Thoughts on the Military History of the Occupation of Japan
(Paper Presented to the Ninth International Revisionist Conference)
We are now on the crest of a wave of interest in America's post-war occupation of Japan; many studies of the occupation have recently appeared, both in Japan and the United States. 
Most of these works, however, are diplomatically, economically, or sociologically oriented. Studies undertaken primarily from a military viewpoint are comparatively few. That being the case, we must ask: Why study the history of the occupation of Japan from a military perspective?
Since ancient times the subject of war and peace has been an extremely philosophical and most difficult theme. I claim no deep insight into this subject but in the first half of my life I experienced war, and during the second half peace and prosperity. Most of my life, however, has been devoted to military service and study. Even now, through my academic courses for young military students, I continue to study war and peace. I welcome your assistance in the form of a solid critique of my ideas.
Today we are able to see the victors, on the one hand, and the defeated, on the other, studying together their own and each otherts policies during and after the war. I am certain that this is tremendously important both in drawing lessons for the future and in maintaining the peace-and in that spirit I present this commentary.
II. Strategies During the Final Phase of WW II
1. Strategy of the United States
The U.S. conducted its war against Japan in the Pacific area while simultaneously fighting Germany and Italy in the European theater. In June 1945, following the occupation of Okinawa, the U.S. prepared military plans to invade the island of Kyushu and the Kanto Plain (Tokyo and its hinterland).  Furthermore, the entry of the USSR into the war against Japan had been agreed upon at the secret meeting at Yalta in February 1945. On the other hand, the U.S. was also studying the problems of the military occupation of Japan in the event that Japan suddenly surrendered or collapsed.  This has already been made clear in many studies on this subject, especially since 1976, when the U.S. declassified and released many secret documents.
Additional light has been shed on the particulars of the U.S. failure to oppose the USSR's entry into the war against Japan - ultimately unnecessary because the U.S. succeeded in testing the atomic bomb in July 1945. The key factor in allowing Soviet intervention was that America's strategy for concluding the war was not merely to defeat its enemy militarily but to force Japan into an unconditional surrender.
In principle this was the same as the strategy against Germany but in the case of Japan the American people were concerned about prospective U.S. military casualties in the invasion of mainland Japan. Therefore, in the Potsdam declaration of July 1945 the United States changed its strategy from Unconditional surrender" to Unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Japan." Japan was later able to accept these terms because the Japanese government, recognizing this subtle U.S. change, felt the U.S. would not fundamentally alter the structure of the nation should Japan surrender.
Dr. D. Clayton James described the American strategy in the Pacific War as follows:
"By the early autumn of 1944, Nimitz, MacArthur, and their planning staffs, together with the Joint Chiefs and their planners, were generally agreed that aerial bombing and naval blockade would not suffice to force Japan's surrender and that immense invasions of Kyushu and Honshu would be needed. Tentatively setting the first operation for November 1945 and the second for early 1946, the Pentagon and the field commanders envisaged those assaults as difficult and likely to produce high American casualties."
Nevertheless, the Roosevelt government decided to invite the USSR into the war against Japan, three months after Germany was defeated. Dr. James also writes:
"In retrospect, it seems that once the Kyushu assault plan was drafted military strategy essentially became dominant, with American national strategy bound inflexibly to it in its acceptance of Soviet intervention."
According to Dr. James the policy of unconditional surrender proclaimed by FDR at Casablanca in early 1943 was viewed by most of the Washington planners working on occupation guidelines as far more flexible than the Japanese imagined. The Japanese interpretations ranged from annihilation of their people to abolition of the imperial system and punishment of the emperor as a war criminal.  For not only in my opinion, but in that of many Japanese scholars, FDR's unconditional-surrender strategy was not as flexible as in Dr. James's opinion. It included provisions for the occupation of Japan by four powers-the U.S., USSR, UK and China-after Japanese surrender, and the punishment of the emperor as a war criminal. 
As James writes:
"President Truman missed an opportunity to send a favorable signal to Japan when, on poor counsel from his close advisors, he omitted from the Potsdam Declaration in July 1945 any reference to the American government’s intention to retain and use the emperor during the occupation. Since early 1943 American propaganda had portrayed the United States as irrevocably bound to the unconditional surrender of Japan, a development that, in fact, was not anticipated in the Coordinating Committee's deliberations and did not take place But the continuing lip service paid to the policy by top American officials and propagandists was influential in keeping both sides from direct bilateral communications that might have terminated the war well before mid-August 1945."
