- Historic Sites
The author entered the conquered capital days after the surrender to meet high officers of the Imperial Navy
May/June 1995 | Volume 46, Issue 3
We victors were too busy to think much about spoils, but I did accept a fine samurai sword from a former staff officer of the 2d Air Fleet who about a year earlier had been doing his best to sink me. Another gift I didn’t know how to cope with came from Capt. Toshikaza Ohmae of the Naval War College, an officer who had become a major source of information and facilitation of our interviews. I went out to see him when weather was getting cool and heat was short. The tables at which we worked were covered with blankets that extended to the floor, enclosing electric heaters so that at least our feet would stay warm. On the wall of the room we were using there hung a sizable oil painting, perhaps five feet by eight feet, of a tempestuous marine scene. When I admired it, I was told that it represented the original kamikaze, or “divine wind,” which in 1281 demolished an invading Mongol fleet. Totally unexpectedly Ohmae asked me, “Would you like it?’ Uncertain at first of what he had said and puzzled about the etiquette of the situation, I asked him to repeat. Then I thanked him but said I thought it belonged where it was. What did not occur to me, under the pressure of the moment, was that where it was was about to be abolished as soon as we left Tokyo.
On one occasion I did acquire a little loot. One afternoon, with some rare spare time, I took my only excursion outside Tokyo, driving out to the west in pretty country with a fine view of Mount Fuji. Happening upon a naval air station, I drove in to investigate. It was deserted, without even a watchman that I could find. But I did find a warehouse with all sorts of good things made to military specifications sitting purposelessly on open shelves. There is, of course, only so much a man can carry, so I had to restrain myself, but I did get a parachute to provide my wife with some silken yard goods and a bomber navigator’s compass that I found useful for my sailboat.
Only twice did I get inside Japanese houses, both times courtesy of a colleague who had worked in Tokyo before the war. The first time was when he found that some acquaintances of his were having a kind of tag sale of kimonos and silks, priced high in yen but low in cigarettes. What they really wanted was penicillin; this was surprising, for the stuff had come into production only during the war. The second time was when he took me along to lunch at the home of a minor-league captain of industry. The house was not particularly large but was certainly comfortable: a central court and pool with puddle ducks, a marble Caucasian nude in the middle and another one inside over the fireplace, much kneeling and scraping by the servants. The food was delicious: wild duck and salmon. Clearly not everyone was on short rations. The host and hostess were very pleasant; he appeared to have a considerable hangover.
I doubt we would have felt like going to a Nazi party just months after V-E Day, but this seemed the most natural thing in the world.
For our part we entertained little. We did have to dinner Captain Ohmae, who had been so helpful in arranging and scheduling. Additionally we (I mean, the admiral) had Ambassador Nomura for dinner one evening. Two other bigwigs had been asked but did not show up, but Nomura was all we needed. Dignified and affable, he was an impressive presence, and he endeared himself to us by bringing along two or three bottles of the imperial household’s Old Suntori five-chrysanthemum Japanese scotch. It was good.
By the time we were down to our last two or three scheduled interrogations we were under orders to make an early departure. On November 22 the staffs of the War College and Liaison Office gave us a farewell dinner. This may seem odd. After all, they had lost their navy, their careers were ended, and their country was in ruins. But in their relations with us they were always disciplined and professional: the nuclear bombs had been merely technically interesting; the much worse fire raids were a matter of course; they knew who had started the war; and they worked hard to make friends. I doubt very much that we would have felt like going to a Nazi party only months after V-E Day, but this seemed the most natural thing in the world.
In any case it was done up in fine style: sushi, a soup consisting of meatballs and spaghetti in water, broiled sparrow, baked eel, sukiyaki (beef provided by us), and sake and whiskey (the latter provided by us as well). Also a clutch of very attractive geisha, equipped with a windup gramophone and a stack of records of Japanese popular music. A fine time was had by all, so much so that the affair ran overtime, the sake ran out, and in the absence of either water or ice we were reduced to drinking whiskey neat, with predictable results. I remember a serious discussion of Buddhism and the emperor system with one of my neighbors at the table and that my other neighbor was unable to stand up when the party was over. Fortunately all of us conquerors made it.
That was the grand finale. The next afternoon I got a ride down to the airport at Kisarazu and headed out to Pearl, Oakland, and Washington. There we settled in for a few months of editorial work on our two volumes of Interrogations and one volume of Campaigns of the Pacific War . After that it was demobilization.