Democracy with a Tommygun by Wilfred Burchett
The gap between completion of a book and its publication, plus the rapid march of events these days, makes any book of this nature slightly out of date by the time it finds its way into the booksellers' windows. In a postscript one can but briefly review the events which brought about the final collapse of Japan, and have a quick glimpse of Japan in defeat, and sum up the situation as presented by later events and information.
After Iwo Jima was occupied, to provide a halfway haven for distressed Super Fortress crews and bases for their fighter protection, Okinawa was next on the list for invasion. The Okinawa campaign coincided with the projection for the first time of large scale British naval forces into the Pacific and the intensification of Japanese suicide attacks against allied shipping. The Japs enrolled virtually all their air, naval and undersea forces into the Kamikaze "sure death sure hit" units.
With nothing to look forward to but defeat on land, sea and in the air, to loss of their Empire and annihilation of their cities, the Japanese prepared for race suicide. The will to survive, to maintain the fruitful life and democratic privileges which had spurred on freedom-loving peoples to such prodigious efforts had no equivalent in Japan. The negative philosophy of fatalism, produced by centuries of misery and oppression, resulted in the mass "will to die" of which Japanese leaders were so proud.
The mass suicide attacks, with fifty or sixty planes hurtling out of the sky at a time and trying to plunge into the decks of the fighting ships caused heavy losses to the United States Navy off Okinawa, but failed to halt the invasion forces. Okinawa was secured, and by the beginning of August, 1945, substantial progress had been made in converting Okinawa into a spring board for the invasion of Japan proper, scheduled for the beginning of November.
On August 6, I was on Okinawa inspecting the immense developmental work done there; the great Super Fortress bases laid down, the hundreds of miles of roads, thousands of acres of ground cleared, and already covered with supplies for the invasion. Standing near the end of a long line of troops, waiting for midday "chow," with tin plate and mug in hand, I could hear the radio crackling and indistinct words about a powerful new bomb which had just been tried. To me and a few score people standing with me, the damp Okinawa heat and our hunger seemed more important than any new bomb. No one paid much attention to the broadcast of President Truman's announcement. No one in that mess hall realised that a few hundred miles to the north the most deadly weapon of all time had been unleashed and the birth of a new source of power demonstrated.
It took several hours of repeated broadcasts before the significance of what had happened dawned on us. Then the reaction was "What the heirs the good of us working to develop this place? They won't need any thousand bomber raids any more."
Back at Guam, where 20th Air Force had its headquarters, the first photos of Hiroshima were soon available, and even the layman could see that something new and terrible had been accomplished by atomic bombing. One bomb had wiped out an area equivalent to that cleared by four or five hundred Super Fortresses in normal incendiary raids. And in Hiroshima the devastated area included the built-up part of the city, not just the bamboo and paper shack section.
Within a week of the atom bomb tearing Hiroshima apart it was obvious the Japs wanted to get out of the war. On August 15, before the surrender terms had been accepted, the 4th Marine Regiment, the same unit with which I had landed for the invasion of Guam, were embarked for landing operations in Japan. Officers and men were conscious of the honour bestowed on the regiment that it should have been selected for this prize job of the whole Pacific war. Their previous assignment had been as part of the 6th Marine division on Okinawa, where they suffered over one hundred per cent. casualties, including men twice wounded and replacement casualties.
General MacArthur was to fly two airborne divisions to an airfield about 20 miles from Tokyo. The Navy was to put the 4th Marine regiment ashore at the great Yokosuka naval base, 10 miles south of Yokohama. There was uneasy speculation aboard the transport on which I travelled as to whether or not the Japs would resist. It was a slender occupation force with which to face three or four million armed Japs. We began to feel even more uncomfortable as we cruised off the Japanese coast and heard reports of Japs still shooting at our planes and suicide attacks against shipping off Okinawa.
Our transport fleet dropped anchor on August 28 in Sagami Bay, just west of the entrance to Tokyo Bay, in the shadow of Mount Fujiyama. That beautiful first evening, when we lay at anchor surrounded by the greatest concentration of battleships and cruisers seen in this war, and watched the sun set in a magnificent blaze of colour behind Mount Fujiyama, was the realisation of the ambitions of every man afloat since the Jap attack on Pearl Harbour. For the first time men could relax and luxuriate in the thought that it was really over and they were still alive. The calm of the smooth olive-green waters of Sagami Bay, the peaceful profile of mist-swathed Fujiyama were matched by the unhurried indifference of the Japanese people we could see on the shores. They did not appear to have any fight left in them, as we watched them through telescopes and binoculars. Adults were bathing, children paddling and splashing about as if life had always followed its normal course for them and always would. They seemed curiously uninterested in the vast armada which had suddenly appeared on their back doorstep.
Americans and British were vying with each other in smartening up their ships for the triumphal entry into Tokyo Bay on August 30. The British battleship "King George" was the first to fly its peace-time flags and replace the brass caps on gun muzzles. Everything that could be polished and painted was painted and polished.
On August 29, the first enemy prize submarines were brought into the harbour. One, a huge craft with displacement of five thousand tons and hangar space for four aeroplanes was easily the largest of its kind in the world, twice the size of the famous French "Surcouf." The size of the Jap subs was a surprise to Allied naval men, but the Japs had used them very little for offensive purposes. Their main role was the supply of outlying garrisons with food and munitions.
In the small hours of the morning of the 30th, our convoy weighed anchor. Dawn found us moving through the narrow straits into Tokyo Bay, the shoreline dotted with white flags denoting Jap gun positions. Battleships and cruisers were drawn up opposite our landing beaches, the bared muzzles of the big battleships pointed shore-wards, ready to smother any attempt to interfere with the landing. British Marines had landed before dawn on two small islands in the bay to remove essential parts from Jap coastal guns there.
