13th August 1945

The American reply to Japan’s peace offer has been announced by San Francisco. Delivered yesterday the 12th it demands that the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, presumably General of the Army McArthur. The question is more alive than ever: will the Japanese accept? The tone of the San Francisco bulletins which, with monotonous insistence, emphasize every hour that MacArthur will be the emperor‘s “boss” should warn the Japanese leaders what they can expect.

A Burman wondered why the Japanese, if they were really ready to surrender, had made an issue of the emperor’s prerogative. Now they must either take a clear humiliation, with possibly disastrous consequences to the prestige of the throne or go the whole way to national suicide.

A Thai explained that the Japanese were worried lest the emperor be brought to trial as a war criminal. A more reasonable explanation seemed to be that the Japanese government feared the Potsdam declaration on democracy might mean the forcible overthrow of the throne. At any rate the American reply is that the ultimate form of government in Japan.will be established on the basis of the freely-expressed will of the Japanese people which is a different matter since the Japanese will probably choose to retain the emperor.

A Chinese however doubted that Emperor Hirohito would personally survive defeat. He judged it probable that the present emperor would abdicate and leave the throne to the crown prince who, being still a boy, would not appreciate and suffer the indignities of surrender and who, if his coronation were suitably deferred, would not actually submit as emperor to the dictation of a foreign commander.

Some ambiguous echoes of this momentous debate have been allowed to reach the Japanese people. Commenting on the proclamation of the president of the board of information which only referred to ambiguous “utmost efforts” on the part of the government and called upon the people only to “overcome the present trial” and to protect ” the polity of the empire”, the Asahi today worried “How is His Majesty the Emperor? The concern of the 100 million
people hangs on this question. when we turn our thoughts to it, we feel a pain in our breast. It is this pain that will enable us to bravely overcome the worst and last trial. So long as the loyal subjects have the ruler, the _____ to advance is clear and the glory of the empire will be maintained.”

There has also been a significant series of inspired stories on the crown prince. On the 11th the Times front paged an announcement that it had been decided to establish a separate household for the crown prince and that a grand steward, concurrently grand chamberlain, had been appointed for him. Yesterday the 12th the Times had a longer story, centered on the front-page. ”His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince will shortly be graduated from the primary department of the peers‘ school”; he attained his 13th year this summer; he is enjoying the best of health and “observes strict discipline.”

“His Imperial Highness,” the release continued, ” rises at six in the morning and has never neglected his daily service as well as physical exercise, including fencing with his tutors. From seven in the morning to four in the afternoon His Imperial Highness undergoes school lessons, physical exercises, and training, just like other students. His Imperial Highness even takes part in the cleaning of the school-rooms and partakes of the simples kind of morning meal, consisting of one bowl of rice, soup, and a dish of pickles. His Imperial Highness‘ lunch and dinner are also as simple as ordinary people’s ration meals, with dishes of fish being served only occasionally. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has made a remarkable improvement in horse and bicycle riding in recent months and is showing a profound concern in current affairs.”

A Japanese diplomat however explained to us that the stories were strictly routine and not a preparation for the emperor’s abdication. Every crown prince, upon completion or the primary grades in the company of other boys, takes up higher studies by himself under a faculty of tutors. This accounts for the establishment of a separate household at this time.

More tell-tale however than these elusive hints is the mood of the press in general. The hoarse shouts of battle are dying down. The samurai, beaten to his knees, asks only that his head be properly severed and his honor saved. Even two days ago the Yomiuri spoke no longer of “final victory” but of “positive development and progress”. It was afraid no longer of defeat but of revolution. “Whatever difficult situation may come, we should not abandon hope. We should not behave blindly or crumple…. What should be guarded
against most is demoralization, self-abandonment, dejection, nihilism. For this purpose, don’t lose your heads but maintain perfect order. At this juncture no selfish or wayward acts are to be permitted. We should be strictly Japanese and protect the national polity of the empire throughout, mutually helping one another and collaborating among ourselves. It is not the true Japanese way to be absorbed in saving one’s self and one’s family alone. The freedom and the
futue of the race must be taken into full consideration. Collapse is something to be dreaded. In order to evade it, we must maintain our pride as Japanese.”

