894.001 Hirohito/1–2546: Telegram

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur to the Chief of Staff, United States Army (Eisenhower)9

secret
priority

CA 57235. Reference WX 93871. Since receipt of WX 85811 investigation has been conducted here under the limitations set forth [Page 396]with reference to possible criminal actions against the Emperor. No specific and tangible evidence has been uncovered with regard to his exact activities which might connect him in varying degree with the political decisions of the Japanese Empire during the last decade. I have gained the definite impression from as complete a research as was possible to me that his connection with affairs of state up to the time of the end of the war was largely ministerial and automatically responsive to the advice of his counsellors. There are those who believe that even had he positive ideas it would have been quite possible that any effort on his part to thwart the current of public opinion controlled and represented by the dominant military clique would have placed him in actual jeopardy.

If he is to be tried great changes must be made in occupational plans and due preparation therefore should be accomplished in preparedness before actual action is initiated. His indictment will unquestionably cause a tremendous convulsion among the Japanese people, the repercussions of which cannot be overestimated. He is a symbol which unites all Japanese. Destroy him and the nation will disintegrate. Practically all Japanese venerate him as the social head of the state and believe rightly or wrongly that the Potsdam Agreements were intended to maintain him as the Emperor of Japan. They will regard allied action [to the contrary as the greatest10] … betrayal in their history and the hatreds and resentments engendered by this thought will unquestionably last for all measurable time. A vendetta for revenge will thereby be initiated whose cycle may well not be complete for centuries if ever.

The whole of Japan can be expected, in my opinion, to resist the action either by passive or semi-active means. They are disarmed and therefore represent no special menace to trained and equipped troops; but is [it] is not inconceivable that all government agencies will break down, the civilized practices will largely cease, and a condition of underground chaos and disorder amounting to guerilla warfare in the mountainous and outlying regions result. I believe all hope of introducing modern democratic methods would disappear and that when military control finally ceased some form of intense regimentation probably along communistic line would arise from the mutilated masses. This would represent an entirely different problem of occupation from those now prevalent. It would be absolutely essential to greatly increase the occupational forces. It is quite possible that a minimum of a million troops would be required which would have to be maintained for an indefinite number of years. In addition a complete civil service might have to be recruited and imported, possibly running into a size of several hundred thousand. An overseas [Page 397]supply service under such conditions would have to be set up on practically a war basis embracing an indigent civil population of many millions. Many other most drastic results which I will not attempt to discuss should be anticipated and complete new plans should be carefully prepared by the Allied powers along all lines to meet the new eventualities. Most careful consideration as to the national forces composing the occupation force is essential. Certainly the US should not be called upon to bear unilaterally the terrific burden of manpower, economics, and other resultant responsibilities.

The decision as to whether the Emperor should be tried as a war criminal involves a policy determination upon such a high level that I would not feel it appropriate for me to make a recommendation; but if the decision by the heads of states is in the affirmative, I recommend the above measures as imperative.

  1. Copy transmitted by the War Department for the information of the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State. In a brief memorandum, January 30, the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Vincent) wrote Mr. Acheson that this telegram gave General MacArthur’s views “on trial of Hirohito as a war criminal. They are negative.” Telegram 1059, January 30, 8 p.m., to London, informed the Embassy there and suggested any action “appropriate in order to forestall such development”, namely, publicity on the Emperor as a war-criminal suspect (740.00116 E.W./1–2946).
  2. Words in brackets supplied by Department of Defense.