General MacArthur
Commander for the Allied Powers and Commander in Chief, Far East Command

The Japanese Occupation, under the broad vision and adminstration of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, is described in the following article by his Public Information Officer, Brigadier General Frayne baker (Reserve). The article was written especially for the ARMY INFORMATION DIGEST at the personal direction of General MacArthur.


The Allied Occupation of Japan is more than a mere military mission. It is also an experiment, a paradox, and a symbol.

As a military mission, its major functions are virtually completed. The culminating act in the victory of Allied arms in the Pacific war, the occupation quickly succeeded in its assigned task of disarming the vanquished and rendering Japan's war-making power totally ineffective.

But in its other phases, the occupation of Japan is bound to have an effect of lasting significance on the future peace and progress of the world. For it is an experiment to determine whether it is possible for a feudal society, by a concentrated effort of national will, to compress history and develop into a modern democratic state without falling prey to extremist convulsions.

It is at the same time a political and economic paradox, striving, with a remarkable degree of success, to tear down old familiar institutions and functioning systems in an already prostrate land and simultaneously to build up a new social structure before the ruins of the old have been completely swept away.

It is also a symbol of hope and inspiration, demonstrating to a fearful world that it may be possible, even for a people just released from the stifling clutch of totalitarianism, to make orderly advances along the middle road of democratic progress without infringing on the rights and dignity of the individual citizen.

The Allied forces in Japan have in no way deviated from the full and firm execution of the terms of surrender. But from the outset, the undertaking has assumed more of the character of the liberation of an oppressed people than he occupation of a conquered foe. The wise decision to conduct the occupation through the emperor and existing governmental machinery, the exemplary conduct of the occupation forces from the moment of their landing on Japanese shores, the single, uncomplicated command as the sold instrument of Allied policy--all have contributed to the almost miraculous smoothness of this single enterprise. Fortunately, the occupation of Japan has been in large measure free from serious involvement in the growing ideological conflicts which have affected so many other sectors of the globe. On the contrary, both in policy decision and in actual accomplishment, the Japanese occupation is a shining example of Allied cooperation.

Allied policy in Japan has been designed to attain two ultimate objectives: to insure that Japan will not again become a menace to the peace of the world; and to help establish, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people, a democratic and peaceful government which will carry out its international responsibilities, respect the rights of other states, and support the objectives of the United Nations.

The Potsdam Declaration upon which the terms of surrender were based and the post-surrender policy prescribed by the eleven nations of the Far Eastern Commission clearly and specifically set forth the means by which these major objectives were to be attained. In their far-reaching, all-embracing scope, they called for nothing less than the complete transformation of at state, a people, and a way of life.

It has been the unique mission of the Allied occupation force to implement the policy in conformance with the meticulously detailed program approved by the Allied powers. The manner in which thus far the task has been done, with faithful adherence to the ideals and principles upon which all eleven nations were able to achieve such extraordinary agreement, stands out as a token of profound hope for a peaceful future.

The first of the major objectives of the occupation has been largely accomplished. Japan is no longer, and in the foreseeable future cannot possibly become, a threat to world peace and security. Japanese armed forces at home and abroad have been completely disarmed, demobilized, and, with the exception of several hundred thousand remaining in the Soviet-controlled areas, returned to their homes, in accordance with promises made at Potsdam. Japan's once-powerful navy and airforce have been demolished, and the industrial machine which provided her military masters with the sinews of aggressive war has been destroyed or reconverted to meet the urgent peacetime needs of the Japanese people. No vestige remains of the armed might which briefly engulfed vast areas of the Pacific and threatened wider conquests.

To guarantee against any possible resurgence of the military spirit, the strongest measures have been taken to weed out of Japanese life the agencies, institutions, and influences which led the nation along the fatal path of militant nationalism and imperialism to ultimate devastation and collapse.

Ultra-nationalist organizations have been dissolved and prohibited.

Stern and impartial justice has been meted out to many who committed crimes against humanity and the laws and customs of war; others accused of war crimes are at this moment being tried and many more have been rounded up to await their day in court.

High officials of Japan's armed forces and those leaders in the fields of government, business, education, and public opinion who misguided the Japanese people along the tragic path of militarism and aggression have been removed and excluded from all positions of public responsibility.

Warlike doctrines, mental regimentation, and superstition have been eliminated from Japanese education. The freedoms of religion, speech, thought, and assembly have been secured for the Japanese people, and the unlimited power of the police over the daily life of the individual citizen has been broken.

