The Kanto shore

"So tell me: why do you write little meaningless snippets like this?"

"Because I come across a fact or a word, and I can't help tossing it up and seeing how it glitters. You mean you don't get moments like this? Or maybe you just don't write them down? Me, I can't even read Wikipedia without my mind jumping up, snapping and baying at things that might be, like a happy dog with rabies."

"You just compared your mind to a diseased canine? Besides, these are not exactly happy and nice bits."

"You'd rather have the rattling around in my brain, then?"

"You're trying to say this is some silly writing therapy, then?"

"Fuck no."

* * *

I have always been told my father was the first to die in the final invasion, as he waded to the shore of the Kanto plain. Apparently there was the crack of a rifle, and he fell; the others coming behind him waded the red water around him to bloody froth but, seeing he was obviously dead, didn't stop. And thus Operation Coronet began.

Well, that's most probably all wrong. An infantryman hardly was the first to die on the Kanto shore; I gather they dropped paratroopers first, to cut power lines and whatnot. I'm not a military historian. And it seems so melodramatic that my --- my! --- father should be the first, and so far ahead of the others.

Though there probably was someone that was the first to fall wading to the shore; could have been my father. That's what Rickson told me and my mother, anyway. A few years after the official military word --- so sorry, your husband dead in the East --- sergeant Rickson came to visit; to hear him tell it the only reason he, the one right behind my father, was alive despite being a part of the first wave was he'd stumbled on the shore and fallen on a sharpened bamboo stick. As it hadn't had a crazy Jap on the other end, he hadn't been hurt so badly, but he'd spent a year in a hell of a hospital fighting infection. Apparently they had taken half of his intestines out.

A regular laugh riot, sergeant Rickson was.

The enemy was always "the crazy Japs" for him. I don't know. We were pretty crazy too. The soldiers first; we civilians next, when sixth months into Coronet the good folks of Time published that damned cover story. Photographs and all.

Everyone knew, of course, that the crazy Jap thought us subhuman cretins and themselves the myopic diminutive chosen people of their living God Hirohito. (Actually, like Rickson said, "we nailed that son-of-a-bitch crazy Jap early on, don't you know? We nailed him alright but we didn't dare to say because we didn't know for sure, and they couldn't say because it would have been bad for morale.") We just had a hard time seeing the awful, funny thing: we thought the Jap subhuman cretins and ourselves the blonde, blue-eyed chosen people of Freedom and Liberty.

They came to cut us down like rice, we came to mow them down like wheat. (Do you cut rice down? I don't even know.) And Time published pictures and stories of the mowmen, and our taste for war died.

Didn't help that there were so many boys coming back dead, either.

One of the biggest rumors in the Time piece --- heh, isn't that funny? "Time piece". Tells the time. Heh.

One of the biggest rumors in there was that the general who died a couple of months into the invasion --- Eichelberger, I think --- who had commanded the southern prong of the Kanto invasion, half a year after the feint to Kyushu, and under whom my father had waded and died --- well, the official story was a sniper had got him. Except Time said it was a damn peculiar sniper, to get him when he was found dead indoors, in a bunker, sitting dead on a toilet they said. His service gun --- I don't know if it was a revolver or a pistol --- still smoking in his hand.

The pictures in Time were an explanation enough for why. But they went over the line with the text they draped over the most awful spread; from the president's speech, "we must be ruthless and utterly crush the enemy's capability for making war. Mercy is not an option." And below that, pictures of dead Japs. Some women, some children. Some whole, some not. A few had American boys leering, smiling next to them. One had a demon with tangled hair, half of his face covered with streaks of soot, ten katanas hanging from his belt, and sergeant marks on his neck, holding up two severed Jap women heads, and grinning at the camera. One of the women was just a girl. I don't know for sure, but people have said there was family resemblance.

They never caught that grinning man.

