"Hal's " Letter:
Touring Tokyo at War's En
If you've arrived here from a search engine, please go to the Introduction to learn
more about this document.  This letter appears just as it was written in 1945.  If you
know Hal's identity, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know.  
Nancy Brister
Monday, 17 September, 1945

Dear Folks:

Yesterday I did what every Navy man has wanted to do for a long time; I made liberty in Tokyo.  I gazed upon the Imperial Palace,
whose gates are guarded by very bored looking MP's.  I strolled through the chambers of the Japanese Diet where this
catastrophe had its conception.  I walked through the ruined streets of this city which aspired to be the capital of the world.
Before I go any further, I'll go back and try to bring you up to date on my activities here in the land of the cherry blossom.  We have
been having a bit of strenuous duty lately.  We now have a Commander on board, which is strenuous in itself.  His job is to meet all
incoming convoys and provide them with anchorage charts, SCPA instructions, etc.  Convoys pour in here at the rate of at least
one a day, which keeps us pretty busy.  After we meet them and pass the dope to them we lead them in.  That job falls to me.  I am
now a fully accredited Tokyo Bay pilot.  Almost any day you can see me steaming through the narrows into the bay, followed by a
column of ships anywhere from five to twenty miles long.  We bring them right into Yokohama Harbor, where they unload over the
docks.  The dock area is relatively undamaged, which has aided the occupation considerably.
On our rare off days we tie up at a little dock where it is too shallow for the big ships.  It's nice, because we get water, and the
fellows can go ashore to play ball.
Until a day or so ago no ships had come up all the way to Tokyo.  There isn't much of a harbor there and it's very difficult to get
into.  However, since we had no convoys for a couple of days the Commander got permission from the Admiral for us to go up
there for a couple of days, so here we are tied up to the dock at Tokyo.
Yesterday afternoon we sent a sightseeing party of twenty men ashore with one of the officers.  It was the first time I had ever
seen any of them in whites.  They shoved off in one direction while the Commander, the skipper, and I, and our control officer,
Johnny Andres, went in the other.  We walked and walked and walked until we finally came to the heart of the city.  Then we
walked along the Ginza, which is the main drag, and finally reached the Imperial Palace.  When we arrived we were amazed to find
our sightseeing party already there and gazing with the wide eyed curiosity of the Americans at the magnificent grounds of the
Imperial domicile.  When we inquired as to how they got there ahead of us after having started off in the opposite direction, we
were informed that they had taken the "elevated."  It cost them twelve cents for the whole gang, and the motorman dropped them
off two blocks from the palace.
While we were standing there talking to the men, I looked around and began to think what a curious scene this was.  Here in the
ruined city of Tokyo stood the conquerors, a group of twenty sailors in freshly scrubbed whites, five naval officers in sweaty
khakis, two MPs, and miscellaneous groups of American soldiers and British marines strolling about, all unarmed except the
MPs.  On all sides of us streamed the millions of Japanese who made this one of the world's largest cities.  What a shock this
must be to the warlords of Japan, who in their conquered territories could not walk the streets without a heavily armed convoy, to
see the Americans, whom they were foolish enough to think they could best, walking through the streets of their capital unarmed
and unafraid, the symbol of the overwhelming power of America.  In each American who walks the streets of Tokyo today there
stands the answer to those who would enslave mankind and the promise that the unlimited power and genius of the greatest
nation in the history of the world will always be directed to the betterment of man and the complete and utter destruction of those
who would enslave him.  
I won't go into the details of our walk through Tokyo because there isn't time.  I'll save that along with the millions of other things I
have to tell you when I get back.  It was most interesting.  We finished up by dropping in at a movie.  Of course, we couldn't
understand it, but it was quite interesting.
It is now Thursday night and we are patrolling off the entrance to the bay waiting for a convoy.  I was interrupted by having to get
under way to go back to Yokohama.  Since Monday we have done various things, chiefly ridden out a typhoon.  We were buffeted
around a bit but came though with only a few bent stanchions and sprung plates.
The day after the typhoon we had another break which we owe to the commander.  He got hold of a jeep and three of us piled in
with him to go sightseeing.  He is a born tourist.  We rode all afternoon and saw sights that tourists would pay fortunes for and
then wouldn't see.  We drove thru rural Japan, inland from Yokohama, along country roads and back into the hills.  We left the
