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Memoires of Japan 1946(A People Bowed But Not Broken)
By Bernard T. Smith
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Bernard T. Smith
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKicking Our Heels
The date was 15 August 1945, just two days after my 23rd birthday. I was in India, at the end of the Second World War. Peace in South Asia had at last been declared. For me, it was the beginning of the most pensive, edifying, formative, and rewarding period of my life. As a young (and by no means worldly wise) Flight Lieutenant in His Majesty's Royal Air Force, I had been enjoying a holiday in Kashmir having served in both India and Burma over a period of about one and a half years. Celebrations were going on everywhere. At an officers' club dance, I had just been proposed to by an elegant Indian Parsee lady who had promised me "great wealth" if I would only team up with her. At that moment, however, I had other, more serious, matters on my mind; Japan was on the horizon.
Three months in New Delhi
I returned to my base in New Delhi. We were being offered "repat" (repatriation) or, if we preferred, a short tour of duty with the proposed Allied Occupying Force in Japan. I chose the latter at once and was accepted almost immediately, probably because I had some knowledge of Japanese. I had previously spent almost a year on a crash course studying the language at the University of London's, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). But, I never expected that it was going to be nearly another six months or more, before I finally arrived in Japan. I had been very happy both in India and in my unit. Everyone had been very kind to me during my service there. I was very grateful to them for this. At one time, with a small group of other officers, I had even been a guest of the Maharajah of the state of Datia, with its Prime Minister no less being our escort. Whatever could be the reason for the delay in our going to Japan? We had no idea. We had thought it was just slow bureaucracy—our Administration was certainly very busy at the time—but, as we later realised, it may have been more to do with the difficulty of making room for us.
Kindness in India
The kindness I had received in India continued throughout the long following months which were to come. Both India and my unit continued to help me occupy my time gainfully. In order to practise using my Japanese, I was invited to make regular visits to the Red Fort in New Delhi where many Japanese prisoners were housed, pending their return to Japan. On several occasions, my unit provided me with a jeep and a driver and I was able to converse in Japanese with a small group of Japanese POWs. Occasionally, I took them to places of interest in and around New Delhi. We would finish the day with afternoon tea in one of the prestigious restaurants in New Delhi's Connaught Circus, Davicos or Wengers, sometimes much to the surprise and alarm of other customers. The POWs, who came with me, were usually, Lt. Aizawa, together with a sergeant, and one or two other soldiers. Lt. Aizawa, with whom I remained in contact until his death a few years ago, always insisted that he did not want to go back to Japan. He was, as he saw it, in disgrace having lost the war. I managed to influence him otherwise, and eventually he became a very successful Captain of a ship with the Japanese Nippon Yusen Kaisha. I was intensely interested in Japanese people, having met with many, when studying the language at SOAS and, now also when conversing with Japanese POWs. Forgetting the horrors of war for a moment, I had visions of the romantic way of life in Japan, its many hills, valleys, and it's beautiful Inland Sea, a land of colour, of daimyo, samurai and the 47 Ronin, of feudal castles, heroic deeds, and ladies in their pretty kimonos. One of the prisoners in my care at the Red Fort had once said very touchingly that Japanese women were the most beautiful and gentle women on earth. Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), a famous international writer in the late 19th century, had written more, having eventually married and spent the rest of his life there. All of this was certainly to have a big effect on me when I finally arrived in Japan.
Goodbye from the Red Fort
My visits to the Red Fort helped me to occupy my time gainfully: but, inevitably, time began to drag. We were just kicking our heels. A few people had opted for "repat", and I seemed to be the only person going to Japan. It was not until early in 1946 that I heard I had been posted to a staging post for overseas travel in Madras, presumably I thought because it was the nearest port to Japan in India. I cycled over to the Red Fort in New Delhi with Michael Kerry (who later became Sir Michael Kerry, solicitor to HM Treasury) to say a fond good bye to the Red Fort staff, Major Mackey, Sgt major Slides, and others, as well as to the POWs there with whom I had conversed. I had a last lingering look at New Delhi and then made my preparations to travel. I was the only person scheduled for Madras so I was quite alone in going there. The next day was a day of goodbyes and departures and a fond farewell at a camp where I had been based for most of the last two years; except, that is, for a Xmas 1944/45 spell in Burma. The journey to Madras was a three night train journey, seemingly through the midst of humanity. The train chugged along relentlessly, through 1300 miles of dull, fair, moderate, and sometimes very interesting scenery. However I did rail, possibly a little unfairly, at what "surely only an Indian rail Company" could be guilty of,—dumping its passengers at the end of a 1300 mile journey, at 3 o'clock in the morning, in the middle of a deserted railway station!