Apparently they had that trouble already with Olympic --- ah, all the names. The whole invasion of the Japanese home islands (funny how they used to trumpet that like it was a good thing, home invasion, home invasion) was called Operation DOWNFALL. It had two parts. Operation OLYMPIC hit Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese home island, in the October of 1945. It was attrition, but at least it was still war. Those suicide planes and boats were still war. The second arm of the invasion was Operation CORONET; it hit the Kanto plain, near and around Tokyo, six months after Olympic. By then the Japanese didn't have much guns left; those they had didn't have much ammunition, either. The Coronet soldiers were reduced to shooting down women, oldtimers and children, running at them crying and waving sticks or bamboo spears. Like angry homeowners to chase away some hoodlum. Except these hoodlums had machine guns and bazookas and all.

It all got horrible soon after; because of course they all didn't run at the soldiers. Some set traps or waited in shadows to get their quota of one dead soldier for each self-sacrificing civilian. Some actually pretended to surrender, and then when surrounded by American soldiers flipped the pin off a grenade.

Naturally, soon our all-American boys were in the habit of shooting all civilians they came across, just to be sure. After all, Rickson said, they were just crazy Japs. He was a little bit drunk when he came to visit us; just one drink, one drink for courage he said. And to dull the pain.

Time also had a copy --- don't know where the devil they got it --- of a written order circulated among the officers. It basically said that killing and mutilating civilians, looting corpses and houses, was "so endemic that at the present it is not reasonable to demand that every incident would be punished in the appropriate fashion."

"Indeed, each officer should personally contemplate whether terror is a suitable weapon in subduing the remaining civilian population."

The colonel who wrote that killed himself the day after Time went public. (As did the captain caught on film telling this whopper of a joke --- "Q: What's the difference between a Jap and a mutt with rabies? A: You don't fuck the dog before you shoot it.)

And when we thought there couldn't be anything worse --- our boys killing and mutilating civilians while their officers egged them on --- things of course got worse.

To quote, "As fear of Japanese retaliation is nonexistent, Japan having lost all ability to deliver such weapons by air or long-range guns, there is no military downside to using chemical weapons. This breach of the Geneva Protocol can easily be justified as Japan has used gas against the Chinese earlier in the war."

Everyone that gave documents, photos, stories to Time was slammed to jail. Three died "resisting military arrest", or something. All were released after the end of the war.

There were even stills from something that had been intended as a newsreel, but it has become too ugly. Apparently the mushroom clouds were pretty in an awful way, and cleared the way for the Olympic soldiers pretty fast, but what they found going after the 48 hours (after that the ground should be safe, they were told) to march over the atomic bombed site --- well, the material didn't survive the war, but Time said it was constantly interrupted by a dip of the camera and a break, as the cameraman retched and puked. Mostly because even after 48 hours there still were survivors. The worst account came from where the bomb was dropped only a few miles from the American lines; they were "attacked" by civilians, stripped naked by the blast, caked black by the heat, skin hanging in tatters, worse. One soldier said, "When the black rain began to fall I let go of my smoking, heat-glowing gun and fell to my back, crying, sure that I was dead and in Hell because this couldn't be anything else."

It later came to light they had nine a-bombs to use for Olympic; they used them, of course. For Coronet on the Kanto plain they had fifteen even bigger ones. After the Time story broke someone apparently went mad in the high command and ordered every bomb dropped. Maybe they thought that if they could wrap up the war in a few weeks there would be no backlash.

Well, no such luck. There were riots when MPs came to arrest the people showing the "Kyoto newsreel". Having seen that I guess only those that hadn't seen it rioted; it is the most sickening thing ever filmed.

Then ceasefire. An ousted president. All the jazz.

Two point three million Purple Hearts; half a million cold ones. More on the Japanese side.

Pardon if I don't feel any urge to think too much about the glorious war in which my father died. It's a nice thought he died before reaching that terrible shore.

last updated: (Mar 15 2011)