In place of the shattered feudal structure of the Japanese state, a new Constitution was adopted to provide the framework for a new democratic society. Sovereignty was transferred from the emperor to the people. The popularly elected National Diet was elevated to the highest position of state power. Political administration was decentralized to place wide powers and responsibilities in the hands of elected local and prefectural officials. Women were lifted from their traditionally inferior position in Japanese life and enfranchised to permit them to assume their proper role in the government of their community and nation. Wide legal, judicial, and administrative reforms were introduced to make the government fully responsive for the first time in Japanese history to the wishes of the people. Measures were taken to safeguard and encourage popular respect for individual liberties and fundamental human rights.

Tremendous strides have been made in effectuating the elaborate blueprint for economic democratization outlined by the Allied powers. The system of private family monopolies which were used to harness Japanese industry to the wheels of costly military adventure and which often stifled free enterprise is being rapidly destroyed. Labor has been given the fullest freedom to organize and bargain collectively. A rural land reform program has been initiated to abolish absentee ownership, break up lard landholdings, and develop anew class of small landowners freed from feudalistic shackles.

Food has been imported from the United States, and programs of just distribution of available necessities have been instituted to avoid acute economic distress. Legislation has been adopted to improve labor conditions and to raise the standards of public health and welfare.

Essential controls have been imposed to make certain that Japan's economic potential does not again become a menace to the nations of the Pacific. The first steps have been taken to restore normal economic relations with the outside world and to help Japan make the largest possible industrial contribution to the social and economic welfare of the peoples of the Far East.

Thus the stage has been set. The Occupation has provided the Japanese people their first real opportunity to take charge of their own destiny and to build for themselves a peaceful and constructive future. They and they alone will determine whether they can successfully adapt their way of life to new conditions of existence.

Already there have been gratifying indications that the roots of democracy have taken hold. In two national elections, the men and women of Japan demonstrated their deep interest in assuming the full responsibilities of popular government. The Diet has become increasingly aware of the importance as the official voice of a free people and the supreme organ of the democratic state. Elements of the population long under the heel of feudal tradition and oppressive state power--women, tenant farmers, workers, and political minorities--have taken increasing advantage of the newly-won rights.

But the greatest test, for Japan no less than for many other nations of the world, still remains.

The key to the progress of Western civilization over the centuries has been the growth of human liberty and the ever-widening scope granted to the freedom, rights, and dignity of the individual. The struggle to achieve the ideals of political democracy against the intrenched power of dictators and oligarchs has been long, bitter, and never-ending.

Today these precious rights, gained through untold sacrifice of inspired and stout-hearted men and women in many lands, are seriously imperiled. Weak and despairing peoples are being lured by the siren song of a deceptive economic "security" to yield their hard-won freedoms to a new despotism. Masked under the shiny facade of radical economic progress and drastic social reform, it seeks by violence and chicanery to re-impose the age-old tyrannies which kept the spirit of man enslaved for countless generations. The tragedy is that once human rights are lightly bartered for the mirage of economic "security," there is no recourse but to begin again the ancient drawn-out struggle for political independence.

Faced with this urgent challenge, the democratic nations of the world must clearly demonstrate that only a society governed by the free will of the people and giving full play to the hopes, aspirations, and capacities of the individual can provide the material progress upon which real social and economic welfare are based.

In what is apparently becoming a world-wide contest for the allegiance of mankind, the democracies must and can prove decisively that the material well-being of the common man can best be attained in a free society, and that orderly social and economic improvement can be achieved without plunging humanity back into the spiritual degradation of utter serfdom.

In Japan this contest, by the nature of its peculiar setting, has become a race--a race between the ability of the Japanese people to absorb quickly the values, attitudes, and spirit of democracy and the strong pull of traditional habits of regimentation , either in their original feudal form or under the guise of a "new" philosophy of despair.

The ultimate test of the Occupation will be the extent to which, in an extremely brief span of time, it has been able to create an atmosphere favorable to the sturdy growth of a democratic spirit, capable of withstanding the raging winds of totalitarianism from whatever direction they may blow.

The Allied Occupation is now approaching the day of a peace settlement with full confidence that it has done as much as a purely military occupation can possibly do in setting the Japanese people on their new and difficult course. Japan's future depends on the intelligence, energy, and peaceful aspirations of her industrious people and the wisdom, good judgement, and sound policy of the democratic world.

Page last updated Mon August 27th, 2007 at 15:48