2. Strategy of the Soviet Union
After Germany was defeated in May 1945, the Soviet Union prepared to participate in the war against Japan in accordance with the secret Yalta agreement. At Yalta in February 1945, FDR, with his military advisors' backing, agreed to Stalin's price for Soviet intervention: the Kuriles, South Sakhalin, Outer Mongolia, Dairen, Port Arthur, and Manchuria's main railways.
To this day we Japanese are very sorry that the American forces didn't occupy Japan's northern territories of South Sakhalin and the Kuriles, and we wonder why.
3. Japan's Strategy
No later than the defeat at Midway in 1942, but with increasing seriousness after the 1944 loss at Saipan, the Japanese government and the military command at General Headquarters considered possibilities as to how to conclude peace with the Allied powers.  In June 1945, after Okinawa was occupied, General Headquarters decided to concede the loss of Okinawa and fight a decisive battle on the mainland. After Japan had inflicted a serious blow on the U.S. forces, Japan would make a peace proposal.  The Japanese leaders hoped that an armistice or peace with the U.S. would follow the Battle of the Homeland. 
On the other hand, there were elements in Japan which sought to conclude the war as soon as possible. The government's decision to end the war came only after the atomic bombings`of 6 and 9 August and Russia's declaration of war on 9 August.1t Until the Emperor's decision, however, the Japanese Army insisted on a strategy of apeace after the decisive battle.  The background to the Army's insistence was this:
In other words, the Emperor's position would not be safe.  The change to acceptance of the Potsdam declaration was at the decision of the Emperor.
Up to this point we have looked at the strategies of the United States, Soviet Russia and Japan for concluding the war. From today's postwar vantage point, we can see that the Japanese decision to surrender spared her, in comparison to Germany, much woe. Here I would like to examine, from a military perspective, the U.S. occupation policy as well as the policies Japan adopted.
III. The Occupation of Japan
1. The Issue of Unconditional Surrender
Why did the United States demand Japan's unconditional surrender? There is no doubt that Japan declared war against the United States and launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, the Japanese armed forces occupied the Philippines after defeating the American forces under General MacArthur. But in what way did Japan ever attack the U.S. homeland?
Although it hasn't been given very serious examination, I believe that America's strategy of demanding unconditional surrender stems from the American Civil War of the 1860's. 
According to General Carl von Clausewitz in his treatise "On War," war is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force. Each side, therefore, compels its opponent to follow suit. 
But in reality, does this hold good for grand strategy? FDR's strategy against Japan in 1945 was overly harsh and I believe it should be soundly criticized from the standpoint of the proportion of violence inflicted in relation to the strategic objective. As we have already seen, however, the demand for unconditional surrender changed to one for the unconditional surrender of Japan's military forces. This change contributed to the Japanese government's decision to accept the enemy's demand. 
2. Demilitarization and Disbanding of the Armed Forces
Past wars supply examples of a victor limiting the armaments of the loser after the war. How many instances have there been in which the armed forces of the vanquished power are completely abolished? One example that comes to mind is Japan's disbanding of the armed forces of the Korean Empire in 1907.  The demilitarization of Japan carried out by the U.S. from August, 1945 was rivaled in the disbanding of the military of the Korean Empire. For a sovereign nation an imposed disarmament is unbearable. The same may be said for the indignity of an occupier-imposed Japanese constitution. On exactly what authority can this kind of thing be forced on another country?
3. The Subject of War Crimes Trials
The U.S. and other Allied powers conducted postwar trials against Japan and Germany. This, too, was a part of their occupation strategy, and is a significant issue which deserves further study as a very important theme for peace in the future. (Recently in Japan there has been criticism, from both the left and right, of the Far East trials.)
4. The Issue of the Emperor
According to the Military Government Annex of the Black List Operations, dated 6 August 1945":
The Emperor and his wife and children will be placed under protective custody and removed from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to another suitable residence where they will be kept in seclusion. There will be no public expression of opinion concerning the future status of the Emperor or of the institution of the Emperor … 
From this it is very clear that the Emperor was to be removed from Tokyo. I would like to know how the plan came to be changed and who ordered the change. 
It is well known that as a result of the First World War, the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires were replaced by republics and the Emperors exiled or killed. Fortunately, in Japan the Emperor remains the symbol of the Japanese people even forty-four years after the end of the war. The high command of the Self-Defense Forces visits the Imperial Palace every year to be received in audience by His Majesty. Moreover, almost a million Japanese citizens visit the palace each year to celebrate the Emperor's birthday on New Year's Day. When one considers these facts it can be said that the American military's continuation of the Emperor system was a historic decision and a major contribution to postwar Japanese stability.
