- Rischbieth, H.G., Surgeon-Lieutenant, RAN
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Shropshire
- June 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
After leaving the ship, we passed first through the entrance to the outer harbour with its tall lights standing like sentries on either side, then through the inner breakwater and into the port itself. Lying just inside the inner mile is a half sunken Japanese aircraft carrier – mute testimony to the bombing of the allied airmen who flew so often over Japan.
A few fussy little tugs were puffing about – manned by Japanese, but they appeared to be doing nothing very important. Nevertheless, we were quite surprised to see them still functioning and still manned by the same crews.
We turned to port, passed under the stern of the American destroyer Buchanan – proud possessor of a Presidential Citation for her deeds of valour, and today the ship which carried Admirals Nimitz and Halsey from their ships in the bay into Yokohama and out again, and we finally drew alongside a stone quay, where all landed.
We could not help but be amused at a large sign across the quarter deck of Buchanan announcing in large letters that ‘Joe can do it!’
It was a strange feeling finally to step ashore on Japan itself. My feelings were very deep and I thought of all those who had given so much – their everything – to make it possible for us Australians to step ashore.
It was the day that we’ve worked and waited for hourly for four long, weary and often black and discouraging years, and I felt somehow that it was not only I stepping ashore, I, with the six others who were there with me, was merely the lucky representative of the thousands and thousands of Australians who, with millions of Americans, British, Chinese, Russians, men and women of all Allied nations had worked and fought so hard to make our landing possible – we, by the turn of fate, were their representatives.
We walked a short distance down the pier, through the drizzling rain and watched a tug casting off. Then we turned and headed towards the town itself. Unfortunately, we had only a short time ashore, but in it, were able to walk a quarter of a mile up towards the city. It is a weird sensation to walk past Japanese soldiers, sailors and policemen, all armed with swords and revolvers, while we walk, probably rather stupidly, armed only with cameras.
From their expressions, you could gain not the slightest inkling of what they were thinking – their faces were inscrutable as the Sphinx.
They were quite well behaved. They didn’t smile, nor did any of them attempt to speak to us. For all we could tell, the fact that we were there might not even have been known to the people who passed us in the street, so little notice did they take of us.
As we walked along, we were passed by a Japanese bus full of officers, Japanese and American – the Japs armed with swords and revolvers, sitting on the other side, and in front; the Americans armed with revolvers, on the other side and in the back portion. It was something so strange that we just stood and gaped – a few weeks ago, the Japanese would do a `banzai’ charge rather than surrender, and now here they were, riding along apparently unconcernedly with their former enemies – well actually, until the Surrender, present enemies.
As we walked towards the city, we were amused to see a Japanese officer, with a very fine sword and most ornate revolver, and so probably of quite high rank, marching along holding a black umbrella over his head. We would have been glad of it ourselves, as a matter of fact.
As we returned, we peered into a number of warehouses full of rope and wire and such like bosun’s stores. In some of them, Japanese clerks were still at the desks; and so we went back to our boat, pushed off and came aboard once more.
It was a most wonderfully interesting trip, yet one which took me no further in trying to understand the Japanese surrender. They still march proudly about their streets and I found it hard to realise that they were a thoroughly beaten people; sullen they were, and well disciplined, but still proud.
Sunday, 2 September
Today, was the day we have longed and prayed for, for six tragic years – years during which Peace had been banished from her rightful place in the world. Today she came back, never, we hope, to leave again.