Brigadier General Fellers had joined MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command in Australia in late 1943, after having worked for a year in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), predecessor of the CIA. Immediately on landing in Japan (in the same plane that carried MacArthur), Fellers went to work to protect Hirohito from the role he had played during and at the end of the war. Fellers’s overriding goals were to confirm the effectiveness of his own wartime propaganda program, and, at the same time, to shield Hirohito from standing trial.
Fellers conducted private interrogations of about forty Japanese war leaders, including many who would later be charged as the most important Class A war criminals. His interrogations were carried out mainly in visits to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo over a five-month period–September 22, 1945, to March 6, 1946–through two interpreters. Fellers’s activities placed all the major war criminal suspects on alert as to GHQ’s specific concerns, and allowed them to coordinate their stories so that the emperor would be spared from indictment. Thus, at the same time the prosecuting attorneys were developing evidence to be used in trying these people, Fellers was inadvertently helping them. Soon the prosecuting attorneys found the war leaders all saying virtually the same thing. The emperor had acted heroically and single-handedly to end the war. This theme (unknown to them) coincided with Fellers’s goal of demonstrating the effectiveness of his own propaganda campaign against Japan….
MacArthur’s truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war.