Read 1945 Online

Authors: Robert Conroy

Tags: #World War; 1939-1945 - United States, #Alternative histories (Fiction), #World War; 1939-1945, #General, #United States, #Historical, #War & Military, #World War; 1939-1945 - Japan, #Japan, #Fiction

1945 (8 page)

BOOK: 1945
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Johnson halted for a moment to see if Nomura would comment. He didn't. "Almost immediately after Pearl Harbor, you volunteered for the army and, after basic training, were assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were later shipped over to Italy. You were wounded slightly and returned to combat. Then, while rescuing comrades who were pinned down by a Nazi machine gun, you were shot and suffered the loss of your left arm just below the elbow. You were awarded the Silver Star for that action. That, however, did not stop you, and you were voluntarily assigned as a translator to help the army convince Japanese civilians here on Saipan that they would not be harmed by us, and that they should surrender."

Joe Nomura laughed harshly. "Helluva great job I did. I stood there and yelled for them to come in, while all the time they were throwing themselves off the cliffs only a hundred feet away from me. I'm through. I want my discharge. One-armed soldiers with Silver Stars get to go home, and you goddamn well know it."

"Joe," Peters said, "we'd like to make you an offer."

Now it comes, Nomura thought. "Who are you guys? I know you're not navy."

"We're not?" asked Peters, looking a little hurt. "I'm disappointed. I rather thought we looked the part."

"Hell no. First of all, your insignias aren't correctly put on, and more important, I haven't said
sir,
haven't stood up, and haven't been very nice to you at all. Real officers would have eaten me alive for that, one-armed hero or not."

Johnson laughed. "Good call. We're from the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, and we'd like you to help us."

Joe was momentarily puzzled, but then the light dawned as the bottom dropped out of his stomach. "Oh, shit, you want me to go into Japan, don't you?"

Both men nodded. "You're perfect," said Johnson. "You've lived there, you're of Japanese descent, and you're wounded, which means their secret police won't bother you."

"Fuck off."

"Joe," said Peters, "we have to know what's going on in there, and we desperately need the damn few people in the world like you. We don't have any spies in Japan and we can't land regular agents. To belabor the obvious, a white man in Japan would stand out."

Nomura had to laugh. "Well, ain't that the truth. Having a white skin ain't always an advantage, now is it?"

"Will you at least consider helping us?" Johnson asked.

"What's in it for me?"

Peters saw the small opening and responded quickly, "You'll be discharged, but kept on as a government employee with the equivalent pay and privileges of an army captain."

Joe stood slowly, his calm Japanese face suddenly an alien mask of scarcely controlled rage. The change in his bearing and demeanor startled the two OSS recruiters, and they stepped back quickly and in shock.

"God damn it!" Joe screamed. "You think you can buy me? Look, assholes, in the past couple of years a lot more has happened than my losing my arm for a country that doesn't give a shit for me! I'm alone in this fucking ward because, after spraining my ankle out on those cliffs, no one wanted to be around a Jap, not even one with a Silver Star. Y'know, in Italy I saw white Americans shoot Japanese Americans and ignore the fact that we were supposed to be fighting the Germans together. Whenever we went to a town in Italy, we were spit on and called yellow Japs and a helluva lot worse."

Jochi Nomura glared at them. "And that ain't all. My dad lost his job because of his skin and nobody cares that he's a naturalized citizen. And now my parents are living in squalor in some fucking concentration camp like convicts whose only crime is having a yellow skin. And do you know what's the worst?" A stunned Peters and Johnson shook their heads numbly. "A couple of weeks ago some white guys who'd busted into the camp grabbed my mom and raped her because she was a Jap. They fucked my mom! Anybody besides your daddy fuck your mom lately?" Nomura sat down heavily. "Now, try to tell me again why should I help you?"

Johnson lowered his head in embarrassment while Peters looked away. "I'm sorry. We had no idea," Johnson said softly. "Sergeant, we're both truly sorry. It was just our fervent hope that you and others like you would be able to go into Japan and provide us with the information we need to help stop the killing. Look, nothing can ever make the past good again, but we have to start somewhere building the future, and we can't do that until the war ends. I guess I don't blame you for telling us to kiss off. We'll go now. Good-bye, Sergeant." The two men turned to leave.

