MacArthur and the Emperor
After the Japanese surrender in 1945 the American’s took on the task of occupying Japan and reforming the militaristic nation into a modern country that would never again threaten its neighbors. To minimize the amount of American soldiers needed to keep the country under control the occupation command, known as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) or GHQ (General Headquarters), maintained the Emperor in his position of head of the state and as a rallying point for the Japanese people. Under pressure from other Allied nations, the American public (Immediately after war 70% of Americans wanted him killed), and elements inside Japan itself for destruction of the Japanese God-Emperor the SCAP had this picture published to show that the Emperor Hirohito was supported by MacArthur and the occupation forces.
Taking the picture
In 1945 a meeting was arranged for MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito to meet and to discuss how to save the his throne. Arriving at 10:00 on September 27, 1945 in his custom made Rolls Royce the Emperor and his entourage of Imperial guards and advisers were greeted by American SCAP officials Faubion Bowers and Bonner Fellers. The Americans saluted the Emperor and he first bowed to them and then shook their hands. Bowers then took the Emperor’s top hat which seemed to alarm Hirohito who as the God Emperor of the Japanese people was not used to be people taking things from him. As the American officer was taking the hat MacArthur burst into the room:
in that stentorian voice of burnished gold that thrilled everyone who heard it, ‘You are very, very welcome, sir!'” It was the first time Bowers had ever heard the general say ‘sir’ to anyone. The supreme commander reached out to clasp the Emperor’s hand, and the emperor simultaneously bowed so deeply that the handshake ended up taking place above his head. — Embracing Defeat by John Dower
MacArthur then took Hirohito into a private room with just the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo. The Supreme Commander and the Emperor, through his translator, spent 40min together and swore to keep the contents of their conversation secret. Though over the years some details leaked out. According to the Americans Emperor Hirohito offered to take responsibility for the war which MacArthur brushed aside. This is contrasted by the Japanese. Thirty years after the meeting the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo, released his memoirs which claimed that MacArthur was “a fawning courtier awed by his proximity to ‘You Majesty’ and extraordinarily solicitous in his comments.”
In all three photos were taken. In one Supreme commander’s eyes were closed and the Emperor’s mouth gaping open, Hirohito’s gaping open also ruined the second. The third is the one that was published.
When the image was published on September 29, 1945 it caused a sensation in Japan. At a glance those who saw the picture understand who was the real Emperor in post-war Japan. MacArthur in his almost causal dress without medals towering over Hirohito who stood stiffly in a formal suit looking uncomfortable at the whole situation. The Image set-up was, the media adapt, MacArthur’s idea.
When the papers hit the street the Japanese censors at the Home Ministry, which this close to the surrender will still controlling the Japanese presses, were outraged and tried to have the picture censored. SCAP was then able to win two victories first by publishing an image showing who was really in charge and second overruling the Japanese censors there-by introducing Japanese to the concept of freedom of the press.
Many Japanese remember seeing the image and it finally coming home that they were the conquered and that the Americans, and their General MacArthur were in charge.
Douglas MacArthur was a career military man who lived from January 26, 1880 to April 5, 1964. Coming from a long line of military men he was valedictorian, when he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He took the rank of First Captain when he graduated top of the class of 1903. Rising through the ranks he was brigadier general during World War I when he lead American troops on the Western Front.
After the war he was involved in many civil disturbances in America and in the Philippines. In 1937 he retired from the military and become Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines. When war broke out he had already been called back into service and he was General when the Americans lost the Philippines after a series of shocking victories by the Japanese Imperial army. He was forced to abandon his troops and flee to Australia where he would rebuild an American Pacific Army and after years of hard fighting force Japan out of the war. He oversaw the occupation of Japan with the official title of Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) which was also the name of his department that oversaw the everyday details of the occupation.
When war broke out in Korea he was again leading Allied armies this time against the Communists. During the Korean War he frequently came into conflict with the President Truman and on April 10, 1951 an order was signed relieving him of command. When he returned to Ameirca is was his first visit to the continental United States since 1937. His boy Arthur IV, now aged 13, had actually never been to the United States.
He worked in the private sector and his advice was sought after by many a president. On April 5, 1964 he died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of biliary cirrhosis. He was granted a State Funeral by President Johnson and that he be buried “with all the honor a grateful nation can bestow on a departed hero.”
Emperor Hirohito lived from April 29, 1901 to January 7, 1989 and was the 124th emperor of Japan. When he took power Japan was an Imperial military superpower with the ninth largest economy, the third biggest Navy and one of the five permanent members of the council of the League of Nations. During his reign he oversaw and approved of aggressive military takeover of most of Asia which eventually lead to Japan attacking America starting its entry into World War II. After the war the occupying force, including MacArthur did everything in its power to shield the Emperor from prosecution of war crimes often by laying the blame on his advisers a role they were only too happy to take as they had pledged their lives to protect the Japanese throne. After the war and after the American had left Hirohito focused on official duties such as welcoming head of states to Japan and his hobby marine biology. He published many scientific papers and contributed the description of several dozen species of Hydrozoa that were new to science.
From 1943 to 1945 during some of the toughest fighting in the Pacific Faillace was General MacArthur’s photographer. During the occupation he followed the General in his official duties. During the War he took some of the most famous images of the General including his return to the Philippines and at the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. His photograph of MacArthur looking out at Corregidor Island, of the Philippines, was on the cover of the general’s memoirs, Reminiscences. On December 31, 1991 he died of cancer in Fayetteville, N.C. He was 87.