occupied zone and struck out boldly to see Japan in the raw.
It is really remarkable how every inch of ground has been used.  There are beautiful green fields beginning right at the side of the
road and stretching as far as the eye can see, up steep hillsides and over the mountains.  Power lines and electric railroads out
across the fields, showing to what a great extent the country was industrialized.
As we careened madly along the road, Japs on bicycles, in carts and on foot, looked up in amazement.  We were probably the first
Americans they had ever seen.  There were many soldiers, evidently returning to their homes.  They all saluted.  The kids lined up
on the side of the road and waved and shouted.  Some civilians bowed, other just stared.
In one village the jeep overheated.  We stopped, got out, pointed to the steaming radiator and immediately a bucket brigade
appeared.  At that point I was reminded of our trip to Mexico.  It was easier to make the Japs understand than it was the Mexicans.
We continued until the road narrowed down to a mere footpath, just wide enough for the jeep.  By that time, we were really out in
the country.  Finally, we came to the top of a high plateau where we could see for miles in all directions.  We stopped and got out to
gape.  Here was one of the most magnificent sights I have ever seen.  Stretching away below us were the green fields of Japan,
with the country folks tending their crops.  Where we were there wasn't a sound except the wind stirring the leaves.  The typhoon
had cleared the air so that you could see the mountains forming a rugged blue line beyond the fields.  On the right, just visible on
the horizon, lay the sprawling mass of Tokyo, seemingly undamaged from this distance.  On the left rose the majestic bulk of Fuji,
the sacred mountain.
Here indeed was a peaceful spot.  It seemed incredible that such a land could produce the horror that Japan had loosed upon the
world.  As we stood there, a feeling of revulsion came over me.  It was as if this were all a mockery, this peace and quiet of the
Japanese countryside.  I felt that beneath this quiet beauty, this land was humming with activity, insane with its desire to conquer
the world, feverishly putting every effort into the building of a gigantic war machine.  The great mass of Fujiyama seemed a might
fortress whose great guns were pointed directly at me and others like me who stood in the way of that conquest.  Then came the
realization that such had been the case, but was no more, because that war machine had been smashed, completely and utterly
destroyed by an even greater war machine created by men whose purpose was to save rather than destroy civilization.  The great
nerve center of Tokyo, and all the other great cities of Japan, were nothing but heaps of rubble and smoking ruins, incapable of
producing a single gun, or a single airplane, or a single anything without the permission of the conquerors.  The navy, with which
she hoped to drive us from the seas, now lies at the bottom of those very seas.  The air force, with which she hoped to destroy our
cities, had been itself destroyed by the air force which destroyed her cities.  Her armies, with which she hoped to overrun the
world, are dispersed, defeated, and disarmed.
We have won a great victory, but we must never forget how great the cost was, and how close we came to defeat.  And now that
we have won, let us try to make it worthy of the men who died to win it.  We have fought our way across the greatest of oceans in
the most amazing campaign of all time.  We can be justly proud of our achievements because they have been nothing short of
miraculous, but as we stand at the end of the line in the full flush of victory, we must look back upon the trail of blood which will
stain forever the blue waters of the Pacific, and remember those who have been left behind on the white coral sands and in the
steaming jungles which mark the road to that victory.  The only way in which we can pay our debt to them is by making certain that
their children and ours will never be faced with such a task as this.
I'm sorry if I seem to run on interminably but I feel very strongly about this war and about America's part in keeping the peace.  We
are unquestionably the world's greatest nation, and we must live up to the responsibilities which that gives us.  It is within our
power to lead the world to lasting peace or to complete destruction.  Whether we like it or not we've got the ball and we must
carry it.
I'll bring this to an end now because I may get a chance to mail it tomorrow.  The mail situation is exasperating.  We haven't had
any since the middle of August.
I hope everybody is well.  I'm fine, although I'm beginning to lose my tropical sun tan.  The sun seldom shines on this benighted
country.  In memory, therefore, of a pleasanter land, as we Hawaiians say, Aloha au ia oe.
P.S.  I don't know when we'll be heading stateside.  Probably not for some time yet.  As long as I'm over here I would like to get to

P.P.S.  On reading this over I find that I left our little sightseeing group gaping at the scenery.  I'll bring them down in my next letter.

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