Questions from my son to my mother

January 4, 2006

1. What was it like being bombed?

I never was bombed and nothing fell near me, but there was the sound of hundreds of U.S. airplanes together with ground-based sirens and searchlights. At night we went to bed in our clothes so we could get up and run at any time. At the bedside, we kept a kind of padded hood that covered our head and shoulders as protection. We also carried a canteen and some emergency food (roasted soybeans and dry crackers). Everyone had to wear on every item of clothing a nametag that included our bloodtype. During a single night, we usually had to get out of bed many times.

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March 10, 1945 was the biggest airraid on Tokyo. Many incendiary bombs were dropped, fires started, and almost as many people died as the number who died in Hiroshima — over 300,000. At this time, though, I was not in Tokyo. With all my classmates I was in a place called Nagano, several hours northwest of Tokyo, working at a parachute factory.

But I was in Tokyo when the second biggest airraid hit Tokyo. Our house and community was spared, but my grandparents’ house was burned. My father and I went by bicycle to search for my grandparents and their daughter. We found them all wrapped in quilts, seated on the floor of a school building. They moved in with us, but since we had no extra rice, my mother simply added extra water when preparing rice. We were all hungry. I was fifteen years old at the time. (If I had been bombed during the war, neither your father nor you would be here today. Can you imagine that?)

2. Is it true that only your house was left standing in the area?

No, the whole neighborhood was miraculously saved. But one or two blocks away, I remember standing on one side of a street and watching houses burn on the other side.

3. Did you lose any family members?


4. What happened to the people around you?

Some left for the countryside, but of those who remained, we helped each other a lot.

5. Where did you live during World War II?

My family home was in a section of Tokyo called Kanda, so I lived there except for the short time I worked at the parachute factory.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

4 responses to Questions from my son to my mother

  1. This is why I can’t watch war movies. People who live through these things blow my mind. We are so spoiled to live in a country where the worst thing, literally, that ever happened at the hands of an enemy was 9/11 and Perl Harbor. There are places where those things would go unnoticed because it happens so often.
    On the one hand, we have the people, the innocents, and then on the other, we have the fact that Japan coule have easily been the worst foe we would have ever faced. It could have esily been Japanese kids who felt really bad for the poor Americans after they slughtered all of us. The people there are… more selfless than in other places, especially than in Europe. The focus of the Japanese peole as a culture is unparallelled. I would have cowered in my boots to see one of their armies coming at us. Still, I have by no means, respect for an administration that makes a pre-emptive strike on the scale seen back then. It certainly made a point, but so many people lived lives of horror that had nothing to do with the war.
    Still on behalf of all of the innocents here, a great big “I’m sorry” to your mom and everyone else, for what we did. We cannot possibly give them their lives back. All we can do is oust the current adminstration ASAP so we make sure that their grandkids don’t have to live in the same condiions.
    God. Give your mom a hug for me. And your son too.
    (your post made me cry and be really angry at the same time)

  2. “War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.” — Jimmy Carter

  3. Jon, it is so neat that your mom can talk about her past and we all can learn from it. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. I have had some conversations with my father in recent years about his time in Patton’s Third Army. The stories he tells are worse than any war movie I have seen. He also avoids war movies. Not because he doesn’t agree with them but because he does not want to relive that time in his life.