The Mainichi today is no less resigned. “The life of man has its ups and downs and the same is true of the history of any race…. Not to be disturbed by any turn in the situation, that is the attitude of a great people. In our country we have the imperial family, eternal and everlasting, and with the imperial family as
the center the 100 million people are united… Should our people allow themselves to disturb their domestic unity, they would abandon their glory of eternal life…. when our national fortunes were on the rise, the Japanese people maintained their unity; why not tighten it now that we enter a period or reverses? We should never despair or grow violent. we are a great people.”

5th July 1945

“Hate the enemy!” cries an editorial in the Mainichi today. Under this startling title the vernacular points out: “Enemy air attacks on medium-sized cities are becoming intensified. In the near future there may not be a single medium-sized city west of the Tokaido that has escaped being made a target of enemy attacks . . . . How are our people reacting? Or how should they react?”

Answering its own question the Mainichi proceeds: “Most Japanese are strongly inclined to giving up easily to fatalism. When attacked by the enemy they are liable to regard themselves merely as sufferers. . . . of a natural calamity.” This the paper urges, is wrong. It is not the way the men at the front feel. It is not even the way the people felt during the civil wars between the feudal lords.

No, “against enemy atrocities the Japanese people, especially those who have suffered directly from enemy bombings, should be inspired with strong abomination and indignation. It absolutely cannot be permitted to regard the enemy’s hideous violence with fatalism. Generous Japanese!” concludes the Mainichi. “You must remember that to hate the enemy now is a sacred duty.”

One must think twice to discover exactly why that is so startling. True, it has been said: “Love thy neighbor” — “Turn the other cheek” — “. . .as we forgive those who trespass against us.” One is not used to seeing these gentle admonitions challenged so nakedly in the morning newspaper. But after all the Japanese are not Christians. They are not one-tenth as bound by the evangelical precepts as those flag-waving archbishops who howled for the obliteration of Berlin or who find it hard to remember that God made the Japanese too in His own image and likeness.

What is startling is that the exhortation to hate was thought necessary at all. The “generosity” of the Japanese is a flattery too gross to be swallowed. Their “fatalism” is a first-class political fact. A fire-raid can be accepted more naturally in a land of earthquakes. A blockade does not demoralize a people with an Oriental tradition of famine. Or is the subtle emphasis of the editorial on the object of the hate it evokes? Are the Japanese urged to “hate the enemy” lest they should hate persons closer to home?

23rd June 1945

Today the wartime emergency measure law went into effect. It was about time, if not too late. The vernaculars were speaking of “gradually mounting losses” in the “death grapple” on Okinawa; more than 500-B-29’s had once again hidden the sun in dust and smoke over the naval base at Kure and the regions under the central army command. There was no exultation in the heart of the who held the unprecedented mandate of the empire; only an oppressive sense of obligation. In this at least the Premier Admiral Baron understood power better than his predecessors the Premiers Generals. On this day he addressed himself, not to the humble docile people who had surrendered power, but to the magnates and potentates who had seized it.

Power was responsibility, he reminded the cabinet in a special statement. The new law placed them above the law but it was an opportunity for service, not for tyranny. Henceforth they should rule their actions by “morality and reason” rather than by law and regulation. By the same token the convolutions of law and the red tape of regulation would henceforth cease to be valid excuses for inefficiency or inaction. Officials would judged strictly on their merits, policies strictly on their utility. Noting with approval that for once their “sermon” had been preached to the government anf not to the people, the Mainichi also doubted: “But how are the brains of the government officials? To what extent can they adjust their brains to the administration of ‘morality and reason’ instead of legal regulations?” The question remained to be answered.

28th May 1945

Almost unnoticed amid the mourning for Tokyo was the first faint death-rattle of Okinawa. On the night of the 24th the Giretsu air-borne unit of the special attack corps (Giretsu means heroism) clambered into the black bellies of a squadron of transport planes to spearhead a a Japanese general counter-offensive on Okinawa. Almost two months had passed in blood and fire since the first American landings. Now the Japanese garrison was making its last stand on the jagged line between Shuri and Maha. The special attack corps, in spite of suicide pilots riding rocket bombs, had failed to smash the American line of communications. Carrier-borne fighters were again scouring southern Kyushu and the press was wandering uneasily whether the Americans were planning another landing.