Staging Post Madras
At midday on my first day in Madras (Monday 21st January 1946) I arrived at my temporary destination. This was, a large transit camp, with a large officers' Mess, just outside the city. But, alas, there were still more waiting days to come. Time began to drag again. There were inoculations and vaccinations etc. to get over, and morning drills to occupy our time. We were told that we were ambassadors of our country and that we had to brighten ourselves up and be smart—paradoxically it seemed—to impress those whom we had just conquered. Not all of us were in the same draft. That depended on where we had come from and precisely where we were going. Two of my former Burma colleagues, who had first been posted to Saigon and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, came to the camp from the other side of the Brahmaputra. They arrived at the camp about the same time as me, but they went on to Japan separately from me. We explored Madras together. Of one of them, Flt Lt. Mark McLaughlin, was to be with again later in Japan. Richard Mason who wrote the novel, The Wind Cannot Read,—and whom I first met in SOAS, London University, about three years before, was also there. I used to call in the Admin office regularly to find out what was happening, but without much success. The weather fortunately was beautifully warm and perfect. When I returned to my billet I would see many of my near neighbours sunbathing, scantily covered or sometimes completely nude, relaxing and enjoying their time off duty; but I was anxious to be away and on the move. Suddenly, on Monday 28th January 1946, six of us found ourselves moving, not however towards Japan as we had hoped, but in the opposite direction. We were heading for yet another staging post, this time in Bombay on the other side of the Indian continent. This was where I had first arrived in India two years before. In Madras, I had become used to seeing the morning sun as it was rising over the sea. But now, back in Bombay, I used to watch the evening sun as it was setting over the sea. It gave me a strange, almost eerie, sense of awareness of the daily passage of the sun, as it moved from East to West across the huge Indian continent. Each day, it was heading towards Europe; and also, in my case, home.
Staging Post Bombay
Very happily, there was mail from England waiting for me in Bombay, including a piece of lovely christening cake from my 6 months' old niece, Janet. A little prematurely I sent her a lovely little dressing gown. It was the first time I could ever say, "From Uncle Bernard". This is the self same Janet (now Dr Janet) to whom I expressed my very grateful thanks in my dedication. I also met several former New Delhi colleagues there, who were being repatriated and were on their way home. It was good to see again the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal hotel, and the beach where on my arrival in India I had bathed and become badly sunburned. At last, things were moving, but we still had a few days (very pleasant ones, as it happened) to spend in Bombay. It was not until the Thursday 7th of February 1946 that we went on board the ship that was to take us to our final destination. Before we set sail, our very small Air Force contingent—of which I was part—was visited by the Air Commodore who was to become our senior AOA (Air Officer Administration). He wished us well and told us that we were the first of about 15,000, or more, Air Force personnel, from all over the Commonwealth, who would be going to Japan during the next few months. He had only one very important instruction for us to follow, and that was that none of the personnel who would be joining us should ever be forced "to live under canvas". The implication was that any required accommodation and chattels for our troops would have to be locally "requisitioned". It was the worst of a number of very painful duties I had to undertake, in an otherwise incredibly wonderful year in my life.
