack the approaching Americans but to mow down the residents –men, women and children– who might attempt to flee. The Remedios Hospital and the San Andres agricultural school, where thousands of escapees had taken shelter, were shelled with mortars and even Japanese anti- aircraft guns. Many, however, were also killed by American bombs…
Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.
The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.
This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.
The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.
So passed the night.
At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.
Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.
That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.
The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.
In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.
The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.
On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.
The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.
In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.
With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.
Weeks have passed since the start of a thorough attack on the south of the Pasig. The battle was bloody and although there were heaps of Japanese fatalities, there were very few prisoners. American casualties were heavy. The front line ran along behind San Luis Street, behind the Casino Español, City Hall up to Quezon Bridge. American artillery is demolishing the palace of the High Commissioner, the Army and Navy Club, the Bayview Hotel and the government buildings east of the Wallace Field. City Hall and the Post Office building also received their share of shells.
The shelling of Intramuros has begun. The Japanese are using the walls as mortar positions and defense walls. They launched a mortar attack on the tower of the UST main building, and another on the Education building.
American firing during the day is incessant, and by night, formidable. They are pulverizing the buildings between Taft Avenue and Burgos Street, and those of the Luneta. The clouds of smoke rise like a black torrent surging from the horizon and enveloping the sky. We are worried about the fate of the residents of Intramuros, trapped within its walls. We can only foresee unspeakable anguish and torture and a bloody agony in the hands of their tormentors.
The number of persons imprisoned is calculated to be around seven thousand, among whom were some forty missionaries, mostly Spanish, and some Filipino and Spanish Sisters.
The final and thorough attack on Intramuros was effected yesterday. After the artillery assault, the most thunderous and terrifying we had ever heard over this locality, armored cars and amphibian tanks crossed the river along that area and landed via Santa Clara in the Cathedral plaza, advancing up to the center of the Walled City. At the same time, other units hopping through the rubble of the walls at the south of the Victoria Gate, despite heavy casualties, penetrated along the once narrow streets now in ruins, until they joined the amphibian forces.
Towards the afternoon yesterday, the first liberated residents of Intramuros arrived. I talked to some of them. They were completely rattled and shaken not because of wounds or weakness but more because of the horrible scenes that they witnessed and the savagery which they had been subjected to.
The most coherent account was made by Fr. Belarmino de Celis of the Convent of St. Augustine which I shall narrate here as a typical example.
On February 8, all male residents of Intramuros from fourteen years up were taken to Fort Santiago. The women and children were herded into San Agustin Church and the Cathedral. Then the Japanese made a thorough search of all houses, placing dynamite in strong buildings to blow them up or burn them later. In prison, the Spaniards were separated from the Filipinos who numbered about two thousand. After a week without food and water, they were sprayed with gasoline with the use of a hose. Many thought that it was water and therefore opened their mouth to quench their thirst. They were then burned alive. A number of them, driven mad by the fire and by thirst, were able to break the bars of the cells and jumped into the river. But they were machine-gunned by the sentries, and only two, a Filipino and a Spanish youth, were able to escape. The young Spanish, Luis Gallent, with a fractured dorsal spine, swam to the opposite bank and was picked up by the Americans.
The Spanish group (among whom were forty missionary priests) was detained in another room, where they were so crowded that there was no room to fall down on the floor. The food sent them by the women from San Agustin was appropriated by the Japanese. On the 10th, they were returned to the San Agustin Church. Both in prison and in this church, five Filipino spies who confessed their guilt, were mixed with them.
On the 18th, they were moved out to a warehouse in front of Sta. Clara, after the women were assured that the men were being transferred to a safer place, and only for a day or two. The evening of the following day, they were made to line up in the street, guarded by an additional contingent from Fort Santiago, and led to some wide concrete shelters constructed in the yard of the old headquarters in front of the Cathedral.
With their repeated and courteous protests that measures be taken to protect them from the intense shelling, they were made to enter the shelters. In one shelter, eighty were herded, in another, thirty-seven. As the caves did not have the capacity for so many, they made the most of the situation as, after all, the shelling would last only for a couple of hours. When they were all packed up and praying the rosary and receiving the absolution, the Japanese started hurling hand grenades through the port holes of the shelter. Everyone was wounded, each in varying degrees. Some were able to force the door open and attempted to escape. They were met with bullets and laughter. A good number were killed. When the shouting and moanings decreased, the entrance was sealed with earth and gasoline drums so hermetically that those who were still alive died of suffocation.
In another smaller shelter, the soldiers threw grenades through the entrance, and only those near it received the impact. Seven survivors were able to make an opening and got out of the sepulchre alive.
In the other shelter, Fr. Belarmino, with his face and side pierced by shrapnel, noted that he was not seriously wounded, but he was suffocating in that cave and tried to bore a hole at the entrance. But one of the graveyard caretakers detected the hole and sealed it. After a long while, the interred prisoner opened it anew. He had to crawl over the corpse of his dead companions. He could still hear the moanings of some who were in agony. The shells which continued falling all around caused earth and stone to fall and cover the agonizing and the dead. The corpses decomposed and were covered with flies.
Fr. Belarmino was buried alive for seventy mortal hours, dying of thirst and suffocation. On the night of the 22nd, he decided to die of bullets rather than of asphyxiation. He succeeded in removing sufficient quantity of stones and thus create a wide opening. The Father and Mr. Rocamora, the only survivors, pulled themselves, as they could not walk, they crossed the plaza of the Cathedral which was littered with broken glass and barbed wire which opened up new wounds. But they were able to reach the Bureau of Justice building. After a short rest, the priest left his companion who could not crawl any farther and he reached the convent of Santa Clara where he asked for food and water from the Sisters. The Sisters could not give him food or drink as they themselves did not have any. He advised them to leave the convent. They were surprised how he was able to reach that far without having been killed by the sentries and they begged him to go before the sentry returned and killed him. He returned to the Bureau of Justice, searched all corners and found a toilet with the tank full of water. He quenched his thirst and filled a can for his companion. They recovered their strength somehow in spite of the loss of blood, and passed the rest of the night quietly.
Yesterday morning, the siege subsided over that part of Intramuros after a very intense barrage, preparatory to the crossing of the river. There was calm for a couple of hours. Suddenly, they heard voices: “Come on, come out.” From the accent, they knew that they were Americans and they saw the heavens open. The Father, supporting himself on the wall, came out to meet them. But his companion could not move. Three sisters of Santa Clara came. Their convent was a heap of rubble where ten other Sisters were buried. The priest showed the soldiers where his companion was and they took him in a stretcher while he, supported by two soldiers, was taken to another building where he was given food and water. He told them about the two shelters full of people, but they could not cross the Plaza as the Japanese were firing at the Cathedral. He was transferred to the other side of the river and later was brought to the hospital at the UST campus where he narrated to me all these.
In another ward, I visited Fr. Cosgrave, an Irish Redemptorist. He had both shoulders pierced by a bayonet. His account was another typical one among hundreds which could be told.
Fr. Cosgrave, together with sixteen lay brothers, their chaplain and four families were living in an unoccupied portion of the De La Salle College. The four families — of Vásquez Prada, Judge Carlos, Dr. Cojuangco and his politician brother, were composed of thirty women and children, twelve houseboys, aside from the men, a total of seventy persons.
On the 7th of February, the Japanese took the Director, Brother Xavier and Dr. Carlos. They never returned. On the 12th, while the refugees were under the stairs because of a violent shelling, a Japanese officer with twenty soldiers came. Upon orders from the officer, the soldiers poked their bayonets at all men, women and children. Some of the Brothers — twelve of them were Germans — were able to get away and run upstairs. They were chased by the soldiers and were stabbed at the entrance of the chapel, others inside. Those who resisted were shot by the officer.
When the soldiers were through with the orgy, they dragged the bodies and piled them under the stairs, the dead over those who were still alive. Not all died upon being stabbed. Among them were children of two years and less.
At about ten o’clock in the evening, the chaplain, notwithstanding his wounded shoulders, was able to free himself from the heap of corpses and crawl upstairs to the chapel. He administered the extreme unction on the agonizing, himself resigned to his fate, and likewise asking pardon for their torturers. He found other corpses in the chapel. Hiding behind the altar were ten others.
On the following day, the Japanese started blowing up different parts of the College. They tried to burn the chapel, but as it was made of concrete, only the furnitures caught fire. For a while, they feared that the smoke would suffocate them. On the 15th, after four days of natural fasting and slow bleeding, the ten survivors — among them a son of former Speaker Aquino — were saved by the liberating troops.
The civilians who escaped the murderous claws of the Japanese were able to save themselves either fortuitously or through the intervention of some good-hearted Japanese — we have to do justice to some of them who saved others at the risk of their own lives — and always by a providential act of the divine mercy which knows how to counteract the most notorious plans. Both the annihilation of the civilian population and the mass suicide of the Japanese army and people had been premeditatedly planned by order of the Imperial government which wanted to drown national defeat and humiliation in blood.
The last night I spent in Manila was the first that was exempt from the thunder and lightnings of war. I returned to my rural residence, From 7:30 in the morning to 7:39 in the evening — the return trip was not as enjoyable and as fast as when I left. Inhaling dust, I watched the interminable caravan of vehicles going towards Manila. Each time, we stood amazed by the numerous war equipment produced by the Americans and landed here by the army.
Some 25 kilometers north of Manila, I saw by the bridge of Meycauayan a dozen of Japanese prisoners, withered and starved. They had just been captured while awaiting a chance to attack the Americans who would pass by the bridge. Such attacks were frequent — on bridges, in encampments, always at night and suicidal, with hand grenades or bayonets. The damage they caused was insignificant in comparison with what they suffered. But, either on their own will or upon orders, they had to die, killing in the process. It was easy for them to die, but they found it difficult to kill. For what could they do with their antiquated arms against automatic rifles which could discharge thirty rounds or more? They were searching for immortality and they found it. They wanted death and glory — not death or glory — and the G.I.’s gave it to them wholeheartedly. It was an insatiable thirst, this suicidal and destructive fanaticism. It was so irritating, inexplicable, exciting and the cases involving it so typical, crude and frequent that we always tended to deal on this sempiternal topic without exhaustion. And the more we delved into it, the more we found it inexplicable and unpardonable.
In Calasiao, I saw a vast expanse of land surrounded by wired fence. I was told that it was a concentration camp for those captured in the northern sector. The prisoners could be seen walking, working or resting. The police had to be on watch, not to prevent their escape but to protect them from being attacked. They knew that if they escaped, they would not only be unable to find anyone to give them refuge, but they would certainly be cut to pieces either by the guerillas or by their countrymen.
The American Army took few prisoners. The Filipino Army turned in only dead ones. Sometimes the MP’s had to defend the prisoners from the infuriated populace.
I returned to Manila, this time for good. These officers were so accommodating that they were willing to go two hundred kilometers just to please us. But, in order not to absent themselves from their posts during their tour of duty, they travelled during the unholy hours of the night. Never had I experienced such cold weather in the Philippines. It reminded me of Siberia. Our host, a phenomenon that he was a captain at 24 and weighed 280 pounds, had to put on his leather jacket. With my frail body and with my tropical garb, I was shivering all over.
The mountains to the east of Bamban were still shaking under the thunderous pounding of our friends in the 43rd Division. Without giving enough time for rest and the disposal of casualties suffered in Rosario and the road to Baguio, the High Command transferred part of the Division to Zambales and part to Camp Murphy in New Manila for a mopping up operation of Clark Field and Antipolo.
That night, when I heard their cannon rumbling, I whispered a prayer for our liberators, our best friends who up to this time were still with me, the bravest and the most generous.
On the 8th of every month, which is set aside all over Japan to commemorate the imperial rescript declaring war, Vargas pays his respects at the Yasukuni shrine, where the spirits of Japan’s war-dead are enshrined. Today, after the customary ceremony, he was taken to a new six-foot drum.
