Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting for the first time,
Higashikuni, the Emperor's uncle by marriage, was one of the few members Hirohito, he declared, bore 'moral responsibility' for the nation's. This is a picture of Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting on the 29th of September, , after Japan surrendered at the. Some historians see this as a momentary flight of fancy that bore no relationship to the 27 September emperor-MacArthur meeting; others.
He was convinced that the monarchy, with Hirohito continuing as Emperor, was vital for the stability of Japan and to bringing about the revolutionary changes to the country he was planning. Hindsight suggests he was probably right. MacArthur knew very little about Japanese history or culture, but a close advisor on his staff, and a personal friend, Brigadier-General Bonner Fellers, knew a great deal.
Fellers had studied Japanese and visited Japan often between the early s and the late s. His cousin Gwen, to whom he was very close, was married to the Japanese diplomat Terasaki Hidenari, who had been posted to Washington for many years.
Fellers wrote a series of intelligently argued briefing papers which seemed to MacArthur much more informative than the superficial material he was receiving from home. A few months before the end of the Pacific war, Fellers had advised MacArthur: An absolute and unconditional defeat of Japan is the essential ingredient for a lasting peace in the Orient.
Only through complete military disaster and the resulting chaos can the Japanese people be disillusioned from their fanatical indoctrination that they are the superior people, destined to be overlords in Asia. Only stinging defeat and colossal losses will prove to the people that the military machine is not invincible and that their fanatical leadership has taken them the way to disaster.
There must be no weakness in the peace terms.
However, to dethrone or hang the Emperor would cause tremendous and violent reaction from all Japanese. Hanging the Emperor would be comparable to the crucifixion of Christ to us.
All would fight and die like ants. The position of the militarists would be strengthened immeasurably. An independent Japanese army responsible only to the Emperor is a permanent menace to peace.
But the mystic hold the Emperor has on the people.
The Emperor can be made a force for good and peace provided the military clique [around him]. We would have alienated the Japanese. MacArthur was convinced, and set about persuading Washington to support the monarchy in general and Hirohito in particular.
Indeed, they had quite deliberately not tried to find documentary proof or a paper trail of any kind. Japan would experience a tremendous convulsion. Destroy him and the nation will disintegrate. Civilised practices will largely cease and a condition of underground chaos and disorder amounting to guerrilla war.
All hope of introducing modern democratic methods would disappear and when military control finally ceased, some form of intense regimentation, probably along communistic lines, would arise. A minimum of a million troops would be required, which would have to be maintained for an indefinite number of years.
A complete civil service might have to be recruited, running into several hundred thousand. Nevertheless, in the present circumstances chaos would be best avoided and democracy served if Hirohito stayed as emperor and war crimes charges dropped.
This was when the essential myth of modern Japan—nurtured over many years to come—was born. Hirohito had to be presented as a man of peace, hoodwinked by others—a ceremonial figure who had no choice but to go along with everything the soldiers around him wanted, from the invasion of China and the ambitious plans to conquer a vast Asian empire, to war with America and the British.
There is, however, a mass of evidence that categorically proves the opposite: Hirohito, then in his forties, was an intelligent, extremely educated man, but he was also inflexible and unimaginative.
He was not usually reflective nor, as those who knew him admitted, a deep thinker. He had considered abdication in order to devote his time to the real passion of his life, marine biology.
The ultimate pragmatist, Hirohito never acknowledged that his actions had been in any way criminal, nor that the war and its conduct had been morally wrong, only that they had been a mistake. In a private letter to his son, the Crown Prince—sent a few months after the war, when the future Emperor Akihito was twelve, but which did not surface until the s—Hirohito showed little insight, let alone remorse.
He blamed the incompetence of his generals and made no mention of democracy or the pursuit of peace. In a decade and a half of conflict—Japan had first invaded China inannexing part of Manchuria, and then again six years later—1. In the two and a half years after the war reached the home islands almost a million people died in the carpet-bombing of Japanese cities and prime agricultural areas.
The destruction of Japan was significantly greater than the Allies had inflicted on Germany, even before taking account of the effects of radiation from the two atomic bombs that ended the war. Around two-thirds of all homes in Tokyo were destroyed, 57 per cent of homes in Osaka and 89 per cent in Nagoya.
As people fled to the countryside, many cities became ghost towns.
Tokyo after the Allied firebombing of March The Japanese military had deliberately underestimated the damage in case it encouraged defeatism.
Japan was dependent on shipping but had lost more than 80 percent of its entire merchant fleet from Allied attacks in the Pacific and the home islands. Amidst the rubble of the cities, one of the saddest sights was that of orphaned children with white boxes hanging around their necks. The boxes contained the ashes of their relatives. In some cities, more than a quarter of the population was homeless—with a mass influx returning home from the front.
