David William Pohl TOKYO RAID Document 2-A
June 3, 1943
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence

(part TWO of the document)

Q: Now, would you make a statement as to what happened when you landed and got picked up ... the chances of getting away and all that sort of thing.

A: When we landed, they were surprised to see our airplane. There was no one there in authority at the time. There was a captain who met us, but, of course, none of us spoke any of their language, and none of them spoke English. So he took us into an office and we sat there for about two hours and a half at which time an interpreter came in and told us that they were fixing something for us to eat. They didn't question us about where we had come from -- except the pilots, who would come in, and, out of curiosity, would point to the map and ask us where we had come from. We pointed generally in the direction of Alaska. We didn't want to tell anyone. That night a colonel, who was the C. O. there, through the interpreter told us that we had been part of the raid on Japan. He accused us of it and I admitted that we had. I asked him if he would fix us up with gasoline and if he would that we would take off early the next morning and proceed to China. He agreed.

Q: Did you learn his name?

A: I knew it then -- but I don't remember it now.

Q: But he was an army colonel?

A: No. He was a naval colonel. They have colonels in the Navy. This is a naval air station.

Q: Did any diplomatic official of the government, or civilian, talk to you?

A: Not then. We asked that they notify the American consul in Vladivostok that we were there and wanted to see him. They wouldn't let us do that.

Q: He didn't do that?

A: He was apparently still hoping he might be able to send us off. When we went to bed that night we were fully confident we were going to leave the next morning.

Q: You think he was sincere?

A: Yes.

The next morning there was already a general present and a divisional commissar -- the equivalent to our civilian official. Evidently they had communications from higher headquarters and, after we finished eating, we were placed aboard a Russian DC-3 and flown to Khabarovsk, which is about 400 miles north of Vladivostok. When we arrived there we were interviewed for a short time by the Chief of Staff of the Far Eastern Red Army and he, at that time, decided we were being interned.

Q: Did you see your ship again?

A: No sir.

Q: Any of your equipment?

A: Our personal belongings were sent to us about three days later. They had all been left at the station in Vladivostok -- anything that resembled airplane equipment was kept by them, including our pistols.

Q: Were you well-treated then?

A: We were placed in a house about five miles out of town and very closely guarded. About five days after we had been there it was announced over the radio that we had landed in the country and were interned. About five days after that we were taken aboard a train and sent to a city named Penza in European Russia.

Q: All the way across by railroad?

A: Yes.

Q: How long did it take?

A: Twenty days. In Penza, they placed us in a house about five miles out of town and we remained there for about two months and a half.

Q: Were you well fed?

A: Our food there was fairly good.

Q: Did you have any inquiries there from any officials?

A: No. We were never questioned after the interview we had with the Chief of Staff, Far East, and he asked very few questions. Just enough to make sure we were Americans. We were never searched or asked for any identification that I can remember now. Any identifying documents or anything.

Q: Did you have any fun ... or were you just completely shut up?

A: We were completely shut up in that house. There was a fence around the house. We were never allowed outside of it.

Q: You were there two and a half months?

A: Yes. And then we were moved to a small village named Ohansk. This is eighty miles south of Molotov, in the Urals, and we stayed there almost eight months.

Q: Were you able to see anything of the surrounding country at all?

A: We traveled. Of course, we saw places as we went through the area.

Q: Were you able to gather any impressions about the industrialism in that region

A: Some, yes.

Q: Did it look fairly well advanced?

A: Their industries ... their factories are not factories as we know them. They don't look modern to me. Most of them are low wooden buildings. Their lighting is very poor and everything seems to be in disorder and disrepair. That was my personal impression.

Q: Were there enough of them to be making a large contribution to Russia's industrial effort?

A: Coming through the Urals almost every town we saw was smoky and dirty because of factories. There are evidently enough.

Q: Have you seen enough of industrialism in the United States to give any comparison?

A: Theirs doesn't compare to ours.

Q: Of course you couldn't tell their output?

A: No.

Q: We have reactions from almost everybody else on weather and flying conditions. Do you have anything to say about that?