“Will His Excellency be so kind as to beat this drum?”
His Excellency did.
“No, No,” the chief priest exhorted. “Harder, beat it harder, hard enough so it can be heard in the Philippines.”
Apparently the drum has not been beaten hard enough. The Asahi complains today that “our crack forces on Luzon and Yiojima are fighting valiantly, causing the enemy much bloodshed, but to our regret the hegemony of the sea and the air is in enemy hands.” And the paper continues: “While our forces have little means of further supplies the enemy is in a position to obtain supplies in rapid succession. Accordingly, in spite of the valiant fighting of our forces, the war situation on both battlefields cannot but be judged unfavorable to us.” The paper then goes on to warn that a landing on the mainland is to be expected.
For its part the government has decided to reopen the diet for a single day on the 11th March “with the intention of explaining present conditions and of clarifying the conviction of the government to cope with the situation.” Another session of the diet will be called on the 15th or 16th “to present various bills.”
As the shadow of invasion and defeat falls deeper on Japan a cold wind of suspicion and hatred for all foreigners rises. The German embassy has found it advisable to warn all its nationals off bombed areas “to avoid disagreeable incidents”. Nor are the East Asians wholly sheltered from this popular reaction. The press speaks openly of the “Bei-Hi-Gun”, the American-Filipino forces now fighting on Luzon. The Philippine Society, in planning its new quarters, has notified the embassy that shelter will be provided for Filipinos “in case of rioting”. But most chilling symptom of all has been the current box-office-hit in Tokyo, a thriller called “Rose of the Sea”. The star portrays a Filipina of mixed Chinese parentage who operates as an American spy in Japan, transmitting military information through a radio set hidden in a Christian church. She reforms in the end, of course, arid realizes “her true Asian destiny” but the implications are ominous. The film could not have been produced without official approval; indeed it is said that it was produced under the auspices of the military police. If it was, then the plot provides a good clue as to the No. 1 police suspects in Japan: Filipinos, Chinese, and Christians. It is a far cry from the 1944 box-office sensation, “Shoot Down That Flag” which portrayed the Filipinos in Bataan and Corregidor as oppressed by race-conscious Americans.
One of our students sneaked into a downtown theater to see “Rose of the Sea” the other day. When the lights went on, his neighbor, a Japanese, turned on him suspiciously and asked sharply: “Are you a Filipino?”
He looked so threatening that the poor boy stammered:
Fr. Juan Labrador, OP, would summarize events in three entries in his diary.
On March 17, 1945 he wrote a detailed description of the ruins of Manila:
I made a double round of the devastated city. As I viewed the kilometers of ruins and rubble, innumerable mansions, palaces and hotels burned, blown up or razed, holding back my breath every time the stench of corpses became unbearable, my mind was filled with deeply engraved squadron of gloomy silhouettes, sketches of apocalyptic visions, and the chanting of Jeremiac lamentations. It is impossible to transcribe all these on cold mute and blind paper. Neither Poe with his raven, nor Dumas with his dungeons nor Blasco Ibañez with his horsemen, could capture in words this immense picture of desolation. For one who had not seen this, it is impossible to believe or imagine it. And even if believed and imagined, it could not be reproduced. Everyone, soldier or civilian, who has visited this place, repeated the same refrain: “I never could imagine anything like this. It is horrible.”
Let us trace this sorrowful route which I trekked, pointing out to the imagined tourist these fields of solitude and sadness, as if we were viewing a newly excavated Pompeii or some famous Roman ruins.
To the west of the University, along España and P. Noval, three blocks of houses were burning. Scorched doors revealed the frustrated attempt of the arsonists and their plan of total destruction. The Centro Escolar at Azcarraga and its surroundings had been razed.
I passed by Sampaloc where the two churches, convents and hundreds of houses showed marks of the devastating beasts. I crossed a pontoon bridge across the Pasig near the Rotonda. The whole of Pandacan, which before was covered with gas and oil factories, with warehouses and depots, is now a heap of burned steel and wood. I crossed more bridges across esteros. At the left, I could see what used to be the Paco railroad station, the shoe factories of Hike and Esco. The whole place up to La Concordia and to the south, as far as the eyes could see, are all debris. I proceeded through Herran. At one side, Looban, were the properties of Perez Samanillo. At the other side were the factories and offices of the Tabacalera: burned and busted walls. I cruised along Marques de Comillas and San Marcelino: the church and the seminary of St. Vincent, the St. Theresa’s College, the English Club, houses and more houses, walls and roofs as if eaten up by leprosy. We turned along Concepción. The YMCA was levelled. The Sternberg hospital was demolished. City Hall was battered at its rear portion. As we turned into Taft Avenue, we saw the Legislative and Agriculture buildings reduced to rubble. In front were the Philippine Normal School, the Jai Alai, the Casino Español, the Red Cross, the Philippine Columbian Club with their roofs blown off and their windows exuding tears of smoke and carbon. To the right were the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo, the Assumption, St. Paul, the Bureau of Science, all desecrated. In Baclaran, along Harrison, the eyes revolted and the heart broke at the sight of that sorry mess. Changing sceneries, we proceeded to the Boulevard to watch the protruding — not floating — Japanese fleet which was hinged rather than anchored to the Bay. The merchant and war vessels of the invincible Japanese forces, numbering some one hundred, peeped out of the water, some on their aft, others on their fore and others showing only their mast — all in ridiculous postures hardly worthy of sons of the Mikado. They would be there down on their knees for all eternity, as silent but eloquent witnesses, confronted with the desolation of today and the splendour of tomorrow: the desolation caused by the entrails vomited out from their swollen wombs. It was the navy which entrenched themselves behind the buildings and people of Manila, blowing up and burning both as the liberators hunted them and caught up with them. Among the dead and half-buried boats, the liberating vessels scour the bay, by now cleared of enemies, both visible and invisible.
We continued our tour through Malate and Ermita. What used to be luxurious hotels and beautiful mansions now appear denuded, roofless, revealing their interiors, tattered and bleeding. Others which were of stronger materials, appear intact but their internal wounds are so serious that their interiors are torn down, as if abused by seven heavy spirits. Hotels, clubs and official residences which were the last bulwark of the suicidal assassins look like the Egyptian tombs of three hundred years ago. All the warehouses and offices of the Port Area are in ruins. Only the new Customs building is partially usable. I did not even attempt to cast a glance towards Fort Santiago, this dungeon of torture and martyrdom of thousands of heroic souls during the past three ominous years; these infernal dragons which during the month of December and January last, had devoured hundreds of illustrious lives so mysteriously; these crematories where more than two thousand men of Intramuros died of thirst and hunger during the past month. Resolutely, I entered the walled city, with a holy fear and a revolting feeling, thinking about the victims and the henchmen. Heavens! This was the abomination of desolation of the holy city. The lordly ancestral mansion of families belonging to the noblest lineage in the Philippines, the Colleges, convents and churches of three centuries of history, the hospitals and government edifices founded by the first Captains General were nothing more than mounds of dust being blown by the winds — the dust of the centuries.
In the midst of this jungle of corroded and desecrated walls the church of San Agustin still stands. It is providential that this temple, the oldest in the Philippines, the only structure that withstood the earthquakes that rocked the city from 1645 to 1880, the imposing and historical building around which the social and official life and history of the Spanish Philippines evolved since 1606 when it was completed by the Augustinian Antonio Herrera, son or nephew — it is immaterial which was which — of the divine Herrera who was immortalized in the Escorial, tomb of Legazpi and the first captain generals, this artistic monument of times past, remains standing on its feet and that its wounds could easily be healed. It is a drop of balsam in the sea of bitterness which drowns the whole religious and artistic soul.
The Cathedral, the churches and convents of the Franciscans, the Recollects, the Capuchins, the Jesuits, Sta. Clara, which made the City of Legazpi sacred; the hospitals of San Juan de Dios and St. Paul, the College and Abbey of Sta. Isabel, municipal building, the headquarters of Spain, Fort Santiago, and other monuments and relics … fallen leaves shaken by the savage wind. The University of Benavides, with greater destruction than the temple of the Sun, is like the pyramids. The thick walls are like a ring broken into pieces; only a small part remains intact. Its fortresses are in ruins.
Saddened by the tour I made of this sorrowful way, I left the sacred place. I turned my gaze and it pained me to see the skeletal remains with its dented head towering over the ruined fortress. It was Letran.
I crossed the river through one of the pontoon bridges built over the foundations of the former Jones bridge. The zapos, as our Mexican friends called their enemies, did not respect either God or Mammon. The whole of the commercial district from Quezon Boulevard to the sea, and from Azcarraga to the Pasig had been dynamited and burned. I cast my sight through the length of the Escolta, Plaza Cervantes and Dasmariñas, then cruised along Rosario, turned to Rizal Avenue — all a jungle whose cedars and oaks showed their mutilated trunks, burned, blackened and divested of all verdure and foliage, and whose shrubs had been chopped off: such was the view presented by those modern skyscrapers and the old Chinese establishments. The breadth of a giant — a portentous machinery recently imported — was blowing over those pulverized and dislocated bones, charred and smashed, flying all over the vast ossarium, and prophesying, like another Ezekiel — over the numerous skeletons both metaphoric and human. In the manner of a great restorer, it infuses the breadth of life into the remains capable of renovation, reviving what appears to be a recently excavated mausoleum, and collecting the ashes, burying them with glory.
I went into the district north of Azcarraga and I was surprised to see an area of two kilometers, as long and as wide as an airfield or a football field. It was the district of Tondo, burned by the soldiers of Yamashita, Japanese and Filipinos, and levelled by the motorized spades of MacArthur. In the midst of all these, lay the skeletal remains of a Church.
Our new friends repeatedly asked us if we had not feared that such human slaughter would occur; if we did not have any inkling that the Japanese would make such a bloody exit.
Frankly, neither did we foresee or at least suspect such. Had we known it, we would not have submitted to it like lambs. Never did we imagine that a human being, even if he were Japanese, could go down to such a low level of brutality.
A postscript comes in the form of the last press conference held by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on April 5, 1945, when President Sergio Osmeña went to visit FDR in Warm Springs, GA, to discuss Philippine matters:
Excerpts from the Last Press Conference in Warm Springs, Georgia
April 05, 1945
[Sergio Osmena, President of the Philippine Commonwealth, was present at this conference.]
THE PRESIDENT: President Osmena and I have been having a nice talk, and I thought you could come up and write a story for release when we get back to Washington. It may be in another week or ten days.
The President and I talked about many things, and it so happened that while we were together this morning, the announcement about the fall of the Japanese cabinet came in. It is a piece of very good news. Outside of that, we have been talking about a great many things to do with the Philippines.
President Osmena is just back from the Philippines itself, and he tells me about the terrible destruction in Manila-about three-fourths of the city has been destroyed. We talked first about the military campaign and the possibility of intensifying it. There are still a great many Japs in pockets in a number of places all through the Islands. Eventually, we will get to Mindanao where President Osmena says he has some very good guerrillas fighting. Our joint forces are working up toward the center of the Islands. That is partly Morro country, so there we get a great many Morros working together with the American and Filipino forces.
Then we talked about more current problems, after the Islands are cleared of the Japanese. We are absolutely un changed in our policy of two years ago, for immediate Filipino independence.
That brings up a great many things, like relief, the rebuilding of communications, roads, highways, bridges, and so forth, so as to get civilized life running in a normal way. I am not ready to announce dates yet, because nobody knows when the country as a whole will be ready to go ahead with the distribution of relief without being fired on. The relief probably ought to be undertaken by us on a perfectly definite plan. I put it to President Osmena this morning.
There are certain things which we have a definite responsibility on. It was not the fault of the Filipino people that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but they have been terribly hurt by the result of the war. And in the process of taking the Island back, we obviously ought to restore certain damages like highway bridges, or tunnels, or highways themselves destroyed by the Japanese, and those practical things.