Chapter TwoBombay to Japan
We set sail for Japan from Bombay on Saturday 9th of February 1946. We were on a large ship with a mixture and large number of passengers. These included Indian and UK service personnel like me, returning Japanese POWs, Government officials, journalists, and diplomats, some of whom had been in detention during the war and some of whom, on their return to Japan, could well be facing trial. During the voyage, I had discussions with a variety of passengers on many different topics. Of my immediate colleagues, nine of us were cramped in a fairly small cabin; but we were very happy just making do. "Making do" seemed to be the rule of the day. We had the run of the deck, the lounge, and various common rooms on the ship for most of the time, so we tended to use our cabin space almost in shifts. It was a grand feeling, especially in the evening, leaning over the ship's rail with a colleague, dreaming and pondering over the day's events, as we looked into the silent ocean beneath us. Sunday was upon us before we knew it; and I enjoyed the first Sunday morning service, singing the hymn "Guide us over the tempestuous sea!" while contrarily at the same time peering out, at as vast and peaceful a sea as one could imagine. We were a floating city in the midst of nowhere. We had various discussions on how to spend the next three weeks. Four of us in our cabin opted for evening games of Bridge but we soon merged with others. I was for instance often in a game with a Group Captain and a Wing Commander, but I didn't know their precise destinations. As far as I knew, I was the only person destined for HQ British Commonwealth AIR (BCAIR) in Iwakuni, although some personnel were going to Iwakuni itself, as distinct from BCAIR HQ. I don't remember volunteering, but it was somehow assumed that I would teach Japanese to those who were interested. I held two one-hour classes each morning, except Sunday. We also had discussions on several days—on how the Japanese would re-act to our presence when we arrived, and how we should behave. Certainly there were some who said they were out for revenge, who sounded bombastic, and self righteous, with rather a lot of thoughtless bravado; but I always tried, not to become involved in these dubious deliberations. It was all hypothetical anyhow. Our reactions would be decided by events. We too had carried out dubious deeds, as we would surely witness in Hiroshima, even though at the time the actions had been deemed essential. I was anxious, despite all the many horrors and atrocities we had heard of, to cultivate friendships and to leave Japan as a friend.
Columbo to Singapore
On Tuesday 12th February we docked at Columbo in Sri Lanka, which was then known as Ceylon. It was a good opportunity to post mail which I had written aboard the ship since leaving Bombay. On Sunday 17th February, after sailing down the Malaccan straits, we docked in Singapore and I was able to send yet more mail from there. While we were in Singapore we were visited by a Squadron leader, liaison officer from Japan whom I came to know later in Japan as Hank. He had come on board to tell our Group Captain that it was OK for him to fly on to Iwakuni, way ahead of the rest of us. Although the liaison officer spoke with an American accent he had an RAF rank, so I assumed he was from the UK liaison office in Tokyo, rather than the American forces stationed there. I suppose t is possible that he was American. Needless to say, the Group Captain was delighted at his good fortune. Our stopover in Singapore, however, was quite brief; so we were prevented from seeing much of the city. We contented ourselves with a stroll along the dockside and at least a peep into the nearby streets, so as to be able to say that at least we had set foot in Singapore. I would have to wait for many months later, when on my return to the UK; I would have another chance to walk round the rest of Singapore. We could see signs in the streets of the Japanese occupation of Singapore now six months ago,—notices like "No Smoking", written in huge Japanese characters on many buildings. There were also Japanese POWs working there—, far more cheerfully, I suspect, than the British POWs who had been there before them, and who had been made to toil so terribly.
