Daily Archives: 21 September 2005

The PsyOps Quaker Who Helped Reinvent Hirohito

Within this early occupation period [from September 1945], MacArthur’s “military secretary” and former head of psychological warfare operations, Brig. Gen. Bonner F. Fellers, reestablished personal ties with two Japanese Quakers. One, Isshiki (Watanabe) Yuri, he had known from his days at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana; the other, Kawai Michi, a former secretary-general of the YWCA and founder in 1929 of Keisen Girls School in Tokyo, he had met on his first visit to Japan in 1920. During their initial reunion meetings, Fellers spoke frankly of his urgent concern to prove that no grounds existed for holding the emperor responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack. With Kawai acting as his consultant and collaborator, Fellers was soon put into contact with her acquaintance, Sekiya Teizaburô, the high palace official who, since late Taishô, had played a leading role as a liaison between the court and government ministries. Sekiya too wanted to prove that the emperor was a “lover of peace.”

An entirely new, binational stage in the movement to protect Hirohito now began. Out of the interplay of efforts by GHQ, the emperor, Japanese government leaders, and Japanese Christians with prewar ties to influential Americans, came the shielding of Hirohito from war responsibility, his “humanization,” and the reform of the imperial house. Henceforth, in the process of utilizing Hirohito’s authority for their own respective purposes, MacArthur and the Japanese leadership would have to misrepresent a vital side of Hirohito’s life and identity, just as they [had] been misrepresented before the war….

Between April and July 1945, MacArthur and Fellers had worked out their own approach to occupying and reforming Japan. In their view the principles of psychological warfare that Fellers had implemented in the Battle of the Philippines and elsewhere were solidly correct. They had played a key role in lowering Japanese morale, hastening surrender, and preparing the Japanese for occupation. Japanese military leaders alone bore responsibility for the war, and the emperor, the “moderates” around the throne, and the people had been totally deceived by them. All Japanese trusted the emperor. U.S. psychological warfare should build on their trust and turn it against them. These ideas, the “common sense” of American psychological warfare experts in the Pacific, not to mention Chinese and Japanese Communist leaders in North China, had become MacArthur’s fixed principles and were woven into his initial occupation plan.

Code-named Operation Blacklist, the plan turned on separating Hirohito from the militarists, retaining him as a constitutional monarch but only as a figurehead, and using him to bring about a great spiritual transformation of the Japanese people. Because retaining the emperor was crucial to ensuring control over the population, the occupation forces aimed to immunize him from war responsibility, never debase him or demean his authority, and at the same time make maximum use of existing Japanese government organizations. MacArthur, in short, formulated no new policy toward the emperor; he merely continued the one in effect during the last year of the Pacific war, then drew out its implications as circumstances changed.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 542-545

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Japan’s Missed Opportunities to Surrender, 1945

In his chapter entitled “Delayed Surrender” Bix identifies three major blown opportunities when Hirohito and his Supreme War Leadership Council “could have looked reality in the face and acted decisively to sue for peace”:

(1) February 1945, when Japan’s tentative negotiators determined that “the Soviet Union would not hesitate to intervene militarily in the Far East once the situation turned favorable in Europe” (despite its earlier Neutrality Treaty with Japan)

(2) Early June 1945, “when the showdown Battle of Okinawa had been lost, when government analyses indicated that the war effort could soon continue no longer, and when General Umezu unveiled for the emperor the bleak results of his personal survey of the situation in China”

(3) Late July 1945:

Their third missed opportunity was July 27-28, when the Potsdam Declaration arrived and the Suzuki cabinet, after careful deliberation, twice publicly rejected it. At the time no member of the “peace faction” came forward with a proposal for accepting the Potsdam terms. Pinning their hopes on Konoe’s not-yet-arranged mission to Moscow, the emperor and Kido [lord keeper of the privy seal, his closest advisor] waited and waited for a response from Moscow–a response that Ambassador Satô and others repeatedly stated would never come. Only after Hiroshima had been bombed did the emperor say, “We must bow to the inevitable;” now “is a good chance to end the war.” More than ten thousand Japanese people died from conventional air raids during this eleven-day interval.

The Japanese “peace” overtures to the Soviets, which had followed Germany’s capitulation, were vague, feeble, and counterproductive. They certainly never constituted a serious attempt to negotiate an end to the war. The thinking behind those maneuvers never progressed beyond decisions reached by the inner cabinet in mid-May 1945. As Konoe rightly suspected it would, the emperor’s attempt to end the war via Moscow turned out to be a complete waste of time, and amounted to an imperial decision to postpone facing reality.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 521-522

Did the U.S. also miss an opportunity by continuing to insist on unconditional surrender? Here’s what Bix has to say (p. 518).

If the conservative [former ambassador to Japan] Joseph C. Grew and the “Japan crowd” had gotten their way and the principle of unconditional surrender had been modified in advance, it is highly unlikely that Japan’s postsurrender leaders, now the “moderates” around the throne, would ever have discarded the Meiji constitution and democratized their political institutions. Grew and those who took his position had very little understanding of the Japanese body politic, no faith in the capacity for democracy of ordinary Japanese people, and certainly no desire whatsoever to see the social foundations of the monarchy dismantled.

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