Crowded into a landing barge headed for the shore we all had a sharp curiosity as to the nature of our reception. Either this was the easiest landing we had made or it would be the bloodiest. If the Japanese wanted to make a fight of it, one Marine regiment would be wiped out in a short time. We were to land in regular battle formation, with five assault waves, followed by reinforcements with guns and tanks. We churned in towards the beach, past the burned-out hulk of the battleship "Nagato." There was no sign of life on shore, and our barge came to rest gently on the beach, the door was lowered and we swarmed ashore without a shot being fired.
Marines spread out across what had been a parade ground of the Yokosuka naval barracks, setting up preliminary defence positions. Within a few minutes a team of bedraggled looking Japanese, some in civilian clothes, others in nondescript uniforms, marched nervously down to the parade ground to offer their services as interpreters. They had been drawn from the ranks of post office employees, bank clerks and school teachers, and were as badly scared a group of men as I have ever seen.
In Yokosuka town, shops and houses were closed and shuttered. For the first hour or two there was no sign of life. Gradually people began to peep from windows and open their doors an inch or two. By midday some shop doors were wide open and by late afternoon people were walking the streets, returning from hiding in the hills and doing a brisk trade in the few souvenirs available. It was notable that food shops were completely bare, that every gap caused by bombing had been turned into some sort of garden, that people had even rigged off tiny plots on the footpaths with stones, filled them in with dirt and were growing tomatoes and egg plants on top of the kerb stones. Civilians seemed amazed and relieved that Allied troops did not rampage through the city shooting, robbing and raping as their own soldiers would have done in similar circumstances.
Tokyo was the main goal for correspondents, and as there seemed to be trains running from Yokosuka station, Bill McGaffin, of Chicago Daily News, and I, bought a ticket at the station and caught a train for Tokyo. McGaffin had been in America when the surrender offer was made and flew out to join the fleet just in time to be in at the death.
We created a sensation on the train. We were the only foreigners aboard, and although the train was packed, people cleared a space for us and stood around watching us with a mixture of fear and curiosity, but as far as we could see, no resentment. We knew little Japanese, and had to ask at each station whether that was Tokyo. Information was readily forthcoming, and soon an English-speaking Jap was thrust forward to explain how many stops the train would make before we reached the capital.
The train travelled by way of Yokohama, and from the time we reached to within three or four miles of that city until we reached Tokyo, we travelled through devastation that we thought must be without parallel. That was before I visited Hiroshima.
Mile after mile the train rattled through districts which had formerly been the most densely populated in the world. Now there was nothing left but flat acres with green growing through the ashes, and hundreds of shacks improvised from rusted corrugated iron remnants of factories. Factories were reduced to shambles of concrete rubble, twisted girders and shattered, rusty machinery. Residential districts had disappeared almost without trace. We began to feel more and more nervous, sitting there surrounded by people who were technically still our enemies, with the evidence of such terrible destruction on every side. The Japs, however, gazed stolidly at us and the ruins, and showed neither hatred nor resentment at our presence.
Our first goal was the Imperial Hotel, but we found this taken over by colleagues who had landed with General MacArthur's airborne troops a few hours ahead of the Marines. We went to the only other hotel still extant in Tokyo, the Dai Iti. It was a bizarre situation. We were the first signs of occupation the manager had seen. He apologised that the hotel was full, and in any case uncomfortable. He explained that we would be the only foreigners amongst a hotel full of Japanese, some of whom, as he expressed it, were "hotheads." After more apologies and explanations he agreed to give us rooms and produced forms for us to fill in, exactly as if we had arrived on a Cook's tour. Solemnly we filled in answers to such questions as at what port we had landed, how long we would remain in Japan, had we been in Japan before, what references could we give in Japan. The manager was concerned when we told him we could not complete the section referring to passport and visa particulars.
Tokyo for those first few days was a prime example of how completely the Japanese people had accepted defeat. A couple of weeks earlier to think of surrender was to commit a treachery. The propaganda services instilled into people's minds that with their wonderful suicide weapons no invasion of Japan would be possible. Every person was to be mobilised and ready to mow down with bamboo spears any invader who succeeded in setting foot on the sacred soil of Japan. Now, a couple of days before the surrender was signed, a handful of correspondents without any supporting troops, had taken over the nation's capital, and they occupied it alone for eight days. They registered in the hotels, wandered where they wished without molestation. The Emperor had told people to behave and not to cause "incidents," so the people behaved. Just as the initial wave of suicides outside the Emperor's palace stopped the instant the Emperor ordered no more suicides.
Much of the built-up portion of Tokyo was intact. The large modern concrete and stone buildings facing the Imperial palace were hardly touched. Most of the damage was in the residential quarter, where the first fire raid on March 10 killed 100,000 people in two hours, according to local figures. Three-quarters of Tokyo's population had fled to the country, most of the rest were living in the one-roomed, rusty iron shacks that had sprung up like weeds among the ruins, or in open dugouts that offered scant protection against the wet and cold that was already setting in in early September.
After Tokyo most of us wanted to see Hiroshima, but it was difficult to arrange transportation there. It lay about four hundred miles from Tokyo, we had little information about the roads, and first reports of the Hiroshima airfield were that it was out of commission. We were further handicapped by the reluctance of the Army Public Relations staff to shift their headquarters from Yokohama to Tokyo. I decided to stake a long chance and try to travel to Hiroshima by train, as the manager of the Dai Iti hotel assured me there was a daily train which passed through where Hiroshima used to be.
At what was left of Tokyo's central station, I managed to squeeze in amongst a lot of Japanese soldiers to find standing room at the end of a compartment on a Hiroshima-bound train. I had stuffed my military cap and pistol belt into a bag, and dressed in jungle greens and carrying an umbrella borrowed from the Dai Iti manager I hoped I would be mistaken for a peaceful civilian rather than one of the occupation troops. There was a number of White Russians, Swedes, Swiss and Portuguese about, so there was a chance that I would be taken for a neutral. We were so tightly jammed together that there was no chance of even sitting on the floor, still less of getting into the compartment, which seemed full of Jap officers.
