740.0011 Pacific War/483: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

1345. 1. The Japanese people are now told that they must perfect a “facing war”. The recent unusual extensive mobilization of men and materials, the daily hammering of the press on the theme of A. B. C. D. encirclement, and air raid precautions now being taken cannot fail to affect the morale of the Japanese people. While there is little free expression of opinion within earshot of foreigners, certain indications that the people are apprehensive, alarmed and in dread of war are clear. Four years of inconclusive fighting in China have dulled the patriotic exuberance of 1937. Daily life is increasingly constrained by a [mass?] of restrictions, and queues for bread, sugar, vegetables, and other daily necessities are a common sight on every street. The Japanese is stoical in his outlook on life and while he becomes accustomed to hardships he sees in the present situation no hope ahead.

2. For some time open dissatisfaction has been expressed at the secrecy with which the Government has enshrouded its high “immutable” policy. Editors, commentators, and contributors have appealed to the Government in the press for more frank explanations of what the people were to be called upon to do. The point has been repeatedly emphasized that for four years the Japanese people have borne with uncomplaining and unquestioning patriotism the burden of the China Incident and that now, as they face greater danger and greater hardships, they deserve the confidence and trust of the Government. The President of the Information Board, recognizing this very widespread complaint, denied to the press on August 13 the accusation that the Government sought deliberately to keep the nation in the dark. He appealed for cooperation from the people.

3. The uneasy popular state of mind has not been soothed by the obvious military preparations. Conscription, construction of air raid shelters, the appearance of several barrage balloons in Tokyo, the construction of anti-air raid gun emplacements, and restrictions on travel have all created a tension easy to perceive. All newspapers have recently published a series of articles describing air raids and air raid precautions. The articles warn against hysteria and “detailed statistics[” purport?] to show that the percentages of both bomb hits and casualties in air raids are small. Evacuation from cities is condemned as cowardly and unpatriotic.

4. That the Government is aware of the importance of healthy public morale is indicated by the marked change in its recent publicity approach to the people. The information board, until now considered [Page 409] primarily as a disseminator of information for use abroad, is undergoing a process of strengthening and reorganization and its most important task in [is] now described as the mobilization of public opinion within Japan. It is now conducting a publicity campaign to assure the nation that capacity for war is adequate. Posters have been prominently displayed praising the achievements of the China incident and pointing out the steps which have been taken to strengthen Japan as a defense state. Tokyo’s seven newspapers now daily display identical photographs (seldom permitted to be published before) of battleship, submarine and airplane interiors or guns, war industries or other scenes designed to show Japan’s defense strength.

5. The evidence indicates that if Japan is to engage in a war with a major power, the morale of the people will need further strong stimulation. At best they will go into it blindly, doggedly, desperately. They will not be confident.