OUR Day of Deliverance came on Sunday, 19 August, 1945, several days after the end of the war in the Far East. Till then we knew nothing of the atom bomb, or that Russia had invaded Manchuria, or that the war had finished. But we guessed that something big was on foot, for we had seen many Japanese aero¬planes flying southwards, and there had been constant air alarms, and a move to an unknown destination, for which all preparations had been made, had been suddenly cancelled. On Saturday the eighteenth we were told that an American officer and N.C.O. were expected at our camp at Seian, 200 miles north of Mukden. They arrived early on the nineteenth and gave us the glad news. They belonged to a small party sent by General Wedermeyer, the Commanding-General of the U.S.A. forces in China, and dropped by parachute near Mukden to contact the prisoner-of-war camps. So prompt was his action that they arrived there before the Japanese had heard of the end of the war, and they very nearly paid for their audacity with their lives. There was no aerodrome near Seian, so in the evening the American officer left again for Mukden to arrange for transport. Then the fog of war, or rather of peace, again descended upon us. All telegraph and telephone communication ceased and all trains stopped running. It was due to the advance of the Russian armies into Manchuria. For the next four days we remained completely cut off from the world, but on Friday the twenty-fourth things began to move again with the arrival of a Russian mechanized detachment. We hired some buses and lorries and set off with the Russians for Mukden. August is the month of tropical storms and heavy rainfall in Manchuria, and little did we know of the state of the roads. For the next two days we struggled along washed-out roads, over broken bridges and through swollen rivers. Finally we stuck fast in a river-bed, but fortunately there was a light railway near at hand, and we reached the Harbin-Mukden railway in a train driven by one of our own orderlies. And so to Mukden. Through¬out the journey the endurance of the Russian and Manchurian drivers alike was quite remarkable. They went on driving and digging out their vehicles by day and by night with no rest and, as far as one could see, with little or no food. We were told, too, that the Russians had been doing this for several days and nights before we joined them. They certainly were very tough.
On arrival at Mukden we met our American friend again who brought us the welcome news that two transport aeroplanes were waiting for us on the Mukden airfield, and that General Wain- wright of the United States Army and I had been personally invited by General MacArthur to attend the ceremony, to be held in Tokyo Bay shortly, at which Japan would formally surrender. At that time there was no direct air route to Japan so it was arranged that we should travel via Chungking and Manila. We set off the following morning and, after crossing the Gulf of Liau-tung west of Port Arthur and some awe-inspiring mountain ranges south of Peking we landed at Sian in the Yellow River Valley late in the afternoon. Here we were most hospitably entertained by the Americans and by the British Mission, and here we tasted again for the first time the delights of civilization—a good meal, a comfortable bed and, I say it without apology, a long whisky and soda. Our next stop was at Chungking where again we were shown the greatest kindness both by the Embassy staff and by all ranks of the British Military Headquarters. There I left the rest of the British party and, with Wainwright, headed south in a plane placed at our disposal by General Stratemeyer, Commander of the American Air Force in China. I was able to take with me also my orderly, Sergt. C. W. Crockett of the Royal Army Service Corps, who had been with me for the whole of the captivity. A former Welsh schoolboy Rugby football international, he was the finest type of young regular soldier. Always most meticulous in his appearance and correct in his conduct as a prisoner-of-war, he had throughout those long years set a most wonderful example of courage and fortitude and had won for himself universal admiration and esteem. I was glad that he was now able to be in at the death.
Before reaching Manila we had a good opportunity of studying the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor, the island fortress which guards the entrance to Manila Bay. Corregidor had been cap-tured by the Japanese by direct assault in 1942, and had been recaptured by the Americans by joint sea and air attack in 1945.
Little remained of the fortress except a mass of ruins. Manila was a sad sight. During the recapture of the Philippines very heavy fighting had taken place in the town itself which the Japanese had defended stubbornly. As they were driven out they had set fire to the principal buildings as a result of which much of this well-built and attractive town had been reduced to ruins.
