August 30, 1942
Dept. of State Bulletin, August 29, 1942.
First of all, I should like to say how deeply we have been moved, my associates and myself, who have just returned on the exchange ship Gripsholm, by the many greetings of friends and the great volume of messages of welcome which have come to us from all over the country.
The welcome given us has warmed our hearts, and it is one that we can never forget, nor can we ever forget the really inexpressible joy of coming home after the difficult months and moments through which we have passed in Japan and Japanese-occupied territories. It may be impossible to answer all those messages individually. Please let me express now to all who hear me our most grateful thanks for them.
Never before has my native land looked to me so beautiful. Never before has a home-coming meant so much. I think you will realize a little of what it meant to us when I tell you of those last seven days at anchor off Yokohama before our evacuation vessel finally sailed from Japanese waters.
We were awaiting the completion of the negotiations for our exchange, not knowing whether those negotiations would be successful and whether, if they were unsuccessful, we might not all be returned to our imprisonment in Japan. Among us were many Americans-missionaries, teachers, newspaper correspondents business men-who had spent the preceding six months in solitary confinement in small, bitterly cold prison cells, inadequately clothed and inadequately fed and at times subjected to the most cruel and barbaric tortures.
I will not go into the nature of those tortures, which were many, except to mention an incident on the Gripsholm when three elderly Americans, one of them over 70 years old, gave me a demonstration of the water-cure which had repeatedly been inflicted upon them.
We went up to the bow of the ship early in the morning, where a friend posed as the subject of the torture. He was tied up with his knees drawn up to his chin, his neck being attached to his knees and his hands securely bound behind him so that the cords in the actual torture had penetrated deep under the skin. He was then rolled over with his face up and water was poured into his nose and mouth. It was a realistic performance, but only from the oral description of those men could I visualize what the actual torture must have been.
Six large buckets of water were used by the Japanese police, so that the subject lost consciousness and then was brought back to consciousness merely to have the same thing repeated. One of these elderly missionaries was given the water cure six separate times in order to make him divulge information which he was supposed to have acquired as an alleged spy. Nearly all of the American missionaries, teachers, newspaper correspondents and business men were regarded as potential spies.
The stupidity of those Japanese police was only surpassed by their utter cruelty. That same American told me that once while he was lying tied on the ground a Japanese had ground his boot-sole into his face and then had brutally kicked him, smashing a rib. When he was finally untied he could barely stand, and he said he feared that a rib had been broken. One of the Japanese police asked where the broken rib was and began to feel his body. As the Japanese came to the broken bone he said, "Is that the place?" and when the man answered "Yes," the policeman hauled off with his fist and hit that broken rib as hard as he could. In another case, a well-known American had been seriously maimed as a result of the gangrene which was caused by the ill-treatment that he received in his prison cell. I had known him in years gone by and seldom have I had so great a shock as when I saw him on the ship, a mere shadow of his former self. There were many, many other cases.
I had heard indirectly of the horrible atrocities perpetrated in the rape of Nanking and of the fearful things done in Hong Kong when soldiers who had been taken as prisoners of war were bayoneted to death. But on shipboard we had direct evidence, for the dying shrieks of those soldiers were heard by a woman, a fellow passenger of ours, who herself told me the terrible story. This was no second-hand evidence but the reports of reliable first-hand witnesses and, in the case of the torture, the first-hand evidence of those who had suffered the tortures themselves.
Do you wonder that during those seven days of waiting in the harbor of Yokohama several of those people told me that if the negotiations for our exchange failed they would commit suicide rather than return to their imprisonment in Japan?
And then came one of the greatest of all moments. I awoke at 1 a.m. on June 25 sensing that something was happening. I looked out of the porthole and saw a piece of wood slowly moving past in the water. Another piece of wood moved faster. We were at last under way, slowly accelerating until the ship was finally speeding at full steam, away from Yokohama, away from Japan, pointing homeward. Ah, what a moment that was, even though we had 18,000 miles to cover and 70 days in all before we should pass the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and repeat to ourselves, with tears pouring down many a face,
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land?
I shall have something to say tonight about the Japanese military machine which brought on this war and against which we are fighting today. But before turning to that subject there is something else which I cannot leave unsaid. I have lived for 10 years in Japan. I have had many friends in Japan, some of whom I admired, respected, and loved. They are not the people who brought on this war. As patriots they will fight for their Emperor and country, to the last ditch if necessary, but they did not want this war and it was not they who began it. Even during our imprisonment in Tokyo many of those friends used to contrive to send us gifts in spite of the usual obstruction of the police who wished to cut us off completely from the outside world. They were not the usual gifts of flowers but gifts of food, sometimes a piece of meat, which was the most precious gift they could confer because they themselves could seldom get meat. For 10 years I have broken bread in their houses and they in mine. They were personally loyal to me to the end.
But there is the other side to the picture, the ugly side of cruelty, brutality, and utter bestiality, the ruthlessness and rapaciousness of the Japanese military machine which brought on this war. That Japanese military machine and military caste and military system must be utterly crushed, their credit and predominance must be utterly broken, for the future safety and welfare of the United States and of the United Nations and for the future safety and welfare of civilization and humanity. Let us put it in a nutshell: there is not sufficient room in the area of the Pacific Ocean for a peaceful America, for any of the peace-loving United Nations, and a swashbuckling Japan.
I shall come back to that subject, but first it may interest you to know something about the last hours in Tokyo preceding the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. That story is of important interest.