Perhaps the men of the Giretsu knew they were playing Japan’s last card. It had been played before the end of the game in Leyte. Could it win the trick this time? They had fought together from Peliliu to Okinawa, under their “boy-commander”, 26-year old Captain Michiro Okuyama, sleeping in their uniforms, running instead of walking in their daily life to accustom themselves to unrelenting speed.

Tonight a high wind from China has pushed away into the sea the black clouds that hung low over Okinawa. The sky was radiant with moonlight. In silence they heard the last “address of instructions”; the divine Tenno had “granted gracious words, placing great hope in the operations” and they were notified of the “gracious imperial concern”. In “uniforms camouflaged with green dots and streaks” they took their places. Each of them carried hand-mines and 10 off “crack new weapons” as well as special iron rations. They were the last hope of the empire.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, the 25th May, they sent the reassuring message. “Have succeeded in landing.” Bad weather had returned. An observation plane, skimming the leaping waves, its windshield blurred with rain, reported that the Giretsu were holding off repeated American attacks while wrecking and blasting planes and dumps on the north and central airfields on Okinawa, “throwing the enemy into confusion”.

Meantime, “less than an hour after the divine soldiers had landed on the north and central airfields, special attack units and other air units sank (some instantaneously) two aircraft carriers, four battleships, one cruiser, one destroyer, four large transports and four aircraft of unidentified category.” No official announcement has been made but it presumed that the land forces on Okinawa have also launched a general counter-attack.

[illegible] the 27th the vernaculars noted briefly that it that it was [illegible], the 40th anniversary of the battle of the Japan Sea. But there was no Togo on Okinawa and there was no imperial fleet “in this same sea zone”. It was now Japan’s turn to fight against hopeless odds and to make the tragic discovery that the time had long since passed for the daring and gallant raid that could turn defeat into victory.

A consciousness of this seems to have seeped into the Japanese mind. For the past four days the English edition of the Mainichi has been running a biography of a modern naval hero, Vice-Admiral Masabumi Arima, who personally led his squadron in a suicide attack in the Philippine waters on the 15th October 1944. Significantly Japan’s new hero is a suicide, not a conqueror; his message is duty to the death, not victory.

21st May

“The decisive battle in the Okinawas has become all the more fierce,” warns the Asahi, “The battle on land has shifted to Maha and Shuri and the enemy is making a vigorous attack with all his available strength.” “The general enemy offensive has taken on an added intensity,” chimes in the Mainichi. “Eager to make penetrations, the enemy is gradually strengthening his pressure north of Shuri and Maha.”

16th May 1945

In a formal decision of the cabinet Japan recognized yesterday that the tri-partite treaty, the subsequent Axis military alliance, the anti-Comintern pact, and other related treaties have been “rendered null and void”. As if by pre-arrangement the vernacular are full of portents and warnings.

“The ground fighting on the main Okinawa island has become more difficult and has come to assume aspects admitting of no optimism for the future,” broods the Mainichi in a lengthy summary of the battle there. “It is considered inevitable,” adds the Tokyo Shimbun, “that the number of enemy planes raiding the mainland shall rapidly increase in number.” Both articles are tomely and typical of Japanese expectations. They may be worth reproduction for future comparison with the facts and with the corresponding American versions.

The Mainichi on Okinawa: At first the Japanese forces resorted to the tactics of enticing the enemy forces to complete their landing instead of attacking them on the beach, because the latter method would have entailed serious sacrifices on our part as was the case in the Peleliu campaign. Afterward it was planned to subject the enemy forces  to serious losses by taking advantage of the well-constructed positions in the interior of the island.

“Thus our forces aimed to smash the enemy warships and other vessels on the sea, cutting off the supply-line, while on land they aimed to inflict losses on the enemy and shatter his fighting-power and fighting-will. Accordingly the enemy landed on the main Okinawa island on the 1st April without meeting the customary resistance and easily occupied the north and central airfields. But when the enemy advanced to the line connecting Oyama and Tsuha via Shinoushi bay, he met our full-fledged counter-attack. Since then a sanguinary battle has raged between the two opposing forces….