What were the military consequences of the American strategy regarding the Emperor? It must be recognized that the Emperor was the Generalissimo, or the supreme commander, of the Japanese armed forces. The Emperor was the only authority empowered to command both the Japanese Army and Navy. Of course there was an Imperial General Headquarters in Japan consisting of the Army and the Navy, but in fact there was nothing resembling a joint headquarters. This was the fundamental and critical origin of Japan's defeat. 
General MacArthur said of this in his report shortly after the occupation as follows:
"Illustrating this concept, General Yamashita recently stated in an interview, explaining reasons for his defeat, that 'diversity of the Japanese command resulted in complete lack of cooperation and coordination between the services.' He complained that he was not in supreme command, that the air forces were run by Field Marshal Terauchi at Saigon and the fleet run directly from Tokyo, that he only knew of the intended naval strike at Leyte Gulf five days before it got under way and professed ignorance of its details. The great lesson for the future is that success in the Art of War depends upon a complete integration of the services. In unity will lie military strength. We cannot win with only backs and ends; and no line, however strong, can go alone. Victory will rest with the team."
As mentioned above, no one general or admiral was empowered to integrate under a single command the Japanese armed forces; only the Emperor was authorized by the Constitution to command both Army and Navy. Only one time, however, did the Emperor exercise this authority, with his decision to accept the Potsdam declaration.  The government of the U.S. saved the Emperor because it was the only way to make Japanese armed forces surrender completely. The Japanese armed forces surrendered and allowed themselves to be disarmed only by order of the Emperor.
According to General MacArthur's report on the Japanese armed forces' surrender and disarmament, dated 15 October 1945:
"Today the Japanese armed forces throughout Japan completed their demobilization and ceased to exist as such. These forces are now completely abolished. I know of no demobilization in history, either in war or peace, by our own or any other country, that has been accomplished so rapidly or so frictionlessly. Everything military, naval or air is forbidden to Japan …
Approximately seven million armed men, including those in the outlying theaters, have laid down their weapons. In the accomplishment of the extraordinarily 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. The vindication of the great decision of Potsdam is complete. Nothing could exceed the abjectness, He humiliation and the finality of this surrender. It is not only physically thorough, but has been equally destructive of the Japanese spirit …"
Here we can appreciate the Emperor's contribution to the accomplishment of American strategy and occupation policy at the end of the war. There were, of course, minor troubles for the American armed forces to surmount after the war's end, but their effects on occupation policy were nil.
IV. For Perpetual Peace
In his famous book of 1795 Immanuel Kant advocated these three things:
1. A Change in National Structure and Government
The U.S. did not force Japan to abandon the imperial system, i.e., the Emperor continued as the total head of Japanese state. In other words, America's rulers did not demand a change in Japan's basic national policy. In reality, however, the most important element of the Emperor's prerogatives - his function as commander-in-chief of the armed forces - was completely abolished by the reform of the constitution. This was a revolutionary upheaval within the military system and, one must say, it was an interference with the government of Japan.
What of the application of Kant's second principle here? Kant's first principle on the abolition of standing armies could only be achieved by thorough violation of his second principle, by American intervention into Japanese internal affairs.
The U.S. disarmed Japan to guarantee its war objective: that Japan never again become a threat to the U.S. In everyday language we can say that this was natural, as long as we consider lessons learned from previous wars. But insofar as we look at the changes in the state of affairs in postwar Asia, it was a big blunder. In a speech in Tokyo on 19 November 1953 Vice-President Nixon said:
"'Rearmament of Japan' … Now if disarmament was right in 1946, why is it wrong in 1953? And if it was right in 1946 and wrong in 1953, why doesn't the United States admit for once that it made a mistake? And I'm going to say something that I think perhaps ought to be done more by people in public life. I'm going to admit right here that the United States did make a mistake in 1946. We made a mistake because we misjudged the intention of the Soviet leaders."
Present-day Japan's central defense problem, in reality, springs from this mistake.
3. The Purpose of War
In accordance with Kant's third principle, we must not apply limitless violence in war, and we must think about the period after the restoration of peace. In this respect, along with considering America's atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki an attempt at an early conclusion of the war, wouldn't we also say that it fits the definition of war-time conduct which makes trust impossible after the restoration of peace?
However, why is it that since the turnaround in U.S. strategy toward Japan - especially now - the U.S.-Japanese relationship has been so remarkably close and stable? Did the U.S. attain its war objective by rendering Japan powerless? It is necessary to re-examine this matter from a military perspective.
