740.00119 Control (Japan)/1–1648

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs ( Butterworth ) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas ( Saltzman )


Subject: Modification of Purge Restrictions in Japan.

I have for some time been disturbed over the lengths to which the purge has been carried in Japan and the consequences which such a sweeping proscription is reported to have had on Japanese economic revival and governmental efficiency. More than two years after surrender substantial additional numbers of Japanese are still being purged every week, and no procedures have been established to make possible the clearing and re-entry into positions of responsibility in Japanese public and economic life of the substantial proportion of purgees who it is doubtful were by any reasonable interpretation of the phrase “active exponents of militant nationalism and aggression”, but who might make a material contribution to the development of a peacefully inclined and effective Japanese government and to the revival of Japanese economy.
As you know, the basic directives on Japan provided for the exclusion from public office and from “positions of important responsibility or influence in industry, finance, commerce or agriculture” of “active exponents of militant nationalism and aggression”. In implementing these provisions, however, practically all persons who held positions of responsibility in Japanese government, industry, finance [Page 650] and the press from about 1930 on have been excluded from such positions under the occupation, largely without relation, it has appeared, to whether they actively sponsored a military course or merely occupied positions of an entrepreneurial or professional nature and did not resign or otherwise go out of their way to oppose the military regime.
The result, according to a wide variety of sources, is that large numbers of Japanese whose qualifications are essentially technical (business entrepreneurs and experienced public officials), Japanese who made the wheels of industry and government go ’round before and during the war but who did not initiate or actively sponsor military policies, and who indeed frequently, covertly or overtly, opposed those policies, have been excluded from positions of responsibility and their talents wasted. In SCAP’s report “Two Years of the Occupation” it is stated that in the period from January 1946 to July 1947 2,748 Japanese were barred and removed from public office and from responsible business and press positions, 20,000 persons resigned their positions in order to escape screening, and 183,000 former career military officers, plus an undetermined number of former government officials who have not held or sought public office during the occupation, were automatically barred or removed. The Department’s Division of Research for the Far East considers on the basis of other SCAP and official Japanese reports that the first figure may have been considerably understated. The economic purge alone is reliably reported to have run to over two thousand persons, not to mention the political and press purges, and, as the above-mentioned SCAP report indicates, about ten persons resign their positions to escape removal for every one actually removed. The Japanese Government announced on December 10 that 4,752 persons had been purged up to that time by the Central Screening Committee and 2,213 persons by local screening committees (CINCFE’s C57502, December 221). The telegram at Appendix “A”1 has been prepared, and either has been or it is expected shortly will be sent to SCAP, in order to obtain complete, detailed and up-to-date purge statistics.
The theory on which the purge program is understood to have been based is that all of Japan’s former leaders were in some degree tarred with the same brush and that all must be removed so that entirely new leadership with an entirely new outlook may be enabled to take their place. While perhaps desirable in principle, this theory of an entirely new leadership, carried to the lengths it has been carried [Page 651] is subject to certain very definite disadvantages which must be weighed in the balance of present and prospective circumstances:
First, it is doubtful whether Japan now has, or for some time to come will have, capable new leaders to replace the old. I am not speaking here of the top leaders who actually did conceive and initiate Japan’s course of aggression and who should be removed in any circumstances, but of the much larger number of persons who were not in this group but who occupied important positions because of their professional and business abilities. This class of persons was never as numerous in Japan as in other modern, technically advanced countries, largely because of the country’s comparatively recent modernization and autocratic social structure, and they cannot be replaced except over a long period of time, too long to wait.
It would be directly in accordance with Japanese character if the many Japanese who held positions of importance before and during the war who adapted themselves to, but were not active exponents of, war policies and who are capable men in the prime of life, were to become as loyal and valuable servants of a new and democratic Japan, now that this course appears in Japan’s and their own interest, as they were of the old Japan. On the other hand, if these group[s], many of whom, particularly in the business world, were distinctly pro-American before the war and all of whom are anti-Communist, are indefinitely excluded from positions of responsibility in government, business, education and the press, they are likely to become embittered toward our occupation policies and toward the United States, becoming our enemies where they might have been our friends.
