Emperor Hirohito's complicity in the milatarists horific war crimes was not after the War a subject of a well researched historical review. After the War the issue was left to General MacArthur and he chose not to arrest and procecute the Emperor. And unlike Hitler's minions, the Japanese officers and government officials tried after the War, did not blame the terrible war crimes on the Emperor. Nor did the procecutors, under orders from MacArthur, pursue the question. The War ended on a confusing note. While the United States did not back off of its unconditional surender demand, the Japanese surrender insiated that the status of the Emperor be maintained. The American reponse was equivocal. In the end MacArthur decided to allow Emperor Hirohito to remain on the throne, but to convert an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in a new democratic system. In recent years, however, the Emperor's role in the War has come under increasing consideration, primarily by Western reasearchers. And it has become cristal clear that Emperor Hirohito was involved in all the major decisions leading to the war and the conduct of the War. Nor do we know of any instances in which the Emperor intervened to limit or slow down Japanese aggression or the rutless barbarity of the Japanese military. Japanese historians and journalists have, however, been notably silent on this and other World War II war crimes issues.
After the War, the contention that Emperor Hirohito had no hand in Japan's conduct of World War II became wideky accepted. In part this was a result of General MacArthur's decession not to aggressively persue the issue of the Emperor's conduct so his prestige could be used in the Occupation. This attitude is widely accepted in Japan along with the attitude that Japan was a victim of World War II and not one of the aggressor nations. Most Japanese school children know little about the War, except that America dropped atomic bombs on the country. We know of any instances in which the Emperor intervened to limit or slow down Japanese aggression or the rutless barbarity of the Japanese military. That said, in all fairness, we do not know of instnces that the Emperor was at the forfront of Japanese officials advocating aggresion or ordering wgat we now would call war crimes. The best that can be said for the emperor was that he was born into a system that did not question the counyry's empire building or the use of force in intenational affairs. And it is true, that he did finally use his authority as Emperor to end the War, an action that saved millions of lives--mostly Japnese lives. Japanese historians and journalists have, however, been notably silent on this and other World War II war crimes issues. While the Emperor did not question the miliyary during the war, he has to be given credit for supporting MacArthur in his effort to convert a militarist ijmperial power into a modern liberal democracy. This process would have been much ,ore difficult without the emperor's cooperation and support.
Historians have begun to address Emperor Hirohito's war-time role. One historian contends that Hirohito was involved in all the major decisions in the war, but that his role was covered up, and that General MacArthur knew, but went along with the whitewash for pragmatic reasons to assist in the post-War occupation. Loyal Japanese officials and military commanders, unwilling to see the Emperor soiled by association with crimes committed in his name, saw their honorable duty as taking the punishment. [Bergamini] A HBC reader tells us that a recent biography by Herbert Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan"
(New York, 2000). He writes, "The Bix book seems to me to come pretty close to being the definitive biography. It certainly goes way beyond anything written earlier and addresses his World War II role in detail." HBC has not yet had an opporunity to read the Bix book.
Bergamini, David. Imperial Conspiracy (1971).
Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (New York, 2000).
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