The troops were sullen at first, craning their necks to get a look at me, jabbering and gesticulating amongst themselves in a not very friendly manner. My cigarettes soon broke down the barriers, however, and by the end of six hours standing with them, they were all smiles, pressing bits of fish and hardboiled eggs on me in exchange for cigarettes. They all had enormous bundles with them, and I found out later they had just been demobilised and were allowed to take away from the barracks as much food and drink as they could carry as well as their rifles wrapped up in blankets.
After the first six hours the crowd began to thin out and I managed to wedge my way into the compartment where there were fairly comfortable seats. If I had thrown in a hand grenade I could hardly have provoked more surprise or displeasure amongst the officers. They were the most unhappy collection of men I have ever seen. They still carried their long swords, many of them had pistols and short samurai swords as well. There was a great muttering and grumbling and fingering of sword hilts as I perched myself timidly on the edge of one of the seats. An officer in the seat shrank away as if I were a carrier of plague germs, and barked something at me, which of course I didn't understand. Soon, however, they settled down to stare gloomily at the floor or into space, their hands clasped over their sword hilts.
About half a dozen seats away from me I could see the back of a grey head. The hair looked so fine and the shape of the head so much like that of a European, that when the train next stopped I forced my way down, and sure enough found a European with an English book titled "Contemporary Japan" on his lap. I asked if he was English and he replied:
"No. I'm an American priest."
I expressed great pleasure at meeting him and was probably more than ordinarily exuberant at meeting a fellow traveller with whom I could talk.
"Don't speak loudly and don't smile," he said quietly. "These chappies with the big sticks between their legs aren't happy to-day. I knew there was another foreigner on the train by the things they've been saying. They're not a bit pleased about you. They've just been sent home on account of what's happened on the big boat to-day. (It was September 2, the date of the surrender signing aboard the 'Missouri'.) If you want to speak to me, do so in a roundabout way, because many of them know a few words of our lingo."
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I'm travelling under guard. I have been in camp the last years, and a few days ago they took me to Tokyo to broadcast to our troops and tell them what they must expect to find in Japan and how they must behave. Now they're taking me back to Kyoto to lock me up again."
I managed to get a seat near the priest, with a civilian sitting next to me and two officers opposite. I offered the civilian a cigarette, which he took, but the two officers shook their heads angrily, with tightly compressed lips, when I held out the packet to them. One of them even leaned over, snatched the cigarette out of the civilian's mouth and threw it out the window, muttering at him angrily as he did so. A Japanese general came into the compartment and asked about me. Half a dozen officers began to try and explain how and when I had arrived.
"Take it easy," said the priest, "there's a pretty tense situation here at the moment and if we make any mistakes we may get into bad trouble. Don't laugh or smile whatever you do. They'll only think we are gloating over what's taking place on the big boat today."
When the priest referred to what was happening on the big boat this day, September 2, 1945, my thoughts naturally reverted to the scene where 250 of my colleagues, representing the World Press, with representatives of the allied nations, had gathered on the decks of the American battleship "Missouri" to officially seal the surrender of the greatest military and naval power the East had known, and bring to an end World War II.
I could imagine the scene with all its pageantry, and realised that even while the signatures of victors and vanquished were being affixed to the historic document I, a rather lonely figure gambling with fate, was speeding to Hiroshima. My missionif I arrivedwas to give to the world from the ground floor the first description by a white observer, of this monstrous cause which had precipitated this surrender.
I didn't feel like laughing or smiling, especially as I watched the glowering officers playing with the hilts or tassels of their swords. The train had no lighting and we seemed to spend about half our time running through mile-long tunnels. My imagination worked overtime in those long jet black tunnels, and I thought I could hear swords coming out of scabbards every few seconds.
The tension ended in a curious way. I had asked the priest if my bags were safe out on the platform. There had not been room to bring them in with me.
"Your bags will be alright," he said, "They might bump us off, but an officer wouldn't stoop to steal your bags."
I mentioned that I had a Hermes typewriter which I would not like to lose, and it turned out that the priest had one of the same make which had been giving him trouble. I got my bags and produced my machine and he was allowed to get his from the luggage rack. We exchanged typewriters, and as soon as I started typing half the officers crowded round to see what I was doing. They were intrigued to see twin typewriters produced in such circumstances and were even more interested in watching the words and sentences take shape. Their curiosity was expressed in a sort of joviality amongst themselves and they seemed better disposed towards me when the priest explained that I was a writer. I passed cigarettes around again, and this time they were accepted. I was given in return a roll of dark bread, some fish and a few pieces of grape sugar. A civilian produced a silver flask of saki and tiny goblets and soon everyone's suspicions seemed to be dispelled.
The officers never looked really happy, however, throughout the whole trip to Hiroshima. They looked like people stunned by some great disaster. Slumped over their swords, which would soon be stripped from them, they brooded darkly over a future which boded no good for them.
The privates standing on the platform were cheerful by comparison. For them the end of the war meant a reprieve from almost certain death. It meant they could return to their farms and homes, to carry on their lives from where they had left off when they were drafted into the army. For the officers it was the end of their world. Their social prestige, their financial standing, their careers were finished. Most of them were not trained for anything but war making. Their position in society was dependent upon their uniforms and side-arms. That was all over. But one could only wonder how many of those Jap officers really accepted the fact that it was all over. Militarism dies hard, and one can be fairly sure that most of these officers would plot and plan to stage a comeback if not to wage war again at least to seize power inside their own country. Demobilised career officers make a dangerous army of unemployed, as we know from recent history in Germany, Italy and Spain.
My priest left me at Kyoto to return to internment until our occupying forces should reach that city, I was sorry to see him go, as Kyoto was still ten hours from Hiroshima, and I didn't look forward to the long journey alone.
The train rumbled on through the night, and it was impossible to get any sleep, huddled in the seat with people and their bundles jammed in all round. The officers shoved civilians back on to the platform when they tried to swarm in through the windows, but brother officers were allowed in no matter how they arrived. The procedure was reversed on my return journey, when the surrender had already been signed. Civilians were pushing soldiers, including officers, off trains, so sudden was the lowering of the latters' prestige.