There are other things which are not immediately practical, in one sense. For example, in Manila there is the famous old Cathedral—which is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Far East. I think this country will want, as a gesture of sentimentality, to restore the Cathedral of St. Dominic. Other things, like wrecks and harbors with Jap ships- it certainly is our duty to take those wrecks and blow them up, so commerce at different ports will be able to function again.
Then we discussed all kinds of things on the question of rehabilitation in regard to trade. We have not yet got from the Congress a definite statement as to the tariff question. After 1898, we gave to the Spaniards, who defeated the party at that time, ten years to work out the tariff problem; and we have been under a tariff ever since, which has been fixed from time to time by the Congress of the United States after commissions in those cases have sat. I don’t think we can treat the Filipinos any worse than we did the Spaniards on problems of that kind. My thought is we should maintain the present tariffs between the Philippines and the United States after they get their independence. In their present status, give them a chance to turn around before we get a new tariff, and we ought to consider the economic needs of the Filipinos as a whole.
It seems obvious that we will be more or less responsible for security in all the Pacific waters. As you take a look at the different places captured by us, from Guadalcanal, the north coast of New Guinea, and then the Marianas and other islands gradually to the southern Philippines, and then into Luzon and north to Iwo Jima, it seems obvious the only danger is from Japanese forces; and they must be prevented, in the same way Germany is prevented, from setting up a military force which would start off again on a chapter of aggression.
So that means the main bases have to be taken away from them. They have to be policed externally and internally. And as a part of the western Pacific situation, it is necessary to throw them out of any of their mandated ports, which they immediately violated almost as soon as they were mandated, by fortifying these islands.
And we were talking about what base or bases will be necessary, not for us nationally, but for us in the world, to prevent anything from being built up by the Japanese, and at the same time give us a chance to operate in those waters. The Philippine waters occupy a very large part of the Pacific Ocean, and undoubtedly we accept a mandate to keep security in that part of the world. The Filipinos and ourselves would in propinquity maintain adequate naval and air bases to take care of that section of the Pacific.
Then we talked about American technical assistance. There will be a special mission to keep us in touch, with all of this being predicated on the permanent setting up of a Philippine independent government. We talked about the time, but nothing was decided as to dates. It all depends on how soon the Japanese are cleared in the Islands. We hope it will be by this autumn, which would be prior to the date of July, 1946, set by the Congress. . . .
After Roosevelt’s death, many of his policies were retained by his successor. But control of Congress would be lost, and President Harry S. Truman until his election bid in 1948, wouldn’t have the momentum, which meant pledges to the Philippines by FDR remained unfulfilled, particularly it terms of extending full benefits to Filipinos veterans of World War II.
For more information, visit The Battle of Manila, in the Presidential Museum and Library site, with an embedded rare color film of the ruins of Manila in 1945.
I also discovered that the massacre and rape of Manila was not owned by a Spanish and mestizo elite. Here were the names and pictures of Filipino after Filipino, plus Irish, Russians, Germans, Chinese, Spanish, Americans, Jews (of whatever nationality) all being killed indiscriminately. But at heart, it was a Filipino event, a Filipino massacre: a nearly totally forgotten occurrence…
Finally, there was… the blazing testimony of Nicanor Roxas, a secretary to President Laurel…, telling what he had been told by Pio Duran, the second supreme head of the MAKAPILI, that the Japanese had planned to destroy Manila and the civilian population. He said that the Japanese had located heavy artillery and aimed it at Manila from positions surrounding the city. In the documentary film by David B. Griffin it is said that Yamashita asked for instructions from Tokyo and the destruction of Manila and its population was his answer. I had not come across this brief documentary before doing my own, and I am surprised and gratified that our conclusions are nearly identical.
At the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, we read guerrilla reports being radioed to MacArthur’s GHQ outlining the build-up of defenses within the city of Manila by the Japanese. These reports were from people like Captain Bartolomeo Cabangbang, who came in by submarine with my father on the east coast of Luzon, and Lt. Edwin Ramsey, leader of the East Central Luzon Guerrillas Area. This defensive/offensive build-up started immediately after the departure of President Laurel and others of his cabinet to Baguio. The communiqués are replete with locations of pillboxes, ammunition dumps, fortifications, troops, and information about buildings and bridges being prepared for demolition. This began while Yamashita was still in Manila. The fortification was going on during December and January.There is even one astonishing recommendation from Cabangbang in which he recommends to MacArthur that US planes bomb a certain location on the Escolta where Japanese had stored weapons and explosives.
That President Laurel was told by General Yamashita that Manila would be declared an Open City may have been true. Even the guerrilla messages confirm this. But his words were belied by the heavy fortification of key points and intersections throughout the city, especially south of the Pasig River, and the setting of explosive charges in the important buildings and bridges. The Japanese Military Dispositions map which you will see in the video (albeit briefly) shows at least 15 manned fortifications throughout Manila during February 1945. A radio message to MacArthur on January 13, 1945, from Cabangbang, tells of Yamashitas reneging on his promise of an open city. His logic now was that “the complete demilitarization of the city would lay it open to a possible paratroop invasion from Mindoro.” The General’s reasoning is baffling, especially in view of the further observation in the same report that “As of January 7 [Japanese troops] have constructed foxholes and pillboxes on practically all street corners.”
Does this sound like anyone is thinking “open city?”
In the video you will hear testimony from one woman, Lita Rocha Clearsky, who was warned by a Japanese officer to get out of Manila, to take everything and leave because Manila would be “no good.” And Ramsey’s agents reported that four German nationals in Manila received a circular from Japanese High Command to evacuate the city. It was known to the Japanese officers that Manila and its civilian population were going to suffer horribly; some were good enough to tell people to leave. Charo Manzano, who had spent months in Ft. Santiago after the disappearance of her army/guerrilla husband Narciso, told me that she was continually being warned by Japanese to move; they moved and they survived. Japanese planned out their neighborhood killings and knew about them in advance. There was for the most part not much randomness about these attacks on civilians. Some people were lucky enough to be forewarned.
A haunting afterword of sorts is The Present Past, a feature in the Official Gazette websute contrasting photos from 1945 and contemporary locations.
Woke up around 4 in the morning, but after moving was able to pick up some more sleep until the guard knocked shortly after six. Still sultry but not so warm, yet uncomfortably sticky specially after sweeping & mopping when begins to ooze out with perspiration all over —— Matches are getting scarce had to take an old one I had saved from Yokohama to breakfast, but had to give it to Laurel who has no matches of any kind lefft & is constantly smoking. I can do without it.
Shaving schedule was broken this morning. Kept me uneasy & undecided whether to go to toilette or not for fear of being called out in middle of operations. Thought the new lieutenant has started another reform in the bathing & shaving roster, but found out upon being finally called that a new guard had simply started with the cell nearest the bathroom without regard to the printed roster — explained it was his first time on morning duty, no change in the schedule. Not so bad not to have first chance at shaving in the morning, but with bath it is a distinct advantage to be on top of schedule as the water is then fresh and clean and unused yet.
Shortly after coming back from shave & while preparing to fix my trunk as I had planned for this morning, Pete came in with a big bunch of letters — was instantly glad When I saw him with the bundle & was more agreeably surprised when he said practically all of these letters are for you! I guess! True enough he kept sorting them down from his bundle to my table—letter after letter, 10 envelopes in all! This is the ﬁrst time I got so much at one time, & they all came from Manila & was more astounded when in opening the first one which I picked up as coming from Inday it was dated July 10th! Only ten days ago today, the fastest mail to arrive. I do not know how I got the feeling upon reading Inday’s that someone had brought it to Tokyo that it must have been Romulo, because I found among the file a letter from Romulo himself, dated Thursday (July 18th) from “‘The Imperial Hotel'” Tokyo in which the most significant statement is the closing remark “Looking forward to seeing you in Manila soon, I am as ever, Yours sincerely, Rommy.” Said also he had wanted to see me & the other friends here but he was advised “it were better he did not,” & therefore wrote the note. As a matter of fact in Baby’s letter he says Gen. Romulo had visited the family in Kawilihan and had promised to see me here in Tokyo. Learned for first time also from Baby’s letter Romulo had not visited Kawilihan at all from after liberation until then —afraid? or unfriendly? Maybe both. However his present interest in us is compensation enough —after all perhaps he has realized never having stopped being a Filipino, & patriotic one with a few friends even among the guerrillas. In addition to letters Inday sent a prayer-book with a dedication —Guess will have to learn to pray alright when finally liberated from the “liberator” which judging from Romulo’s note will be “soon” & from Linda’s letter to compadre should be between the 15th and 30th of this month. While walking together after reading Billy’s & Linda’s playfulness in her letter remarked “Eso es tu . . ? then suddenly held himself back as if realizing he was giving himself away and continued, “Esa es Linda.” Before reading the letters I had remarked Bobbie had surprisingly written the most newsy letter & Eddie had written a philosophical one —after reading both & was beginning to read Eddie’s “Pueseso no es filosofia, hombre, es “practical” said Aquino defending Eddie, whose letter also impressed to see Isa can write such a nice letter, & Baby’s is the most mature together with those of Eddie & Dading, although Osias still like Bobbie best. Wonder what have happened to previous letters of Baby & Nene —they both say they have written an 18 page one May 10th giving detailed data on our financial affairs—taxes, books of accounts, property recovery etc.— and Nene said he had written twice before— none of these have as yet arrived, over two months later. As if by some mysterious law of compensation everybody has written this time —Inday, Baby, Isa, Dading, Bobbie, Eddie, Nene, Teresita, MaryLou, and Joe Varela, Nenita & (illegible). (Toto& Mameng were in Negros) except Nena who has been the most consistent letter writer heretofore because of illness — hope she is well by now, & that is that they got my May 31st letter to Inday — one discouraging news from Bobbie, that the Cadillac has been sold. I guess Inday must have either needed money to keep things going or knowing her strong inclinations towards modesty and humility she must have felt the Cadillac was too ostentatious or perhaps some high official needed a really good car & must have prevailed on her to part with the flashing Cadillac. Still I wish she had not sold it — but I must be patient & content with what is left to us after the trouble devastation that other people— Filipinos— have suffered and endured. If she is painting and rearranging the house as Bobbie reports she must have had to raise money somehow & presume she has had to sell a few of our things. I should soon know, & must now begin to pack my own things here preparatory to any sudden notice of departure, as anticipated by Romulo.