“Our counter-attack which started in the evening of the 12th April broke the first deadlock. This counter-attack, short in time and limited in area, caused the enemy serious losses and delayed his second offensive one week. Our side however suffered considerable exhaustion in its fighting power.

“Thereafter the enemy reorganized his positions and resorted to another offensive, mobilizing four full divisions in the southern section of the island alone. The enemy however met strong resistance and on the 23rd April or thereabouts he was compelled to withdraw the 96th and 27th divisions to the rear.

“The enemy advance, notwithstanding, continued steadily though slowly. On the 12th May the enemy reached high ground menacing the line connecting [illegible] and Shuri. Of course the fate of the Okinawa battle does not depend on this line alone and we have still bases back of it but so long as the enemy finds it possible to obtain reinforcements and so long as the enemy can use tanks and other fire-power arms effectively against us, future ground fighting is expected to become more intensified.

“Our air units, including the special attack corps, have been causing the enemy sea forces serious losses to such an extent that already more than 500 enemy vessels, large and small, have been sunk or damaged. This has had the effect of paralyzing the enemy’s Pacific fleet….

“(But) whatever losses the Japanese may force or the enemy in his sea strength, if they allow the enemy to advance on important lines on land, the war situation will have to be declared disadvantageous to our side…. Due to our valiant fighting on land one-third of the enemy ground force has been disabled but our losses have not been small. The resent margin of strength between the two opposing forces is so large that if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue, it is calculated that the enemy will outlast our forces on the island. No further delay is therefore permissible. At this moment we can only attack and do nothing but attack.”

The Tokyo Shimbun on the air blitz: “The number of enemy planes that came over on the 13th and 14th May totalled some 630 b-25’s and over 2000 carrier-borne planes and seaplanes of varying size. Their aerial invasion covered almost the entire area of the mainland.

“Since the construction of the air base in the Marianas has evidently been completed, it is but natural that the enemy air-raids should increase in number…. Accordingly we are not taken aback by the frequency of the latest air-raids. We have also fully anticipated correspondingly heavier losses.

“The question facing us now is how the losses can be minimized. Frankly speaking the work of air defense in the large cities has not been successfully conducted and is still far from complete…. In some localities indications are seen that the authorities, in giving advice to the farmers, only succeed in frightening them. It is to be hoped that the government and local authorities, both military and civilian, will make further efforts in this direction.”

9th May 1945

Language has its subtle treacheries and they are probably nowhere more plentiful than in the ordinary translation from Japanese into English. This morning’s Times carries two articles on the special attack corps that, largely perhaps from differences in expression and ways of thought, stumble from the pathetic to the silly and then step suddenly into genuine emotion.

The first is the account of a visit by a staff-member of the Asahi to a tokotai unit. It follows: “The quarters of the members of the special attack corps were located in a very plain building. There were no mats to be seen on the floor. Instead there were two quilts and two mattresses per man, gifts from the people of the neighboring village. In an inner room was an altar. Before it were placed two caskets containing the ashes of comrades who had given their lives to keep the enemy away from their beloved country. All the men wore their flying suits throughout the day. They had no other clothes. It was exactly six hours before their departure on a campaign from which they had no hope of returning alive, that I visited their quarters. Sergeant-Major Shimote of Hiroshima prefecture and Sergeant-Major Watanabe of Ehime prefecture were bending over a map that was spread out on the floor. In their left hands they held rulers. They were drawing lines lengthwise and crosswise. Sergeant Takeda of Shizuoka prefecture knelt down beside Sergeant-Major Shimote, asking: “We are to change course at x degree, aren’t we?” The heads of the sergeant and the sergeant-major came into contact. As one of them said something, the other nodded. This they did several times; each time their heads bumped together. But they made no attempt to prevent their heads from colliding. They were so deeply immersed in their work that it seemed they found infinite pleasure in it.