At 4 a.m. the civilian who had provided the saki prodded me and said: "Kono eki wa Hiroshima desu," and so I piled out through the window into Hiroshima station, with the civilian throwing my bags out after me.
The station was badly knocked about and I had to leave by some improvised wooden gates. Just as I was congratulating myself on having actually arrived without real difficulties the first outsider to visit Hiroshima I felt a hand on my arm, and there were two black-uniformed police, nearly stumbling over their long swords in their anxiety to grab me. I tried to shake them off, but they held on and escorted me to a shelter of bags and rusty tin, within a stone's throw of the station. There were a broken chair, a table and three bicycles, only one of which had tyres. My guard sat me down in the chair and asked me questions which I didn't understand.
I told them many times in my poor Japanese that I was a "shimbun kisha" (correspondent), but did not seem to impress them. They woke up a woman who slept on the floor behind a bag screen and she prepared a breakfast of hot water and beans. Several times I got up to go, but each time was gently pushed back into the chair. It was too dark to see anything, and light rain was falling outside, so I was not too anxious at first about the wasted time. As soon as it became daylight, however, I opened up my bag, put on my officer's cap, strapped on my pistol and strode to the doorway. This time my two captors sprang to attention, saluted and let me go.
I never discovered why I was arrested and why released. Possibly they thought I was an escaped prisoner of war, until I put on my official garb; perhaps they thought they must protect me from the local civilians, who were reportedly extremely anti-foreign. It was a kindly detention.
The railway station was on the extreme outskirts of the city, and on the fringe of the belt of heavy destruction. The central ticket hall was still standing, but roof and windows were badly damaged. The rest of the station, offices, waiting rooms and ticket barriers had been swept away. From the improvised police station I could look across towards some outlines of buildings standing about two or three miles distant. There seemed to be nothing in between as I set out to walk towards those buildings in what I later found to be the centre of the city, I realised there was nothing left above ground for those miles and several miles beyond.
Walking through those Hiroshima streets one had a feeling of having been transplanted into some death stricken other planet. There was nothing but awful devastation and desolation. Lead-grey clouds hung low over the waste that had been a city of more than a quarter of a million people. Mists seemed to issue forth from fissures in the soil. There was a dank, acrid, sulphurous smell, and people hurried past without pausing or speaking to each other, white masks covering mouths and nostrils. Buildings had been pounded into grey and reddish dust, solidified into ridges and banks by the frequent rains.
As I gazed upon this panorama of terrible death and ghastly devastation which stretched to the horizon; with my nostrils assailed by the strange odour of this new death, I knew why the spirit of the men who signed the surrender had collapsed, and why even a nation of militarists, confronted with this awful spectacle of man-planned destruction, had lowered their flag, realising the futility of war upon such terms.
The bomb had fallen just a month previously and there was no time for greenery to cover the scars, even if vegetation would grow on that infested waste. Many trees, especially young willowy ones, were still standing, but stripped of leaves and smaller branches. They had offered resiliency to the terrible blast, but older stouter trees were lying on their sides, with yawning pits where their roots had been. I walked along a tram line from which all trace of overhead gear had disappeared. Trams themselves were lying on their sides or backs, burned-out hulks blown fifty feet away from the tracks.
No one stopped to look at me. Everybody seemed hurried and intent on their own business, whatever it was that brought them into this city of death. In the centre of the town I found that the buildings I had seen from the distance were outlines only, having been gutted by fires which swept through after most of the city had dissolved in a great pillar of dust. In one building, however, there was a police headquarters, and here I managed to make myself and my wants known. Eventually the police provided me with an interpreter, car and guide. The latter was from the local Domei News Agency, the interpreter was a charming Canadian-born Japanese girl.
The Domei man, who was four miles from the centre of Hiroshima when the bomb fell, described the event as follows:
"We had an alarm early in the morning, but only two aircraft appeared. We thought they were reconnaissance planes and nobody took much notice. The 'All Clear' sounded and everybody started on their way back to work. Then at 8.20 a.m. one plane came back. We thought it was another photo plane, and alarms weren't even sounded. I was just about to leave for work when there was a blinding light, as if from a giant flash of lightning. At the same time I felt a scorching heat on my face and the house dropped about me. While I was still on the ground there sounded a booming explosion as if a two ton bomb had dropped alongside me. When I looked out there was a tremendous pillar of black smoke, shaped like a parachute, drifting upwards with a scarlet thread in the middle of it. As I watched the scarlet was diffused through the smoke pillar until the whole thing was glowing red. Hiroshima had disappeared. I knew something new to our experience had occurred. I tried to phone our office, then the police and fire brigade, to find out what had happened, but I couldn't even raise the exchange."
He couldn't raise the exchange because all the telephone operators had been killed. Seventy-five per cent. of the police force, fire brigade and A.R.P. workers were also killed amongst the hundred thousand dead of Hiroshima.
From the third floor of the police station, which had formerly been a bank, and the most solid building in the city, one could see almost to the horizon, nothing but flat acres of ground, from which rose a few trees and factory chimneys. Amongst the buildings still standing was a church, which had jumped into the air from about three feet off the ground. It had twisted round and come to rest practically intact but crazily athwart its foundations. Low level heavy concrete bridges had jumped off their piles, some spans landing back again, others dropping down into the river. All balustrades and stone work from bridges had disappeared. Of the Emperor's palace and large military barracks there was not a sign except for red dust and broken grey tiles strewn on the ground. There were no broken walls, large chunks of rubble, blocks of stone and concrete, nor any craters as one usually sees in a bombed city. It was destruction by pulverisation. The only explanation for these buildings still standing seemed to be that they were directly underneath the bomb as it parachuted down to explode and they were perhaps caught in a sort of safety cone, as the explosive force expanded round about them.
Floating in the river were hundreds and hundreds of dead fish, floating with their white bellies dully gleaming in the misty air. Although scientists who visited Hiroshima later testified that there was no radioactivity left in soil or water, they did not have an adequate explanation for the dead fish in the river. These could not have been victims from the original explosion, otherwise they would have been washed out to sea weeks earlier.