Spent the noon hour after lunch arranging my paper, pasting together these notes, sorting photographs. Was called out about two for library — just returned the book I had taken out:— no new magazines and still plenty in my room unread. While on this job, Steinmetz came about 2:30 & told me to get ready to see a visitor ten minutes to three — must be ready so that there won’t be any delay as soon as the call comes. Not knowing who the visitor might be —thought Perhaps it was either Leoni or Gavino or perhaps (faintly) possibly someone from SCAP — put on my best summer suit — the Palm Beach outer with necktie, breast handkerchief, tie holder, watch & all, including even a pack Of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Sure enough, shortly after three, was called out while talking to Tony, the other guard. Tony was almost as excited as I was as to identity of visitor — said he hoped for the best that it might be good news — said to please keep your fingers crossed. Was the first to be called— then.the Laurels, Aquino & Osias. On the way could not refrain from asking the guard who was bringing me to the office who was the caller — “The Colonel, I guess” the guard answered — he was all covered with sweat, you could almost wring his shirt as in laundering. I thought for a time the Colonel might be Hardy & wondered why, had he at last received notice to let us out? I had mixed feelings of surprise and wonderment which must have been translated to my face. When I entered the interrogation room where there were two officers, I immediately recognized a former friendly visitor, Capt. Gross who introduced me to the Colonel who was none other than Alva I. Carpenter, the head of SCAP’s legal Dept. both in Tokyo & in Manila & who had been reportedly decorated by Osmeña for his work in connection with prosecution of alleged collaborationists! But the Colonel quieted my astonishment soon enough by calmly announcing at the very outset of our conversation that he had not come in connection with our case. He had been assigned to take us to Manila! and would like to find out what he could do to help out in getting our things ﬁxed for the trip. Told him I had left quite a pile of private stuff at the Embassy. when I was taken in by the CIC who later on got my keys to my vault and sent me through Capt. Gross an inventory of my personal effects. This inventory did not mention quite a few important items such as 150,000 cash in old Japanese yen, some private papers and something‘ which is of no Particular value to anybody but which I would like as a souvenir, the medal or decoration & its accompanying citation which the Jap Emperor gave me. He used to distribute quite a few of these to many ’people during the enemy occupation, I said. Also mentioned three sets of Sterling silver tableware not included in the inventory & a whole lot of beverages, food supplies & medicines (mostly) Jap which I suppose the occupants of the house, I presume may have consumed, specially the Johnny Walker, Suntory, gin & other drinks I had left in the vault. Forgot to mention the paintings, the saucers, the bicycles & other odds & ends, I have a list of them anyhow, so it would not be difficult to trace them if given a chance. Carpenter said it seems these things had already been transferred by CIC to the 8th Army but latter has not warehoused them properly yet, so that by Monday they may not be ready to show them. Told them it would take very little time for me to identify my boxes and other things & begged I be given opportunity to do so. Carpenter seemed doubtful whether this was possible but said these things would later be shipped to Manila at any rate, after the Alien Property Custodian would screen the stuff. Should have requested to be allowed to see Embassy bldg. as it is today so as to determine what of my personal effects are still being used there. Will do so when Capt. Gross comes Monday morning to check up on the the things we have here Prison. Told them I had plenty when I asked how much baggage we would be allowed to take along & Carpenter answered 55 lbs. Then I said I would have to pack my extra belongings in my trunk locked for shipment later. They thought that would be the best way out, and any small things that we might have to leave behind, he could always pick up on his next trip, as he goes back & forth between Tokyo & Manila having offices in both places. Carpenter said it wouldn’t do to lock the trunk because of inspection upon shipping & it was agreed. I would make an inventory of contents. It was likewise agreed I would make make an inventory of the contents. It was likewise agreed I would ask Monday for all my things from Sugamo office so as to pack them properly in preparation for the trip. Asked when we were expected to leave, the Colonel said Tuesday, Tuesday? I inquired. When do we arrive in Manila? Same evening, was the reply. How extraordinary, I remarked “Do you know, Colonel, that Tuesday, happens to be my 27th wedding anniversary?” “is that so?” said the Colonel. “If we get a private plane we may arrive there in the evening of the same day. If not we might leave here Tuesday evening & get to Manila at dawn Wednesday.” Then we talked about other matters —— he asked where I live in Manila — Told him out towards Wack Wack in Mandaluyong. Said he had been there several times — told him also of my having kept a few things in a trunk for Gen. Sutherland —— Asked me where I was when Japs came — Told him I had been left purposely by Pres. Quezon & Gen. MacAr to take care of government in Manila together with Claude Bush for H.C.’s office & Gen. Dick Marshall for USAFFE, but that later had to hurry out of Manila around Dec. 30 as the Japs were already pressing in from both North & South of the city. Told him how I destroyed most of the money left in the Treasury & sent to Corregidor a lot more including the reserves & deposits in private banks for which the Japs kept me almost a half day for questioning when they arrived, As he seemed anxious to have time left for the other four Filipinos. yet, I hastened to withdraw, thinking I would tell the rest of the good news, but when I got back to Blue Area the guards wouldn’t let me talk to Osias, Aquino or Laurel — so talked to the Germans first who were out on exercise. Everybody gathered around me and apparently pleased with our good fortune. Told Stahmer had a few toilette articles I would like to leave behind if somebody could use them — he was specially pleased about the Aqua Velva shaving lotion. I told him I could give him & some Mennen’s talcum powder which might help the prickly heat all over his body. Everybody congratulated me at exercise & the rest of us afterwards, after dinner.
All of us were excited during the rest of the evening. Jr. was worried because he had been interrogated earlier in the afternoon about certain guerrilla reports he made to the Japs which Gen. Capinpin had asked him to do, according to Jr., but Which the general said he did not know anything about. This put Jr. on the spot with the guerrilleros and he was so worried about it during our poker game he would not properly put his mind in his hands & was heaviest loser — Osias lost again — 13 this time. Aquino & I the winners. I drew exceptionally good hands at tonight’s game, drawing fathands of high full-house, at least three times, flush once or twice straight several times during the short period of a little over two hours. After the game, I pasted together all the letters I got today through Romulo & packed the pictures so as to facilitate arrangement of trunk in the following morning. Will pack as much as possible at a time so as not to be rushed at the last minute.
At bath was told by BaMaw that his case is due to come up again. The Sgt. had shown him a revised KP schedule in which his name was included with those of the Germans. Schweitzer on other hand has started his “fireworks” — did not come down for breakfast this morning & when we come back from messhall found all the Space in front of his cell was full of spittles the damn fool had been spitting in the hallway through his llittle door hole —— he completes nine months of imprisonment today & promised to go on strike against everything —— food, work, bath, exercise (?). Later Spahn told me still at bath that whole schedule worked out by us had been changed completely —— They eliminated all officials from the list —— Stahmer, Kolschbach, Hamel & Kahmer among the Germans Den & others from Chime, no change in the Filipino list, the schedule of days having been revised too, added BaMaw & Shimizu. It looks like we are headed for some trouble. Anyway the Filipino group is out of it.
Asked for soap & matches at bath —— answered there was none. Soap they might get later on in the day, but matches not even the PX has these days. In a pinch will have to use soap & matches sent me from outside.
Before morning exercise finished letter to Pedro Lopez asking him to come & visit us so that we may find out from him what happened to his plan of utilizing us as witnesses at International Military Tribunal trials —— Also what he can do to help expedite our repatriation home. Shortly after lunch, Steinmetz, the guard came in & showed me a note he was carrying arround to the different cells reading as follows (he was patient enough to wait while I copied it).
“July 17 —— Blue —— Inform persons without blood relatives, and who requested visit from others principally on business, that the visits have been approved and passes can be obtained at CI Section, GHQ, Dai Ishi Bldg. (Sgd.) RMH.”. Immediately added a PS to Lopez letter suggesting where he can get pass & if not possible for him to come right away _to please drop note to Leoni & Gavino so that they may be informed of this approval —— as I can’t write to them this week, being Permitted only one letter a week.
Did pretty hard road work during afternoon exercise. Walked a kilo with Aquino, then same sitting up exercise with Osias & Jr., & afterwards run around the yard 18 times, about 1200 m. & walked around 20 times before time in. Was sweating profusely, but felt much lighter, & had rather good appetite at dinner. During the afternoon BaMaw was called to the office. He was very much agitated at dinner, & seemed anxious to say something, but as nobody inquired he kept quiet—didn’t talk during the entire meal.
Started poker shortly after six. To our table came Kopp to say they had brought up some ice water. Filled myself up more than was good, am afraid. Gave Aquino considered as benefit for Jr. as he was in for over one hundred yen already, We made it up to him by letting him win & by Aquino adding his own winning to Jr. making 45 yen altogether. At that Jr. is still indebted 31 to Osias & 39 to me. Lost 20 tonight Osias 27. One guard sat with us practically the whole time but did not play — He still owes us so.
Possibly the last officially recognized remnants of the Hitler and Mussolini regimes were the Axis diplomats under “technical custody” in the Japanese city of Atami, a seashore holiday resort a little over two hours by rail from Tokyo. There, in a shabby hotel halfway up Peach Hill, overlooking the narrow gray sheds of the railway station and a shaggy stub of peninsula poking into a murky sea, some 27 Germans and 19 Italians awaited repatriation or such other disposition as the Supreme Commander might make. While they were as a whole a good-humored bunch, they had a vaguely pathetic air, slightly unreal, like that of an old political poster on the wall that nobody has bothered to tear down long after the elections are over.
They could be seen strolling down the city’s busy slope to the beach of an afternoon, lean, grave, and rather carefully dressed, thoughfully eyeing the golden oranges in the black net bags, or watching the itinerant fortune-teller’s trained birds as they hopped to the gates of their miniature pagoda, rang a silver bell, and pecked up a tiny scroll. They were inclined to be self-conscious and supercilious, with tight little smiles that were apt to grow tired and fixed. Curious stares followed them for in this country, where a shamed, sullen, superstitious awe of the foreigner had washed back in the wake of defeat, they shared in the renewed prestige of a light complexion. The feline eyes of the Japanese girls ran with an avid restlessness over the coiffures and costumes of the foreign women. Sometimes a forward little boy would trot after the blonde consulate clerks with the familiar wheedle:
“Hello, hello, gum-u?”
The G.I.s who flooded Atami every weekend until, ostensibly as a health measure, all Japanese inns were placed off-limits in the middle of May 1946, fell into the same natural confusion. When they caught sight of the women from Peach Hill, their arms would loosen guiltily on the shoulders of the pudding-faced dancer beside them and they would smile, brightly, shyly, or awkwardly, but always with the identical quality of homesickness and a fugitive hope.
Or “Oh, you babe!”
Or “Excuse me, ma’am, are you American? Do you speak English?”
“Yes I speak English. No, I’m German. I’m Italian.”
Some of the G.I.s would say: “Oh, I see” and move on.
Others were glad enough to keep the conversation going, because their fathers and mothers had come from the old country, or just because they liked talking in English to someone not in uniform. But an awkwardness would have fallen by then. It would not be quite the same, especially since the hotel on Peach Hill was strictly off-limits to all Allied military personnel.
Afterward, when there were no longer any G.I.s in Atami outside of M.P. patrols and the fortunate but bored guests at the enlisted men’s recreation center at the Atami Hotel, a sense of the odd ambiguity of the aimless elegant people on Peach Hill remained among the Japanese. The word went around that they were Germans and Italians, former allies, and, depending on the sympathies of the person concerned, they earned either a latent hostility and contempt or a secret protective affection.
The Axis diplomats did not seem to care much one way or the other. They had reason to be content By virtue of a S.C.A.P. directive and international courtesy, the Japanese government continued to treat them as accredited representatives of their vanished regimes, providing them with quarters (a godsend since Japan was in the gip of an even worse housing shortage than the U.S.), special diplomatic rations (as distinguished from the ordinary foreigner and Japanese rations), and other privileges (such as the withdrawal of 1,500 yen per head of family per month from blocked accounts in yen, instead of the ordinary 100 yen). The Japanese government also paid their hotel bills.
Nobody seemed to be in any particular hurry about liquidating the affair outside of the Japanese government whose anxiety, as the bills continued to mount, could well be understood. But the Army of Occupation had more urgent tasks and had, to all appearances, forgotten its diplomatic charges after an initial flurry of raids, searches, seizures and interrogations. The Atami colony for its part knew when it should be thankful; it wasn’t every German and Italian, in fact there were precious few human beings in the post-war world, that could drift from day to day relieved from the perplexity of the next meal or the landlord’s bill.
This benevolent custody (it was called “protective” at first and later “technical”, a distinction which no one in Atami was quite certain how to interpret) was first imposed shortly after the entrance of the occupation forces in Tokyo. The Aix and Daitoa (Greater East Asia) diplomatic corps had fled the burning capital long before that and had taken refuge in the luxurious Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita, Hakone. This tourst hot-spring resort in the national park near Fuji was the evacuation center officially designated for them, the Soviet embassy having been shunted off to the Gora Hotel in the neighboring village of the same name after excited demarches on the lack of heating facilities in northern Karuizawa, where the other neutrals had been billeted.
