Daily Archives: 12 November 2022

U.S & Japan Negotiate in German, 1945

From When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945, by Barrett Tillman (Osprey, 2022), Kindle pp. 206-207:

Thousands of American servicemen crowded both sides of the landing strip, watching the historic moment. Military police could barely restrain them from swarming the two planes, seeking a closer look or perhaps souvenirs.

With minimal fanfare the Japanese disembarked from the two bombers and approached MacArthur’s personal transport, the gleaming aluminum C-54 dubbed Bataan in memory of his Philippine service. Leading the delegation was Lieutenant General Torashiro Kawabe, sporting a long sword and spurs. Besides Kawabe and a major general were six other army officers including two interpreters, a rear admiral with four other navy men, and three civilians. The senior diplomat present, Katzuo Okazaki, had been a runner in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

The Douglas Skymaster loaded its human cargo and headed 920 miles south.

In Manila, skirting angry Filipino crowds, the entourage motored to an apartment building that, unlike City Hall, had survived the liberation relatively intact. The Japanese received a pointed message from the conqueror: they were not present to negotiate. Their purpose was simply to learn the specifics as to the terms of surrender and protocol of the impending ceremony. Keeping himself remote from the discussion as befitted a budding emperor, MacArthur allowed his intelligence chief, Major General Charles Willoughby, to conduct much of the meeting. Willoughby asked Lieutenant General Kawabe, vice chief of the Imperial Army, what language they should speak, to which the multi-lingual general replied, “German.” That suited Willoughby – he had emigrated from Germany as a child in 1910.

The details were thrashed out with minimal problems. MacArthur’s staff intended to land at Atsugi in four days, to which the Japanese objected for practical reasons. It was a kamikaze base and “a hotbed of revolt against the cease-fire.”

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Filed under Germany, Japan, language, Philippines, U.S., war