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TAN Nobuyoshi interview, 23 January 2011, Part Three

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On December 27, 1944, I experienced my first air raid. An air defense alarm was given, and the tremendous sounds of bombings were heard from quite a distance. As our area was not actually attacked, my neighbors all rushed out of their houses and watched the air strike. On the south of Kamiosaki, the area around Shinagawa, I first witnessed a B29 being shot down. It fell from the sky slowly emitting black smoke . I was deeply impressed to see it shot down. Though I was just a child, I was truly happy. That was the first and last time I ever saw a B29 being shot down. However, on the day my house was burnt down, I did see another B29 covered in flames come falling out of the sky within a short distance from us. It was as if you could reach out and touch it. . The B29 fell approximately 500 meters from where I was. But that's another story. Anyway, that other incident was the only time I ever saw a B29 actually being shot down. During a different air raid a B29 crew member's parachute actually landed on my head. An aircraft was crashing down right above us during an air strike in May that burned down our house. Just before the B29 fell to the ground, the parachuting airman landed on me. It was on the night of May 23rd, 1945. To be exact, it was around midnight just before the day turned into the 24th. An air raid warning was given and, all of a sudden, my father said, "I think this is going to be a dangerous one..." He was afraid that we might be hurt even in our air-raid shelter. So we tried to get out. At that time, our house was along a road and there was a cemetery in the rear. We'd built our shelter between our house and the cemetery so that we could escape through the cemetery if our house happened to be destroyed. The entrance to our shelter was on the cemetery side. My parents and sister got out of the shelter first. Then my grandmother, aunt, and uncle followed them. When I was finally getting out I was suddenly covered by the falling parachute. My family members had their shoes on and were already getting through our house to the road. Since I was the last person out I got covered by the parachute. My father noticed and just then a policeman also rushed towards me. I don't know if he witnessed the moment when the parachute fell on me but the police officer arrived just after the U.S. airman got out of the parachute, and took him to the police station. Then we all came to the road outside our house. At the moment, a B29 suddenly dropped on the ground approximately 500 meters from where we were. I'm not sure if it was the B29 of the airman who fell on me though. It was really dangerous. Aircraft fly so fast... With just a slight difference, the B29 could have dropped right on our house. After that, another B29 appeared and dropped more incendiary bombs on our shelter, the house, and our neighbors' homes. They also dropped fire bombs on the road. But most of them hit the area around our house. Afterwards I found that two incendiary shells had directly hit our air-raid shelter. We were safe by only three minutes or so. It was a really simple structure anyway. We'd just dug into the ground, covered the hole with some boards and tin plates, and piled some soil 50 centimeters or so over the top. The incendiary bombs weighed as much as 25 kilograms. They were 50cm long and 8cm wide.... They pierced through that air-raid shelter very easily. The moment the bombs penetrated, they instantly broke and a fire spread. That's how incendiary bombs worked. One day after the "all clear" signal was given after a daytime air strike I was delighted to see a Japanese fighter fly at a low altitude right over our house. We all were happy and waved while we cried out, "Look! It's one of ours!" I suppose that after the air raid on March 10, even the top-ranking government officials and leading members of Japanese Army realized how badly the situation had deteriorated. The citizens of Tokyo were certainly in despair. Anyway, I think it's because the Army wanted to encourage the people that a few days later, hundreds of bombers, fighters, and other types of Japanese aircraft flew over Tokyo. Maybe they just wanted us to see that they still had planes left. And we were somewhat relieved to see our own planes flying overhead. Looking back now, however, there might have been only 100 or so planes. It was probably the same ones just flying over us repeatedly. I think I remember seeing the same groups more than once. And, unfortunately, the Japanese aircraft were not as handsome as the B29s. You could tell just looking at them that they weren't as good. There were none of the beautiful Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien fighters among them. It was mostly just a bunch of cheap planes. Definitely not front line material. So we were burned out of our home early in the morning of 24 May 1945 and I eventually noticed that about 100 meters from our home the B29 crew member had been tied to a utility pole. He was pretty young. I'm sure it was the man who fell on me. You might think that he'd be abused. Beaten or stoned even... But he wasn't. The people of Tokyo didn't do anything like that. Everyone passed by while gazing pathetically at him. My family too. I remember thinking how harsh war was. We hated the B29s themselves, but the American soldiers weren't hated at all. Even as pro-war as my childish mind was at the time, I didn't really feel any particular malice toward him myself. I think everyone in Tokyo was like that. On the other hand, I have heard stories of POWs being maltreated in rural areas.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 57 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 187
Posted by: japanairraids on Jan 30, 2011

TAN Nobuyoshi, former civilian researcher with the Japanese Ministry of Defense, discusses his experience of the WWII air raids.

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