740.00119 PW/7–645

No. 593
The Assistant Secretary of State (MacLeish) to the Secretary of State
top secret

Subject: Interpretation of Japanese Unconditional Surrender.

Mr. Acheson pointed out at the Staff Committee meeting on July 4 that there are two views about this matter in the Department.1 Since I hold one of these views rather strongly, and since it will be impossible to discuss the matter in full prior to your departure, I should like to submit several points for consideration.

What is it precisely we propose to do? The proposed public statement2 is couched in terms of clarification or interpretation of our announced unconditional surrender policy. The assumption is that we continue to demand unconditional surrender but that we propose to state what unconditional surrender will mean. Is this assumption correct? In our June 13 “Analysis of Memorandum Presented by Mr. Hoover”,3 we used this sentence: “Every evidence, without exception, that we are able to obtain of the views of the Japanese with regard to the institution of the throne indicates that the nonmolestation of the person of the present emperor and the preservation of the institution of the throne comprise irreducible Japanese terms.” The memorandum proceeds to state that the Japanese would be ready to undergo most drastic privations “so long as these irreducible Japanese terms were met” and are prepared for prolonged resistance if we propose to abolish the imperial institution and to try the emperor. If these are the considerations which move us to support the proposed public statement, can we describe that statement as a clarification of [or] interpretation of unconditional surrender? Surrender on terms, even irreducible terms, is not unconditional surrender. I am not here raising the question whether we should accept the irreducible Japanese terms. I am raising the question whether, if we do, we should not state explicitly what it is we are doing. If we are modifying the announced policy of unconditional surrender to a new policy of surrender on irreducible Japanese terms, the American people have a right to know it.
Is the proposed public statement on surrender policy for Japan consistent with surrender policy for Germany? The purpose of the proposed statement, as I understand it, is to announce that the Japanese may retain their characteristic political institution and that [Page 896] the person of the present incumbent of that institution will not be molested. IPCOG 1/4 of May 11, 1945,4 directs the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Forces of Occupation in Germany to enforce a policy by which the dominant and characteristic institution of German political life is to be stamped out and the person for whom, and in whom, that institution existed is to be arrested and imprisoned. Furthermore, the restoration of this characteristic German political institution is prohibited. And, finally, German life is to be reconstructed on a democratic basis. There are, of course, historical differences between the National Socialist Party in Germany and the imperial throne in Japan. There are also differences between the Führer and the emperor, though the Führer also demanded, and was accorded, a respect which approached reverence. In spite of these differences, however, the question presents itself whether the application of these rigorous measures to Germany and their non-application to Japan will not create an obvious inconsistency which will certainly be observed and which will undoubtedly be resented by a majority of the American people.
Is the proposed policy sound in fact? This is a question as to which the opinions and advice of experts are entitled to the greatest possible respect. Nevertheless, certain disturbing questions present themselves even to a non-expert like myself whose knowledge of Japan is limited to a study of a few months duration. What has made Japan dangerous in the past and will make her dangerous in the future if we permit it, is, in large part, the Japanese cult of emperor worship which gives the ruling groups in Japan—the Gumbatsu—the current coalition of militarists, industrialists, large land owners and office holders—their control over the Japanese people. As Mr. Acheson pointed out in the Staff Committee, the institution of the throne is an anachronistic, feudal institution, perfectly adapted to the manipulation and use of anachronistic, feudal-minded groups within the country. To leave that institution intact is to run the grave risk that it will be used in the future as it has been used in the past. The argument most frequently advanced for the preservation of the throne is the argument that only the emperor can surrender. This is a powerful argument for the immediate future. It must be balanced against the longer-range consideration that however useful the emperor may be to us now, he may be a source of the greatest danger a generation from now. The same consideration applied to the argument that lives will be saved now if the Japanese are allowed to keep their emperor. The lives already spent will have been sacrificed in vain, and fives will be [Page 897] lost again in the future in a new war, if the throne is employed in the future as it has been employed in the past by the Japanese Jingos and industrial expansionists.

Recommendation. For these various reasons, I urgently recommend that no public statement be issued until there has been a real opportunity to determine the policy of the Department of State on this matter. The question has not yet been debated to conclusion in the Secretary’s Staff Committee. Secondly, I should like to record my own earnest conviction that any such statement issued on this vitally important subject should be clear and precise and subject to no possibility of misinterpretation:—that if what we propose is to replace the policy of unconditional surrender with a policy of surrender on irreducible Japanese terms, we should say so, and say so in words which no one in the United States will misunderstand.

A[rchibald] MacL[eish]
  1. The minutes of this meeting of the Secretary’s Staff Committee do not describe the discussion referred to by MacLeish.
  2. See document No. 594.
  3. Not printed.
  4. This paper circulated the text (approved by Truman on May 11, 1945) of a “Directive to Commander in Chief of U. S. Forces of Occupation Regarding the Military Government of Germany”. A slightly modified version of this text is printed in Department of State Bulletin, vol. xiii, p. 596.