American Post-War Occupation of Japan
The intent of the United States’ occupation of Japan was to neutralize the threat of another war, to nourish the Japanese economy back to health, and to provide a stable democratic government for the defeated nation. With General Douglas MacArthur acting as the supreme commander in charge of the occupation, Japan changed drastically. Special attention was paid to the areas of military, economy, and government. The effects of the United States’ occupation of Japan were profound almost beyond reckoning, and have had enormous impacts on modern Japanese society as well as on almost every other society in the modern world and throughout the course of history.
The original occupation plan, conceived by President Roosevelt, was to split Japan into four quadrants. The United States, Great Britain, the USSR, and China would have each controlled a section. Upon his death, however, President Roosevelt’s plan also died. In its stead was placed a new plan, which called for a one hundred percent American operation. America had insufficient manpower to make a military government of Japan possible; so, it was decided that they would act through the existing Japanese government.
America’s top priority following the initial occupation in 1945 was the complete demilitarization of the Japanese imperial forces. This was actually the quickest phase of the occupation. Beginning immediately after the occupation, complete demilitarization was reported as being complete by October 15, 1945. In his report dated the same day, General MacArthur said the following:
“Today the Japanese armed forces throughout Japan completed their demobilization and ceased to exist as such. These forces are now completely abolished. I know of no demobilization in history, either in war or peace, by our own or any other country, that has been accomplished so rapidly or so frictionlessly. Everything military, naval or air is forbidden to Japan” (Headquarters 1)
The United States disarmed Japan to guarantee its war objective: That Japan never again become a threat to the United States. As one considers how this affected the state of affairs in postwar Asia, however, it could be viewed as a significant mistake. Due to the American fear of the spread of communism, Japan was allowed a limited standing force, beginning in 1953, for defending their homeland. In a speech in Tokyo on November 19, 1953, Vice-President Richard Nixon said:
“Rearmament of Japan. Now if disarmament was right in 1946, why is it wrong in 1953? And if it was right in 1946 and wrong in 1953, why doesn’t the United States admit for once that it made a mistake? And I’m going to say something that I think perhaps ought to be done more by people in public life. I’m going to admit right here that the United States did make a mistake in 1946. We made a mistake because we misjudged the intention of the Soviet leaders.” (Walt 168)
Although the United States did well in eliminating...