At Manila we joined several of the Allied representatives who were to sign the instrument of surrender—the French General Leclerc, the Dutch Admiral Helfrich, and General Sir Thomas Blarney, the Australian Commander-in-Chief. We left very early on the morning of the thirty-first for Japan, stopping for lunch and refuelling at the island of Okinawa which the Americans had captured at such great cost and which they were using at the end of the war as the base for their offensive against Japan. Every bay and inlet was full of American ships and craft of all descriptions, and on the island itself there were miles of newly constructed roads and numerous camps and aerodromes. It certainly is very remarkable what the Americans can do in the way of construction when they once get busy.
We reached Japan that evening and landed at the Atsugi air-field some miles from Yokohama. By agreement with the Japanese the Americans had taken over a bridgehead at Yokohama and had landed an air-borne division there. Those were the only Allied troops in Japan at the time though the American 1st Dismounted Cavalry Division, composed of some of the finest-looking troops I have ever seen, began to arrive the next day.
Yokohama, where we stayed, was an interesting and rather awe-inspiring sight. The bombings and the fires which followed had caused terrible havoc, especially to the wooden structures, of which the town was largely built. There were large areas where there was literally nothing left standing. There was not even any rubble. There were just acres and acres of waste land. I have seen a good many bombed and shelled towns, but never have I seen such complete desolation. This did not apply, however, to the district where the more modern buildings were situated, some of which, including the hotel in which we stayed, had remained more or less intact.
It has often been said that the war would have gone on for a long time had it not been for the atom bombs. I doubt it. From what I was able to see myself and from what I was told, I formed the definite opinion that the Japanese were down and out before the atom bombs ever fell. There was little food, petrol, clothing or transport in the home islands, and their industrial capacity had been enormously reduced by bombing. Their navy was crippled and their maritime marine reduced to about twenty-five per cent of its pre-war capacity. Most of their aeroplanes were grounded. They were, in fact, beaten at the centre, though it is true that their overseas armies could have gone on fighting a guerrilla war for a very long time.
The Japanese defeat was in my opinion brought about chiefly by the cutting of their sea communications followed by the destruction of their industrial establishments by air bombardment.
At the hotel I met General MacArthur for the first time. It was a very kindly and thoughtful act on his part to invite Wain- wright and myself to attend this final ceremony. He greeted us most cordially and made us immediately feel at home. I was to see a good deal of him during the next few days, and was greatly impressed by his personality, ability, and breadth of vision. Older than he looks—he was sixty-five at the time—he was full of life and energy. He quite obviously knew what he wanted and meant to have it. His success both as a commander in the field and as an administrator in occupied Japan have surely proved him to be one of the very big men of the war.
Sunday, 2 September, was the day fixed for the formal surrender of Japan. It took place on board the United States battleship Missouri which was anchored in Tokyo Bay. There is not much spare space on the decks of a modern battleship after all its war equipment has been fitted in, but the stage had been set on what open space there was—the table in the middle with a single chair on each side of it, the Allied officers who were to sign for their respective countries behind one chair and an empty space behind the other in which the Japanese delegation was later to take its place. Opposite one end of the table facing seaward were the Allied officer spectators, and opposite the other end on a specially built platform the Allied press and cinematograph operators. Among the spectators, who consisted mostly of senior American officers, were only very few British officers. These comprised a few senior officers of the British Pacific Fleet, the Dominion representatives and Lt.-Gen. Charles Gairdner, the Prime Minister’s representative with the American Supreme Commander, who was the only British Service Army officer besides myself to be present at this historic ceremony.
A few minutes before the appointed hour, 9 a.m., General MacArthur arrived and took up his position. From that moment to the end of the ceremony he very definitely dominated the proceedings. He was attended by General Sutherland, his Chief- of-Staff, who carried the Instrument of Surrender which had been sent out by special messenger from Washington.
A minute or two later the Japanese delegation arrived escorted by an American officer. It was headed by Mr. Shigemitsu, neatly dressed in morning coat, top hat and white waistcoat, and walking with the aid of a stick, for he had lost one of his legs. He was the Japanese Foreign Minister, and one could not help feeling some sympathy for this man, for he represented a class which had, one felt, been forced into the war against their will by the military leaders. Behind him came the Chief of the Japanese General Staff, a short thick-set man, typical of the Japanese military clique. He aroused no feelings of sympathy whatever, for one felt it was his class which, more than any other, had been responsible for the war and all its suffering in the Far East. He was followed by the remainder of the delegation representative of other interests who, except for the interpreter, took no part in the proceedings.