“Sergeant-Major Hashimoto of Hiroshima prefecture was sharpening a pencil nearby. He kept sharpening it only to keep breaking off the point. He repeated this several times. At length when the pencil had grown too short, he put it away and, producing another pencil, set about sharpening it. He was equally unfortunate in this attempt. But he kept sharpening with untiring energy, which was a quite a wonder to me. As I watched him at his work I felt an excitement such as is produced by the sight of some dramatic event. I felt as though my heart were being wrung. I found difficulty in breathing. Then a thought flashed across my mind. I felt my throat tightening. The four men before me were truly wonderful. There was nothing unusual about them. It would have their movements and speech had suggested even in the remotest manner that these four fliers were on the point of going to meet death. But there was nothing of that.

“After much hesitation I suggested that people in general were under the impression that the men of the special attack corps were doomed to die. The answer to this came from Sergeant-Major Watanabe: “Everybody is wondering about that. It is of no importance to us. From the time I change over to aviation I determined not to get married.” He added after a short pause: ‘To tell the truth, I do not remember having got it into my head to have a definite view of life and death.’

“Here Sergeant-Major Hirate entered, holding a casket containing the ashes of a comrade of his, Sergeant-Major Nakamura. Saying it was getting late, and that it was time to go to bed, he lay himself upon the mattress.

“‘We are to leave the ground in formation so be careful not to be half-asleep and crash into my buttocks,” said Sergeant-Major Watanabe to Sergeant-Major Hirate as he also went to bed.

“Presently a man from the communications corps came in. To him Sergeant-Major Shimote said: “Be sure to be on your guard. It will not be for more than an hour from X to X o’clock. Be sure.’ He repeated this several times in a loud voice. What the signal man was asked to do was to get in touch with the base by wireless the moment the members of the special attack corps rammed into the enemy. The report should be a confirmation of the fact that the members had fulfilled their mission and at the same time it would be something of a farewell to their mother-country.

“I produced a cigarette and asked Sergeant Hashimoto to give me a light I pressed the end of my cigarette to the lighted one of Sergeant Hashimoto and puffed away vigorously. I did this two or three times in the belief that by inhaling the smoke of a cigarette lighted by a member of the special attack corps, I would become imbued with the spirit of the corps. Sergeant Hashimoto was looking at me in wonder as I went through this performance. As I returned his cigarette to him, my hand touched his. I felt that there was nothing to distinguish my hand from his. I and the members of the special attack corps bathed together. We drank together. We sang together. We joked with one another. Essentially we were the same and yet we were different. Aloud I wondered why. Sergeant-Major Watanabe, who had overheard me, turned to me and said: ‘It is because you think about death too deeply.…”

x x x

The second article is by a correspondent of the Mainichi at the base of the Koma unit of the special attack corps. He writes: “One night when the members of the Koma unit were in their barracks, warming up for the action scheduled on the next day, an officer came up to me. In his hand was a square notebook which he asked me to place in his mother’s hands. A glance at the book showed that there were two Y100 notes between the pages. On the cover were written the words: To Mother, as well as his full name and the unit to which he belonged. ‘I’ll be glad to oblige you,’ I told him. A short silence fell. ‘I suppose you would not like me to see the contents of the book,’ I said, looking into his face with the air of a man who is afraid his request will be refused. ‘I have written nothing of a confidential nature there,’ he replied. ‘But I am ashamed of my writing. I was so poor at composition when I was a boy.’ He smiled and continued: ‘I was a spoiled child and must have caused my mother a great deal of trouble.’ The young sub-lieutenant spoke very quietly. I found it hard not to bow to him when he finished speaking. Here are some of the entries in sub-lieutenant Watanabe’s diary:

“Mother, I think that you will rejoice at my having joined the special attack corps. I and the rest of us have been the recipients of great imperial favors, as were our ancestors. Nothing is a greater honor to me than to be able to requite even the smallest portion of the imperial favor which has been granted to us and those who went before us….

“‘We came into the world to die. We have now learned to die….

“‘Mother, I am going along young airmen, some of whom are barely 20, and all of whom I have taught. Oh, Mother, shed tears for them. In their youthfulness, assailed by momentary thoughts of home, they are said to have shed tears throughout the night after receiving orders to take the field….

