Day 19, 10 October 1945 –Manila Bay

We pulled out into the stream at 0700 with instructions that we were to return at 1700 to embark troops.

At 1530 they signaled for the Capt. to go in and get routing instructions. He returned shortly with orders to proceed immediately to Okinawa to get Hospital patients whose hospital was destroyed by a typhoon. They sent three Doctors and 27 Medics aboard. at 1845 upped anchor and took off; at 1930, we blew the main steam line and anchored just beyond Corregidor; the chief says it will take until morning to get it repaired and get underway again.

I was going in to town, but it rained, so I stayed aboard; good thing I did, as the Chief Steward got left behind, and we have a soldier who came out to see the First Engineer, still on board

Guess they are sending us to Okinawa because we did not pull out from the pier last evening; however, it should prove interesting… another letter from Louise today.

8th August 1945

The details of the new bomb are still “under investigation”. One feels that the authorities are just an puzzled and bewildered by the whole thing as anybody else; they are certainly withholding the extent of the damage but do they know any more than the average man about the nature of its cause? was it one bomb or several? Was it an incendiary bomb, an explosive, a combination of both?

The first accounts in the local press are cautious. The Asahi’s is typical. “Shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning of the 6th August,” it reads, “a small number of B-29’s invaded the city of Hiroshima and dropped a small number of bombs. Due to this action a considerable number of houses in the city collapsed and fires were caused at various places. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. These bombs were dropped by parachute and exploded before reaching the ground, it is indicated. The force
of the new bombs is now under investigation but it appears that it cannot be made light of”.

“Because of the possibility that the enemy may again employ this type of bombs,” the Asahi continues after a paragraph on “inhuman cruelty”, “counter-measures against it will be shown by the authorities concerned without any loss of time. In the meantime an early dispersion of cities, an adjustment of the so-called side-cave anti-air-raid shelters, and other air-defense measures should be pushed. Judging from the latest enemy attack, it is dangerous to exceedingly despise an air-raid even though it is done by a small number of planes.”

The Americans have announced that leaflets have already been dropped warning the Japanese of the new bomb’s unprecedented destructive power and the Asahi ends its story by calling on the people “not to be misguided”. Perhaps in preparation for an official declaration on the bomb the Times today, which has not yet carried a story on Hiroshima, editorializes on “The incalculable Reserve”.

“The enemy attacks with a meticulous precision awesome to behold,” begins the Times. “He brings into effective play his slide-rule and compass, his charts and instruments. He apparently knows through photography and a vast and well-laid espionage network the locations and nature of the vital organs which are necessary to the conduct of this war. Even of the things that he does not know, he seems to have the technical craft and equipment with which to calculate the greater part of the same. There is only one thing which completely defies his diabolical calculations and that is the spiritual reserve of the Japanese people.

“Such a reserve has been noted elsewhere in the recent past. Surely Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Moscow could not have been held with guns alone. If material weight alone had been the final criterion in the conflict, Yiojima and Okinawa should have fallen weeks sooner at a far cheaper cost to the enemy. In the Japanese eye the special attack force is not a ‘suicide’ squad, as our materialistic enemy sees it; it is one of the incalculables in its most concrete expression…”

After contrasting Germany and Japan the Times continues: “The present war is likely to be regarded as a conflict between science and the spirit. Fundamentally the present move into Asia is an encroachment of Western science upon Oriental spirit. In this light the unfathomable reserve of the Japanese people takes on significance of a new hue. That spiritual strength becomes not merely the reserve; for Asia it becomes the very ultimate of the
war in the Pacific.

“To the factors of material, money, and men that go to make possible the prosecution of war, science and spirit must also be added. Just as science finds motivation from the brain, so spirit gets inspiration from the heart. As the movements of material and money must await the guiding hand of science, so the action of men must find its root in spirit. While there is the flash of genius in one, there is imperturbable resolution in the other. While one must necessarily have a limit, the other is limitless…”

And the Times concludes: “It is not wishful thinking but a statement of fact that while there remains the possibility that the stupendous weight of material the enemy possesses can be entirely consumed, the spiritual resolve of the Japanese people is not only incalculable but imperishable and inexhaustible.”

There is an exasperating emptiness to these eloquent and elegantly-balanced phrases. It is like listening to a professor belaboring a syllogism while the classroom burns. The man is splitting hairs when a bomb is splitting atoms. Perhaps a year of a hundred years from now philosophers and historians will have the perspective to weigh the relative values of Western science and Oriental spirit. Right now we are more interested in what will happen to us, whether it is safe to take the train to Tokyo tomorrow, whether the new bomb will poison water, whether peace will come.