After a short speech by General MacArthur the two leading Japanese delegates were called upon to sign the document. The Foreign Minister signed “By command and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government”, and the Chief- of-Staff “By command and in behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters”. The last paragraph of the document is of particular interest. It reads as follows:
The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.
The significance of this paragraph, of course, is that it made the Emperor, who for centuries had been a demi-God to the Japanese people, subordinate to an ordinary human being—a change which cannot fail to have a far-reaching effect on the future of the Japanese race.
At 9-8 a.m. on 2 September, 1945, General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, accepted the surrender “for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan”. Before doing so he invited Wainwright and myself to stand immediately behind him as a token to the world that the might of the United States and of the British Empire cannot be challenged with impunity even when they are fully occupied in other parts of the world. He also, with kindly thought, presented each of us with one of the five pens with which he wrote his signature. Subsequently the representatives of the Allied Nations appended their signatures to the document. With General MacArthur’s signature the war with Japan officially terminated. It was a great and impressive moment which will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be present. The proceedings terminated with a great fly-past of the United States Air Force in which hundreds of planes of all types took part.
At the reception after the ceremony I met many of the leading American sailors and soldiers. Among them were Admiral Nimitz, a quiet and cultured man with a great charm of manner, and Admiral Halsey, a fighting sailor of the bulldog breed, small and determined. It is not for me to talk of the magnificent war records of these two men. They are known throughout the world.
Immediately after the ceremony Wainwright and I left for Manila to attend the surrender of the Japanese forces in the Philippines which was due to take place the following day. MacArthur was very anxious that we should go to this—Wain-wright because he had been the American commander in the Philippines at the time of their surrender to Japan in 1942, and I to meet again my old opponent General Yamashita, now commander-in-chief of the surviving Japanese forces in those islands. A typhoon forced our plane to take a circuitous route, and it was after midnight before we reached Manila. Then we had another plane journey and a long motor drive up to the hill station of Baguio where the ceremony was to take place. It was midday on the third before we reached our destination. As Yamashita entered the room I saw one eyebrow lifted and a look of surprise cross his face—but only for a moment. His face quickly resumed that sphinx-like mask common to all Japanese, and he showed no further interest. He was much thinner and more worn-looking than when I had last seen him, and his clothes bore testimony to the rough conditions in which he had been living. For after the loss of Manila the remaining Japanese forces had taken refuge in the mountains in Northern Luzon where, with no supply services and little to live upon, they had been hunted for weeks by the American troops. Whatever Yamashita’s transgressions of the laws and usages of war may have been—he was subsequently executed for the crimes against humanity committed by his troops—there can be no doubt that he was a most able and determined commander, and a very tough fighter, as his record both in Malaya and in the Philippines will prove. It is a great pity that the Japanese commanders allowed, and sometimes even ordered, the atrocities which were committed by their officers and men, but that again may be due in some measure to lack of time, since their country emerged from its isolation, in which to absorb fully the accepted doctrines of civilization.
On 5 September I said good-bye to my American friends. Nobody could have been kinder and more hospitable than they were during the time I had been under their care, and that was true of all ranks from top to bottom. The feeling that one was again among friends enabled one to face the inevitable camera and autograph book with goodwill and a smile.
After two days at Headquarters of South-East Asia Command in Ceylon, a forty-eight hours’ flight in a York brought me to an aerodrome near Swindon on the morning of 10 September, rather more than four years and four months after I had set out from England. There a great thrill was in store for me, for waiting on the aerodrome I found that brave woman who had, with such courage and fortitude, endured so much during those long years of waiting—my wife. The War Office had with great consideration arranged that she should be there to meet me. So the joys of home-coming were complete.
The next few weeks were busy ones. Letters and telegrams poured in from friends and well-wishers. They came from all over the world, but especially from the United States of America where the significance of what happened in the Far East has always been, and still is, more fully understood than it ever has been in our own country.
But it was some months later before the crowning event took place. It was at an Investiture at Buckingham Palace which I had attended to receive a decoration which had been awarded to me early in the war. After I had passed the Royal presence and joined the throng in the room outside, an equerry came to me and said, “The King wishes to see you after the ceremony.” For a quarter of an hour he talked to me with the greatest sympathy and understanding. So the King understood. It made me feel very happy.