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Friday, Aug 22, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: How Godzilla got everyone fired in 1946


Godzilla never did much for me on the big screen. It was even worse when he would show up on late-night TV on Dr. Paul Bearer’s horror flicks show on our old 21-inch black-and-white screen. He would rise up, crush some ship in the harbor and then drag through Tokyo knocking down buildings until he was tricked into stepping onto a power line or something and disappearing back into the Pacific until the next movie.

The special effects were dreadful, but that added to the fun of the thing.

I always assumed Godzilla just lived quietly in a condo in Malibu, waiting for the next producer to call.

But recently I received an email from Paula Stahel of “Breath and Shadows Productions,” which helps people tell and even publish their stories and memories. Along with being an editor and consultant, she calls herself a “memorist.”

She tells about working with a woman a couple of years ago who was a World War II cryptographer and, after the war, a contractor in Tokyo.

Her name was Margaret Rose, a young woman who had joined the WACs after college. Skipping way ahead. ...

After the war she joined the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper as its first female reporter.

In her memoir, which apparently is pretty wide-ranging and still unpublished, there is a passage about an event that supposedly took place in May 1946:

“It was a formal event at Radio Tokyo to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Armed Forces Radio.

“More than 500 people attended.

“The highlight of the evening made the news back in the states. The boys broadcast a live radio program.

“Supposedly due to the Army and Navy dumping surplus ammo in Yokohama Bay, a huge and horrid monster had been disturbed. It was stomping and pouncing a devastating path through Tokyo ... to the theater. As it neared the theater a correspondent managed to get a microphone up to the monster to ask why it was on a rampage. The monster said, ‘To wish Armed Forces Radio a happy birthday.’

“Outside the party, the reaction was anything but positive. Just as had happened when Orson Welles and John Houseman broadcast ‘The War of the Worlds,’ English-speaking Japanese, American civilians and military personnel who tuned in late were near panic. ... Lt. Col. Brice Custer, a descendant of Col. George Armstrong Custer, alerted troops to surround the hospital. ... When Gen. George MacArthur, who had tuned in late, called the station to ascertain the authenticity of the broadcast , he was livid to learn it was a stunt. ...

“First thing next morning everyone who had anything to do with the stunt was fired.”

Margaret Rose died at age 91, but apparently the monster survived and after 29 appearances in the movies is alive and well today.


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