We Japanese people must not forget the reversion of Okinawa in 1972, and Iwo Jima in 1968, without bloodshed. It was a very positive contribution to U.S. - Japanese relationships, in contrast to Russia's refusal to return the Northern Territory (South Sakhalin and the Kuriles).
In 1987 and 1988, the Emperor had surgery. At that time the whole nation became worried about his health. For the first time we came to realize that there was no one who could take the place of the Emperor except his successor, the Crown Prince.
On January 7, 1989, the news of the Emperor's demise was received with a sense of the deepest regret. For the first time since the end of war the Japanese nation gave serious thought to the institution of the Emperor. This institution remains an integral part of the fabric of our society.
In this paper I have examined some points of American occupation strategy for Japan from the military aspect including unconditional surrender, the demilitarization and disbanding of the armed forces, and the issues of war trials and the Emperor. I have considered the American occupation strategy in relation to Kant's principles for world peace.
Finally, I would like to conclude that America's strategy and policy in regard to the Emperor was a brilliant contribution to the history of mankind, not only politically but also from the military point of view.
Both the U.S. and Japan contribute to the peace and security of the world as allied powers, regardless of bad feelings during and after the war.
Overall, it can be said that both the U.S. and Japan's occupation strategies have been successful. On the other hand, I have yet to establish why Japan declared war against the U.S. and why we lost the war. It will be my continuing job to study and teach the war's history.
I'd like first of all to explain why I embarked on the study of history. It is because historical education in Japan is extremely distorted. As a matter of fact, the percentage of Japanese citizens who consider their nation to be a "good" nation is quite small. In nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, or Korea, as many as 80 or 90 per cent of children and mothers think that their own nation is a good nation. In Japan the percentage is as low as 45 per cent.
Fifty years ago, the situation was precisely the opposite. At that time, Japan was a very poor nation, but 90 per cent of Japanese considered it to be a great and good one. Now we are a very rich nation, but less than half of Japanese consider Japan to be a good nation.
One of the reasons for this, it seems to me, is historical instruction, particularly that pertaining to the current interpretation of the Far East war crimes trials. At the war crimes trials, the conclusion arrived at was that Japan was the sole aggressor nation, that the other nations were all good, peace-loving nations. Furthermore, it was Prime Minister Tojo who was the criminal in this historical drama. I consider this to be the war-crimes-trial point of view of history, and it to be the purpose and endeavor of historians today to correct that view.
Secondly, I would like to explain why I came to this IHR conference. Five years ago in Tokyo, Mr. Bissel explained to me about the IHR, and at that time I was very surprised to hear from him that Japan's attack at Pearl Harbor was a trick perpetrated by FDR. Last summer, by telephone, I was asked by Mr. Bissel to participate in this 1989 IHR conference.
However, my friends in Japan told me: "Be careful," and in consequence I drafted this very careful paper. However, last night, upon hearing the speakers at this conference, I was quite moved. As is well known, and is often said, in battle the first casualty is truth, so today I would like to speak the truth. Now we will switch to the unvarnished truth!
First, the original American occupation strategy in Japan was mistaken. The occupation plan was to divide Japan into four zones: one for the U.S., one for the U.K., one for the Soviet Union and another for China. If that had happened then Tokyo might very well be in a state similar to that of Berlin today.
The second point is regarding the division and occupation of Korea. As you all know this occupation strategy was the reason for the outbreak of the Korean war, and is the cause of current north-south tension in Korea. What should have happened is that just as the American forces occupied Okinawa rather than the Soviets, they should also have occupied the northern part of Korea.
Third has to do with Manchuria, chiefly the fact that Manchuria was handed over to the Soviets. At Yalta Stalin had been promised that he would be given Dairen, Port Arthur and the Southern Manchuria Railroad. What should have happened is that these be occupied by the United States and then returned to China. If that had happened we might imagine that current-day China might be a very different place from the one we find it today.
My fourth point has to do with the Kurile Islands. It is due to the fact of the continued occupation of these northern territories by the Soviet Union that there is not a peace treaty between the Soviet Union and Japan today, and technically Japan and the Soviet Union remain in a state of war. The Kurile Islands were not occupied during the war, they were occupied by the Soviets after the surrender of the Japanese forces in the period between 18 August and September 2, 1945. In fact, according to international law, since 1855 this had been exclusively Japanese territory.
However, if we examine this from another point of view, it may be that the fact that the Kurile Islands were not returned to Japan, is in some respects, a good thing for the United States. That is because if the Kurile Islands were returned to Japan, this might result in great friendship between the Japanese and the Soviets, possibly creating a serious obstacle to Japan-U.S. relations. However, that is only my personal view and the Japanese government persists in saying: "Hand them back, hand them back."