The war had scarcely touched the Fujiya. Bombers had growled distantly and fleetingly above on their way to Tokyo from the rendezvous at Fuji but one could away from them by putting his head under the pillow. This was more than could be said for the kempei-tai or military police, whom it was rather more difficult to ignore. They had their headquarters in a converted curio store opposite the main hotel entrance and early risers could glimpse them reporting for work every morning, clad in soiled uniforms which they blandly hung up on the walls within sight of the street in order to assume various clumsy disguises. Every noon one of them would across the unpainted coop next to the gate and feed the pigeons. These plump and gentle birds never did carry any messages, as far as anyone could determine, and after the surrender they quickly disappeared, presumably into a kempei-tai kettle.
But the kempei-tai had more pitiable victims. One day a talkative Italian merchant, who mourned the American market a little too bitterly when in his cups, disappeared from the hotel simultaneously with the nice Japanese student who had been convalescing in the next room. Another time an over-diligent German newspaperman failed to show up for his usual chess game and was thereafter permanently absent. Next, a pale gaunt man, leaning heavily on a cane, made his cryptic and somber appearance; no one dared speak to him; he was said to be a Jew released from a kempei-taiprison in Manchuria for reasons that remained obscure.
But these were passing wraiths that everyone tried to forget and the kempei, outside of periodical loutish visitation and interviews, respected the traditional diplomatic immunities, injecting only occasional spurts of panic with the piecemeal disintegration of the Axis. As each satellite government fell, its nationals were forbidden to communicate with the other guests, an arrangement that reached its climax with the surrender of Germany when boundary lines were drawn with a truly European hysteria, the Bulgars glowering at the Finns who scowled at the Italians who nervously and reproachfully avoided the Germans. The pious Hungarian blonde married to a French count was finally compelled to talk to the Parisian divorcee who was not married to the French officer she was living with. However these were minor inconveniences.
It was really not until two U.S. Army photographers in a jeep drove up shortly after the Japanese capitulation that the diplomats at the Fujiya had their first startled look at war and defeat. Newspapermen followed the photographers (who turned out to be undercover men for the Counter-Intelligence Corps) and then various officers and men who seemed to be bent on nothing more startling than a steaming hot sulphur bath and dinner served on a white table-cloth by a pretty waitress. Things had almost settled down to a polite routine when a visiting G.I. gathered the impression one evening that the German diplomats at the next table were snickering at him and promptly started a fist fight.
The next morning the chiefs of all the diplomatic missions lodged at the Fujiya were summoned by a courtly and very correct gray-haired officer who introduced himself to them as Colonel Robert Loughlin, Judge Advocate Service, Eighth Army. The tall old colonel may have found the company that gathered promptly in his richly appointed Chrysanthemum suite in the Flower Palace, exhilaratingly odd. Certainly it would have been of interest to the curious and conscientious historian for nowhere else had the United States Army confronted simultaneously such a comprehensive roster of the Axis and its satellites.
The immaculate and wary German ambassador, Doktor Stahmer, showed his yellow teeth in an uncertain smile. The only other ambassador present, the Manchu Wang, equally tall in his green civilian uniform, stared vacantly; he knew no English. His eyes were troubled and far-away; perhaps he was thinking how he might have got away if the ferry to Korea had not had its stern blown out of the water while still within sight of Shimonoseki. The Chinese chargé, also Wang (a coincidence that tended to confuse the colonel) thrust forward a thin, delicately featured ivory face, pale with dread. The Italian chargé, Colonel Principini, grinned fixedly in exactly the same faintly horrible way he had grinned at the Japanese for the past two years. A twisted deep-purple smile played on the dark square face of the Thai counsellor while the Burmese captain representing the military attaché, sat stolidly, his small piggish eyes cold and watchful.
Whatever the colonel’s reflections were in the face of his mixed company, he did not voice them. Instead he briskly imparted the information that for their own protection the diplomats at the Fujiya would please consider themselves in the charge of the United States Army. The measure had been in contemplation for some time, the colonel explained, and it was in fact the reason he was at the Fujiya at all, but the recent disagreeable incident had forced him to act ahead of schedule. The hotel would be put off-limits for unauthorized military personnel; guards would be posted at the gates; and there would be the inconvenience of securing formal permission before the guests could leave the premises; but otherwise no other restrictions on personal movements was being imposed for the present.
The diplomats appeared to be relieved more than anything else. They had expected more drastic measures; there had been rumors and fears of a concentration camp, at the very least of an internment. No doubt of it, the Americans, after all, were gentlemen.
But almost immediately one of those stubborn conflicts of jurisdiction so common to the military broke out between the Counter-Intelligence Corps, whose agents had quietly started to corner and question the diplomats, and what might be called the Guard, whose commander was determined to respect diplomatic immunities. The progress of the hostilities can be gauged briefly and accurately from the successive ranks of commanders of the guard. The punctilious old colonel, who took his international courtesy so seriously that he personally accompanied the Burmese military attaché to Tokyo and stormed into the office of the C.I.C. to demand the withdrawal of an order of arrest, was quickly replaced by a soft-spoken but still firm major, who was in turn relieved by an indifferent captain, who gave way to a succession of good-natured second lieutenants, who eventually disappeared entirely from the scene and left the C.I.C. in complete control.
The Axis diplomats had ample reason to regret this outcome of the dispute. There was never, of course, any question of secret and confidential documents being seized; there was more than sufficient time to destroy them. But the C.I.C. did not take kindly to diplomatic niceties and placed its charge under a permit system which was succinctly described by an outraged embassy secretary. “I fell,” he said, “like raising my hand everytime I go to the washroom.”
Things were certainly more pleasant in the pre-C.I.C. era. In what, to borrow the terminology of Japanese history, might be called the Fujiya Period, the colonel and the major granted request for permits to travel, as from one gentleman to another, no questions asked. In October 1945 the Fuiya was taken over as an officers’ recreation center and the Axis diplomats were hustled over to the fomer Soviet quarters at the Gora Hotel, 10 minutes by train up the mountain. In this the Gora Period, after a perplexing interval when no permits at all were required, the captain and his successors the second lieutenants gradually surrendered their pass-issuing prerogatives to the C.I.C., which required written applications and granted them only in dire emergencies. In mid-April 1946 the Gora Hotel in turn was designated as a recreation center for enlisted men and the Atami Period was inaugurated during which the diplomats were entirely isolated and compelled to submit their applications on specific days twice a week when a C.I.C. agent from another city called to pass upon them.
This permit system, perhaps by design, impressed upon the Axis remnants, as nothing else could have done, the fact of their defeat. While avoiding outright bars and barbed wire, it contrived to place them in the exasperating and humiliating position of convent-school girls waiting on Mother Superior in a dither for a Sunday afternoon out. Since the inmates of Peach Hill had considerably more complex and urgent needs to satisfy than the ordinary boarding-school adolescent, the system led to rather more dissatisfaction and brooding than would at first sigh seem warranted.
Actually the C.I.C. was more considerate than the Axis would have been had the roles been reversed. In the Fujiya Period the diplomats were allowed to move freely only within the hotel grounds; in the Gora Period the zone was extended to include the Catholic chapel, two doctors, the park, and the village tram station, a pleasant if monotonous 10-minute walk; in Atami, the liveliest section of the city was open, including the central shopping district, several restaurants, one movie theater, a doctor and two dentists, and a strip of beach. The New Atami Dance-Hall was a few tantalizing steps off limits but the red-light district was well outside. A more intolerant vindictiveness might have been expected considering the fact that the C.I.C. lieutenant who fixed the boundaries was naturalized American Jew whose family in Germany had either been killed or driven into exile by the Nazis.
This balding paunchy young man with the diamond ring was replaced by a taciturn and wealthy New York painter but was some time before the German diplomats could consider his memory with equanimity. Their favorite joke about him was that he surely deserved a decoration from the fuehrer; he had made more Nazis among the local Germans than Goebbels. The Italians had slightly more reason for resentment against him. A frantic Neapolitan, despairing of ever securing a permit to go to Tokyo, screamed her way into his office one day, brandishing a tooth and demanding to see her dentist (there were none in Gora). The tooth was not examined too closely, which perhaps was just as well, and the permit was granted. There was talk afterward of passing the tooth around but it never did materialize. A more serious incident occured when a six year-old Italian boy caught a bad cold and his parents were refused permission to buy medicines in Tokyo; the cough developed into double pneumonia and a minor scandal ensued which prompted an investigation from the head office in Yokohama.
Basically, however, the diplomats’ impatience with the restrictions placed on their movements was of a puzzled and envious character. No one, not even the local C.I.C. agents themselves, seemed to understand why similar restrictions had never been placed on those Axis diplomats who did not happen to be at the Fujiya when the self-conscious G.I. opened his personal D-Day. By virtue of what appeared to be a purely arbitrary distinction, these diplomats in Tokyo, Hakone, or Karuizawa, enjoyed liberty of action with the spacious limits of the prefecture in which they were residing. The situation weighed upon the minds of the people on Peach Hill in their hours of discontent although the other considered them lucky devils, and even tried to join them, because they didn’t have to worry about bills. It was in a way a parable on the modern dilemma of liberty and security or on the older problem of human envy.
Possibly the envy hypothesis was the more valid; certainly it reduced the Axis orphans in Japan to the childish indignities of a shrill “You too!” and “He did it!” A considerable amount of intrigue was to expected among diplomatic gentry but the panic of self-preservation stimulated more sleeve-clutching behind-cupped-hands slander than an oil concession.
The Italians, who normally would have been satisfied to blame it all on the Germans, had their lives complicated by Mussolini’s “Italian Socialist Republic”. The Japanese kempei-tai did not stand much on ceremony and, upon Badoglio’s surrender, they packed off the Italian diplomats into an internment camp without giving them much of a choice or consulting any other rules of protocol but their secret dossiers. The only exception made was for the press attaché who was known to a personal friend of the fallen dictator. However, upon Mussolini’s resurrection, the Italian embassy was reestablished in Tokyo in the charge of the former military attaché in Nanking. The minor embassy employees and other Italian nationals in Japan were thereupon required by the Japanese to swear allegiance to the new regime at a ceremony in a Tokyo Catholic church, embellished with the appropriate Latin touches of melodrama.
The line thus drawn may have remained reasonably clear and undisputed even after Japan’s surrender had not the Badoglio diplomats, upon their liberation from internment, embarked upon an all-out vendetta. They hounded the erstwhile fascists out of their precarious jobs with the new military government, protested loudly when American officers took fascist girls out dancing to the same hotel where they were guests, and, having failed in persuading the Americans to throw the fascists into a concentration camp, reeled off long telegrams of denunciation to the government at Rome. This seemed somewhat presumptuous to their victims since, if fascism were the issue, the former embassy members had been fascists too and in fact the former ambassador, Indelli, had signed the tri-partite pacts in Tokyo. The squabble reached its clamactic end when Rome announced that it was paying for the repatriation of all Italian diplomats, whether pre- or post-Badoglio. The Badoglio group swallowed this rebuff quite literally. They omitted notifying the rival group until 24 hours before sailing time by which time it was too late to do anything but shake a fine Italian fist and put the evil eye on the successful conspirators (as a matter of fact, some them had their baggage dropped by a crane into the sea when trans-shipping at Panama).
Intrigue among the Germans was more tortured, more savage. It was imbued with that ponderous and deliberate frenzy, that implacable extremism, that is so unmistakably Teutonic. Where the Italians resembled two vain and petulant children quarreling about who first took the jampot down from the shelf and ate most of the jam, the Germans were nothing less than a couple of harridans snarling at each other over a scrap of bone they had dug out of the garbage-can. Where the Italians brought to mind the malicious gossip of a seminary for young ladies about what darling Mary was seen doing in the conservatory, the Germans were seized by the same degrading and terrifying cunning that impels the criminal to turn state’s evidence and pile all the blame on his accomplices.
The issue among the Germans was simply who was or was not a “real Nazi”. Not one of the 3,000-odd Germans in Japan seems to have been a “real Nazi”, outside of a few hopelessly compromised leiters and even these tried to argue that their positions were non-political and their main duty, the protection of the community. Since it is manifestly impossible to follow the tortuous course of each and every one of these allegations, it might be more convenient to concentrate on the higher embassy circles. Here the conflict was shaped early during the war, a handy starting point being the curious Sorge case.
