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December 6, 1941: FDR writes to Hirohito

 

An historical oddity.  The day before “the date which will live in infamy” President Roosevelt wrote a letter to Emperor Hirohito.  Here is the text of the letter:

[WASHINGTON,]

 

December 6, 1941

Almost a century ago the President of the United States addressed to the Emperor of Japan a message extending an offer of friendship of the people of the United   States to the people of Japan. That offer was accepted, and in the long period of unbroken peace and friendship which has followed, our respective nations, through the virtues of their peoples and the wisdom of their rulers have prospered and have substantially helped humanity.

Only in situations of extraordinary importance to our two countries need I address to Your Majesty messages on matters of state. I feel I should now so address you because of the deep and far-reaching emergency which appears to be in formation.

Developments are occurring in the Pacific area which threaten to deprive each of our nations and all humanity of the beneficial influence of the long peace between our two countries. These developments contain tragic possibilities. Continue Reading

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December 1, 1941: Hirohito Gives Approval for War Against US and Great Britain

In the wake of World War II a useful fiction was promulgated by the Japanese government, with the active connivance of the US Occupation under General Douglas MacArthur, that Hirohito had been anti-war and helpless to stop the militarists who controlled Japan.  It is astounding how many people, against all historical evidence, bought into this rubbish, and still buy into it.  Seventy-six years ago Hirohito gave his approval for war against the US and the British Empire, not grudgingly, but as part of a very long term plan to make Japan the undisputed dominant power in East Asia.

 

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:

Macarthur_hirohito

MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. Continue Reading

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August 15, 1945: The Voice of the Crane

 

 

Allied bombers had been used on August 13, 1945 dropping leaflets over Japan which described, in Japanese, the surrender offer and the Allied response.  On August 14, 1945 Hirohito met with his military leaders, several of whom spoke in favor of continuing the War.  Hirohito urged them to help him bring the War to an end.  Meeting then with the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War and heard out those who recommended a rejection of the Allied offer unless there was a guarantee that the Emperor would continue to reign.  Hirohito then spoke:

I have listened carefully to each of the arguments presented in opposition to the view that Japan should accept the Allied reply as it stands and without further clarification or modification, but my own thoughts have not undergone any change. … In order that the people may know my decision, I request you to prepare at once an imperial rescript so that I may broadcast to the nation. Finally, I call upon each and every one of you to exert himself to the utmost so that we may meet the trying days which lie ahead.

In normal times in Japan that would have been that.  It was quite rare for the Emperor to so overtly intervene in a decision of the government, indeed it was forbidden under the then current Japanese constitution, but when he did, it would have literally been unthinkable for any Japanese not to instantly obey.  However, these were far from normal times.

The rest of the day was taken up with Hirohito preparing an address to his people and having a recording played to be broadcast on August 15, 1945.  Washington was advised that Japan had surrendered via the Japanese embassies in Switzerland and Sweden and the Allied world went wild with joy. Continue Reading

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January 1, 1946: Hirohito States That He Is Not a God

untitled

1946 began with a bang in Japan with the release of an Imperial Rescript by Hirohito in which he stated that he was not a god:

In greeting the New Year, We recall to mind that Emperor Meiji proclaims as the basis of our national policy, the Five Clauses of the Charter-Oath at the beginning of the Meiji Era. The Charter-Oath signified: 

  1. Deliberative assemblies shall be established and all measures of government decided in accordance with public opinion.
  2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the affairs of State.
  3. All common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall be allowed to fulfill their just desires so that there may not be any discontent among them.
  4. All the absurd usages of old shall be broken through, and equality and justice to be found in the workings of nature shall serve as the basis of action.
  5. Wisdom and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Empire.

     The proclamation is evident in significance and high in its ideals. We wish to make this oath anew and restore the country to stand on its own feet again.

     We have to reaffirm the principles embodied in the Charter, and proceed unflinchingly towards elimination of misguided practices of the past, and keeping in close touch with the desires of the people, we will construct a new Japan through thoroughly being pacific, the officials and the people alike, attaining rich culture, and advancing the standard of living of the people.

     The devastation of war inflicted upon our cities, the miseries of the destitute, the stagnation of trade, shortage of food, and great and growing number of the unemployed are indeed heart-rending.

     But if the nation is firmly united in its resolve to face the present ordeal and to seek civilization consistently in peace, a bright future will undoubtedly be ours, not only for our country, but for the whole humanity.

     Love of the family and love of the country are especially strong in this country. With more of this devotion should we now work towards love of mankind.

     We feel deeply concerned to note that consequent upon the protracted war ending in our defeat, our people are liable to grow restless and to fall into the Slough of Despond.

     Radical tendencies in excess are gradually spreading and the sense of morality tends to lose its hold on the people, with the result that there are signs of confusion of thoughts.

     We stand by the people and We wish always to share with them in their moments of joys and sorrows.

