Wartime headlines from The Japan Times

The Japan Times, which was founded in 1865, absorbed The Japan Mail in 1918, becoming The Japan Times and Mail. Then, in 1940, the company bought both The Japan Advertiser of Tokyo and the Japan Chronicle of Kobe, becoming The Japan Times and Advertiser Incorporating the Japan Chronicle and The Japan Mail. It carried this title until January 1, 1943, when it was renamed the Nippon Times — in keeping with the patriotic sentiment of the day. It remained the Nippon Times until 1956, when it again became The Japan Times.

The headlines below are just a few of the many I photographed in 1966, before the dawn of the era of photocopying. They are a fascinating reflection of the wave of euphoria that swept Japan during the first months of the war, when everything seemed to be going its way. "When the Prince of Wales and the Repulse were sunk, I heard them cheering upstairs in editorial," the chief proofreader, who had been born in England, told me in the early 1960s. Ironically, many of those who cheered loudest in those days later became the strongest supporters of Japan's postwar alliance with the United States.

Shortly after I finished photographing these front pages of The Japan Times, the bound volume of issues from December 1941 mysteriously disappeared. I think it was stolen by a member of the staff, who probably realized its future value. So this may be a unique record of Japanese wartime reporting.


WAR IS ON:There was no font large enough for this headline. I was told that it had to be carved out of wood. The text of the Imperial Rescript, declaring war on the United States and Britain, is below.

PHILIPPINES LANDING MADE:The picture overline reads: "They Blasted Lair of Pacific Fleet".

BRITISH ASIA FLEET SMASHED:The picture overline reads: "It's All in a Day's Work for Japan's Navy Eagles".

HONGKONG SURRENDERS:The British were "unable to further withstand the furious onset of the Imperial Army, Navy and Air forces".

SINGAPORE SURRENDERS:The general in the photograph is Hisaichi Terauchi (1879-1946), the commander of the "Southern Campaign". His wakizashi (short sword), a family heirloom, was taken as one of the spoils of war by Mountbatten, and is now in Windsor Castle.

NORTH AUSTRALIA BOMBED:The lead story reports that Port Darwin, Derby, Broome, Wyndham and Horn Island have been bombed. Note the small headline at the bottom of the picture: "Italians clean up British in N. Africa". Did the Italians "clean up" anything during World War II?

CORREGIDOR FALLS:The lead story reports that the entire Corregidor operation was concluded at 8am on May 7, 1942.

TEXT OF IMPERIAL RESCRIPT, DECEMBER 8, 1941

We, by grace of heaven, Emperor of Japan, seated on the throne of a line unbroken for ages eternal, enjoin upon ye, our loyal and brave subjects: We hereby declare war on the United States of America and the British Empire. The men and officers of our Army and Navy shall do their utmost in prosecuting the war, our public servants of various departments shall perform faithfully and diligently their appointed tasks, and all other subjects of ours shall pursue their respective duties; the entire nation with a united will shall mobilize their total strength so that nothing will miscarry in the attainment of our war aims.

To insure the stability of East Asia and to contribute to world peace is the far-sighted policy which was formulated by our great Illustrious Imperial Grandsire and Our Great Imperial Sire succeeding him, and which we lay constantly to heart. To cultivate friendship among nations and to enjoy prosperity in common with all nations have always been the guiding principles of our Empire's foreign policy. It has been truly unavoidable and far from our wishes that our Empire has now been brought to cross swords with the United States and Great Britain. More than four years have passed since China, failing to comprehend the true intentions of our Empire, and recklessly courting trouble, disturbed the peace of East Asia and compelled our Empire to take up arms.

Although there has been reestablished the National Government of China, with which Japan has effected neighborly intercourse and cooperation, the regime which has survived at Chungking, relying upon United States and British protection, still continues its fratricidal opposition. Eager for the realization of their inordinate ambition to dominate the Orient, both the United States and Britain, giving support to the Chungking regime, have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia. Moreover, these two powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of our Empire to challenge us. They have obstructed by every means possible our peaceful commerce, and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations, menacing gravely the existence of our Empire. Patiently have we waited and long have we endured, in the hope that our Government might retrieve the situation in peace, but our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement and, in the meantime, they have intensified the economic and political pressure to compel thereby our Empire to submission.

This trend of affairs would, if left unchecked, not only nullify our Empire's efforts of many years for the sake of the stabilization of East Asia, but also would endanger the very existence of our nation. The situation being such as it is, our Empire for its existence and self-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path. The hallowed spirits of our Imperial ancestors guarding us from above, we rely upon the loyalty and courage of our subjects in our confident expectation that the task bequeathed by our forefathers will be carried forward, and that the sources of evil will be speedily eradicated and an enduring peace immutably established in East Asia, preserving thereby the glory of our Empire.