On August 15th in 1945, a little past five in the morning, our train arrived in Seoul. At every corner of the town, I saw a small notice written on thin rice paper visible in the slight light of the dawn. When I went closer, it said, “There will be an important announcement today”
I could tell what it was going to be because I was aware of the fact that the Allies were urging Japan to accept the Potsdam Declaration. This information was received on our short wave coming from the US . Our Correspondent Unit in the Japanese imperial headquarter had been receiving this information.
As I walked thinking we may finally have to hear the news of the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, I arrived at Bizenya, the designated inn for commissioned officers. It was close to the main southern gate. After a short break, I went to the headquarters of the Korean Unit and found out that the accounting department had evacuated to the Ryuzan girls’ high school. The school was on top of a hill, and I arrived there before noon. In the school yard, all the pupils were gathered along with the commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and all of the soldiers.
There was a radio on top of the table.
The radio broadcast of the emperor’s voice, announcing the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration began. In the beginning, I thought he was telling us, “ Fight on,” but it gradually changed into a pathetic tone of voice. Then he mentioned the fact Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, and an unconditional surrender. The sound of the radio was very low and sometimes not clear, but I was able to hear it. Female students in the school yard began to sob. Even though I was expecting it, I felt like as though I had a big empty hole in my heart as I realized the end of the war, and how everything became useless.
What would happen now ? Inside the accounting department, a huge commotion started as if someone had poked a stick into a bee hive. Everyone’s eyes were hollow. There was a commissioned officer who was staring into space and at a complete loss for words.
Inside the room, which was being used as the office of the accounting department, many people were busily running around and kept talking to one another in panicky tones, but nobody could tell what the army was going to do. It could not be helped though. In other words, it was understandable how the Japanese army was not ready for the occasion of loss in the war since it had never experienced a defeat before.
I was also just standing in stunned silence for a while. When I went to the General Staff Headquarters not knowing what to do, that place was also in a state of unbelievable chaos too. I went out of the gate of the Headquarters and walked to the town. The sky was so high and blue, and clear. There, I saw two P38 fighter planes of the US Air Force , two clear white vapor trails behind their engines.
I just walked around inside the town like I was sleepwalking. I thought about my comrades in Hankou, and those who fell around me. I was totally at a loss trying to somehow comprehend what the loss of the war really meant.