In an improvised hospital on the outer rim of the devastated city, I saw evidence of what atomic bombing does to humans. Stretched out on filthy mats on the floor were scores of people in various stages of dying from atomic radiation. At least the doctors assured me they must all die, unless Allied doctors and scientists had some antidote to the terrible wasting disease that had stricken down thousands of people since the bomb was dropped.
All the victims were terribly emaciated and gave off an odor that almost halted me at the hospital door. Some had purplish burns on face and body, others had bunched bluish black marks near the necks. The doctor in charge told me that he was completely at a loss how to treat his patients. A group of Japanese scientists working on some cadavers in a filthy dissecting room, told me they had no clue as to what caused the wave of deaths, after the bombing.
The chief doctor said: "At first we treated these burns as we would any others, but patients just wasted away and died. Then people without marks on them, who hadn't been (here when the bomb exploded, fell sick and died. We thought there must be some poisonous gases left in the wake of the bomb, and people were told to wear masks. We soon found there was no damage to the respiratory organs, but people still feel safer with their masks. Patients came to us with swelling throats, and we thought we were in for a diphtheria epidemic, but they wasted away, hair fell out, they started bleeding through eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and within a few days they were dead. We tried to build them up by giving Vitamin C injections, but the flesh rotted away from the needle and they died just the same. We have found out now that something is killing off the white corpuscles, and there's not a thing we can do to arrest it. There is no known way of replacing white corpuscles."
"What are you doing for these people?" I asked.
"We have no nurses. Most of them were killed and of those that were left some died through handling the patients, others just left. Now we don't admit patients unless their relatives stay here and look after them. We try and provide vitamin-rich foods and keep the wounds clean. Apart from that we can do nothing."
The assistant city health officer told me they had found that those who took sick after the raid, in almost every case, were those who had been digging round in the ruins for bodies of relatives or for buried belongings. They thought there must be some rays released by disturbing the soil, so now no one was allowed to dig amongst the ruins.
"There are thirty thousand bodies in the dirt and rubble," he said, "and they must remain unburied until we can find some way of dealing with the disease."
One curious thing that I heard several times when I was in Hiroshima was that cows and horses that were severely wounded and burned had nearly all recovered, whereas most humans who were marked in any way had died.
A commission of Japanese scientists was at work in the city, trying to decide whether it was safe to rebuild Hiroshima on the old site, or whether they would have to build elsewhere. The suggestion by one British scientist that the ground would be contaminated for at least seventy years, was taken very seriously in view of the atomic plague which had smitten the city.
Through the good offices and perseverance of the Canadian-Japanese interpreter I managed to get the first story of Hiroshima phoned back to my colleague in Tokyo, and so to the outside world.
My black-uniformed police took charge of me again at the Hiroshima station, putting me under benevolent detention, feeding me on dried beans and weak tea, and allowing me to sleep on the wooden floor until my train left in the early hours of the morning, back to Tokyo.
Hiroshima marked the end of World War II, and the beginning of the new Atomic Age. If one can derive any comfort from the reverse side of a picture as terrible as that of Hiroshima, it is that by its very frightfulness the development of atomic power will force nations to renounce war as a means of settling their disputes. The horrible fact of Hiroshima has given added urgency to the United Nations organisation, has established in most people's minds that unless we can act together to build world peace, civilisation will be destroyed. The scientists who developed the bomb in America and Britain have uttered the most solemn warnings as to what will happen in the event of another war. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was the smallest unit which could be produced. Bombs twenty to fifty times as powerful are possible with the knowledge that scientists now have. Professor Oppenheimer, of America, and Professor Oliphant, of Great Britain, the leading atomic scientists of their respective countries, have confirmed that any country reasonably advanced in scientific research can produce atomic power within a year or two, and that international control is the only way of avoiding world catastrophe. Control or catastrophe are the only two alternatives, and control cannot be effective without a strong world organisation.
After leaving Hiroshima I had the happiest experience of my four years war reporting. I knew I was four hundred and fifty miles ahead of our occupying forces, and I determined to visit a number of prison camps which I could reach days before our relief forces could arrive. There were two camps on the west Honshu Coast and three on the inland sea. The personal risks were certainly great, but no greater than those taken on my one-man trip to Hiroshima. Never will I forget the reception I got from our men.
American marines, British Imperial troops, and some Australians who were specially elated to think that it was one of their countrymen who should be the man to break the long silence of three and a half years with this wonderful story of victory.
After giving instructions to the Japanese Commandant, with all the authority I could muster, to obey surrender conditions and release the prisoners and see they were well fed, I then, in response to the entreaties of the men, gave a ten minutes talk, which I repeated at each camp. I have addressed various types of audiences in my time, but never such eager listeners. These men were famishing, they bore on their bodies all the evidences of physical hunger and suffering, but above all they were famishing for news. Hesitating for a moment whilst I called to mind the news most vital for them to hear, I felt the compulsion of scores of eyes that glittered with the intensity of their appeal, for me to begin. I could not stop long, and had to hurry away, leaving many questions unanswered.
My most dramatic encounter with Japanese authorities was at a large camp at Tsuruga. Here I sensed definite hostility by those in charge. I realised that I had to stage a supreme game of bluff, or fail in my mission. The news I heard from our men was disturbing. In the last few days there had been increasing concentration of troops around the camp, all fully armed, and our men had become suspicious. I put on my sternest expression, kept my hand on my revolver and sent for the Commandant. He saluted me on arrival, but I did not return it, but demanded why the terms of surrender were not being carried out. Why were these armed troops surrounding the camp? Why were not the prisoners released and placed in control of their own officers? The Commandant, in a surly tone, said he could not act without instructions from his superior officers. "Your superior officer," I said, "is General Mac-Arthur, and I demand that his orders be carried out immediately. Parade before me in ten minutes your Chief of Army Troops and Chief of Military Police."
