(WAR against JAPAN, 1942-45 – continued)

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WAR against JAPAN, 1942-45 (8 of 8)


The War Officially Ends

Soviet Union troops were now moving into Manchuria and Korea, where they found little resistance from Japanese forces. Truman rejected a demand by Stalin that "Russian public opinion" not be "seriously offended" by denial of Soviet occupation of some part of Japan proper.

General MacArthur was planning to maintain Hirohito as Japan's head of state. He spoke of using "the instrumentality of the Japanese government to implement the occupation." On August 28 an advance party of Americans landed at Asagi airforce base near Tokyo. They were greeted by Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue, who offered them orange punch as a gesture of welcome and drank a glass first to show them it was not poisoned.

The advance party arranged for the landing of transport planes carrying an American division – the 11th Airborne – which was accomplished within the next two days. With the airport secured, MacArthur arrived aboard his plane, the Bataan.  And so the occupation of Japan began. At dinner at a luxury hotel where the Americans were quartered, MacArthur joyfully spoke of being "in the enemy's country with only a handful of troops" with nineteen fully armed Japanese divisions nearby. "One false move," he joked, "and the Alamo would look like a Sunday-school picnic." note86

The Japanese had been training for guerrilla warfare against the Americans, and resorting to guerrilla warfare was still on the mind of the vice chief of staff of the Japanese Army, Lieutenant General Kawabe Torashiro, when he met the Americans in preparation for surrender in August. But the US allowing Hirohito to remain on his throne and a "soft" occupation of Japan by the US were keeping the option of guerrilla warfare remote. Largely the nation of Japan was to accept that they had been defeated. The nation was acquiring a readiness to endure at least some of the humiliation involved. In their civil wars the Japanese had experienced many defeats, and Japan's military and emperor were able to draw from a code that covered defeat as well as victory. This code held that the manly thing to do was to leave everything to the victor and to trust the enemy commander. There would be no guerrilla warfare and no bloody occupation struggle by the Americans. 

On September 2, aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, representatives of Japan met with the Allies to sign the surrender. One of them, Admiral Tomioka, wondered over the lack of signs of contempt from the Americans for him and his fellow defeated Japanese.

In his speech at the surrender ceremonies, MacArthur said:

The energy of the Japanese race, if properly directed, will enable expansion vertically rather than horizontally. If the talents of the race are turned into constructive channels, the country can lift itself from the present deplorable state into a position of dignity.

Hirohito, listening to his radio, was impressed. His aide, Kase Toshikazu, told him that it was "rare good fortune" that a man of such caliber and character had been designated supreme commander to shape the destiny of Japan. Hirohito agreed.

The war was now officially over. Japan had lost 1,506,000 military men – one in every 46 of its 1940 population. According to Wikipedia, Japan had lost 2,621,000 (3.67 percent of its population).


River Kwai Railway, by Clifford Kinvig, 2003

The Railwayman, by Eric Lomax (experiences on the death railway), 1995

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, chapters 12 and 13, by Herbert P. Bix, 2000

Hirohito, the War Years, by Paul Manning, 1986

The Rising Sun: the Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45, by John Toland, 1970

Among the Dead Cities, by A.C. Grayling, 2006

Bombs, Cities and Civilians, by Conrad C. Crane, University Press of Kansas, 1993

A World of Arms: a global history of World War II, by Gerhard L. Weinberg, Cambridge University Press, 1994

The Shadow Warriors of Nakano: A History of the Imperial Japanese Army's Elite Intelligence School, by Stephen M. Mercado, 2002


Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima.

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