A: Fair and unlimited.

Q: No special turbulence or anything?

A: No.

Q: Did you get any radio indication of a large net?

A: As we were approaching the island I tried all radio equipment trying to get some sort of reception. All was silent.

Q: I thought one of the ships around the tenth or eleventh still heard something on the radio. You say you didn't see any American ships at all?

A: I tried for about three or four minutes to get something on the radio. When I couldn't I switched off entirely.

Q: You didn't have any extra load or anything that might have affected the gasoline?

A: No.

Q: May I ask a question? Are the maps accurate on the topography? Did you find when you went over the mountains that you had to climb about as much as they said?

A: The maps were inaccurate as to the outlying shore and terrain features -- the ones we had. The first time we definitely oriented ourselves, was when we came over the mountains and saw this island and we could see the edge of this peninsula. (Sado Island)

Q: What is the greatest height you had to go?

A: 5,000 feet.

Q: Do you know which map you used, Major? Was it one of the Japanese aeronautical maps taken in about 1941?

A: Those are the same maps. The ones furnished.

Q: You didn't miss the landfall by much, did you? There was no special reason for that?

A: No.

Q: You apparently came very close to it?

A: I think so.

Q: Were the fighters single engine?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you notice any other identifying characteristics?

A: They looked to me very much like P-40's. As I say, they were very much higher than we were, and I couldn't identify them.

Q: Were they in three vees?

A: They were all pretty much together in an element of about the same formation we used.

Q: Did you get any clues as to why the Russians changed their minds about supplying you with gasoline and letting you go? Was some pressure brought on that?

A: Not a thing -- except it is characteristic of the people that no one makes any decision without consulting some one higher up. The colonel evidently, after leaving us, got in touch with some one higher up and his mind was changed. As for their not publicly announcing that we had landed there for five or six days, later we learned from the Assistant Military Attache in Moscow that they were going to allow us to leave the country and not make a statement publicly until an incident arose which prevented that. The incident being a newspaper conference in Moscow and an American newspaperman, in discussing the raid, asked what the Russians would do if one of the planes involved in the raid landed in Russia. He insisted so much on an answer that they thought he must have some information on our being there and our presence was announced.

Q: Do you think if all the planes landed in Russia that they would have interned all of them or let them go?

A: It is hard to say.

Q: Let me ask a question about the take-off. Did you experience much difficulty in getting off?

A: No, sir. None at all.

Q: I think only one plane had difficulty, and he took off before you did. Did you see one plane dip?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you feel that your target information was adequate?

A: I believe so, of course, not having been there, and not having seen things, it is a matter of coordinating what you saw with what you had read about, or seen on the map. It is a little difficult, especially when flying at such a low altitude. It surprised me -- for I fully expected to see Fujiyama, for example. I never saw it. Why I don't know. Being at that low altitude you can't tell much what is ahead of you. You just see everything you are over right then.

Q: One of the pilots made the statement that he couldn't see the roads very well -- but he could see rivers and canals and so forth. Was this true in your case?

A: No, we saw the roads.

Q: Did things look a little drab?

A: Of course it looks a lot different from ours. Everything is bunched in so close together.

Q: Did you see any cars, or any movement on the roads at all? Any trucks or people?

A: We saw people and animals.

Q: Did the people look alarmed?

A: Some did, and some didn't. We flew over a school yard full of children. They kept right on playing. On the other hand, I saw farmers who were running -- but I got the impression it was because we were so low. They would probably run from their own planes.

Q: I think General Arnold was particularly interested in the Eastern part of Siberia, with the idea of using it. What about the airfields? Did you see many airfields in that area?

A: Very many.

Q: Long runways?

A: We never saw an airfield in Russia with runways.

Q: Wide open?

A: Just wide open airfields.

Q: Hangers and equipment around? Any installations?

A: The one at which we landed had very few installations of that type. It had one small hanger as I remember now. The ships were all parked out -- dispersed. Some of them had camouflage over them. At Khabarovsk they had facilities for major repairs. They had dummy airplanes lined up on the field.