While this scene was being enacted I had a delighted audience of American Marines, who appreciated seeing the tables turned on a particularly venomous Japanese type, known very secretly amongst our men as "The Pig." When the other officers arrived there was a hurried consultation between them, and I had some tense moments wondering how they would react to my bluff. To my intense relief they all approached where I was sitting, as if I had the whole of the Allies' military might within call bowed abjectly and said they would carry out surrender terms at once. By nightfall the Japanese had piled in their arms. A guard of our men were in charge, and to celebrate the great event the Japanese drove a cow into the camp, and our men had their first beefsteak in three and a half years.
Perhaps it was acting in an irregular manner, but it must be remembered I had just come from Hiroshima, where the whole fabric of our civilisation had received such a shattering that men everywhere were discussing whether the planet ever again could be made safe for human life. Why, then, delay such happiness as liberty could bring to these men one hour longer than necessary? Highly irregular? So was the atomic bomb.
This was the end of my assignment in the Pacific, and this last act in four years of war I look back upon without regret.
The end of the Pacific war brought with it a plague of troubles in the Far East, hinted at in earlier chapters of this book. The atomic bomb and abrupt ending of the war, shattered some prophecies I had made, particularly as regards China. Landings in North China were not necessary because Japan was blasted out of the war by other means. American troops who did land were not used to fight the Japanese, but to help Chiang Kai Shek attempt what he had never been able to do alone to wipe out the Communists. In one of the most muddle-headed periods of American diplomacy, the United States were within an ace of becoming committed to intervention in civil war in China. It is doubtful if Chiang Kai Shek would ever have attacked the Communist troops had he not been assured by Ambassador Hurley of United States support in supplying troops, equipment and transportation of Kuomintang troops.
Fortunately for democracy in China there was a band of impartial observers acting as war correspondents, which included many of the top-ranking journalists of "The States," whose testimony could not be disregarded. With the end of the war they returned home, and, relieved of heavy-handed Chungking censorship, they began to publish the truth. All of these men were sincere friends of China, whose only concern was that these peasant people who had endured such unspeakable sufferings, should at least have the prospect of a happier future.
Alarmed by American policy, and realising that it was encouraging the Chungking government, through its sense of power gained by American backing and lend-lease weapons, to drift further and further away from the principles of the Republic, they set up a "Committee for a Democratic Policy towards China." These correspondents, both within and without the committee, indulged in some plain speaking. One, popular journalist declared that the Chung'-/ king government was "a cross between Tammany Hall and the Spanish Inquisition." From Dr. Edgar Snow, the American public learned that Chiang had practically betrayed the revolution by committing the country to a semi-feudal economy of landlordism, peasant debt bondage and usury the very evils which his one-time leader, Dr. Sun Yat Sen had spent his life to abolish. Edgar Snow also told the Americans that "It was fortunate that the Communist party existed, as it is the great barrier in the way of the realisation of Chiang's fascist ideals, and the fact of its existence enables several minor parties with an important following, and liberals, to exist." Madame Sun Yat Sen, whose loyalty to the principles of the revolution has never wavered, and who has remained a poor woman whilst all the other members of the Soong family have accumulated great wealth, declared that "Reaction and fascism are strong in China. This is proved by the diversion of part of our National Army to the blockading of the guerilla areas, where the principles laid down by Sun Yat Sen still live." On August 26th, 1945, whilst I was on a transport on the way to Japan for the surrender, this American Committee to which I have referred, issued a statement over the signatures of Leland Stowe a correspondent of international fame and a number of other well known correspondents and authors, which read: "Today our government spokesmen and military leaders in China are adopting a policy which would not be approved by millions of Americans. They are lending political and military assistance to Kuomintang dictatorship, which has resisted democratic reforms in China and has given orders to Japanese and quisling puppet troops to hold their weapons, and if necessary use them, rather than surrender to the patriotic Eighth Route and new Fourth Route armies that have assumed the greatest burden of allied fighting in North and Central China. This policy on the part of our American representatives in China serves to wipe out the efforts of the Chinese people for a democratic and united nation. Now we are meddling, not to accelerate but to hold back the democratic working out of the Chinese situation."
The statement proceeded to show that there had been a rapid deterioration in the position since the recall of General Stillwell in response to the demand of Chiang Kai Shek, and that his successor, General Wedemeyer, by his extraordinary interpretation of the instructions governing the use of lend-lease weapons, was giving to the Chungking government not only transport for its armies, but military aid to suppress the Communists. Instruction from War Department said that weapons and personnel may not be used against the Chinese except for the protection of American property, "but," said General Wedemeyer, "the transport planes being used to transport Kuomintang troops, are American property," therefore he issued orders that if they were fired on by either Communists or Japanese, they were to return the fire and drop bombs on their assailants. The Communists were therefore expected to allow their enemies to land without resistance, or be destroyed by bombs and fire from the air. General Wedemeyer also admitted that twenty Chinese divisions of the Kuomintang have been armed completely with American lend-lease equipment, including artillery, and that nineteen divisions have been armed to the extent of 50 to 75 per cent. It had been originally intended that those divisions should attack Japanese-held Canton, but they are now being used for civil war. In Chungking on August 3rd the General admitted that American weapons had been used by General Hu Tsung-Nan's troops against the Eighth Route army in Chunua and Shenshi, but claimed that he had not been responsible for the allotment of these weapons, and that "they must have been stolen by unauthorised persons."
As I pointed out earlier in this book, this General Hu Tsung-Nan is one of the three most powerful men in China, and I stated he has long been waiting for the go-ahead signal to cross into Communist territory and attack their armies. Apparently, from the information secured by the American Committee whilst I have been roaming the Pacific in air-craft carriers and battleships, the signal was given, and strengthened by the illegal seizure of lend-lease weapons, the attack was launched. As a further indication of the drift towards Fascism, we have the contemptuous flouting of liberal opinion by the Generalissimo's action in authorising General Ho Ying Chen to accept the Japanese surrender.
