May 11, 2015

1945. Bill Downs Reporting from Guam

American GIs in Occupied Japan

Bill Downs


August 19, 1945
ROBERT TROUT: Out at Admiral Nimitz's headquarters today, the men who plan amphibious operations are getting set for a peacetime landing on Japan. A Columbia correspondent has recorded the scene on Guam, and for his report here is Bill Downs.

BILL DOWNS: We're sweating out another "D-Day" here in the Pacific—the most peculiar D-Day of the whole war. This occupation move on Japan has taken on all of the aspects of a full-scale combat landing. The men are teed up, the convoys are on the move, and more are assembling. The Air Force is waiting to play its role in the show. Tempers are getting short, and the usual D-Day restlessness is in evidence everywhere.

There are many things that make this peacetime D-Day like many others that have happened before the peace was on. In the first place, there's the uncertainty. No one knows exactly what is going to happen, and it's the same old story of being crowded onto a ship, only this time there are not quite the same number of anxiety complexes in evidence. And the men know that, when they get to their destinations in Japan, that the living will probably be the same tough field conditions that they've had all through the Pacific Campaign.

I've talked with a number of men slated for the occupation of Japan, and next to the primary question of whether they're going to be shot at or not, there's the question of what they're going to do when they get there. And if you know the soldier's mind you'll know what I mean, yeah? That's right, fraternization.

I saw the non-fraternization policy fail in Germany. From completely unofficial sources I understand that a similar non-fraternization policy is contemplated for Japan. But there is a difference. No GI is going to fraternize with a little lotus blossom when Lotus Blossom might have a knife in her hand. And the GIs know the fanaticism of the Jap from a ways back. But a soldier is still a soldier, and an American soldier, believe me, is even more so. Sooner or later there very definitely will be a fraternization problem in Japan.

The people of Japan are getting desperately hungry. The American army will have more food per man than the Jap's ration ever contained in the best of times. The GI is naturally a friendly animal, and he's going to come to like the children of Japan. And nothing can stop that.
In other words, the American soldier is a human being. He's going to suffer when he sees suffering, and he's going to sympathize with any people in distress. He's also going to remember the Jap atrocities and the POW that was killed on one of these island campaigns, and he's going to be a frustrated person for a while. But in the end, the GI is going to be a human being, and when he lives with the suffering that Japan has brought upon herself, he's going to feel sorry. There's nothing that can be done about that here.