I know I should be thinking of the implications of a bomb that can wipe out two-thirds of a great city at one fell stroke but somehow the mind refuses to pick up the problem and it lies at my feet ticking with a quiet insistence. The question of peace is the farthest that the mind will reach. Some say: “It’s over. The Japs will have to give up.” Others are not so sure. They mumble about exaggerated propaganda or they cry in despair that the Japanese are crazy; they will die rather than surrender. To them the measured cadences of the Times editorial today have the sinister sound of a man walking to the gallows.

Yes, the Japanese will stick it out, they say. They will burn in their cities, disappear in a sickening flash, and then the gaunt roasted survivors will dig in, in the caves and crevices of mountains, by a last lonely beach. The Yomiuri today quotes von Clausewitz on the requirements for successful guerrilla war-
fare and notes with satisfaction that all are present in Japan. Can the Americans split the Japanese atom? Or will Japanese “spirit” prove tougher than U-235?

Psychological speculation is scant comfort for those of us who are caught here between scientific murder and a suicide complex. Presently the tight groups, heatedly debating peace and war, break up; the mind, frightened by its own reflections, scurries away to its favorite corner and toys with the familiar com-
monplaces of the day’s paper. Let us see now….

The Japanese army in the southern regions has announced its “assent to the establishmnt in the middle of August of a preparatory commission for East Indian independence.”

The cigarette ration has again been cut from five to three per person per day. In case the production of cigarettes becomes impossible the equivalent amount of cut tobacco will be supplied.

A certain factory in Nagano prefecture has succeeded in producing a substitute for Manila hemp from dwarf bamboo creepers; it is cheaper by 20 yen a pound.

A group of scholars has called for donations of materials for an Okinawa museum and library in Tokyo.

Real summer has started, according to the papers. The rice is flowering about 20 days behind schedule but the rising temperature during the past week may save the situation.

(It is pleasant out here in the garden by the miniature waterfall, sparkling and laughing as it tumbles over, while the red, black, and golden fish wheel silently in the quiet pond.)

Let us see now… The classified ads are always good. Wanted to exchange: bicycle, foreign make, 22 inches, in good condition, for men’s shoes, size 10% men or larger size.

For sale: a set of sofa and three armchairs; easel, almost new, in perfect condition; gentleman’s white linen summer suits and also one white waistcoat; Nippon Gakki upright piano, 85 keys; Vacumatic Parker fountainpen, for immediate sale to highest bidder, also ivory mah-jong set.

Wanted to buy: baby’s perambulator, shoes for girl 5-8 years, linguaphone language series for Russian and others, English books on China, razors, sewing machines, accordions.

(The mind drowses contentedly. Whatever happened to that gentleman who was selling shirts, three white second-hand, two black perfectly new? I wonder what they will serve for lunch…)

6th July 1945

Why do the Japanese continue to fight? They are tired and hungry; the Tokyo Shimbun urges all Japanese to “learn to eat weeds”. Yet if the war continues they must learn to eat cinders and ashes. What holds them in this hopeless conflict? Any motives of greed or glory must by now have vanished in the smoke of their burning cities. They do not even hate. What is it then? The frenzied fear of inhuman reprisals? Perhaps. They have been told that the Americans plan to castrate all the Japanese males and turn the women over to negroes. The desperate courage of the cornered rat? Perhaps. There is a certain stubbornness, a dark tenacity, in the human will that refuses to accept defeat. Blind obedience to the God-Emperor? Perhaps this above all. “Duty is as heavy as a mountain, death as light as a feather.” A slim gambler’s chance that one more try will turn their luck? That also. These days, tensed uneasily for the invasion of the homeland that will surely come, the Japanese are told insistently that this time victory, victory in the last battle, which is all that counts, is sure to be theirs.

Typical of this line of propaganda with which the Japanese are doped is a [illegible] by Rear-Admiral Etsuzo Kurihara, assistant chief of intelligence section of imperial headquarters, to the students of the Kunitachi higher communications school. Its translation was carried by the Okuyama Service yesterday.

“You probably want to know if Japan can win the war,” started out the rear-admiral. “The answer is: we shall win without fail. At present a small country, Japan, is fighting virtually the whole world with the exception of the Soviet Union. This is no easy task. You may think that Japan cannot win under such conditions. But I shall tell you how we can absolutely win this war.”

The rear-admiral then argued that the United States could not end the war by bombing alone; the mainland of Japan would have to be invaded. What did that mean? It meant that the U.S.A. would have to mobilize a tremendous army, possibly three and half million men, and an even vaster fleet to transport, supply, and protect the landing of these men. All this huge machinery of invasion would constitute an easy target for the Japanese special attack corps. To take the small island of Okinawa the U.S.A., said Kurihara, had sacrificed 1,500 warcraft and 80,000 men. Yet Okinawa had been “at a considerable distance” from Japan’s air bases. What damage then could be worked at closer range!

