No matter how much I thought about it, I really did not know why I was put into a prison cell. I was an accounting officer in the military commanding office in central China. I was collecting data to send back to Japan, and I was never in an actual combat. I saw many enemy airplane every day, but what I was doing was trying to escape from the shooting and bombing.
On the fourth day after I was put into the prison, deep into the night, a short guard with a black beard came in grinning, and said, “it’s time to go.” I knew there would be no reply even if I asked where I was going, so I quickly woke up and got ready. I did not have any change with me. All I had to do was put on a jacket. The shoes I was wearing were the shoes for winter, with fur inside. They were not for the summer time, but I could still walk in them.
I went out of my cell, and went through a total of seven or eight doors I came through when I arrived at the cell in a reverse fashion. First, the heavy oak door at the entrance, second, the iron screen door at the landing on the second floor, third, the iron screen door at the entrance of the stairs, and so forth. Then, finally, when I arrived at the first gate I entered, the skinny faced lieutenant was waiting for me get into a car.
He said, “Get in!” As I got onto the car, I found out it was a escort car for prisoners without a window. There were enough seats for more than ten people. Outside the car, I saw the last light of the sun. I think it was about eleven o’ clock at night. As all of the watches the Japanese captives had were taken by the Soviets, none of us had anything to tell the time. I had a pocket watch made by Hamilton. I broke the glass on purpose and hid the needles, and told them it was “caputo (broken).” It was obvious the watch in such a condition was not useful. That’s how I was able to hold on to it.
The escort car drove on the street slowly for about ten minutes. I had no idea where it was going, but I had a feeling I was going back to the building where I was taken by the sergeant before I was put into the prison cell.
I was taken to the room on the second floor, which was not that big. There was a big desk and a chubby man with a round white face who stood up from the chair with the high back and told me to sit down. He was perhaps a little older than fifty. A small table was there, and three chairs were put around it. In addition to the owner of the room, there was another man in a white military coat with a shoulder insignia designating that he was a Lieutenant. With the gesture with his jaw, he indicated I should sit down. Even though he was a military man, his face was without any sun burn and his blue eyes were moving busily as if they were looking for something. Later on, I found out he was a Japanese interpreter.
Then I was told that the owner of this room was the vice minister of internal affairs of the Republic of Tatar. I had
no idea why an important figure like him had to spend his own time to investigate an officer like me who just started out in a hierarchy.
By then, I had enough experience of being interrogated Soviet style. Just like other ones, it started with the same questions asking my name, sir name, nationality, birth place, the unit I belonged to and what I was assigned to do. It was obvious there were manuals for them, but it took me a while to realize there was a purpose for this kind of repetious questions.
The military commanding office I belonged to was first in Hankou in central China and then moved to North Korea toward the end of the war. The investigation was mainly about things in central China. They wanted to know how the army was organized there, the structure of the military commanding office, names of officers and their work, and what I was assigned to do. The questions went into so many details and I wondered how such details would be of use for anything.
The vice minister spoke in Russian and the Lieutenant translated into Japanese. However, the Japanese was so poor and he did not make any sense. That’s why he had to repeat it many times. The vice minister dipped the feather pen in the ink bottle in order to keep writing on the white paper with lines on it. Sometimes, he looked at different documents, and said, “Ne Pravda (It is not true.) ”
Since I had some knowledge of Russian, I understood some part of the conversation between the vice minister and the Lieutenant who was an interpreter. It seemed he saw different descriptions about my career and so forth on other documents and was saying they were not true.
I had no experience working as an accounting officer for the military commanding office. Therefore, I was not shaken at all when they wanted to confirm I was actually in charge of freight. They seemed to doubt that I was telling them I was an accounting officer as a second Lieutenant instead of the officer with the rank of a Major. That seemed to be their point of investigating me. They wanted to claim that I was giving a false rank.
I understood the situation because there were some among the Japanese who thought they might be able to go back to Japan sooner if their rank in the army was lower. Because some told them they were of lower rank then they were, they were suspicious information we gave them.
It seemed they had already investigated details about the establishment of the army I belonged to, numbers of soldiers and equipment we had, but still, they asked the same questions again and again. The investigation continued to two and three o’clock at night, and it was almost close to the dawn. The short night was almost over.
The vice minister seemed to become bored with the investigation. It was because of the poor skill of the young interpreter. The investigation was very slow and it obviously began to make the vice minister irritated. After five
o’clock, he yawned and stretched his arms, saying the investigation was over for the day. Then the Lieutenant with a skinny face appeared to take me to the escorting car, following the same route I came.
It was already in the morning. I could see there was a park with growing green trees in front of the building. On the benches in the park, there were lovers sitting together. Some did not move like statues, and some were laughing loudly together.