Sorge was a German newspaperman, a surly and unkempt fellow from some accounts, who succeeded in some unexplained fashion in insinuating himself into the good graces of Ott, the German ambassador in Tokyo at the time. He won Ott’s confidence to such an extent that was gradually given access to secret files. When the Japanese discovered that Sorge was the head of Soviet spy ring, they asked for the relief of Ott who was sent in disgrace to Peking to sit out the war. Ott’s place was taken by Dr. Stahmer, then German ambassador in Nanking, who had previously been in Tokyo as Ribbentrop’s personal representative in the negotiations for the tri-partite pact. However Ott had left behind a latent source of opposition in a group of loyal subordinates and, upon the collapse of Germany, they came out into the open with a communication to the Japanese Foreign Office repudiating the leadership of Dr. Stahmer.
Not even the CIC, apparently, was able to weigh with any degree of assurance the relative merits or demerits of Stahmer, who negotiated the tri-partite pact, and Ott, who signed it in Tokyo. Stahmer, kept under room arrest throughout the Gora Period, was subsequently confined in Sugamo Prison but the opposing faction did not feel quite at their ease, Ott having been taken from Peking to Tokyo in the meantime. In fact if anyone gained any prestige from the shoddy business, it was the Stahmers. Dr. Stahmer himself contrived to maintain a steadfast dignity, standing stolidly on the rather shaky proposition that the tri-artite pact was designed to keep America out of the war and was thus defensive rather than aggressive, a contribution to world peace rather than to global war. Mrs. Stahmer, a handsome aristocrat inclined to worry about her husband doing his own laundry and her two soldier sons of whom she had no news, expressed, like her husband, a well-bred distaste for trading calumny for slander. She appeared to have more faith in the efficacy of her frequent protestations of friendship with such elegant figured as the Dukes of Windsor and Coburg.
The other Germans were rather less discreet and the agents of the CIC found most of their work done for them by a veritable Gestapo of informers. When two Germans were caught off-limits without a permit, they hastily pointed out that there was a third German a little further up the road who might just as well be taken in too; this third German, it might be noted, fully avenged himself by drinking down all the sake the party had gone out to obtain. When a DNB correspondent, in a belated access of prudence, decided to cache a file of his wartime cables to Berlin, someone saw to it that the C.I.C. knew exactly how to get to the tiny cave behind the hillside waterfall. The correspondent in turn, in the grip of an obscure impulse, sought consolation in charging a colleague with complicity.
With such eager volunteer assistants, the C.I.C. was able to hack away at the last remnants of the Axis with a minimum of overt measures. There were so few of these in fact that the outside observer might have found reason to fancy an unforgiveable lassitude or complaisance on the part of the C.I.C. One exasperated contributor to Stars and Stripes charged that the Axis diplomats were living in a fairy-land, a “veritable Shangri-la”.
It was not quite so pleasant. One day the Germans awoke at the Gora Hotel to find sentries posted at the doors of their rooms. A search was made of their persons and baggage, Army nurses having come up the night before the raid to take care of the women, who even had to comb out their pompadours. All cash and gold bars (into which many Germans had converted their cash through the former embassy courier to Shanghai) were taken away. Most of this was later returned except for such amounts as there was reason to believe belonged either to official embassy or Nazi party funds. But a shiver of apprehension ran through the hotel thereafte whenever a WAC or nurse showed up in the dining-room.
Subsequently the Germans the were ordered to submit sworn statements of their assets. Their bank accounts were blocked and frozen and they were forbidden to dispose of any personal property of any sort. However since, as far as the diplomats were concerned, their living expenses were borne by the Japanese government, this did not entail any excessive discomfort.
Sometime after the baggage search the Germans were also ordered to turn in all their tinned food (mostly Australian pork sausage, corned beef, marmalade, and evaporated milk, taken from prize ships captured by German raiders in the Pacific, as well as Japanese tuna, salmon, and sardines, originally canned for export to Germany and later purchased by the German embassy for distribution among its nationals in Japan). These too were later returned without explanation and the affair would have passed off without incident except for a naive German newspaperman called Bacher, the same one who had disappeared into a kempei prison during the last months of the war. Possibly because this experience had impressed on him a scrupulous devotion to literal exactitudes, he left impelled to ask the guard in charge of the collection for guidance.
“Does this order include American canned goods?” he inquired.
“Sure it does. What do you have?”
The conscientious Bacher thereupon brought out an armful of K-rations.
Since trading in G.I. supplies was then being rigorously suppressed, Bacher found himself being asked a number of embarrassing questions. How had he secured these supplies? From an American. Aga, and who was the American? Bacher, by now thoroughly terrified and seeinf visions of another term in a dungeon, blurted out the name of a C.I.C. agent who had until lately been assigned to Gora but who had recently left for home with one of Mrs. Bacher’s kimono.
The revelation was more embarrassing to the C.I.C. than to Bacher but he had no way of knowing it and he imagined the worst when was sternly bundled off to MP headquarters at Hiratsuka. The episode ended rather agreeably for Bacher but not before he had suffered agonies of apprehension. The MP commander turned out to be an understanding fellow who told Bacher to forget it, gave him a G.I. dinner and a spring mattress, and had him escorte the next morning to the railway station, when an impressed station-master cleared a whole compartment for him. He had not gone many stations when a couple of air-corps officers, just back from a profitable run from Manila, came in.
“Chum,” they asked him after some reflection, “would you care to buy some K-rations?”
Bacher nearly fainted. He couldn’t get out of the train fast enough.
Other C.I.C. interventions however were more conclusive, if slightly distorted by the press. For a considerable time during the Gora Period, the Thai ambassador, the German ambassador, the German military attaché ( a sturdy scar-faced general called Kretschmer), and other German embassy members were under room arrest. This confinement was lifted when Dr. Stahmer was taken to Sugamo, an affair which was widely publicized as a “sensational raid” but which was actually a question of the arresting officer stepping out of his room, down one floor, to the ambassador’s. The breathless excitability of the press relations officer concerned betrayed itself again when the C.I.C. impounded the funds of the German community association, which had been extending relief to hundreds of indigent German hausfrauen evacuated from the East Indies. These fund, amounting to 50,000 yen and used mainly to purchase food and pay rent, were inflated in the press to a thumping 50,000,000 yen, described as a secret fund of sinister implications. It was publicity such as this which gave the Germans reason to quip that the C.I.C. was really looking for Hitler in Japan.
Such widely spaced shocks and surprises scarcely distracted the Axis diplomats from their main preoccupations, intrigue, food, and repatriation. Food attained the proportions of an obsession among them. While they were provided far more than the average Japanese or foreigner in Japan, and in addition received special Foreign Office rations of sugar, butter, cigarettes, and whiskey, the gastronomic habits acquired and indulged during a long career of diplomatic cocktail-parties and state dinners rendered them proportionately more fastidious and exacting. Neither the wartime fare at Fujiya (fish and noodles) nor the food-crisis fare at the Gora (noodles and fish) was calculated to satisfy these long-thwarted appetites. As a consequence, much of the cash the diplomats were allowed to withdraw monthly from frozen accounts was spent on eggs, black-market steaks, cheese, fruits, coffee, and sweet preserves.
A haunting aura of broiling meat hung over the Gora Hotel during their stay there, and the enlisted men now billeted in yhe matted Japanese rooms may perhaps still catch a lingering whiff or two of fried eggs. Even in Atami, where a more competent or more honest cook slung out a respectable meal, the denizens of Peach Hill might still be glimpsed haggling over a fresh lobster or bartering their Foreign Office Hikari cigarettes for box of dusty strawberries.
Curiously enough the Germans, who possessed whole cases of tinned goods distributed by their embassy during the war with typical efficiency and thoroughness, were also the center of the greatest number of disputes about food. The Italians were usually content with emotional displays that were scarcely filling. One excitable Italian dashed his plate of noodles at the feet of the Gora Hotel manager; another periodically sobbed when confronted with dried herring; a third brooded on a calculation of the daily number of calories served. He refused to stir from the armchair in the lobby to which he retreated after reading that he was consuming just enough calories for someone who did not move around too much. “Do you know,” he confided, “if you walk 100 meters on the number of calories we are given, the body will begin to live upon itself, to consume itself!”
The Germans were more ruthless. They approached the question of food with the true furor teutonicus. Two close friends stopped talking to one another and formally returned the gifts they had exchange through five years because they disagreed on the partition of a pound of butter. Another German, caught secreting a community barrel of lard and marking it with his name and destination “Hamburg”, squatted upon it in a dull stubborn rage and refused to allow its distribution until he was hauled off bodily. The violence of his feelings was due perhaps to the fact that he was under the influence, not only of the obsession with food, but also of the equally deep-rooted anxiety about repatriation.
The problem of repatriation haunted every inmate of the hotel on Peach Hill, once misnamed the Inn of Ten Thousand Tranquilities and after the surrender renamed more pointedly the Tourist Hotel. Periodically the community was shaken by rumors: dates for the departure, now imminent, now distant, were set by grapevine. Most of the time these rumors died out when they were proved false or when their place was taken by fresh conjectures and canards. Sometimes they had disagreeable consequences as when the Germans, in a panic at the report that they would be shipped off the next day with two suitcases per person, proceeded to dump all their tinned goods on a sagging market; there were black inquiring looks directed afterwards at those who seemed to be eating more than usual. The Italians became just as agitated by rumors that an ancient gunboat by the name of Eritrea was coming to take them all away, or to take only the fascists for trial, or only the seamen, or only certain personages on a secret list; they would proceed via the Panama canal, or the Suez; that they would sleep in cabins, or sleep on the deck; that they would have to pay for the passage, or that the Italian government had advanced it; that their silks and silver would be confiscated; that their dollars would be taken away; that they would be given $250 apiece.
There were constant reminders of this inevitable homecoming. The community had already contracted gently since the Fujiya Period. The Manchus and the Chinese were early taken to China via Sugamo; the Thai ambassador was flown home although the saturnine counselor remained at the Fujiya with full recognition from the Army of Occupation; the Burmese were nervously escorted to a ship by the British, desperately anxious not to antagonize the powerful party of the revolution. Dr. Stahmer had almost been flown back to Germany. The order was not countermanded until he had actually been taken to the airport. In Atami only Colonel Principini remained of the varied company that had first met the United States Army in the Chrysanthemum Suite of the Fujiya. With him there were only actually a handful of diplomats and their families; the others were consular officials or clerks not too anxious to call attention to themselves. They spent their time packing and repacking, nailing up huge cases of food, books, the curios accumulated during an extended tour in East Asia. The pessimistic scattered their essential belongings among different suitcases that if all except one were stolen, some sort of complete outfit would still remain. They were mostly Germans who had grown the hard cunning of the exile and refugee, like a callous shell on their bruised vanities.
The national differences of character between the erstwhile Axis partners was revealed by their attitude toward repatriation as much s by the quality of their intrigues. The Italians took a simple peasant pleasure in the though of going home. If they worried at all, they worried about small immediacies, such as the price of a pair of shoes, the duty on coffee, the damage to the old olive grove. The Italians in Atami were there because they remained loyal to Mussolini and served in his “Social Republic”. But even these, who might be called the last of the fascists, did not seem to mourn fascism or, what is more to the point, to feel guilty about it. Fascism to them was just a political party, a big company union. Italy itself, one suspects, not so important to them as Naples or Vittorio Veneteo or wherever it was they had a vineyard or a square stone house overlooking the bay. They wanted to go home because they were frightened, because life abroad had suddenly grown harsh and uncertain, but one felt that once they had ensconced themselves in their familiar corners, they would be content to survive if nothing else survived.
