Tokyo Joe


ISBN 974-91152-8-7
Paperback 5 1/2" - 8 1/4"
2004, 322 pages
 

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Excerpt

Chapter 13

Atsushi had been a regular outlaw during the war. He ran a black market operation, dealing in sugar, meat, and other rare foodstuffs. He made a reasonable living in that hard time and acquired important friends. Near the end of the war, the American bombers knocked out the neighborhoods where he conducted business. Not even the black market survived the final wave of bombings. Inside prison, Atsushi realized that he knew a number of the prisoners from public life. Much spontaneous bowing followed between Atsushi and politicians in nearby cells.

The end of the war caught the Japanese by surprise. The country had been gearing up for an invasion, and the politicians had stoked up the illusion of an all-pervading American assault. Rape, burning, pillaging, looting, the usual sort of activity the Japanese had engaged in after invading China. The politicos were wrong. The war ended quickly after the atom bombs were dropped. When the Americans arrived, their gun barrels pointed toward the ground, and they handed out cigarettes and Hershey bars.

Atsushi made bets with his cellmate, Yoshio Takaida, a low-level politico himself, on which of the big pols would be put on trial, blamed for the war, and sacrificed for the bloodshed, and which ones would melt away in the landscape, to spring back full-sized, holding the levers of power in the Diet again. Both Atsushi and Yoshio found out that Julian had played baseball in college. He played second base before the war, and had an astonishing memory for baseball stats. His father had been a sportswriter. From age four he had Julian swinging a bat and throwing a ball. He taught him to throw left and right handed. Baseball was his father's life. And Julian from early dawn until the sun had gone down lived and breathed the sport.

About three months after Julian assumed command of the prison, he had organized prisoners into several teams. He had permission. This was clever of the authorities. Baseball was the one sphere of culture that transcended all the differences, even the war, and had been a welcome morale booster for prisoners who, after the surrender, had little hope for the future. Julian appointed himself coach of the team that included Atsushi and Yoshio. Before Julian launched the baseball project, each day in prison had about as much definition as a grease smudge. Once they rolled up their sleeves, put on the gloves, got out the bats, their sense of utter discouragement, sense of loss and failure eased. Even the pols whose necks rested on the block of world opinion relaxed.

Julian managed to keep his baseball activity at a low profile. At its height, only six teams reached the field. A small number out of a total prison population of 1, 128. The other prisoners had the indirect thrill of listening to the stories brought in by the players.

Atsushi, putting his skills at work, organized betting on the outcome of the games. By early fall of '45, in the playoffs, Julian's team - he was a player/coach - the Block Eight Angels, won the prison championship. In that same year, Detroit beat Chicago in the World Series.

The Japanese players carried Julian off the makeshift field on their shoulders. Morale had never been higher. Julian was respected. His opinions, not just on baseball, but on the Occupation, marriage, women, business, politics were sought, passed on, as if he were a great sage. The Japanese were programmed for respect. They required an a person to fill the gap left by the surrender. Someone to tell them what to do. Someone who could lead them. Major Julian was a myth waiting to be claimed. His myth soon became larger than the man, and the man was left with the difficult task of conquering his own mythology.

The Japanese were connoisseurs of personal strength, physical endurance, and toughness. Not that Julian did not have those qualities; it was just that the Japanese inflated them, and reassembled Julian Bonner in such a fashion as to make the whole larger than his individual parts. Julian, they thought, brought them good fortune. They loved his ritual like devotion to winning and achievement. Besides, there were few other candidates after the war. At least, not in Sugamo prison. Of course, there was General MacArthur, but like the Emperor, he was remote, and occupied another realm.

Julian excited the chemistry of the prisoners. There was no question that by the winter of '45, inside Sugamo prison, Major Julian was one of the most revered, respected, influential Americans in Japan. With the Japanese who counted. And most of the ones who mattered were in Sugamo prison.

Julian, who led a baseball team to victory, on a personal basis, was a rookie in dealing with General MacArthur and those at Dai Ichi. The General carefully built a cult following. The General was like a hybrid fish, a goldfish head and a shark's killer tail fin. He played the power game with enormous skill and energy in the tradition of a feudal lord. In Washington, he was thought of as a military commander. They never understood the essence of MacArthur. Surrender made him a ruler. A king and Japan was his kingdom.

The jewel of this kingdom, Tokyo, had been filled with destruction and sorrow. The City was the perfect place for the men around MacArthur to enjoy their own power and satisfy their own ambition. Julian, on the other hand, stuck to his job, and baseball. Because of his status, even the "elder" politicos and military types told him things. Secrets that military intelligence had not been told. They exposed themselves to Major Julian because they believed in him. He had established a social order, and it was their way of repaying him in the only currency they had - information, facts, data, secrets and rumors.

One politico served in China during the war and, first hand, inspected 731-Corps. Talked to the "doctors" and officers in charge, looked through the records. This pol had a ferocious reputation. At night, though, he woke in a fright, sweating and choking on the images from the camps in Manchuria called Harbin. He spoke of the ghosts who haunted his sleep.

A Japanese General named Shiro Ishii ran the operation. Really bad, beyond evil, sorts of experiments. Aussies, Brits, and Americans strapped to their cots by soldiers, as doctors and cholera. The lucky ones lapsed into coma and died without regaining consciousness. The unlucky awoke to bodies they no longer recognized.

Victims lingered for months with convulsions, tumors, inflamed joints, lymph glands bloated like a blowfish. Cot after cot of men wheezing and coughing in the cold and dark. A place where disease was created, turning bodies into abnormal shapes and colors. All that numbness, pain, death haunted the pol as he tried to sleep at night.