This very day, there are in Tokyo probably as many as 50 Japanese children, left behind in Manchuria by their families, who are searching for relatives and parents. These are people whose parents were often, in fact, killed by the Soviets in Manchuria. Orphaned, reared by Chinese families, now, aged 40 and 50, they seek their blood kinsmen in Japan.
Their personal tragedies are a result of the United States decision that the Soviet participation in the Far Eastern War was necessary, whereas, in fact, that participation was not necessary in the slightest.
Next I would like to talk about the question of the war crimes trials. According to the international law of the time, war was perfectly legal. And, consequently, the fact that Japan started the war was not a crime. Therefore, the fact that the leaders of only the defeated countries were put to death was in fact illegal. If in fact we are to execute the leaders of aggressive nations, how are we to consider the invasion by the Soviet Union of Finland, of Poland, of Manchuria and the Kurile Islands.
This is something that is difficult for me to say … but the fact of the matter is that the seven "Class A war criminals," including Tojo - after they were hanged - it is my understanding that the bodies were thrown away in the Pacific. We don't know the actual facts on this but that their remains were discarded in that way seems to me to run counter to the traditions to what I take to be a Christian nation.
I was only a child at the time. However, I knew General Tojo. General Tojo's second son was my classmate at the military academy, and I can tell you that neither of these men were evil men.
There's also another fact, namely that there are no final testaments or final documents written by General Tojo and the other six "Class A war criminals." It is rumored, however, that there was a final testament by General Tojo in which he feared the communization of both China and Japan and the resulting difficulties for the United States. It is my personal wish that the remains of these "Class A criminals" and whatever may still exist of their final testaments and their documents be returned to Japan. However, this is something that the current Japanese government does not dare bring up.
It is also important to note that war trials did not take place only in Tokyo, they took place in Manila, in Hong Kong, in Singapore, and in China. As a consequence of these drum-head trials more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers, many of them innocent, were put to death.
The records of these trials, as a consequence of the research of people as yourselves, are finally coming to light. This is something that I feel strongly about making a request to the IHR about. I'm sure that you are all familiar with the question of the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. However, the reason it is a problem has to do with how one interprets these Far Eastern military trials I referred to. 
Since we don't have much time I shall have to hurry along here, but one last point I'd would like to make is that the accepted view of historians is that the reason Japan is at peace and prosperous today has to do with the efforts of the peace groups within Japan since the war. I do not think that is the case. I think that it has to do with the fact that the Japanese army was determined to struggle on until the end. And as a consequence of that struggle the war ended after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt on April 12. If the war had ended while FDR was still alive, it is my belief that his occupational plan for a divided Japan would have been put into effect and Tokyo would today be in a position similar to that of Berlin. It was the decision of General Anami, a man I know well, that caused Japan to struggle valiantly until the end.
Finally, I would like to talk about some of Japan's reasons for entering the war. The reason why Japan made war against the United States and the United Kingdom was for reasons of survival and self-defense. Japan had no desire whatsoever to capture Hawaii, for example, or to occupy San Francisco or Los Angeles. Since, after all, Japan was Country Orange" it had no need for an "Orange County." 
The main reason that there was a war between the United States and Japan was the China problem. In 1937 Japan did start a war with China. However, it was Japan's intention to achieve a cease-fire promptly and quickly. The nations that were obstacles to, and prevented, that cease-fire, were the United Kingdom, the USSR and the United States. This is somewhat similar to the reasons why the Vietnam war and the Afghanistan war lasted as long as they did. And the reason why Japan made its final decision to go to war was that the United States had erected an economic blockade against Japan.
I've read a number of IHR publications and I'm not quite at this point prepared to believe that Japan was tricked into attacking Pearl Harbor by FDR. However, I myself happen to have a small piece of evidence on this matter that I would like to make public today.
This has to do with a diary of a major in the Marine Corps. He was on Wake Island around November 30, 1941. Wake Island was one of the islands which was bombarded by the Japanese on the opening day of the war. However, in his personal diary, Major Putnam, in his entry of November 30th, said that he had already received orders that American craft were to attack and destroy any surface air or submarine craft of the Japanese forces. This diary was captured later when the Japanese forces occupied that island. The fact that it is one major's diary, of course, makes this less than conclusive evidence.
Nevertheless, it does lead me to believe that, as IHR publications have argued, it is perfectly possible that Franldin D. Roosevelt did know about the Pearl Harbor attack in advance. In some respects I've had a difficult time making these points before an American audience. I appreciate your patience and understanding.
Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 177-191.
Published with permission of and courtesy to the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).
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