Q: Any guns for protection -- antiaircraft?

A: We didn't see any guns. At Khabarovsk we saw a large number of barrage balloons that they used to put up daily -- especially near the railroad bridge across the Amur River.

Q: You said there were two air fields north of Vladivostok. Did you see any others in that particular vicinity?

A: We were flown north to Khabarovsk in a Russian airplane and we saw several airfields all the way north to Khabarovsk, which is 400 miles. They were spaced at not more than 75 miles apart. All of the same type.

Q: You saw about a dozen?

A: At least.

Q: By airdromes I mean well-equipped fields -- not just landing fields.

A: Well, Russian fields aren't equipped the way ours are. They don't have living facilities close by; they don't have high administration buildings and things like that. They were well equipped as Russian fields are.

Q: Were the planes on them dispersed?

A: Most of the fields had planes on them -- yes. The planes we saw were not the most modern types.

Q: Are those fields sufficient to take care of four-motored bombers?

A: Oh, yes, sir.

Q: All of them?

A: Yes. At Khabarovsk we got the impression that it was a key field in that area. It is a large city and Army headquarters for the Far East. It is the capital of that whole section.

Q: Did you see anything along the line -- for instance at Vladivostok that you could compare to Khabarovsk?

A: Khabarovsk is much better.

Q: What is the area?

A: 7,000 feet in any direction.

Q: Did you see any signs of military aviation school at Khabarovsk?

A: No.

Sgt. Laban: They seemed to do a lot of transition flying there.

Q: Transition flying?

Sgt. Laban: Yes. They seemed to be circling and landing and taking off.

Q: Did you get any impression of military strength of that whole section of Siberia?

A: Yes. Definitely.

Q: Any troops would have a pretty tough time if they tried to invade?

A: Well, I don't know what the Japs have to invade with there. I don't know whether it would be a tough time for them or not. The equipment up there is not first line equipment. As for man power, I think they have got it out there -- and the ones in the Army out there feel that they could whip Japan over night. They don't seem to be worried about it.

Q: Is there available somewhere a detail of time charts of your trip -- time of land-fall, take off, and the time you got to Vladivostok and so forth?

A: I can give you the take-off and landing time. That is all.

Q: I suppose you kept a chart?

A: Yes.

Q: That may possibly be available somewhere around here. What was the time?

A: We took off at 8:20 A. M. That was local time out there -- 800 miles east of Japan. It was ship time. I don't know the time zone they were in. I think it was the same as where we landed. We landed at 5:30.

Q: You don't know the time of land-fall or anything?

A: It was four hours and twenty-five minutes to the coast.

Q: Do you know the time you sighted that island by any chance?

A: No.

Q: Do you know your average speed -- ground speed?

Lt. Herndon: If you are speaking of work on navigation from the ship to the island, we weren't allowed to do any. In case one of the ships got knocked down they didn't want any information to get out as to where the carrier came from.

Q: Yes, but your ground speed?

A: It changed, of course, over the island. Coming in we were doing about 160, I would say, and then we did about 250.

Lt. Herndon: Going in it took us four hours and forty-five minutes and it was 760 miles.

Q: You left us going down to the Urals where you stayed at Ohansk for eight months. Was that complete internment during all those eight months

A: No. About four months after we got there, the last of our guards were taken away from us and we were living in a house by ourselves. We were free to go around the town. By this time we learned enough of the language that if we were stopped and asked for papers we could tell them who we were. Of course, they knew. Most of the people in the town knew. It was just a small place with a thousand or two thousand people. We had no more guards.

Q: Were you able to gain some impressions, in general, of small town life under Communism?

A: Definitely.

Q: Could you give us some of those impressions?

A: It stinks. It is very bad. Food is very scarce there. Most of the people eat nothing but black bread and, of course, there is no clothing to be had. No soap -- no tobacco, or matches, or things like that.

Q: Do the people there seem to be terribly unhappy about it?