The Germans made a complete contrast. They were afraid to go home; they did not want to; they expected to because they had to but almost all intended to get out as soon as they could. More than the Italians, they were disheartened at the announcement thatonly those Axis nationals who had resided permanently in Japan before 1 January 1939 could expect to remain and, if they were former diplomatic officials, only in case they could prove they would make some contribution to Japanese social welfare. It was not only that many of these Germans lived in what is now Poland or Soviet Russia or the Soviet zone; fundamentally it was because they felt that Germany was gone and they had nowhere to go home to. Some talked bitterly of retiring to a remote farm where they would have nothing more to do with national ideals and racial destinies. But the very nature of their escape showed how futile it would be. A German without a Weltanschaung is a vacuum that will sooner or later attract a creed or collapse. He craves a loftier significance for life than mere personal survival or parochial calm. He requires a philosophy and a leader for which he can immolate himself. Naziism was such a philosophy and Hitler such a leader; he enfolded and consumed the very heart of the German and drove a whole frenzied people to the extremities of savagery and heroism. The utter annihilation of all this system left the individual German in Atami with an inner emptiness that crumbled under the renewed pressures of existence. He wanted desperately to stay a little longer in the rarefied atmosphere of Peach Hill.
Strangely enough both Germans and Italians were agreed on despising the Japanese, the Italians out of the usual racial vanity the Germans because of that and something more, possibly an obscure resentment that they fought ruinously to the very last gutter and cellar while the Japanese, for all their kamikaze, made a better deal with a meek surrender. Defeat has a way of exaggerating and distoring values but among the poor remnants of the Axis left over in Atami are found valid hints of the basic weakness of that once-monstrous alliance. The Italians were afraid of the Germans with an odd mixture of incomprehension and respect; the Germans frankly despised the Italians as opportunists and cowards; both were equally baffled and repelled by the Japanese who, in turn, after the surrender, affected toward them a virtuous indignation and horror.
The whole complicated snarl seems a little clearer when one considers the case of the Italian interpreter whom the Germans avoided because they suspected him of being a Japanese spy. It seems to sum up thing neatly.
The gossip from Nara is that the exiles there are getting on each other’s nerves. I suppose it is only natural; these proud, sensitive men, accustomed to adulation and power, now find themselves isolated, disgraced, under the perpetual strain of physical danger and mutual recrimination. And yet is is tragic to find them reduced to quarreling about their few shreds of precedence and dignity. The President is offended because the Speaker does not rise to his feet when he enters the hotel dining-room; the Speaker refuses to rise because, he explains to a curious Japanese, the President after all owed his election to him, the Speaker. The [manuscript ends here]
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.”
The first impression of calm is wearing off. Underneath all this outward placidity Tokyo is seething with rumour, plot, and counter-plot. It appears new that the average Japanese is saying nothing, not only because he is dazed, knocked silly by a blow on the head, carried through the routine of every-day wartime life by that curious momentum that animates a chicken with its head cut off, but also because he is afraid; he does not know what is the correct thing to do or say because he has not yet been told; he hesitates to rejoice openly, for instance, because the war may suddenly start all over again and he will look foolish, unpatriotic, marked for suspicion.
The emperor’s rescript is being challenged by some sections of the army and navy; the old cry is being raised that the emperor was “misled” by corrupt and cowardly advisers. Navy planes dropped handbills yesterday over Tokyo, saying that the fight would go on. The special attack corps is said to have refused to surrender; they are standing by their planes; they long ago made up their minds to die and they will not be cheated of their glory. The rumour persists that the tokotai took off against orders and attacked Okinawa after the rescript had been promulgated.
The cabinet resignd yesterday afternoon, imediately after Suzuki had gone off the air. The war minister General Korechika Anami killed himself at his official residence the night before the rescript was radiocast “to express his sincere regret to His Majesty the Emperor for not having been able to fulfill his duties in assisting His Majesty.” Tozyo and Araki are also said to have committed suicide in protest against the surrender. other Japanese are reportedly killing themselves before the Imperial Palace. Already the miltary police has taken over Tokyo.
Meantime the sequence of events leading immediately up to the surrender has been made public. On the 9th a supreme war council was held in the imperial palace from 10:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. This was followed by an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the official residence of the prime minister from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. As a result of these meetings a conference “in the imperial presence” was held in the palace from 11:55 p.m.
till 3 a.m. on the following day. The conference was attended by the emperor, the prime minister, the president of the privy council, the war minister and chief of the army general staff, the navy minister and chief of the navy general staff, and the foreign minister. At this council the decision was reached to accept the Potsdam ultimatum.
Another extraordinary cabinet meeting was thereupon called at the premier’s official residence from 3:10 a.m. till 4 a.m. of the 10th. A conference of senior statesmen (former premiers) was opened at 1 p.m. an then at 2 p.m. the cabinet deliberated on the manner of making the decision known to the people.
On the 11th at 7 a.m. notification of the acceptance of the Potsdam terms was sent through the Swiss government. The war minister then issued his proclamation that “for the maintenance of the divine state” the army would “definitely and resolutely fight”. The president of the board of information in turn issued the preparatory statement: “The worst condition has now come.” Both these official announcements hewed close to the line of the condition attached to surrender, namely, the maintenance of the imperial institution, “the national polity”.
On the 12th Suzuki appeared at the imperial palace at 2:08 p.m., carrying the American reply. He stayed till 2:44 p.m. He then called an extraordinary cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. and discussed the new terms with the ministers till 5:30 p.m. Simultaneously a conference of the imperial princes was taking place at the palace.
At 8 a.m. on the 13th the formal text of the Allied reply was received and the supreme war council met to consider it from 8:50 a.m. till 3 p.m. The fundamental question of “safeguarding the basic character of the empire” was discussed. During a recess in the morning the chiefs of the army and navy general staffs had also reported to the imperial palace. Apparently the American demand that the emperor be subject to the authority of the Allied Supreme Commander and that the freely expressed will of the Japanese people would determine the future form of government sharply divided the leaders. A cabinet meeting was called from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m but no “complete agreement” was reached.
On the 14th Suzuki proceeded to the palace twice and was told “the imperial wish” to call a conference in the presence of the emperor. At 10 a.m. the field marshals and fleet admirals of the empire met at the imperial palace. At 10:45 a.m. they gave way to the full cabinet, the military and naval command, and the president of the privy council. It was at this “unprecedented” conference, held in the presence of the emperor who was attended by his chief aide-de-camp, that the final decision was taken. The Times account reads:
“When all these officers took their seats the conference began. Opinions were expressed by them as to the decision on the final attitude of Japan toward the reply sent by the allied nations. It is said with awe and trepidation that His Imperial Majesty calmly listened to the opinions expressed by his officers out of their truest sincerity of loyalty and mind to save the empire. It is reported that His Imperial Majesty was gracious enough to say the following at the conference:
“‘As a result of carefully pondering over the general trends of the world as well as Japan’s situation, We should like to carry on the policy that has been already fixed, by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable, to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors and to save the millions of Our subjects. You may have opinions of your own but the answer of the Allied Nations, We believe, recognizes the sovereignty of the Emperor and all of you should understand this as We believe. Whatever may happen to Us, We cannot hear to see the nation suffer from further hardships.‘
“All those in attendence,” concludes the Times, “upon hearing these benevolent imperial words, burst into tears in spite of the august presence. This historic conference came to an end at noon.”
The cabinet met thrice more, from 1 p.m. till 3:20 p.m., from 7:20 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. till ll p.m. All the necessary procedures were completed and the imperial rescript was thereupon promulgated, with the imperial seal and sign manual, on the night of the 14th.
So far the official account in the Times. Rumour and the actual experience of friends, however, add an ominous postscript. When the rescript was signed shortly after 11 p.m. on the 14th, several officers from the general staff, believing that the emperor had been “misled” and determined to intercept the rescript before it could be promulgated, broke into the imperial compound.
When the lieutenant-general in command of the imperial guard refused to cooperate with them, they shot him dead, locked up his staff officer, forged divisional orders, and called out the imperial guard to surround the palace. It was about 1 a.m. in the morning of the 15th.
The officers then searched the palace for the rescript. They imprisoned the chief aide-de-camp to the emperor but they could not find either the minister of the imperial household or the lord privy seal. Balked there, some of the conspirators rushed to Radio Tokyo. The rescript was scheduled to be promulgated in the morning and the studio announcers and technicians were staying up all night rushing translations, technical arrangements, and other preparations. But if they could not seize the rescript itself, the rioters were determined that it should never be heard by the nation. All the radio employees were confident to the man studio (Studio No.1) and kept under guard by sentries with drawn bayonets. The station was also put off the the air.
In the meantime however a loyal officer of the imperial guards had managed to slip through the cordon around the palace. He notified the eastern army commander who was in charge of the area around the capital. He was a former supreme commander in the Philippines, ailing old Tanaka of the flowing moustache who had been shipped back to Japan so gravely ill that he had been given his full generalship almost as a posthumous promotion. But in those tense hours before dawn of the 15th Tanaka won his yellow flag beyond all cavil. Armed only with a revolver and accompanied only by one aide, the old man rushed to the palace, overawed the rebels, roundly upbraided them, shamed them so that the ring-leaders then and there committed suicide.
The mlitary police then took over the survivors and liberated Radio Tokyo.
None of these breathless events were known to the people of Tokyo when the 15th dawned. Extraordinary preparations had been made for the imperial broadcast. Special lines had been laid out to the devastated areas and loudspeakers provided. Long before the scheduled hour the crowd began to gather in front of the radio station until the broad avenue was filled to the edge of the park.
Inside the station, in the same studio where the radio employees had been so recently confined, the audience was also gathering, government officials mostly, headed by the navy minister and the president of the board of information. Whether as a result of the riot the night before or in accordance with the program, the emperor would not broadcast directly.
Instead the people in Studio No.1. saw only at the end of the spacious hall a golden screen with the imperial chrysanthemum. Behind it waited an announcer and a technician to operate the special turntable carrying the recording of the imperial voice. Thus was the illusion kept of a divine disembodied presence bestowing upon the empire and the world the benisons of peace.
when the rescript had been read, there was a reverential pause. Then through their tears, the crowd gave three banzais: ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand years to His Imperial Majesty. Suzuki’s address was prose to this elaborate poetry. Reviewing the course of the war he said that the imperial forces had “endured difficulties and privations beyond imagining”; they had made up for the deficient arms with “unequalled spirit”. But since Saipan the tide of war had turned definitely against Japan; a “powerful” American airforce had wrought “damage” on the factories and communications on the mainland; an atomic bomb had been discovered and employed, so destructive that it had wiped out “the greater part of one city and several thousands of the city’s residents were either killed or wounded”. To have continued the conflict would have endangered the very foundations of the empire and the very existence of the Japanese race. Not a word did Suzuki say about the U.S.S.R.
Now that the end had come, he continued, it would undoubtedly be painful. The fighting spirit of the forces was “still high” and the people were also “resolved to die”. But the emperor in his benevolence had decided. His subjects had no choice but to apologize and to obey. Certainly it was the duty of every subject to “foster the eternal prosperity and glory of the imperial family” whether that duty called for death or for surrender.
The end of the war, he warned, would not “lessen the burden and suffering of the people. The empire would lose “much of its territory”; “the glorious army” would disappear. But “we must develop the permanent racial life of Japan, transcending all past feelings and forgetting all selfish thoughts. There is up other way for us but to foster the new spirit of self-rule, creation, and labor in order to build a new Japan, and devote ourselves to the development of technique and science, the lack of which was found to be our greatest fault in the present war. we must build up a civilization that will contribute to the civilization of humanity. This,” concluded Suzuki, “is the only way to reply to the
unlimited benevolence of His Majesty the Emperor“.
At 3:20 that afternoon the old man who had after all proved to be old enough to commit political suicide by sponsoring the surrender, tendered the resignations of his cabinet. This morning his successor was appointed, the imperial prince who had been expected to lead the Japanese in the last charge and who will instead lead them now on the long road back. Contrary to popular expectation however the prince was not one of the emperor’s brothers but Neruhiko Higashi-kuni, once commander-in-chief in China, whose influence
on the army may now be needed to compel surrender.