Indeed, added the rear-admiral, “it is easy to consider that in the coming decisive battle our side will be able to mobilize forces several times greater than the enemy’s. For the first time we shall have [illegible] superior forces to deal with a numerically inferior enemy. So it will be all right for our side.” Nor was that all. It was even to be expected, said Kurihara, “that if some remnants of the enemy forces succeed in landing, they will be unbalanced forces. They might have to land without tanks or their tanks might have to land without oil.”

And what about the effect of this on the U.S.A.? “The U.S.A. is not fighting an easy war,” Kurihara assured his “deeply impressed” audience. “The Americans want to end this war quickly. They are a calculating people. They will soon start counting up their money. For the Americans this is not a war for self-preservation and even the rich Americans will think a war-cost of 150 million yen a day a little excessive and unprofitable, whether they win the war or not. Moreover, in view of their national character, there is no saying what unforeseen events may occur if the war drags on.”

How different the people of the Yamato race! “Once,” confessed the rear-admiral, “I thought that if Tokyo was hardly damaged by bombings, the regular mind would be disturbed and martial law would have to be proclaimed. But actually there have been no disturbances. I consider that a proof of what a fine people we are. Our people may have petty complaints and grievances but they are bearing them. They are a great race. This great race cannot lose the war.”

Thus, frightened into desperation, blinded by fanaticism, [illegible] with superstitions and fanciful hopes of victory, the Japanese fight on. [illegible] “a little while longer”. They must learn to “hate the enemy.” They must learn also “eat weeds”. They are “a great race” and in the defense of “the holy state, the imperial land, the land of the gods” they cannot lose.

 

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.

20th June 1945

Without comment the papers today quoted the Guam radio on the death of Lieutenant-General Simon B. Buckner on Okinawa.

Tonight Vargas had dinner with an officer of the military police who had been in Manila. The questions which he asked Vargas were unexpected, to say the least. How, in the opinion of Vargas, could the war be brought to an end? What kind of peace proposals would be acceptable to the Americans? How did the Americans feel about the Russians?

11th-15th June 1945

“As the earth hardens in the rain, so also the government and the people have grown more united,” wrote the Asahi. It was a rain of fire and steel, a bloody hurricane, that swept the divine land as the diet met in 87th extraordinary session. Flames licked the rubble of the imperial cities. On Okinawa the tragic remnants of a mighty imperial army, lossening their grasp on the ruins of Shuri and Naha, turned heavily, weary with the hopeless combat, upon a new landing in their rear. “It is the eve of the invasion of the mainland,” cried the war minister.

On this ultimate eve the diet was convened. On the 8th it went through the ritual of organization. On the 9th it rose to listen to the emperor, severe in service uniform with the Grand Order of the Chrysanthemum and the First Class Order of the Golden Kite. “Our loyal and heroic officers and men are crushing the formidable enemy…. Our 100 million loyal subjects, braving the ravages of war and bearing the devastation of fire, are devoting themselves to the performance of their duties behind the guns…. We are greatly delighted at all this.”

But the situation of the world had changed “suddenly and unexpectedly”. “There is a steady increase in the rampancy of the enemy, intent on aggression and invasion.” “We rely upon the loyalty and bravery of you, Our people, and share your hardships. and thereby desire to complete the work left by Our ancestors.” “You are to bear Our wishes in mind and deliberate in harmony….”

Not even this grave injunction from the Son of Heaven sufficed to bring harmony to the diet. The session had been called for two days, the 9th and 10th, to consider six emergency measures. Amid a storm of boos and protests the government was compelled to postpone adjournment, first one day to the 11th, then another day to the 12th. It was not till the morning of the 13th that weary old Admiral Suzuki could bow to the empty throne in the hall of deliberation and, having read the imperial rescript, hand it with reverence to the speaker of the house.

Did the diet have a premonition that it would never meet again as the legislature of a great and undefeated empire? Perhaps, for in those four days it fought tenaciously for rights and privileges which had already become memories without significance. It haggled stubbornly with the bumbling government over text and chapter, power and responsibility. It seemed obsessed with the dying desire to appear well before posterity.

The crux of the controversy was the bill providing for wartime emergency measures. No one disputed the emergency. The peers and the deputies knew as well as the premier that “the situation on Okinawa today is very serious and we have come to stage where we have to expect an enemy invasion of the mainland.” They knew as well as the Minister of War that “the general situation in East Asia is not favorable to us” and that late in May the Japanese forces were forced to fall back from the Shuri-Naha line and readjust their front. And they could regret with the minister of the navy that “before the enemy task forces around Okinawa could be annihilated, our land forces were pressed back.”

