Japan's Defence: Today and Tomorrow

Hisao Iwashima


When the Pacific War was over, I was taking a training to become a commanding officer of the KORYLI (Seadragon), a five-man midget submarine, modified version of the two-man submarine which penetrated Pearl Harbor in 1941. Missions in these submarines were not suicidal, but very nearly so, because they were automatically forced to the surface after firing one torpedo out of two due to the loss of balance. They would float in
front of the target for about twenty seconds, submerge to normal depth, fire the second torpedo and come up again. It was a "secret weapon" in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Navy before the end of the war. About 150 such submarines were ready to fight against the landing forces of the United States.
I mention this to underline the difference between my feelings at that time, and my feelings now. I had no fear of death during the war. I was not afraid of fighting against a superior force for the sake of the nation. But I am much more afraid of death now. Although 1 have taught for a long time at the National Defence College (currently the National Institute for Defence Studies) about international security, my sentiments are very different from what they were in the prewar period.
The difference in my feelings is also tied to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I was in the Submarine School at Otake, 40 kilometers away from Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped, and saw the flash of the explosion and the mushroom cloud, and felt the shockwave. Two days later, I walked through Hiroshima for about two hours. I was told that if I had been there for five hours I would have been fatally affected, but fortunately I was not exposed to the radiation long enough for that. When I came back to Kure, which was near my home port at that time, my group and I got very drunk, to try and expunge the nightmare we had seen. The drinking helped save my life, flushing out the radiation. I do not know whether to believe that or not, but in any case I am still here.
Only someone who had gone through the same experience, I think, could understand the anxieties I had after the war, especially when I was about to Hisao Iwashima have my first child. Even my wife did not really understand. At any rate, these feelings make up a part of my mentality. Frankly speaking, the Japanese "nuclear allergy" is something that ought to persist. It is unacceptable to use atomic weapons for any reason, under any reason, under any conditions. At the same time, I have to acknowledge the effectiveness of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. This is the dilemma I have to confront in my own thinking.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22439/cjas.v3i2.1760

Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
ISSN (print): 1395-4199, ISSN (online): 2246-2163

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