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214 The Fall of Japan Years earlier, well aware of the dangers involved in war with the West, Higashi-Kuni had tried to impress upon his military friends the rashness of Japanese aggression. Posted to the Army as a general, he had violently opposed the coming crisis with the United States. When the disaster of total war engulfed the nation, he resigned himself to inevitable defeat. Finally, as it came, the Prince stepped forward willingly when Hirohito asked for help. He took up Suzuki's title and set about restoring a measure of calm to a troubled nation. ^[[8/15/45]] [[yellow highlight]]At Fukuoka, scene of the massacre of American fliers only four ^[[8/11/45]] days before,[/yellow highlight]] officers at Western Army Headquarters listened to the Emperor's broadcast and then made plans for the afternoon. A meeting was held and an order read: "There will be an execution of enemy fliers. The fliers are being executed because they are being held responsible for indiscriminate bombing..." The man who read the directive added, "The executions will be kept secret." One vital reason impelled the Japanese to act against the remaining B-29 crew members in detention at the headquarters. The Americans knew too much. They could testify that other POW's had been alive a few days before the war ended but had suddenly disappeared from sight. In the middle of the afternoon, another procession went down the road to Aburayama. In the back of a truck, [[yellow highlight]] sixteen American airmen [/yellow highlight]] sat surrounded by guards. [[yellow highlight]]None of the prisoners knew the war was over.[/yellow highlight]] In the field where eight fellow prisoners had been slaughtered four days before, they were stripped and formed into a ragged line. The commander of the Japanese execution squad stood nearby with his girl friend, invited to watch the spectacle. When he shouted an order several of his men closed around the first victim. They took him into the woods at the edge of the field and fell upon the defenseless man with swords. The brutal scene was repeated again and again on the dwindling group of captives, who were dragged individually or by twos or threes into the trees and cut into pieces. Unlike the [[end page]] [[start page]] The Emperor Speaks 215 previous "organized" death of fliers, this day of killing was an orgy, a frenzied destruction of human beings. Shouts of triumph rose from the throats of the excited Japanese, who ripped and slashed the prisoners in the secluded forest. While crowds of happy people roamed the streets of New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, sixteen Americans were dumped into hastily dug pits across the Pacific at Aburayama. They were unrecognizable. [[yellow highlight]] The men who killed them went back to headquarters to burn any records pertaining to the whereabouts of the victims. [/yellow highlight]] At Oita Airfield, the last kamikaze attack of the Pacific war was about to be launched. It was close to five o'clock in the afternoon. Admiral Matome Ugaki had listened carefully to the Emperor's message. He had said goodbye to his associates in a brief ceremony where the traditional sake cups were drained by all. He had made his preparations for death. Finally he had stripped all insignia and braid from his uniform. Now he walked out of his hillside home toward the apron of the runway. Captain Miyazaki, resigned to his superior's decision, raced up to him and asked to go along on the mission. Ugaki rebuked him gruffly: "You have more than enough to attend to here. You must remain." Miyazaki burst into tears. The admiral walked on. When he reached the parking area, he was dumbfounded to see eleven naval fighter-bombers lined up ready for takeoff. Rear Admiral Tokiyushi Yokoi, Ugaki's chief of staff, approached the group leader and asked him if the men intended to follow Ugaki to Okinawa. He said they did. Ugaki was deeply moved. "Are you so willing to die with me?" Twenty-two hands flashed into the air as his flyers saluted him. Visibly moved, the admiral went to the lead plane and signaled for takeoff. Eleven motors coughed and caught, then roared loudly over the flat terrain. Just as the first plane moved onto the runway, Ensign Endo, whose place Ugaki had usurped, vaulted onto the wing and squeezed into the rear seat beside the admiral. They smiled at each other as the aircraft moved down the field. One by one, the ten other
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