Nor did the peers and deputies deny that extraordinary measures were required. Starvation must be staved off; arms produced; defenses set up; order maintained. But who would assume responsibility? The executive wished to share it with the legislature while at the same time retaining full authority. Thus it asked the diet to authorize the government to rule by decree and report to a standing committee of the legislature. The diet protested that this was responsibility without authority. If the government wished to retain full authority, then let it exercise the supreme ordinance prerogative of the emperor under Article 31 of the constitution and bear full responsibility. But if the government wished to associate the diet with it in responsibility, then the diet must have more than a report; it must be “consulted”.

On these main lines the debate ran its turbulent course. Was the government asking the abdication of the diet? Was it seeking to overturn the constitution? What was more futile than a “report”? But what was more awkward in an emergency than to “consult”? Negotiation followed interpellation. The new “political party”, the Dai Nippon Seiji Mai, was making its debut and could not begin with a fiasco.

Finally a compromise was reached. The government agreed to “consult” a standing committee of the diet but it reserved the right to act first and talk afterward in case of an unavoidable emergency. The peers and deputies were satisfied and the Times could editorialize with fine fervor: “The effect of this action of the diet is to associate the diet, and with it the people at large, in an inseparably intimate partnership with the government in all measures to cope with the national emergency.”

After they had made their point on the wartime emergency measures law, the peers and the deputies quickly passed the five other bills proposed by the government. The Times summarized succinctly: “Without going into detail the essential effects of these measures can quickly be noted. The passage of the wartime emergency measure bill has given the government full power to put promptly into effect, without further legislative process, whatever measures it considers necessary to deal with urgent matters concerning the production of ammunition and foodstuffs, the disposition of areas affected by disaster, the strengthening of transport and communications, and the administration of banking and financial affairs, in accordance with the emergency situation. In other words the government has been delegaed with extraordinary power to exercise summary authority in keeping with the demands of any situation which may arise.

“The passing of the national volunteer corps bill,” the Times continued, “Has accorded legal status to the volunteer corps  [illegible] government arising from among the people. This measure thus makes possible the formal incorporation of the volunteer corps into the official defense organization of the government, on full war footing if the occassion should ever demand it.

“The bills concerning the application of the army criminal law, the army court martial law, and the naval court martial law to members of the national volunteer corps supplement and complete the legalization of the volunteer corps and subject its members to full military discipline and orders in the event of their being called into active service. The various other bills,” concluded the Times, “although more technical and less extensive in scope, follow in the same pattern.”

Yesterday the 14th June the Premier Admiral Baron could at length afford to face the press.

Why precisely had the government courted the bitter debate over the emergency measures instead of having recourse immediately to the imperial prerogative to rule directly by decree?

Because, replied Suzuki, revealing more than he knew, he did not want to give the impression that the state was run by the armed forces. And, with an ingenuous reference to “enemy propaganda designed to alienate the people from the armed forces”, he betrayed a deep apprehension of its effectiveness.

Tojo resigned after Saipan; Koiso, after Yiojima. What did he propose to do under the present circumstances?

[illegible] repeatedly declared and he declared it again, replied Suzuki, that he would serve to the death. Besides he did not view Yiojima and Okinawa with undue pessimism; Japan, he insisted, had won a “moral victory” on Yiojima that more than made up for the loss of the island while Okinawa –well, Okinawa would not decide the war….

But the interview, which was carried at length in all the vernaculars today, rambled and faltered despite the fine brave words. Now, at this final crisis of the empire, “the cross-roads between rise and fall”, the Premier Admiral Baron found in his hands all the powers that a subject could hold under the God-Emperor. But what was he to do with them?

He stared fiercely into the future, under his gray shaggy eyebrows, this omnipotent old man, and he did not know what to do with his omnipotence. Power must be used; it is futile until it is applied; it explodes in the hands of its possessor if it is not hurled in time against the target. But, he must have thought as he fumbled with the stick of dynamite, what on earth could he do with it now that he had it?

Power, full power, “without further legislative process”, to raze a whole coast, to make a streetcar stop where it had stopped twice, to seize every factory in the empire, to put this school girl in an assembly-line and make that mechanic work 24 hours a day. But what was the use of that when there were materials for only three hours a day and when every factory turned to ashes in air raids?

Where was the diet that could grant him one good solid bar of steel? They had not given him the emergency power to make two and add up to a thousand? Why had they forgotten to invest him with the summary authority to order the mountains to yield rice and the mulberry trees to grow sweet potatoes?

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.”