The ties between Us and Our people have always stood mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths.

     They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.

     Our Government should make every effort to alleviate their trials and tribulations.

     At the same time, We trust that the people will rise to the occasion, and will strive courageously for the solution of their outstanding difficulties, and for the development of industry and culture.

     Acting upon a consciousness of solidarity and of mutual aid and broad tolerance in their civic life, they will prove themselves worthy of their best tradition.

     By their supreme endeavours in that direction, they will be able to render their substantial contribution to the welfare and advancement of mankind.

     The resolution for the year should be made at the beginning of the year. We expect Our people to join Us in all exertions looking to accomplishment of this great undertaking with an indomitable spirit. Continue Reading

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September 27, 1945: Hirohito Comes to MacArthur

Emperor and Shogun

When MacArthur took up his command as Supreme Commander Allied Powers it was suggested by aides that he summon Hirohito to appear before him.  MacArthur rejected that suggestion, stating that it was important that Hirohito come to him voluntarily.  That he did on September 27, 1945, the first of eight meetings between the Emperor and the American Shogun.  The meeting lasted only a few minutes with Hirohito taking complete responsibility for the War and requesting that any punishment for the War fall on him.  MacArthur said that the War was over and that he wished to work with the Emperor for the betterment of Japan.  Continue Reading

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August 15, 1945: The Voice of the Crane

Something for the weekend.  Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem.

And so World War II ended with the people of Japan standing at attention or bowing as they heard their Emperor tell them, in a classical Japanese that most of them probably found hard to follow, that it was time to endure the unendurable:

TO OUR GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS:

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to Our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of Our profound solicitude.

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with you, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.

Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world. Continue Reading

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August 14, 1945: Surrender and a Coup Attempt

 

 

Allied bombers had been used on August 13, 1945 dropping leaflets over Japan which described, in Japanese, the surrender offer and the Allied response.  On August 14, 1945 Hirohito met with his military leaders, several of whom spoke in favor of continuing the War.  Hirohito urged them to help him bring the War to an end.  Meeting then with the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War and heard out those who recommended a rejection of the Allied offer unless there was a guarantee that the Emperor would continue to reign.  Hirohito then spoke:

I have listened carefully to each of the arguments presented in opposition to the view that Japan should accept the Allied reply as it stands and without further clarification or modification, but my own thoughts have not undergone any change. … In order that the people may know my decision, I request you to prepare at once an imperial rescript so that I may broadcast to the nation. Finally, I call upon each and every one of you to exert himself to the utmost so that we may meet the trying days which lie ahead.

In normal times in Japan that would have been that.  It was quite rare for the Emperor to so overtly intervene in a decision of the government, indeed it was forbidden under the then current Japanese constitution, but when he did, it would have literally been unthinkable for any Japanese not to instantly obey.  However, these were far from normal times.

The rest of the day was taken up with Hirohito preparing an address to his people and having a recording played to be broadcast on August 15, 1945.  Washington was advised that Japan had surrendered via the Japanese embassies in Switzerland and Sweden and the Allied world went wild with joy. Continue Reading

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December 6, 1941: FDR writes to Hirohito

untitled

An historical oddity.  The day before “the date which will live in infamy” President Roosevelt wrote a letter to Emperor Hirohito.  Here is the text of the letter:

[WASHINGTON,]

 

December 6, 1941

Almost a century ago the President of the United States addressed to the Emperor of Japan a message extending an offer of friendship of the people of the United   States to the people of Japan. That offer was accepted, and in the long period of unbroken peace and friendship which has followed, our respective nations, through the virtues of their peoples and the wisdom of their rulers have prospered and have substantially helped humanity.

Only in situations of extraordinary importance to our two countries need I address to Your Majesty messages on matters of state. I feel I should now so address you because of the deep and far-reaching emergency which appears to be in formation.

Developments are occurring in the Pacific area which threaten to deprive each of our nations and all humanity of the beneficial influence of the long peace between our two countries. These developments contain tragic possibilities.

The people of the United States, believing in peace and in the right of nations   to live and let live have eagerly watched the conversations between our two Governments during these past months. We have hoped for a termination of the present conflict between Japan and China. We have hoped that a peace of the   Pacific could be consummated in such a way that nationalities of many diverse peoples could exist side by side without fear of invasion; that unbearable burdens of armaments could be lifted for them all; and that all peoples would resume commerce without discrimination against or in favor of any nation. Continue Reading

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Hirohito: War Criminal

 

A strange fascination for World War II in the Pacific overtakes many Catholic blogs in early August each year, so in line with that I throw out this question:  should Hirohito have been tried as a war criminal?  The video clip above is from the movie Emperor (2012) which is being released on Blu-ray and dvd next week and which has a fictional account of an American attempt to determine the extent of Hirohito’s involvement in the launching of Japan’s war of conquest which would claim over thirty million lives.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:

 

Emperors

 

MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. Continue Reading