A: No. They seems to be used to that. Of course, the government continuously pounds the idea that everything goes to the front and that the people shouldn't want any for themselves and that everything else goes to the Army -- which it does. That is almost everything. The commissars around there manage to eat pretty well -- but most everything goes to the front.

Q: Do they get newspapers?

A: Yes. Not too many. They get limited copies -- but they have a loud speaker system. Each town has a radio that tunes into the Moscow radio and they have loud speakers all over town. That is as good as newspapers.

Q: Did they have any school that looked like anything?

A: All the schools we saw were used for military purposes. They had two in that small town. The school system is practically out for the duration.

Lt. Emmons: Speaking of newspapers. In that town with a population of about a thousand they had an allotment -- one paper to a town.

Q: Did they have a central reading place where the people could read it?

A: I imagine they passed it on to lesser and lesser and lesser officials. Mostly they do have central papers on street corners -- stick a copy of the paper up for the people to read.

Q: Were you ever able to see anything of their theatricals? Did they have a theatre in that little town?

A: They had a movie.

Q: Actors are supposed to be classed on a pretty high social category, aren't they?

A: In that country, yes. They heap all sorts of honors on them -- medals and so forth.

Q: Was there any industrialism in that little town?

A: They had a clothing factory there where they made uniforms and clothes for the Army.

Q: Is that where most of the people were employed? Or were they mostly farmers?

A: It was a farming center. The town was called the regional center for that particular region.

Q: They turned you loose for four months, and then gathered you together. Where did you go?

A: We went to Ashkhabad.

Q: Where was that?

A: That is way down south close to the border.

Q: East of the Caspian Sea?

A: Yes. Four or five hundred miles east of the Caspian. Our guards were taken off for four months. Every man, woman and child has a passport. If you don't have one, you just can't go anyplace.

Q: This town is in Turkistan?

A: Ashkhabad? It is the capital of Turkmenia. They don't like Turkistan.

Q: They don't? Why?

A: I don't know. It smacks of the old Russian Empire, I think.

Q: What sort of region is that. I mean as far as the war effort is concerned. Is it pretty highly agricultural?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you see any industrial towns in there?

A: Some, but not many. I don't know what they manufacture. Most of it is farming and cotton. They haul a lot of cotton out of there.

Sgt. Laban: Cattle, too, sir.

A: Cattle, sheep, goats.

Q: Pretty fertile ground, is it?

A: Pretty fertile, it is a matter of irrigation. It would be desert without irrigation. It is very hot there.

Q: It is not a mountainous country?

A: It is right up against the huge range that extends into Persia. It is flat and almost at sea level.

Q: How long were you there?

A: Just a little over a month.

Q: Again in a house with a guard?

A: No -- in a house by ourselves. Russian officers would come to see us every day.

Q: Did they talk to you much?

A: Oh, yes.

Q: Were you able to ask questions?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you get answers?

A: Yes.

Q: Were you able to keep up with what was going on in the outside world pretty well?

A: Not too well. Their newspapers would devote about fifteen or twenty lines a day to news outside Russia. They generally published speeches of Roosevelt or Churchill -- or published the parts they wanted to publish.

Q: Have those people much idea of how much lend lease material we have sent?

A: The average person has no idea, I don't think.

Q: You didn't, of course, get anywhere near the front, did you?

A: We were at Penza which is about 250 miles from the front.

Q: Were you able to see any American equipment?

A: No. However at Ashkhabad we were able to see a lot of American equipment coming through.

Q: Did the people know it was American?

A: I doubt it very seriously.

Q: Not necessarily because of any intention of keeping it from them. Wasn't it just because they hadn't taken the trouble to inform them?

A: I think it was intentionally done to show the people that they are winning the war by themselves, and that England and the United States are stalling, and that they are taking Germany by themselves.

Q: I don't know whether or not you were able to gather whether or not that was the proper psychological approach of the war. Were you able to form any opinions like that? Did it make them fight better? Or otherwise?

A: I don't think it hurts them any. Their morale is excellent, I think. Wonderful.

CONTINUE to PART THREE of the Official Debriefing