The South China Seas
We woke on Tuesday morning 19th February to find that our ship was moving—having set off in the Stream, as it was called, just after dawn. And so, the last stretch began. We moved northwards gradually into colder climes, rougher and choppier seas, new adventures, and hopefully excitingly new experiences. I re-started my classes after a two day break, but already their numbers had diminished. I was wondering if it was such a good idea, after all. I was giving up two valuable hours per day teaching and then there was also the necessary time to find for preparation. Sometimes, I felt quite exhausted; especially when, in the South China seas, we ran into a storm with dark skies overhead. There was an oppressive atmosphere aboard everywhere. We had heard also that it was becoming a very difficult time in Bombay and India, which we had been very lucky to miss. Riots apparently were spreading out all over India. Bombay had been the scene of considerable disorder. There is little doubt that our departure would have been delayed yet again, had we have been there at the time. We may not have ever seen Japan. The Japanese diplomats on board, with whom I occasionally conversed in order to practise my Japanese, had been seen talking to some Indian service personnel and had therefore been confined to their cabins. This was presumably to avoid any disturbance on the ship. Hence, I didn't get another chance to speak with them, or even to say good bye. Our bridge fours continued most evenings with both my partners and my opponents becoming ever more varied—from colleagues and senior officers, to various doctors, and even the very amusing open hearted NAAFI official, who provided additional food and drinks for us. It all made for good friendship. There were many discussions reconstructing the games we had played, and many attempts to apportion blame for how the games had gone but, I was determined to remain friendly and I never took the discussions very seriously. I always refused to play for more than one anna for each hundred points,—really a very paltry sum.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and beyond
The third Sunday service of our voyage, on 24th February, was in sharp contrast to the previous two. Looking through the windows of the first class lounge I surveyed the changing scene—beyond Hong Kong and Taiwan. Firstly, I remembered the first sights of the Indian coastline in beautifully sunny weather and the sea so calm and still. It seemed as if we had not been afloat at all. Secondly I remembered our approach to Singapore, still in a lovely warm climate and under its true blue skies. But now, they were cold bleak mornings, with rain likely every minute and, what is worse in a storm, the pitch and toss, and sometimes not so playful rolls, of the ship. At meal times, the Captain would eat his food with a smile in his eyes, and with looks of dismay at his crestfallen passengers. We were barely out of the tropics, and we were already out of our summer kits, and wearing Air Force blue. The ship's crew, were also wearing much warmer clothing. Everyone stayed in bed until the very last minute, and then made a mad rush to be in time for breakfast. On Thursday 28th February, we arrived off shore in Japan; and, we had our first glimpse of the intriguing little islands, which are dotted all about in Japan's lovely Inland Sea (the beautiful Seto nai kai). In the evening, we could see Iwakuni's glittering lights through a grim Scottish like mist, while on deck, it had become bitterly cold. But, slowly, we sailed on towards Kure, for our last night aboard ship, looking forward to our final concert, which we had been told would be of a very high standard.
Excerpted from Memoires of Japan 1946 by Bernard T. Smith Copyright © 2012 by Bernard T. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Kicking Our Heels....................3
Chapter 2: Bombay to Japan....................8
Chapter 3: Arrival in Japan....................15
Chapter 4: Chain of Command....................22
Chapter 5: The Early days....................26
Chapter 6: The Namiwaki's—A Glimpse of Family Life....................33
Chapter 7: Daily Routine at the Camp....................36
Chapter 8: Appreciation From Girls at the Camp....................43
Chapter 9: Party-Going and the Story of A Geisha....................47
Chapter 10: Happy Days with the Namiwaki's....................53
Chapter 11: Changing Times....................58
Chapter 12: The local Police Chief....................62
Chapter 13: AMG Liaison Officer....................67
Chapter 14: The Mayor....................69
Chapter 15: The City Headmaster....................73
Chapter 16: The Miyazaki's—AnotherWonderful Family!....................78
Restored images of theTime....................88-102 Chapter 17: Good Bye To Jock and The End of an Era....................103
Chapter 18: Walkabouts in Iwakuni....................107
Chapter 19: The Iwakuni Cultural Society....................114
Chapter 20: Contact with the Miyazaki's is Resumed....................123
Chapter 21: Visit to the Local Mrs Vanderbilt and My First Tea Ceremony....................130
Chapter 22: The Cultural Society and Humour....................139
Chapter 23: The Cultural Society and The Status of Women....................145
Chapter 24: Talk on the Average British Housewife....................149
Chapter 25: An Unexpected Visit To Tokyo....................154
Chapter 26: With the Miyazaki's at the Pictures....................160
Chapter 27: Final Days and Fond Farewells....................167
Chapter 28: A Charmed Existence....................175
Chapter 29: Hard to Believe....................180
Chapter 30: And What Came Next?....................184
Appendix A: Paragraph Headings By Chapter....................189