On Aug. 15, 1945, Susumu Noda was in the first year of junior high school in the Manchurian port city of Dalian, where his father worked for Japan’s Manchuria Railroad Company. Between the time he went to school for war work in the morning and the time the students were sent home, the war was over, and everything he knew changed.
Mr. Noda had lunch with my wife so could tell others his story. This is the second part of his dialogue.
- Part 1: School days during wartime
- Part 2: The world changed on Aug. 15
- Part 3: Battle for family survival
- Part 4: The Chinese
- Part 5: The Russians
It was completely different from how it was before the end of the war, completely different.
On the day the war ended, they called us all to the school. And there we saw the second-year students who we hadn’t seen for a long time. Everybody was there. We heard the Emperor’s speech. The principal brought out the radio, but I couldn’t understand anything. I couldn’t hear it.
Afterword, We were asking each other, “What did the emperor say?“ He said, “Do your best.“
That’s what we were telling each other. And then the principal stood on the dais and told us the war was lost. We were all going, “What?” We were so surprised. Up to that point, losing was inconceivable.
There were Chinese working at the Japanese sweet shop, who made the deliveries every day. They always brought lots of samples. They’d show you the samples, take your orders, and deliver them the next day.
The shop owner was a very kind man. And at the end of the war, every day he would say to my mother, “Missus, you know Japan is going to lose.“
My mother would say, “Don’t be an idiot. We can’t lose. The kamikaze will win the war for us.“
“Who’s telling you this?“ My mother asked.
“All the Chinese are saying it,” he said.
Changing of the guard
Between home and school, I would pass a police box and a Shinto shrine. When I went past them with my little brothers, we would always give a military salute (like they taught us in school). But on the way home that afternoon, we saluted the police box and the policemen started talking to my brother and me in Chinese.
The Chinese policemen were angry with us. For 30 minutes they berated us and we didn’t say anything because we didn’t speak Chinese. By saluting they thought we were making fun of them, so they were saying, “You lost, how dare you disrespect us.”
That morning, when we still expected to win the war, all the police boxes were manned by Japanese policemen. On our way home, after Japan had lost, all the policemen were Chinese.
When we passed the shrine, we also saluted. But the next day we decided not to salute anymore.
As long as I remembered, we could see Japanese flags here and there around town, but from noon on Aug. 15, the flag of the Republic of China was everywhere—the flag that is now Taiwan’s. It was very sudden, meaning people had been making them in anticipation. From noon, everywhere you looked there were Chinese flags.
Dalian at that time had streetcars. The cars reserved for Japanese were green. Koreans and Chinese could ride in the cars that were colored orange. If a Chinese person boarded the green car, he’d have been killed. That’s the way it was until Aug. 15 at noon.
From noon, the Chinese could ride any car they wanted. That’s the kind of discrimination that took place.
My friend’s older brother was murdered by Chinese because he rode in the orange car.
We used to throw rocks at the Chinese kids, but they couldn’t do anything about it. After Aug. 15, they threw rocks at us, and we couldn’t complain. That’s what happens when you lose a war.
The night of Aug. 15 there was rioting. There were a lot of workshops for making clothes. One factory made clothes for the Japanese army and employed Chinese. From Aug. 15 Chinese went to that factory, stormed it and the Chinese and Koreans ransacked the place for several days. They took everything.