The chief engineer stammered: “There were no technical errors, but a few words were not entirely clear.”
The emperor read the rescript again, tears in his eyes—and soon in the eyes of others in the room.
Each reading was only four and a half minutes long, but the speech spanned two records. The technicians picked the first set of records for the broadcast, but they kept all four, putting them in metal cases and then into khaki bags. The technicians, like everyone else in the palace, had heard rumors of a coup. They decided to stay there that night rather than attempt a return to the NHK broadcasting studio, out of fear that army mutineers would attempt to steal and destroy the recordings. A chamberlain placed the records in a safe in a small office used by a member of the empress’s retinue, a room normally off-limits to men. Then he hid the safe with a pile of papers.
* * *
In the early hours of August 15, Major Kenji Hatanaka, a fiery-eyed zealot, and Army Air Force Captain Shigetaro Uehara burst into the office of Lieutenant General Takeshi Mori, commander of the Imperial Guards Division. Hatanaka fatally shot and slashed Mori, and Uehara beheaded another officer. Hatanaka affixed Mori’s private seal to a false order directing the Imperial Guards to occupy the palace and its grounds, sever communications with the palace except through Division Headquarters, occupy NHK, and prohibit all broadcasts.
Meanwhile, Major Hidemasa Koga, a staff officer with the Imperial Guards, was trying to recruit other officers into the plot. At the palace, soldiers supporting the coup, with bayonets affixed to their rifles, rounded up the radio technicians and imprisoned them in a barracks. Wearing white bands across their chests to distinguish themselves from guards loyal to the emperor, they stormed the palace and began cutting telephone wires.
Koga, hoping to find and destroy what he thought was the single record of the emperor’s message, ordered a radio technician to find it. The technician, unfamiliar with the palace, led several soldiers into the labyrinth. Soldiers roamed palace buildings, kicking in doors, flinging contents of chests onto the polished floors. The emperor remained in his quarters and watched through a slit in the steel shutters protecting his windows.
Lieutenant Colonel Takeshita, meanwhile, tried again to bring Anami into the plot. Anami once more declined. Instead, with Takeshita in the room, Anami knelt on a mat, drove a dagger into his stomach, and drew it across his waist. Bleeding profusely, he then removed the knife and thrust it into his neck; Takeshita pushed the knife deeper until Anami finally died.
Rebellious soldiers swarmed into the NHK building, locked employees in a studio, and demanded assistance so they could go on the air and urge the nation to fight on. Shortly before 5 a.m. on August 15, Hatanaka walked into Studio 2, put a pistol to the head of Morio Tateno, an announcer, and said he was taking over the 5 o’clock news show.