April 24, 2017

1945. Yokohama in Ruins

Desolation in Postwar Japan
"Japan's Emperor Hirohito in Yokohama during his first visit to see living conditions in the country since the end of the war, February 1946" (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt - source)
Associated Press dispatch printed in the Hagerstown Daily Mail, August 30, 1945, pp. 1-2:
Yokohama Found Smashed To Bits
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Japs Docile While Living Under Most Trying Conditions
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SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 30 (AP) — The trip to Yokohama by American troops of the 11th Airborne Division, who landed with General MacArthur at Atsugi airfield, was made in Japanese trucks and cars with Japanese soldier drivers, Bill Downs, CBS correspondent, reported today.

The dusty road between Atsugi and Yokohama, Downs said, was guarded by Japanese marines and sailors. Every hundred yards or so guards stood, backs to the road facing the fields and villages. It was explained that to the Japanese, the back facing sentinels were a mark of great respect as a common Japanese soldier does not stare at his betters.

The officers along the road saluted smartly as the Americans passed and their salutes were returned as smartly.

The people of Yokohama and the villages through which the party passed showed no emotion at all. They peeped from windows and stared with blank emotionless faces.

"As we drove into Yokohama," Downs said, "we saw at close hand the terrible effect of the bombing of this major seaport.

"The greater port of this city of more than a million has been reduced to a shanty town. Most of the people are living in makeshift shacks built of rusted, corrugated iron. Others had overturned great vats, boarding up the open ends, and are living in them.

"Some are living in caves, and still others have put lengths of sewer pipe together and sleep in them on straw. They do their cooking over open fires."

A few modern buildings which still are intact are being cleaned up by the Japanese to be turned over to Allied administrators and military commanders.

Frederick B. Opper, ABC correspondent, who likewise made the trip from Atsugi to Yokohama, reported similar conditions, saying, "the heart of Japan's greatest seaport city is smashed and desolate beyond recognition . . . It was burned to rubbish. In fact, a B-29 crew member who had participated in the raids on Yokohama whistled in disbelief as he saw what he and other airmen had done. Yokohama was an incendiary target and acres of the heart of the city are no more."

Opper reported the Japanese he saw seemed more bewildered and curious than angry. Japanese women seemed universally to have adopted baggy trousers in place of kimonos while all men were in some uniform or other.

"I was unable to talk to many Japs," Opper said, "although the few I engaged in conversation told me they were sick of the war, frightened out of their wits by the might of American air power."