National / History

For woman, quality of air-dropped U.S. leaflets was portent of WWII's end

Kyodo

An 81-year-old woman remembers she felt Japan was facing defeat when she felt the quality of the paper used in leaflets dropped by U.S. aircraft calling for surrender in the closing days of the war.

“Let’s end this war” was a message written in a brush-style typeface on white leaflets, said Fumiko Maruoka, who was then a fifth-grader at an elementary school in Kyoto Prefecture. She picked up one and was surprised by the difference in quality compared with the coarse paper used at her school.

“I wondered then if Japan would lose the war,” Maruoka recalled.

In 1944, Maruoka used to walk for an hour with other students from their school to an arms factory in Kyoto once a month to make the pocket-sized bags used by the Imperial Japanese Army to hold bullets.

She said she later heard that small children poor at sewing were selected on purpose so soldiers could easily rip open the 15-cm cloth bags to reload during battle.

Girls made the bags and boys carried the bullets inside the plant; they all looked forward to being given biscuits at the end of work.

The following year, U.S. B-29 bombers became a frequent site over Kyoto. In March, they flew en masse over the ancient capital and toward Osaka on huge air raids.

Maruoka said her father, a conscripted worker at an arms factory in Osaka, told her he was prepared to die. One day when Maruoka and other children were planting potatoes or soybeans in a field, a U.S. fighter plane flew in low and strafed the area. The frightened children could see the pilot’s face.

“It was a wonder none of us was shot,” Maruoka recalled.

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