My first visit to Japan was very short, only a week or so in December 1945. Three months earlier, while on the island of Guam, I had heard the broadcast by the Emperor announcing the end of the war. Soon afterward, I was sent from Guam to China to serve as an interpreter between the Americans and the Japanese military and civilians.
After four months, I received orders to return to my original command. I was aware that the original command was in Hawaii, but when the plane from Shanghai landed at Atsugi I felt a strong desire to visit Japan. Every day during the previous four years, ever since entering the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School, I had thought about Japan. I yearned to see it, but I was afraid of being caught if I violated orders. In the end, I persuaded myself that, now that the war had ended, my crime, if detected, would be treated as minor. I informed a naval officer at Atsugi that my original command had moved to Yokosuka. He believed me and I was safely in Japan.
The drive from Atsugi was bleak. As the jeep approached the city of Tokyo, buildings grew steadily fewer until all that were left were smokestacks and sheds. Once in the city, I found the building where the other interpreters were quartered, and was told by my friends that there was an empty bed. They described the destruction they had seen in various Japanese cities, but they had not yet realized the terrible significance of the atomic bomb.