The Allied Occupation of Japan

Author: TAKEMAE Eiji

Publisher: Continuum, 2002

Here is a brief sketch of the occupation of Japan led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur as the Allied Commander – drawn from a few pages of Takemae's 560-page work. Takemae is Professor Emeritus at Kikyo Kaizai University and in Japan is considered the doyen of occupation scholarship.

On August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito broadcast on radio a message to the Japanese people, telling them that to continue the war "would ultimately mean the extinction of our people and the utter destruction of human civilization... Let us therefore face the long road, each of us, as one united nation in firm fidelity to the Throne and in full confidence in the indestructibility of our Divine Land, and let us resolve to bend all our energies to future reconstruction. Let us be strong in our moral principles and firm in our ideals."

On August 22, from Atsugi airforce base near Tokyo, a defiant Air Corps sent planes on a leaflet mission, calling on people, writes Takemae, "to rise up against their leaders and repel the invaders." It didn't happen. But "some 400 soldiers" seized Ueno Hill in Tokyo. "When higher authorities prevailed upon them to desist, their officers committed suicide." On August 22 police attacked "an ultra-rightest brotherhood" on top of another hill in Tokyo, Atago Hill north of Shiba Hill, and the ultra-rightists blew themselves up. By August 23, Japan's military high command had restored calm and order. Hirohito sent imperial princes to military units abroad, telling them to obey Allied orders to disarm.

On August 28, Prime Minister Higashikuni called for a "collective confession of guilt by the whole nation," described by Takemae as "a thinly disguised effort to shift the blame for defeat from the Emperor and military elite to the people." But, according to Takemae, the people did not accept it. For them the end of the war had been greeted "generally by a strong sense of release followed by disappointment and bewilderment that Japan had lost. Anger, shame and guilt were the reaction of a minority." Japan's cities were in ruins, including Tokyo, and the primary concern of people "was finding shelter and something to eat."

Also on August 28, in agreement with the Japanese, an advance party of 150 U.S. experts and engineers and 38 combat troops arrived at Atsugi airbase. Two days later the U.S. 11th Airborne aboard transport planes arrived at Atsugi beginning at 6 AM with a plane landing every three or four minutes. General MacArthur arrived at 2 PM. The 11th Airborne band played "Ruffles and Flourishes." A motorcade took MacArthur and his entourage to his temporary headquarters. Hirohito's imperial soldiers lined the route with their backs facing the motorcade and their eyes averted – a gesture of respect and a security measure that had been employed for the emperor, now employed for MacArthur.

On Japan's home islands were "roughly 3.5 million Imperial troops under arms," writes Takemae, "producing in Allied commanders a 'terrific psychological tension.'" MacArthur had orders to exercise authority in Japan where possible. Army units, writes Takemae, had been instructed "to establish full-fledged military governments in the areas they secured." On September 2, a Japanese liaison officer saw a draft of MacArthur's proclamation that called for the imposition of direct military governance and for the posting of this proclamation in public places by the Sixth and Eighth Armies as they fanned out across Japan.

As the Japanese saw it, the rules established at Potsdam required Japan's forces to surrender unconditionally but recognized that Japan's government would continue to exist. And Japan's government had convinced the public that the cessation of hostilities would leave Japan's paramount social and political institutions, notably the emperor system, in place. MacArthur's decrees placed the whole of Japan, including the Throne, under military administration, and this threatened to discredit the authority of the emperor and to renege on the promise that with the surrender the Japanese would maintain self-government. Japan's Foreign Minister Shigemitsu met with MacArthur on the morning of September 3 and entreated MacArthur not to institute military government. It would, he said, remove from the government its "responsibility of seeing that the Occupation policy is faithfully carried out." Takemae writes that Shigemitsu spoke of "the Emperor's determination to implement the Potsdam terms and assured the Supreme Commander [MacArthur] that the government stood ready and eager to do his bidding." And Shigemitsu asked MacArthur "to work through the government under the Emperor's directions."

On September 3, MacArthur dropped his plan to institute direct military rule. That same day, MacArthur responded to a protest from Japan's central government by ordering Eighth Army commander, Brigadier General Julien W. Cunningham, to retract his instructions to his troops to disarm Japanese soldiers and to impose controls over commodity prices, salaries, education, currency, local courts and more. Japanese government agencies were to continue exercising a sovereign authority. The Allied Supreme Command was to exercise indirect rule, officially adopted by MacArthur's headquarters on September 26.

The softer approach worked well for MacArthur. Japan's military leaders appreciated MacArthur's gesture of letting them disarm their forces. And on October 16 MacArthur said that "Approximately seven million armed men...have laid down their weapons. In the accomplishment of the extremely difficult and dangerous surrender in Japan, unique in the annals of history, not a shot was necessary, not a drop of Allied blood was shed."

Takemae's book describes out-of-control U.S. forces at the beginning of the occupation and the U.S. military authority forces exaggerating threats from Japanese citizens moving to protect themselves. And it describes a brothel system organized by Japan's government for the sake of U.S. troops. Wikipedia mentions that a senior officer with the Public Health and Welfare Division of the occupation's General Headquarters wrote the following regarding the typical prostitute:

The girl is impressed into contracting by the desperate financial straits of her parents and their urging, occasionally supplemented by her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her family... It is the belief of our informants, however, that in urban districts the practice of enslaving girls, while much less prevalent than in the past, still exists.

Wikipedia's article is under the title "Occupation of Japan"

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