Late in the evening of December 7 I received a telegram from our Secretary of State, Mr. Hull, containing a message from the President which I was to communicate to the Emperor at the earliest possible moment. I immediately asked for an appointment with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Togo, around midnight, and drove at once to the Minister's official residence and requested an audience with the Emperor in order to present the President's message. Mr. Togo said that he would present my request to the Throne, and I left him at about 12:30 a.m. This must have been only a few hours-Japan time-prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of December 8 I was awakened by a telephone call from the Foreign Minister's secretary, who asked me to come to the Minister's residence as soon as possible. He said that he had been trying to telephone to me ever since 5 a.m. but had been unable to get connection. I hurriedly dressed and arrived at the official residence at about 7:30. Mr. Togo entered the room grim and formal and handed to me the reply to the President's message to the Emperor, whom I was told he had seen at about 3 a.m., presumably just after the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the same time he handed me a long memorandum ending with the statement: "The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations."
I asked the Minister if he had presented to the Emperor my request for an audience. The Minister merely replied that he had no intention of standing between myself and the Throne. He then made a little speech thanking me for my efforts to preserve peace and as usual came downstairs to see me off at the door. He said nothing whatever about the outbreak of war between our countries and I returned to the Embassy in entire ignorance that developments more serious than the breaking off of the conversations had occurred. It was not until at least an hour or more later that a press bulletin was released announcing the attack on Hawaii and the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States and Great Britain. When the bulletin was handed to me I could hardly believe that the news was true. However, it was soon confirmed from other sources, and later in the morning an official of the Foreign Office brought to my secretary the official note declaring war. Almost immediately afterward the Embassy's gates were closed and locked by the police, and from that moment we were regarded and treated as prisoners. A group of Japanese radio experts then immediately came and went through all our houses with a fine-toothed comb, taking away all short-wave radio sets so that thereafter we should have no contact with the outside world save through the Japanese newspapers which were regularly delivered to us.
I had long known of Japan's preparations for war and I kept my Government currently advised of the information which came to my knowledge on that subject.
And now, before closing, I should like to tell you something about the Japanese military machine against which we are fighting today. That machine has been trained and perfected through many years, for it has always had in view, even before the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the prospect of eventually sweeping not only to the north against Russia but to the west and south in order to control what the Japanese have latterly termed "The Co-Prosperity Sphere of Greater East Asia including the South Seas." It need hardly be said that the phrase "Co-Prosperity Sphere" denoted in fact the intention to exert Japanese control, politically, economically-absolutely-over all those far-flung territories.
In 1931 came their invasion of Manchuria. In 1937 came their invasion of China south of the wall, and while their Army eventually floundered in China, due to the magnificent fighting spirit of Chiang Kai-shek, his courageous armies, and his determined people, nevertheless the warfare which then ensued proved a practical training for the Japanese soldiers and sailors, who tirelessly developed and perfected the tactics which they subsequently used in their landings and conquests to the south.
Probably no other factor has contributed more heavily to the preliminary victories achieved by the Japanese in this war than the offensive spirit which permeates all of the armed forces of the empire. This spirit, recognized by competent military men as the most vital intangible factor in achieving victory, has been nourished and perpetuated since the foundation of the modern Japanese Army. The Japanese High Command has implicitly counted upon the advantages this would give them over less aggressive enemies.
They have put great store in what they consider to be the white man's flabbiness. They look upon us Americans as constitutional weaklings, demanding our daily comforts and unwilling to make the sacrifices demanded for victory in a war against a military machine which has prepared and trained itself in Spartan simplicity and the hardness and toughness demanded by war. They attach great importance to the former disunity in the United States over the war issue and they still count on an appreciable interval before an aroused nation can find itself and develop a fighting spirit of its own.
By that time, they feel, Japan will be in complete control of all East Asia. When they struck, they made no provision for failure; they left no road open for retreat. They struck with all the force and power at their command. And they will continue to fight in the same manner until they are utterly crushed.
We shall crush that machine and caste and system in due course, but if we Americans think that, collectively and individually, we can continue to lead our normal lives, leaving the spirit of self-sacrifice to our soldiers and sailors, letting the intensification of our production program take care of itself, we shall unquestionably risk the danger of a stalemate in this war of ours with Japan.
I say this in the light of my ten years' experience in Japan, my knowledge of the power of the Japanese Army and Navy and of the hardness and fighting spirit of the Japanese. I feel it my bounder duty to say this to my fellow-countrymen.
I know my own country even better than I know Japan and I have not the slightest shadow of doubt of our eventual victory. But I do not wish to see the period of our blood, sweat and tears indefinitely and unnecessarily prolonged.
That period will be prolonged only if our people fail to realize the truth of what I have just said, that we are up against a powerful fighting machine, a people whose morale cannot and will not be broken even by successive defeats, who will certainly not be broken by economic hardships, a people who individually and collectively will gladly sacrifice their lives for their Emperor and their nation, and who can be brought to earth only by physical defeat, by being ejected physically from the areas which they have temporarily conquered or by the progressive attrition of their naval power and merchant marine which will finally result in cutting off their homeland from all connection with and access to those outlying areas-by complete defeat in battle.
I need say no more. I have told you the truth as I see it from long experience and observation. I have come home with my associates in the Far East to join our war effort with yours and I realize, perhaps better than any one else, that nothing less than the exertion of our maximum capacities, individually and collectively, in a war of offense will bring our beloved country safely through these deep waters to the longed-for haven of a victorious peace.
We are fighting this war for the preservation of righteousness, law and order, but above all for the preservation of the freedoms which have been conferred upon us by the glorious heritage of our American citizenship, and for these same freedoms in other countries of the United Nations, and while we are fighting against the forces of evil, lawlessness and disorder in the world, we are primarily fighting to prevent the enslavement which actually threatens to be imposed upon us if we fail.
I am convinced that this is not an overstatement. Surely ours is a cause worth sacrificing for and living for and dying for if necessary. "Though love repine and reason chafe, there came a voice without reply: 'tis man's perdition to be safe, when for the truth he ought to die."