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HISTORICAL NOTES: Reunion at the Waldorf

3 minute read

In Suite 37A of Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Towers, a Japanese and an American stood arm in arm, beaming. “Glad to see you. It’s been a long time. Glad to see you,” said Douglas MacArthur, 75, General of the Army and chairman of the board of Sperry Rand. “We don’t just want to reminisce about the past.” said Mamoru Shigemitsu, 68, Foreign Minister of Japan. “We want to talk about the future.” Ten years before, to the day, they had met aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Shigemitsu to sign the surrender of Imperial Japan, MacArthur to accept it.

In MacArthur’s apartment the two men, amid the general’s Oriental souvenirs, chatted happily, and MacArthur did almost all of the talking. The general thought that U.S. troops should be pulled out of Japan the moment Japan becomes ready to defend itself; he did not think that the Soviet Union would invade Japan unless it could first convert it to Communism; he was quite sure that Japan would succeed in rebuilding its economy because it would never develop “the philosophy that dominates the thinking of so many white people—to do as little as possible.”

MacArthur’s most interesting remarks befitting a reunion concerned the past. He recalled that he had opposed a Russian plan to bring Emperor Hirohito to trial as a war criminal. “He was to be tried and presumably hanged upon conviction,” said MacArthur. “I realized what such an action would do and the extent to which it would complicate the occupation days ahead. I protested violently, and my protests were heeded . . . One of my arguments was that, as a result of the devotion of the Japanese people to their Emperor, his trial and execution would have necessitated an additional million troops successfully to carry out the occupation of Japan.” MacArthur added that the U.S. should turn back control of “socalled” war criminals to their own governments and abrogate the concept of war crimes tribunals: “Their intent, of course, was to establish higher moral standards for the waging of war. I don’t think they have succeeded in bringing about these high motives.”

To the Japanese, whom he had confronted in his highest moment of victory, Douglas MacArthur concluded: war was passing out of existence because of “the growing realization that the victor can no longer win.” Thus assured, Mamoru Shigemitsu got ready to go back home.

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