chapter  28
The American Occupation of Japan, 1945–52
Pages 18

SO WROTE the social anthropologist John F.Embree in the summer of 1944. This perceptive scholar was aware that American forces already had ‘plenty of experience in military occupation’; they had ruled the defeated South, occupied New Mexico and carried out various forms of military administration in the Philippines, the Caribbean and Central America. Following the First World War American units had briefly controlled part of the Rhineland, but apart from a single report on this German experience there was little recorded history which seemed relevant to the challenge which Embree perceived.2 Yet American preparations for ruling enemy lands during the Second World War were impressive in speed, range and imagination. Already, in the spring of 1942, the first school of military government was established on the campus of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.3 This drew both civilians and servicemen into its programme, and recruited many college graduates with public affairs experience. These first courses emphasised the management of everyday crises in any occupied territory but their sweeping generalities illustrated the complex puzzles involved in preparing for military government. Japan, Germany and Italy were all potential zones of occupation, but so were Bulgaria and Hungary, and Japanese islands in the Pacific; even Vichy France might require occupation and military administration. No single programme could possibly cope with this vast range of possibilities. As a result, more specialised centres were soon created to supplement the school at Charlottesville. These new Civil Affairs Training Schools (CATS for short) were jokingly abused as academies ‘for American gauleiters’ but they represented much that was best in American academic and civilian life.4 Some schools concentrated on the training of administrators for Europe. Others embarked upon the more exacting task of training specialists to occupy Japan.5 These courses were established at Harvard, Yale, Michigan, North-western, Stanford and Chicago

universities. They usually lasted six months and embraced intensive language training, area studies (Japanese culture, politics and society) and education in military administration. Lecturers included academics, diplomats, missionaries and businessmen with direct experience of Japan, and many Americans of Japanese descent. These programmes were remarkably successful and by the summer of 1945 over two thousand new Japan hands had graduated from Civil Affairs Training Schools. These graduates waited to accompany invasion forces to the Japanese mainland.6 Parallel with this programme of administrative training a different form of occupation planning was taking place in the higher reaches of American government. As early as February 1942 the Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy was created under the chairmanship of the secretary of State.7 This consisted of a wide range of government and non-government personnel and in March spawned the Territorial Subcommittee which began to discuss frontier questions and the restoration of stable regimes after the war. In July 1942 this Subcommittee began consultations with the State Department’s Division of Special Research which was also preparing papers on postwar issues.8 However, little serious attention was paid to Japan until August 1942 when George Blakeslee, a Far Eastern specialist, was appointed to Special Research to begin work on East Asian questions.9 Soon after, the Division of Special Research created an East Asian Planning Group to consider a wide range of Japanese problems. This new group included Japan specialists such as Robert A.Fearey and Hugh Borton and immediately turned its energies to future occupation policy.10 How long should an occupation last? What forces should constitute an army of occupation? How should Japanese civilians be treated?—were all topics of discussion. Furthermore, the political objectives of military government and the treatment of the Emperor were already on the Group’s agenda.11 In January 1943 Special Research was replaced by the Divisions of Political and Economic Studies and a year later the newly formed Postwar Programs Committee entered the field of policy discussion. By this time relevant bodies in the Navy and War Departments were raising a succession of questions regarding occupied areas and the Far East Area Committee of the Department of State was also submitting proposals to the Postwar Programs Committee.12 At this time argument began to focus upon two basic issues. Firstly, would an occupation be implemented directly or indirectly? In short, would the Japanese government be retained or swept away? Secondly, what attitude should be taken to the Emperor after Japan’s surrender?13 A paper submitted by Hugh Borton made a powerful case for indirect occupation, and this was ultimately to become American policy. Borton rightly argued that the United States and her allies had insufficient trained men to administer Japan down to the smallest hamlet. He also claimed that the sudden abolition of the Imperial Institution, against the wishes of the Japanese people, would ignite resentment and prove ineffective.14 When this document was passed to the Postwar Programs Committee it was bitterly criticised but ultimately it survived and proved very influential.