Joe sighed, "I'll go."

Both men blinked. "What?" Johnson managed.

Nomura smiled bleakly. "My parents are fine. They're living in Honolulu and not in some camp, and if somebody touched my mom, she'd cut their balls off. The rest of the shit I told you about the white soldiers picking on us is true, and it's also true that no one is in this ward with me so they don't get confused and think I'm one of Hirohito's boys who are still hiding out in the hills. In a way it's okay, though. I kind of like it being alone. Besides, despite the fact that me and people like me are getting fucked over royally, it sounds like I might actually be able to help end this fucking war, right? I want to prove once and for all to the government that Japanese Americans are not the enemy."

Johnson smiled, while Peters looked a little angry at being misled. "Mr. Nomura, you're a real bastard," Johnson said, "but we like that in an agent. When can you leave?"

Nomura looked around at the empty room, hostile in its silence. "Is right now soon enough?"

 

Chapter 9

 

President Truman could barely contain his anger and frustration. First, the destruction of the city of Kokura had elicited no response from the Japanese. It was inconceivable to him that the deaths of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians could be ignored by the Japanese government. What would it take for them to surrender? Hiroshima, Nagasaki , and now Kokura had ceased to exist, and so many Japanese civilians had been reduced to ashes. And all for nothing. Were the Japs even human? he wondered. At least their leaders weren't, he concluded. But this was not the only problem.

President Truman's voice tended to rise an octave when he was upset. "I thought I now understood at least a little of what I needed to know in order to be president, but now you're telling me there are still more deep, dark secrets that have been kept from me." He sagged in his seat. "This is beyond incredible."

Secretary of State Jim Byrnes leaned over and touched the president's sleeve. "Mr. President, I just found out now myself, although I have to admit I suspected and am not surprised." They were seated on facing couches in the Oval Office. An uncomfortable-looking Gen. George C. Marshall sat on a colonial-style chair at Truman's left.

"So," Truman said resignedly to Marshall, "what you are telling me is that we're reading the Japs' mail and that we've been doing it for some time, unbeknownst to both them and me."

Marshall nodded. "Yes, sir, and the secret is so closely held that I'm not at all surprised you weren't told. Much of our success in this war has been dependent upon our ability to decode Japanese transmissions and to keep that fact secret."

Truman almost sneered in his frustration, but held himself in check. "Really?"

"Yes, sir. With the exception of those actually working on the project, very few are aware of our successes in this area. Sir, at one point we thought that President Roosevelt was careless in his handling of secret Japanese documents that we'd decoded, so we took him off the list of recipients for almost a year."

Truman's jaw dropped and Byrnes gulped in astonishment. Byrnes stammered, "You arbitrarily deprived the president of important information?"

"Mr. Secretary, we gave him all the summary information he needed. We did deprive him of source documents and other items that would indicate we had broken the Japanese codes.

Our term for the effort is 'Magic,' and through it we've been able to read virtually all Japanese diplomatic radio transmissions and most military ones. The British have done the same thing with the Germans, and they call it their Ultra program. They are, by the way, as secretive about it as we are. The important thing is to keep in mind that neither the Japanese nor the Germans yet have any inkling that this is going on. As a result, the Japanese continue to use the codes they have been using. Even though the war with Germany is over, we still think that retaining secrecy will prove useful.

"Sir, if the Japanese were to find out, they'd change their codes and we'd be blind for a long, long time. It took almost two years to break the Japanese diplomatic code, and we don't have that kind of time to go through all that effort again."

Byrnes took a sip of his coffee. "What you're telling me, General, is that President Truman, should he be elected on his own in 1948 and have his own vice president, would be well advised to keep this secret from that poor soul just as FDR kept it from him."

"Exactly," said Marshall with just a trace of a smile.

Truman waved his hands. "The next election will keep. Unless this war is brought to a speedy and successful conclusion, I won't be able to run for dogcatcher in 1948. Now, what does all this message reading tell us."