Of this General the American Committee stated: "General Ho Ying Chen has long been known as the leader of the pro-Japanese Kuomintang clique. He was a close collaborator of Wang Ching-Wei, Chinese number one traitor. During the period of non-resistance from 1931 to 1937, General Ho Ying Chen went to Peiping and signed the infamous Ho Umeta agreement, which practically gave a free hand to the Japanese in North China. He held the important post of Minister of War, but after the recall of General Stillwell, in obedience to public pressure both from within and without China, he was removed from office.
Now the Generalissimo, with his hand immensely strengthened by the support of General Wedemeyer arid Ambassador Hurley, felt he was powerful enough to ignore liberal sentiment and give his own illiberal policy full rein.
Chungking, with more malice than wisdom, has just struck at the American Committee and revenged itself by banning eight of the highest ranking American war correspondents from again entering China. This Committee has, however, done its work and has created a public opinion which is reflected in recent happenings.
When it became recognised in America that support of Chiang Kai Shek would mean full scale intervention by American troops, there was such an uproar that Hurley was forced to resign. General Marshall was sent to China to try to bring about agreement between Kuomintang and Communists, with a bait of a five hundred million dollar loan as the reward for an all-party government and peace in China. American plans for economic exploitation of the China market will not permit of continued civil war there.
The "cease-fire" agreement reached later between the armies of the Kuomintang and the Communists in North China, is an admission that Chang Kai Shek realises that he is not powerful enough without active American assistance to complete his ten year old campaign for subduing the Communists, and other liberal elements opposed to his regime.
This successful opposition means the defeat of his ambitious plans for a one party, one leader, one voice government for China, as outlined in his dangerous book, "China's Destiny." There was grave danger that under his leadership the peasantry and industrial population would still remain in bondage to be either exploited by their own wealthy countrymen or used to provide cheap labour for foreign industrial investors, thus perpetuating the scandal of pre-war Shanghai, with its daily harvest of dead tipped as refuse from its factories. The new life which the peasants have tasted in those areas where government of the people by the people is established has made them tough fighters, and with their tommy guns they are determined to hold what they have gained. The Japanese with all their superior armaments could not subdue them, and Chiang Kai Shek is at long last realising the hopelessness of his task.
The triumph of democracy in China is of tremendous importance to the world. It was in China that the flame of freedom was kindled early in the century by Dr. Sun Yat Sen. From there it spread to India, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia, gathering strength later from the success of Russia's Socialist Republics particularly those in Soviet Asia. With the defeat of Japan the future of the East will be influenced by the leadership China will give. She has natural qualifications through her freedom from the problems which delay the emancipation of India and other Eastern lands. With the Kuomintang reactionaries kept in the saddle by foreign assistance the freedom of one thousand million coloured people would be jeopardised and our chances of continued residence on this planet diminished.
No more critical situation has faced any people, and I am proud of the part played by my fellow correspondents in China representing the world's greatest newspapers in helping these sturdy democrats by giving publicity to their cause. Their co-operation with these peasant patriots in the face of much hostile criticism has been of the utmost value, particularly in marshalling American public opinion to prevent a continuance of the disastrous policy of Ambassador Hurley.
With the establishment of a really representative government in China, I would expect to see the rapid emergence of a New China a China in which the valiant men I met underground, and brave women like my guide, friend and interpreter, Yang Kang, can live above ground without threats of death and torture, to carry on their great work in the cause of freedom.
Within a week of the end of the war, leftist governments in France and Britain, with the curious inconsistency which always seems to exist between Socialist home and foreign policy, were engaged in repressing local independence and anti-Imperialist movements in French Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies, with much the same ferocity that the Germans used in Europe. In one week in early December, 1945, the Americans had destroyed a village in Communist-held North China, the British wiped out a native village of 1,000 houses in the Dutch East Indies, and the French called upon the R.A.F. to strafe a village in Annamite-held Indo-China, as reprisals against activities by local patriots. One English paper drew a parallel between such acts and the German destruction of Lidice.
Japanese troops were being used by the Allies in Indo-China and Indonesia, Japanese and traitor puppet troops were being used by the Kuomintang troops, against the Communists in North China. In India nationalist demonstrations were being put down by shooting.
Liberation of the coloured peoples, both mentally and physically, is just as important for the welfare and progress of humanity as that of the white races. The quality of freedom everywhere is depreciated by its denial to the coloured man. Today the gravest charge that can be levelled against all Imperialisms is that their subject peoples have been compelled to live in a backwash of civilisation, by-passed by the creative forces which only freedom and education can release. At least five hundred millions of native peoples in the British and Dutch empires, through illiteracy can have no part in their heritage of the "Wisdom of the Ages." Both empires have drawn colossal revenues from these possessions, and common justice should have dictated that a generous portion of that wealth should have been spent to provide the social services necessary for the mental and physical well-being of their subject peoples.
As fellow citizens of "One World" it should be a matter for congratulation, not for alarm, that the Spirit of Democracy is stirring throughout the East, and that these peoples are determined to use such weapons as are available, from tommy guns to automatic bows and arrows to gain for themselves what has been denied for centuries by their masters.
As I emphasised in the introduction of this book, freedom is won by the efforts of subject people fighting with weapons available to throw off their yoke. Freedom is not conferred upon them by the bounty of their masters, and whatever concessions to further their objectives is wrung from the oppressor is the result of their own efforts and sacrifice. Immediately the war ended, subject people in the East began to rise, realising that as far as their fortunes were concerned "the tide was at the flood." If the Indonesians had continued to remain passive servants of the Dutch they would have waited indefinitely for the title deeds of their freedom, or, like the Indians, they would have been given "The appearance of freedom without the reality."
Since "Democracy With a Tommygun" was written these Indonesians have fought for freedom with such courage and intelligence that today Dr. Van Mook, in an address at Amsterdam told the Dutch people: "The Indonesians no longer are our servants, and we must come to a mutual understanding with them. The people of Java were no longer a defenceless mass. They had a strong national feeling and realised the need for national defence."