More than five million Japanese were repatriated in the eighteen months after the war. Around 80 percent were soldiers and the rest were colonists and their families from the empire Japan had conquered but had now lost.
They were seldom welcomed back with open arms. Soldiers, in particular, were widely despised—and this in a country where propaganda, and long tradition, had conditioned its people to hold officers and men from the Imperial Army as the fount of all honour.
People did not look us in the face. The people now regarded soldiers not as returning heroes but as discredited failures, and treated them as pariahs. But it was not only that the military had failed lamentably in its mission and left the country starving and ruined: Japan had been dishonoured in the eyes of its own people, for which the Japanese blamed their own soldiers.
Hirohito - Wikipedia
A Japanese general surrenders his sword. But in the immediate aftermath of defeat questions of honour took second place. For at least the next two years food remained the biggest issue for most Japanese. Much of Japan had gone hungry long before the surrender.
Shortages had been acute since the fortunes of war had turned in favour of the Western Allies and by the end of the majority of Japanese were malnourished. South Korea and Formosa Taiwan had been colonies since before the First World War and had produced large amounts of food for the home market 2. But the sinking of Japanese ships in the Pacific meant that these supplies were not getting through. American bombing of the cities had also disrupted food distribution, and saw the worst harvest since At the end of autumn the country was almost entirely out of rice.
Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting for the first time, 1945
Thousands had starved to death and officials warned that ten million people now faced imminent starvation. He cut through red tape, ordered the seizure of 3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the House Appropriations Committee were indignant and demanded an explanation, but he responded with customary arrogance: Under the responsibility of victory the Japanese are now our prisoners, no less than did the starving men of Bataan become their prisoners when the peninsula fell 3.
As a consequence of the ill treatment, including the starvation of Allied prisoners in Japanese hands, we have tried. Japanese officers upon proof of responsibility. Can we justify such punitive action if we ourselves in reversed circumstances, but with hostilities at an end, fail to provide the food for sustaining life among the Japanese people over whom we stand guard? The food imports did more than anything else to make the Japanese accept defeat and occupation.
The supplies were basic Western foodstuffs: Instead of rice, the new staples were a thin, watery gruel and a form of steamed stale bread usually fed to cattle.The First Meeting of Emperor Hirohito with MacArthur: A Testimony by Interpreter
Necessity forced people to experiment. As in Europe, health officials recommended that subsistence for working people should be 2, calories a day. But throughout and well into the following year, most Japanese survived on barely half that. And, as in Europe, the black market was a huge problem. But vast amounts were siphoned off by established criminals, and new gangs, many of which were composed of demobbed soldiers.
The price of illicit goods rose inexorably — by the end of the cost of blackmarket rice was thirty times higher than the legal market price. Even two years later the price was seven to ten times greater. Everyone who could afford to, and many who could not, resorted to the black market as the only way of properly feeding their families.
Of course, this meant that the very poor, the sick and the elderly suffered even more acutely. Nearly a million and a quarter Japanese were arrested for black-market activities inbut far more were never caught. There was a joke popular in post-war Japan about General MacArthur. Invariably, it went, he confused the title Supreme Commander with Supreme Being. His egotism, self-regard and vanity were legendary.
So were his energy, brainpower, determination and air of total calm. He was an authentic war hero at a time when they were badly needed.
Nobody ever doubted his personal physical courage. It had been shown dramatically when, at the end of Augusthe landed at Atsugii air base as a conqueror, ready to accept the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Japan Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting for the first time, Many Japanese were extremely offended by this picture because of how casual MacArthur is looking and standing while next to the Emperor, who was supposed to be a god. After the Japanese surrender in the Americans took on the task of occupying Japan and reforming the militaristic nation into a modern country that would never again threaten its neighbors.
On 29 AugustMacArthur was ordered to exercise authority through the Japanese government machinery, including the Emperor Hirohito. Unlike in Germany, where the Allies had in May abolished the German state, the Americans chose to allow the Japanese state to continue to exist, albeit under their ultimate control.
Unlike Germany, there was a certain partnership between the occupiers and occupied as MacArthur decided to rule Japan via the Emperor and the most of the rest of the Japanese elite. The Emperor was a living god to the Japanese people, and MacArthur found that ruling via the Emperor made his job in running Japan much easier than it otherwise would have been.
The Americans saluted the Emperor and he first bowed to them and then shook their hands. As the American officer was taking the hat MacArthur burst into the room: The Supreme Commander and the Emperor, through his translator, spent forty minutes together and swore to keep the contents of their conversation secret. Although over the years some details leaked out.