“‘Since I came to live at the barracks it has been my custom to go out to the middle of the airfield in the dead of night and pray that I may not be behind the others in offering my life for our country. Tonight there was a half-moon in the sky. As I looked up to it many thoughts crowded into my mind. I remembered a spring festival at a shrine, which I attended with my mother. I was dressed in a brand-new dark-blue suit with a knitted shirt that smelled strongly of camphor. In my right hand I clutched some candy that my mother had bought for me along the way….

“‘Today I find myself overwhelmed by emotion. This base is the last corner of Japanese land upon which my feet will stand. Tomorrow I am to take off. My mind is as clear as the bright sky of Japan. Mother, sayonara.’”

 

 

7th May 1945

For the past four days the Japanese government and press have mourned for Hitler and his Reich, Mussolini and his Republic. In the afternoon of the 3rd Suzuki expressed his “profound sympathy”. At the same time Togo called on the German ambassador to express deep condolences. The next day Iguchi, the official spokesman, eulogizing Hitler, declared that “his spirit, his labors, and his ideals will surely live in the hearts and minds of the German people. He will leave an indelible mark in history as one of the greatest leaders of nations, as a man of great vision who peered far ahead into the future, and as a man of action and labored with messianic zeal to create an order in Europe which would ensure stability, peace, and progress.” The press was not slow to follow the official lead. The Mainichi on Hitler and Mussolini: “Two great stars falling from the sky, trailing a magnificent glory behind them….” The Nippon Sangyo Keizai: “Tears of sympathy…” The Times on Hitler: “One of the towering characters of world history..”

But now the mourners are back from the graveyard and they are sitting uneasily in the lawyer’s office, waiting for the will to be read. The new heir does not look too friendly and the estate is bankrupt. Yesterday, calling a press conference hastily, the foreign minister made it clear that if the new Doenitz government was, as reported, making a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans, it was violating the tri-partite pact and Japan was consequently reserving freedom of action. Dutifully echoing the new line Asahi grumbled: “It is very regrettable that Germany has lost her political vision and virtue and ignored international goodfaith….”

 

 

 

1st May 1945

Today the Mainichi brought the first reaction to the surrender of Germany. “In the supposition that this report is true,” the paper writes the following analysis: “In the first place we want to remind our readers that the European war and the war of Greater East Asia are not one and the same thing. In their underlying causes they may have an extremely close resemblance. But they were by no means planned together…. Therefore the end of the European war will not mean the end of the war of Greater East Asia. The second question is what effect the surrender of Germany and Italy will have on our fighting strength. The answer has two parts. The first concerns the amount of support we are losing. Although we are not experts in military affairs, we can easily imagine whet amount and what kind of help we have been receiving from our allies far away in Europe. Consequently it cannot be said that we shall suffer any particular loss in this direction. The other point is this: what are America and Britain going to do with the surplus of fighting strength they have now obtained in Europe? It would be of no use to make any light conjectures. It is possible to imagine certain things…. However, at the present moment, it is better to refrain from doing so….”

Waiting for the tram at Miyanoshita, I came across an Italian acquaintance, a former naval officer, together with a Japanese girl and a Japanese man. The man bowed cordially to the Italian, when the tram finally came around the bend, wishing him a safe trip and a speedy return. He acted like a solicitous old friend. The girl did not say a word to either of the two; she appeared tovbe a complete stranger. She boarded the tram without a look behind her and stood quietly in a corner. Only those who knew them were aware of the fact that the girl was the Italian’s common-law wife, a former barmaid from Kobe. She had come up to the hotel for a short visit to her lover. But Japan was at war with the white man and, although she loved one, she must do so secretly, behind closed shutters. She was not pretty but she knew, as few Japanese girls do, how to wear European clothes. They made her look even lonelier in her corner of the tram, by the smudged window, out of which she was looking with a defiant misery. The man, neither of them knew. He was a military policeman who had conscientiously shadowed them during her entire stay.

The trip to Tokyo was interesting in itself. Yesterday morning 200 bombers and fighters raided Tachikawa, Hiratsuka, and Atsugi for about an hour. Hiratsuka is on the line from Odawara to Tokyo and when we neared it, we were ordered to pull down the blinds. Supervision was not very strict however and I caught a glimpse of the new landscape, flat and streaming under the dusty sun.