"It tells us that there is turmoil in Japan's hierarchy," said Marshall. "The military is in fairly firm control over the armed forces and is moving to consolidate, but their grasp is not as solid as it could be in other areas."

Byrnes agreed. "From what I've gleaned, Japanese diplomats both in Japan and in their embassies in neutral nations are virtually unanimous that the war must end on almost any terms. Tojo may have been appointed foreign minister, but he does not have the support of his staff. We also feel that the other nonmilitary sectors feel that way as well, but are powerless as long as the military remain in control. We are getting further indications that the majority of the civilian population wishes for an end to the war, but they too are helpless."

Marshall continued, "Even so, our military intercepts also indicate that the Japs are moving to reinforce their existing forces in Kyushu. They have anticipated correctly that Kyushu will be the first target of our assault on the home islands."

"Damn," said Truman.

Marshall paused. He knew this would be the most difficult to tell the volatile Truman. "Mr. President, we are also hearing that the Japs may be moving Allied POWs into strategic positions to deter us from using any more nuclear bombs on their cities."

Truman sat bolt upright. "No!"

"I'm afraid it's almost undoubtedly true, sir, although their effort is incomplete as yet. The Japs hold about a hundred and forty thousand Allied prisoners, maybe ten thousand of which are Americans, and we think about half of those numbers may be on the Jap home islands. The rest are scattered all over the place with large portions in Malaya and Burma. Many of our captured senior people are in camps in Manchuria. According to the intercepts, they are among those being sent to Tokyo and other important places in the home islands."

"That's against the Geneva Convention," Truman said sadly.

"Yes, it is," Marshall responded, "but we never signed the Geneva Convention, although we have been adhering to its terms on a voluntary basis. The Japanese have never shown any interest in obeying it."

Truman's face turned red in frustration. "I will presume that the Japs plan on making this a public pronouncement fairly soon, don't they?" Marshall nodded, and Truman threw up his hands. "First you tell me that we're running out of targets, and I agree with you. Kokura was a wretched little place to destroy. Then I'm informed that the Japs are evacuating their cities, which further reduces our nuclear opportunities, and now you tell me that American and British POWs are going to be used as human shields to prevent our using atom bombs against whatever happens to be left in Japan. Is that right?"

Marshall sat unmoving. "That's right, sir. Other than causing the movement of our prisoners to target areas, you're right, the bombing of Kokura has had virtually no impact on the Japanese. I would suggest that we suspend nuclear operations against Japanese cities and create an inventory for tactical use in support of the landings on Kyushu. Conventional, nonnuclear bombing of Japanese targets will, of course, continue."

"Of course," Truman said in a dejected whisper. "Agreed."

"I'm sorry, Harry," Byrnes said solicitously, "we all had such high hopes that the bombs would end the war."

Marshall paused. There was another point to make. "We are starting to see the volume of decodeable traffic dry up, and that will hinder us. The Japanese now have few outposts and even fewer ships with which to communicate, and their home island radio transmitters have been destroyed to a very large extent by our bombers. They are now relying on telegraph and telephone, which we cannot intercept, as well as using human messengers and couriers."

"Another ironic price of success," Truman mused. "May I presume we are reading Stalin's mail as well?"

Marshall nodded solemnly. "Not as well as we'd like. You may also presume that we are reading British messages, and that they are reading ours."

Byrnes found it amusing. "Lord, what a wicked, wicked world we live in."

Truman stood and the two others left. Now he could walk the corridor to the real White House and try to relax with Bess and his Margaret. Maybe he could have a drink and play the piano. Maybe, he laughed aloud, he would play the piano so loud the whole wretched building would collapse on his head.

He chuckled. At least that would solve one of his problems.

 

Chapter 10

 

In the six months since she'd been commissioned, the officers and crew of the U.S. submarine
Moray
had seen only limited action in the Pacific. With the Japanese military and merchant fleet shrinking through combat attrition, there were fewer and fewer targets for a prowling sub to find and sink. Locating even those handful that remained involved hazardous trips through Japan's Inland Sea, that myriad of channels that separated and flowed through the multitude of large and small islands in the Japanese archipelago.

BOOK: 1945
6.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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