That may not be such an easy task. If it is amazing that a nation could turn so meekly from war to peace, from the attitude of defiance to the death to that of humble submission, without warning or preparation, all in those few minutes that it took the emperor to promulgate his will, it is perhaps equally amazing that in this defeated, thoroughly crushed nation, there is danger of revolution, not for peace, but against peace.
Nor is it only the hotheads and the hotbloods, the scowling samurai of the naked sword, who howl for war. Today I heard only two civilian Japanese express their thoughts on the peace and both of them opposed it. One was a Japanese professor, brought up and educated in the U.S.A., one of the most intelligent and tolerant Japanese I have met. He talked earnestly and in all seriousness of an atomic bomb that Japan too was perfecting. At any rate, atomic bomb or not, he thought Japan should have fought to the end.
The other Japanese was at the other end of the scale, intellectually, socially, economically. She was our own maid, Kubota-san. She had two sons in the imperial forces and they were both alive. Was she not happy, I asked her. Soon they would be coming home.
“Happy?” she echoed. “I don’t know. I would have been happier if they had died for the emperor. when they come back to me now, how shall I face the mothers of those who died, the mothers of the men from the tokotai? It would have been better if they had died.”
What can one say to her? In the gaunt groves of the Yasukuni, before the shrines of the war-dead, the mothers and the widows kneel today. They say that already many of these women have committed suicide. They do not want to survive their loves and their defeat.
The war is over. At noon today the emperor personally broadcast his rescript proclaiming peace. The Times, which ran the complete text under a modest three-column head (His Majesty Issues Rescript to Restore Peace), was held until the broadcast was over and we did not get the English translation until late in the afternoon. Dated“the 14th day of the 8th month of the 20th year of Radiant Peace”, it read:
“To our good and loyal subjects:
“After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
“We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union, that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.
“To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which We lay close to heart. Indeed We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far
from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.
“We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen on the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death, and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers and those who have lost their home and livelihood are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for
all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable.
“Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention or strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray, and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.”
It was difficult to tell today from any other day. There were more people than usual in the tea lounge but they talked of every-day things. The maids and the waitresses shuffled along the corridors with unhurried pace. Their faces were drained of emotion and they averted their eyes. Somehow one did not feel like intruding into their thoughts.
The hotel radio was kept in the bird-room, behind the cashier’s little enclosure. Originally it had been a powerful American set encased in an ornate wooden cabinet. But sometime during the war the machine had been torn out, possibly to prevent anyone from listening to the forbidden shortwave, and now it rested, a tangle of tubes and wires, on a coffee table next to the disembowelled cabinet. It was now a very bad radio, connected by a complicated and clumsy network to a cheap round amplifier, but it was the only one in the hotel.
Around it now, in the neat little room with its three birdcages overlooking the ornamental fish-pond, the Japanese began to gather. The Germans, the Italians, the Thai, the Chinese, and the Burmans, kept to themselves in whispering groups along the corridor outside or, just beyond hearing distance, in the tea lounge and the lobby. But the Japanese crowded around the radio. The local chief of the military police was one of the first to arrive, a crop-haired, gold-toothed man with a Hitler moustache. He was not smiling now. The representative of the foreign office came next, tall, thin, and rabbit-faced. He did not speak to the kempei, although they were standing side by side at the foot of the stairs leading to the hotel theater.
Then, as noon drew near, the maids and the boy-sans and the waitresses, the cashier and her assistant, the reception clerks and the cooks, the embassy stenographers and interpreters, took their places around the wretched little mess of dull glass and steel which would soon enshrine the voice of the God-Emperor. In their stiff shy way they crowded upon each other; almost it seemed that they were huddling together for comfort, for some measure of assurance in the face of destiny.
There was complete silence as the clocks ticked toward noon. It was stifling. The windows had been closed to keep out the noise of the children playing by the pond outside. The waiting was oppressive and we watched the plump gleaming fish sliding smoothly against one another as they crowded obediently around the large black rock where the children stood, feeding them crumbs.
A Japanese woman married to an Italian tiptoed in. She was leading her two-year-old son by the hand. He was inclined to be difficult and to amuse him she showed him how to play with the song-birds caged beside the window. There was a smell elevator attached to the side of the cage and one placed a tender leaf or a pinch of golden seed in the straw basket at the end of the string.
Then the birds would hop to a tiny platform, thrust their delicate beaks through the bamboo bars, and pull the basket up.
A nine-year-old Italian boy sidled in, a tough bright youngster. A few days ago his mother had quarreled with the wife of another Italian, a New Yorker. The New Yorker’s husband had promptly smashed the other husband in the face, sending him to bed for a week. I wondered vaguely how the boy felt about his father now.
The radio was crackling and in sympathy there was a shuffling of slippers, a rustle of silk. A high-frequency note pierced through the furry undertones of static, held itself tinnily, faded, and then rose to the precise point of the exact time. Set your watches, ladies and gentlemen; mark the time, all ye good and loyal subjects, ye wrinkled horny-handed farmers with your foreheads on the straw mats, ye pale and bloated maidens in the baggy trousers, all ye stalwarts with the merry blossom on your backs, ye flea-bitten sore-scratching children playing with the empty shell case, ye tear-less widows by the wooden boxes from the far frontiers of war, ye scowling, weeping, breast beating warlords and sealords, mark the time; mark the time and wake, all ye miserable and wretched, ye bristly red-eyed welders, sleeping on each other’s shoulders; ye wan distracted mothers, bent with the equalling babies on your backs, dozing in the ration lines; mark the time, all ye good, loyal, bullied, cheated, gagged and handcuffed, starved, ragged, grateful subjects, mark the time. It is midnight at noon.
The Kimigayo stole in after the whispered awe of the announcer; it had never sounded so significant and fitting. It was a band playing and the words were not sung:
Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;
Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now
By age united to mighty rocks shall grow
Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.
But the music might have been written for this hour of defeat; some dark foreboding in the heart of the ancient and forgotten troubadour who, a thousand years ago, had sung it for a German band-master to adapt, had haunted the simple melody with plaintive lamentation, with a grave and solemn anguish over the vanquished dead.
It was a perfect prelude to the voice of the emperor which came through now without an introduction. It was a calm and deliberate voice, a little distant, with a trace of weariness. As the intricate cadences of the courtly phrases drifted through the room into the sunlit garden outside, I looked around me covertly. It
was the first time that the Japanese had heard their “Manifest god”. All were expressionless as they stood, stiffly upright, their hands at their sides with the palms turned backward, head and shoulders bent low with reverence. Not a sound came from them. Perhaps it was blasphemy to weep.
When the rescript had been read, a younger more vigorous voice came through. It was the old Premier Admiral Baron, explaining the circumstances that had led to the surrender, the long wreck-strewn burning road that had led to the ruin of the empire. Then it was, and only then, that the Japanese wept. But they wept quietly, the sobs of the women were muffled in their sleeves, and
the tears of the men ran undried along their pale cheeks. Somehow it was painful even for a stranger, painful even to hear the Italians and the Germans outside in the corridors, debating heatedly whether the rescript had proclaimed peace or resistance to the death.
The broadcast was finished at a quarter to one. The Japanese went away silently, moving with bowed heads and reddened eyes through the clumps of foreigners already planning how they would rush home. It was incredible how swiftly normality, or at least the air of normality, was restored; indeed it had scarcely been disturbed. Lunch was a little late but it was served without a hitch.
In the afternoon I decided to go to Tokyo. I felt I had to see whether the Japanese had taken the end of their world with similar serenity. Before taking my train I went outdoors for a swim. The pool was deserted except for four Japanese boys frolicking noisily in the water. They kept to themselves but they did not seem depressed. Perhaps they had not yet heard. But outside in the
village it was the same. A group of school-girls in pigtails were skipping rope outside the hotel. A military policeman was feeding his carrier-pigeons. The crowd waiting for the electric tram had its usual air of preoccupation with bundles and tickets and seats.
The train to Tokyo was an hour late. As I waited on the platform at Odawara two Japanese came up and spoke to me. It was the first tangible proof I had the the war was really over. One of them was a slatternly woman, dirty, unkempt, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed. She asked me where she could get some medicine for her sick baby. when I said I did not know, she lingered a while and then, laughing, jumped down from the platform, and drank rapidly from a public fountain.
The other was a quiet—spoken man in a frayed national uniform. He squatted beside me and, while he unrolled his gaiters with a calm decisive hand, asked what nationality I was. Then he offered me some pipe-tobacco which he extracted from a smudged and much-folded envelope.
I refused politely.
“It’s excellent tobacco,” he offered it a second time.
When I refused again, he nodded briefly. He put the package away and then added in an impressive reproving tone: “It was American tobacco, you know.”
The train was packed to the windows with tired silent people and their huge bundles of black-market sweet potatoes, fruit, rice, two or three fish. If anything the atmosphere seemed less tense than usual. There were no longer any raids or strafing attacks to be feared. The lights were going on in the stations and in the countryside as we went by. In almost every official building there were also small bonfires, papers that were being burned before the Americans entered.
But nobody talked about war or peace. could it have happened in any other country in the world? Till yesterday, till even noon this day, they had believed, with a faith beyond all doubt, that in this holy war of theirs there could be no surrender, and that without surrender, there could be no defeat. Now the imperial rescript might speak obliquely of “a settlement of the present situation by an extraordinary measure”, of a war situation developing “not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”, of a benevolent solicitude for “innocent lives” and “human civilization”. But not the most polished and elegant circumlocutions could hide the fact of defeat, the “unendurable”, the “insufferable”.
What were now the “inmost feelings” of these good and loyal subjects? The unconquerable was conquered; the divine laid low. In the innermost recesses of the racial memory, no equal could be found for this “dictate of time and fate”. Not even when Hideyoshi’s armies staggered back to the shores of Korea to find their fleets swept from the sea by the “turtle-shell craft“ of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, had the imperial land suffered such a crushing defeat. For this was no momentary reverse, the abandonment of a conquered province, but total and complete defeat, submission of the imperial land itself to the conquering invader. No wind had risen from.the shrines at Ise and Togo lay mouldering in his grave.
For this the young men had frozen on the Manchurian tundra and vanished without a trace in the tall kaoliang; for this the young men had dragged themselves across the yellow plains of China, eaten the Weeds and the snakes of the jungle, burned on the lonely seas, dived to their death through flaming skies; for this they had sechemed, robbed, lied, intrigued and tortured; what a horrible price of shame, degradation, and self-pollution for this, this bowlful of brown rice mixed with the husks of beans, mulberry leaves and cattle fodder, this torn and grimy mompei and the paper shoes that fall apart in the rain, this acre of ashes, this hole in the earth, this night.
“Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion,” O ye good and loyal subjects. “Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit,” ye wretched of the earth. The men and women about me spoke softly of the price of pickled radish, an aunt in Hokkaido, an open window where the soot was coming in. A child equalled and when it did not stop the mother opened the top of her mompei and gave him her breast; it was a big child but her milk was cheaper than rice. A tired old man, with many apologies, sank on the strip of seat beside me and loosened the straps of the sack on his back. We were coming into Tokyo station now and a gnarled peasant woman cried: “How bright it is!”
But no one looked up. The passengers went hurriedly and silently along the platform to the exits, afraid, ashamed, of the light.
Tokyo was still silent on peace today and the rumor spread that an atomic bomb would be dropped on the capital if the American terms were not accepted by the 18th. But in all probability they will be accepted. It has been announced that the emperor will have an important message for the Japanese nation tomorrow morning. Even the Japanese in the hotel are now talking in excited whispers. Some suspect the truth; others believe the emperor will call upon all his loyal subjects to fight to the end; but most do not know what will come tomorrow. They wait with a silent submissiveness to do what they are told.