1954 was a year of change across the globe. The end of the Second World War may have been a decade earlier, but the globe was still coming to terms with the fallout, and trying to understand the brave new world we all lived in.
It seems that war was never far away at that time. But in terms of global reach and pop cultural awareness, it would be Japan that created a monster. 1954 was the year the first Gojira (Godzilla) film was released.
There have been many inciteful and perceptive discussions about the dropping of two nuclear bombs in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War, and the effect this had on the national psyche. Japanese fiction, from Murasaki to Dragonball Z, has carried a strong sense of the apocalyptic ever since. But it is with this towering, oceanic monster, born of the nuclear age, that was Japan’s most enduring atomic legacy.
The monster is literally born of nuclear testing, mutating due to radioactive fallout and becoming a fictionalized manifestation of the fear of destruction the Japanese had while watching the US nuclear tests in the Pacific. They, after all, knew what it was like to be targeted with such nuclear attacks.
But this is not the only genesis of Godzilla. For it seems that, just after the second world war, Japan was rocked by news that a giant creature had risen from the sea and was attacking the mainland. This is the story of the 1947 Godzilla attack.
A Sea Monster Attack on Toyko?
Tokyo’s armed forces radio station, WVTR, announced the disturbing news of a 20-foot sea monster attacking the city on May 29, 1947. While the evening broadcast of dance music was running on the radio station, the armed forces interrupted the show with a disturbing news bulletin.
The report was simple: a sea monster had emerged from the Tokyo Bay waters and was moving inland. This exclusive news had thrown the entire region into chaos. After some hours, the armed forces radio station again updated a series of bulletins for the listeners where they were given information about the progress of the creature, described as like a dragon, as it smashed buildings, derailed trains, and proceeded downtown.
These updates have also mentioned that troops were battling with the monster, but that bullets appeared to do no harm. Thus, all the soldiers were using grenades, phosphorous bombs, flamethrowers, and teargas in their desperation.
The armed forces radio station in Tokyo had also advised the listeners to barricade themselves indoors so that they could stay safe and secure with their loved ones. They also suggested keeping their phone lines clear so that they can place emergency calls at the right time.
This report of the radio station was continued at a frantic pace that included several things like remote radio links, harrowing rescues and escapes, movement of tanks and heavy weapons, all in the face of this seemingly unstoppable attack.
It seems to the public that they were living through an epic encounter, and that the human race would never be the same again. Moreover, this report was accompanied by the terrifying roars, shrieks, and screams of both the panic-stricken populace and the beast. You could even hear gunfire in the background.
At the final stage of the report, it was announced that the monster had reached downtown Tokyo. The whole report was moderated by the announcer, who was giving a play-by-play battle account.
It was at that point that the announcer, Cpl. Jim Carnahan of Chicago, told the listeners to draw nearer the beast. After holding the audience on tenterhooks, he announced that he wished to congratulate the fifth anniversary of the Armed Forces Radio Station. It had all been a hoax.
What was Behind the Story?
The whole Godzilla Hoax was generated by the armed forces radio station to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Japan’s Armed Forces Radio staff, who were from Los Angeles, created the whole scenario, perhaps taking things a little far in the process.
Their fertile minds had created a 20-foot (6 meter) sea monster and sent it on a destructive rampage through Tokyo. During the announcement of the broadcast, the scriptwriters Pfc. Arthur Thompson, Cpl. Arthur Bartick, Pfc. Pierre Meyers and their boss AFRS Japan Director Dr. Wilson W. Cook were involved who planned the joke.
But as it turned out the joke was not very funny. Many listeners had taken this joke very seriously and the hour-long broadcast created a widespread panic situation for the listeners. It has been identified that the radio station’s phone lines were tied up by people with the progress of the broadcast to seek more information regarding the movement of the monster.
- The Greatest Theft You’ve Never Heard of: The 1905 US Treasury Heist
- The Japanese I-400: An Underwater Aircraft Carrier?
At that time, Japanese police were even instructed to stand by to fight the hoax monster. The military police were also on high alert. While the program was going on, the uncertainty increased among people as the station personnel declined the requests to acquire more information related to the movement of the monster.
At the end of the program, everyone got to know that it was a joke, and listeners were asked to stop telephoning the army headquarters, the radio station, and any other official agency. People were still phoning in twelve hours later, concerned at the attack and unsure what to do.
While the program was going on, one person called who was a British occupation troops officer. He said his men were continuously asking for grenades and rifles to fight the battle against the monster.
For instance, one G.I. telephoned to share his personal experience and said I had seen the monster with my eyes. He explained the monster as a thick-skinned and horrifying creature that grinned in a slimy and oily manner. Even this broadcast fooled US Gen. MacArthur as a member of his staff called the radio station.
Moreover, the long-hour broadcast had an effect on the US Armed Forces members and their family members. This broadcast has also provided a few reports where the English-speaking Japanese listeners were alarmed.
The Origin of Godzilla?
The whole scenario of the Godzilla Hoax was created by a group of Japan’s Armed Forces Radio staff who were from Los Angeles. Thompson observed the whole scenario by simply sitting at his home in Los Angeles when the long-hour broadcast was aired on the radio.
He said the complete broadcast is not only a joke, but it can be a good script. This story was so preposterous as it scared many people. Thus, he thought of adopting their original idea where the Nazi V-2 rocket went out of control while testing at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and resulting in its accidental destruction.
Was this where Gojira came from? That does not seem to be the whole picture, and a whole slew of inspirations were responsible for the iconic Japanese monster. But there has to be something of this hoax in its DNA, and at least part of the famous monster came out of Armed Forced Radio.
Top Image: Godzilla is a Japanese icon, but people believed the 1947 attack was very real. Source: Savvapanf Photo / Adobe Stock.
By Bipin Dimri