This politico gradually unfolded the full story to Julian. For a month, each afternoon, Julian sat in his cell listening to the politico, using Atsushi as his translator. General Ishii and his staff, with the war lost, blew up the labs, the holding pens, the dorms. Set them on fire, having poured petrol on the diseased bodies unable to move from their cots. And most of the records went up in blue smoke. Major Julian Bonner, who had retained the confidence of prisoners, was unable to keep the information to himself; he wrote a report, and personally delivered his account of 731 -Corps to General MacArthur in February '48.

By then Atsushi and Yoshio had been out of prison for over a year. Most of the politicos had been either hanged or re-elected to the Diet. The '48 American Presidential election campaign began heating up, and the warmth had spread to Dai Ichi. The morning Julian arrived, the General had been dictating a letter to a Congressman who wanted him to become more actively involved in the campaign for the Republican nomination.

He received Julian on short notice. Julian had served with General MacArthur for six years. In all that time, he had never felt comfortable in the General's presence; he was a man who maintained a substantial distance between himself and staff.

Julianís knowledge about the General's personal life was widely known in the small circle of officers around him. His Jean, and his Eurasian minor wife, Isabel Cooper. Julian was valued by the General because of the Major's family connection to the United States Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska. Senator Wherry was a supporter of the General's candidacy, and had mentioned Julian's name in one of his letters to the General. This connection guaranteed Julian an audience.

Julian laid the evidence of what the Japanese did near Harbin on the table that morning. Evidence of a special elite medical unit. In field hospitals the doctors had been breeding people like dogs in a kennel. Americans with Chinese women. In one experiment doctors removed the fetus, photographed it, sliced it up, looked at cells from the brain, liver, heart, and other organs under a microscope. In many of the breeding experiments, the captured soldier was infected with a disease before his sperm had been used to inseminate a Chinese woman.

The General sat back in his chair, smoking his pipe. General Shiro Ishii, who had surrendered to an officer in the U.S. Chemical Corps, was living a life of some luxury in Hawaii. The U.S. Army provided him a beachfront house, a boat, a couple of women, and lots of liquor. They wanted to ensure that General Ishii was a happy expat. MacArthur continued to listen, the smoke growing thicker from his pipe, as Julian explained how the Japanese politician revealed that the U.S. Army Chemical Corps had struck a bargain with Ishii. He had delivered all his personal records of the medical experiments, and in return the Americans promised all his needs would be taken looked after - for life. There was a long silence after Julian finished.

Julian asked General MacArthur to blow the lid on the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. He requested the General order Ishii tried as a war criminal and injected with a few pints of slime. The General rose from his chair, walked over to the window, removed his pipe.

"The war has caused much pain to many, " said MacArthur. "We have a great mission in Japan. To rebuild this country, bring democracy, freedom, and justice to these defeated people. Sometimes hard decisions must be made. A price must be paid to place the misery, destruction, and the past behind."

"But my report, with all due respect, sir, shows..."

The General held up his hand. "You have done a professional job, Major Bonner. Your handling of Sugamo Prison has been commented on by your superiors in the most favorable terms."

"This has nothing to do with the prison."

MacArthur struck the bowl of his pipe against the side of the ashtray. "You must stick to your job. And let me decide what orders should be given. Power is a symbol. Don't ever forget the importance of the symbol. We cannot, and I will not, sanction a witch hunt to destroy the very symbol so many of our men died to preserve. Is that understood, Major?"

The General, in fact, knew that Julian had done a professional job in running Sugamo Prison. He had been part of the reconstruction of the spirit of the Japanese people. He also was aware that the U.S. Army Chemical Corps had made a difficult decision in the national interest of the American people. There was too much at stake for General MacArthur to demand that the American chemical warfare people, who had acted in good faith, should be tarnished with Major Bonner's allegations.

General MacArthur wanted to be President of the United States. What Julian had asked of him would have been the equivalent of walking into a rotating propeller blade. As he stared into MacArthur's eyes, an important moment of crisis had been reached for Julian; and as he turned, walked out of the office, something inside the man broke. Later, Julian circled Dai Ichi for over an hour; each revolution of the complex, he stopped at the front, but did not go inside.

From above, the last time around 0 he saw the General standing in the window, looking down, the pipe in the corner of his mouth. Killing and screwing always exceeded the normal bounds during war. Everyone acknowledged that. What the 731-Corps had done was carried on in another dimension; in a location deeply buried in man, where some primitive evil animal life escaped from bottle of civility, and hideously, with a clear eye and head, systematically injected chemicals and disease into the spinal column of men created officers and gentlemen by an Act of Congress.

Julian felt all the people who had died in the 73 1 -Corps labs had been betrayed. Casualties of the war to be forgotten. No funerals. No ceremony. No remembrance for their suffering. As Julian stared up at the General, he knew one thing for certain: he could never live in the United States. He would make his life in Japan. It was better to live among the murderers than in a place where those in power believed that a profit might be turned from atrocities. There were certain things no men should ever have done or condoned on God's earth. The 731 Corps was more than an obscenity. It was a funeral for truth and humanity. It was a signal that those who won the war were in their heart no different from those who had lost it. The whole lot were breeders and killers looking to change evolution and the origin of species.

So Major Julian Bonner, according to Atsushi, as an act of protest, asked Atsushi to arrange for someone to paint "erection" on a sign and hang it across the road which General MacArthur's motorcade would use to carry the General to the airport on his trip to America.

"Why this word, erection?" Atsushi had asked him.

"The General wanted a symbol of power. Can you think of a better one?

(back to book main)

 

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