What has caused these changed conditions? Why are the Indonesians no longer the servants of the Dutch? Simply because Democracy with a Tommygun has turned the tables upon its oppressors and established its right to set up a government of the people by the people for the people. The fight of the Indonesians for freedom, like the struggle of the democratic forces in China, would be certain of victory if they were saved from foreign intervention and only had to deal with internal enemies. Democratic China we expect to see saved by the mobilisation of American liberal opinion directed to prevent the intervention of armed forces planned by the enemies of Democracy in China, aided and abetted by American reactionaries who haunt "the Capitol" in Washington. What is to save Indonesia from being robbed of the fruits of victory? Unfortunately the British government seems to be drifting more and more into a state of imperial partisanship, and it is suspect from one end of the Eastern world to the other. It has outraged Indian sensibilities, Hindu and Moslem alike, by ignoring their appeal for the withdrawal of Indian troops from theatres where they are being used for the suppression of coloured peoples, in the interests of the white races. We have now concluded an infamous arrangement, which could only have been reached between representatives of sympathetic Imperialisms, whereby we are to hand over to be tried by Dutch courts, persons charged with offences against Allied Military Administration. The hypocritical excuse given for this treacherous arrangement, which completely invalidates all our previous protestations of neutrality, is that the Dutch government is the sovereign power in N.E.I. That being so, it is our duty to immediately evacuate Dutch territory and let it prove whether or not it is the sovereign power.
The Indonesian-owned paper, "Independent" (January 4th, 1946) demands that Indonesian suspects taken into custody by the British authorities should be tried by the authority responsible for their arrest, and not by Dutch courts. It is impossible to imagine any greater violation of justice than this spectacle of an allegedly neutral government using its unlimited military power to arrest leaders directing operations for the freedom of their country and handing them over to be tried in the courts and by the authority of the power opposing them.
As further evidence of the co-operative spirit between Imperialists when it is a question of conserving their privileges, we also find that the Dutch government is buying naval aeroplanes from British firms.
Since all powers that were a menace to Holland have ceased to exist, she can only be buying them to crush the Indonesian Republic.
These young democratic growths, struggling for existence in unfavourable environments, deserve encouragement rather than suppression by the methods to which I have referred. Part of the explanation for the inconsistency between socialist home and foreign policy is the reliance of the Foreign Minister on a Foreign Office staffed by those who have little sympathy with socialist principles, or with subject peoples. There is urgent need for the purging of that Department of government, of those elements that are saturated with the spirit of Imperialism, seventy-five per cent. of whom are drawn from that section of political thought in Britain which opposes the widening of human liberties, even amongst men of their own race and colour.
As an observer of events in the East, it is my considered opinion that Big Business and Finance Capital are exercising far too great an influence upon the foreign and colonial policies of all Imperial Powers. Since the days of the founding of the East India Company and its rivals in France, Holland and Portugal, the Orient has been a rich treasury, where, without any adequate return of labour, services or exchange of goods, the exploiting nations have dipped, without regard to the interests of the rightful heirs.
The energies of the modern representatives of these nabobs of the past are still directed to preventing the people of these territories getting control over their own lives and the resources of their country. In spite of the growth of Democracy amongst the masses of the Dominant Peoples, and the desire of the great majority to see justice done to these semi-subject peoples, they find their will defeated through the control by wealth and privilege of practically all the instruments of propaganda and the machinery of Colonial Administration. It does not matter where we look India, China, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, the Philippines or Indonesia the same struggles rage, Big Business and Privilege, in league with all the internal reactionary forces, determined to delay the full emancipation of the people. In China they are ranged behind the Kuomintang to prevent the full programme of Dr. Sun Yat Sen being realised, knowing that China will not be as rich a hunting ground for concessions and investments if as planned by Sun Yat Sen, "all public utilities and enterprises of a monopolistic nature were to be operated by the State, and all subterranean minerals and natural forces economically usable for public benefit were to be the property of the nation." The rule of the whole of the people narrows the field for economic exploitation, hence the fierce opposition of the Capitalistic world.
It is from Indo-China that French capitalists recruit the cheap labour to work the rich chrome mines of New Caledonia and, in spite of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," the risings of these subject people are being suppressed with incredible ferocity, to ensure that this cheap reservoir of labor will still be available. In Korea and the Philippines the people who have fought most bravely over the years, both for independence and against the Japanese, are being pushed into the background by military administrations that have little sympathy with People's Movements, and who are aiding their oppressors with both arms and authority.
In British territories unless we intend to break faith completely with four fifths of the people we proudly number as members of the British Empire we will need to change our ways and bring to heel the predatory interests that batten upon these weaker peoples and bring discredit to our name. They must be taught that human interests take precedence over profits drawn from copper, gold, tin, rubber and oil, and that a very much higher percentage of the wealth extracted must be returned to these peoples in social services. Whilst these most necessary changes are still postponed, the native peoples of South East Asia may well be forgiven if they fail to share our jubilation in the victory over Japan. They see now their "liberators" allied with their former oppressors in denying them the freedoms for which the war was supposedly fought. The fine catchwords, "Liberty, Freedom and Democracy" must seem to the people of Asia to be terms which have meaning only for those possessed of white skins. At present the white races seem intent on building up a legacy of hatred against themselves in the Far East which will tend to draw the world more than ever into two camps coloured versus white skins.
Progressive people the world over deplore the trend of events in the Far East, but are impotent to change them. They know there is no moral justification for oppression of backward peoples to subsidise high living standards at home, whether under a socialist or any other form of administration. If socialism in Britain and France is financed by colonial exploitation in Asia, then it's built on a rotten foundation, and doomed to collapse. The man in the street seems to see more clearly than his leaders that injustice in one part of the world leads to universal unrest, and universal unrest next time leads to atom bombs. The people that built the weapons and the men that wield them never intended that they should be used to deny our neighbours the freedoms for which we worked and fought. Unless the men in the street get together and shout loud enough for their voices to be heard in Whitehall and the White House, and in the Courts of the United Nations to prod the politicians on to some form of international decency, they might as well start digging-in to prepare for the age of the troglodytes. Our scientists tell us that is our only chance for survival in the next war if we dig deep enough.