The purge, in the extreme form in which it appears to have been executed, seems inconsistent in letter and in spirit with the provisions of SCAP’s “Bill of Rights” directive of October 4, 19452 and with the civil rights provisions of the new Japanese Constitution.3 Penalization of the large numbers of purgees whose only crime was to serve their country in time of war would not seem to be the best illustration we might be providing the Japanese of the benefits of impartial justice and respect for personal rights.
The consequences for Japanese economic revival and the efficiency of Japanese governmental administration of the loss of capable personnel due to what may have been the unduly sweeping nature of the purge cannot of course be accurately estimated. One cannot help but suspect, however, from the number of professionally qualified Japanese administrators and business entrepreneurs who have been purged, from the known concentration of top-flight administrative and entrepreneurial ability in a relatively small number of people in Japan, and from the fumbling performance of Japanese governmental and business [Page 652] administration during the past two years,* that the loss has been heavy. Mr. Corwin Edwards, former head of the Zaibatsu Mission to Japan, while on consultation here in the Department two months ago stated that he believed the economic purge had been far too sweeping and was exerting a deleterious effect on recovery. In this connection, it is not always realized that the “Zaibatsu purge”, recommended by the Zaibatsu Mission as satisfactory for the purposes of its program, comprised only about 150–200 persons as a maximum, and that the “economic purge”, so-called, was drawn up by the Government Section of SCAP, not the Economic and Scientific Section, as part of the Government Section’s general purge program.
In its consideration of the purge problem the Working Group on the Japanese Treaty has concluded, for much the same reasons as have been advanced in this memorandum, that the purge should come to an end with the signing of the treaty (except for approximately 60 former Zaibatsu family members bearing the family names) and unless the Japanese Government should of its own volition decide otherwise, former purgees should be relieved of all disabilities. The Council of Ambassadors would, however, have the right to exclude from public office, much more narrowly defined than at present, such limited numbers of persons, not in office at the time of signing of the treaty, as the Council might designate. It would seem advisable, considering that this or some similar formula may be accepted for the treaty and that the peace conference may be held in the near future, that a review of the purge program be undertaken within the Department as soon as possible. If it should be decided that the purge has indeed gone too far, measures for its relaxation should be promptly considered. It would obviously be undesirable to enforce the purge in its present form right up to the signing of the treaty if the intention is to terminate it entirely with the treaty.
Should relaxation of current purge regulations be decided, there are certain steps to this end which could be carried out in such a way as not to appear to constitute a reversal of earlier SCAP orders but which would accomplish the desired result. Among these steps to be applied singly or in combination, would be the following:
SCAP or the Japanese Government might establish an appeals procedure under which purgees desirous of occupying a prohibited position could have their cases reviewed, and, where it could not be shown that they had been “active exponents of militant nationalism and aggression” in the literal sense of the term, be relieved of all disabilities.
Another means would be to make re-eligible for all governmental, business and press positions whole categories of persons who [Page 653] had been purged by reason of holding relatively harmless positions (for example prefectural and local Imperial Rule Assistance Association heads, or officers, up to a certain level, of “financial and development organizations involved in Japanese expansion”).
A third method would be to reduce the number of positions from which purgees were excluded so as to leave only the more important posts.
Finally, SCAP or the Japanese Government might on their own initiative reexamine the cases of less culpable purgees who it was believed because of their special capabilities might fill useful roles in Japanese public or business life.
Indications are that the Department of the Army, which is keenly interested in economic revival, would support a proposal for modification of the purge if study of the problem should indicate that the purge was hampering, or might come to hamper recovery.
In the light of the above considerations, I would recommend that we be prepared on receipt of the answer to the telegram at “Appendix A” and the report of the State Department mission to Japan recommended in my memorandum of December 31 to the Secretary, to set up a working group in the Department to study the question of whether the purge has been carried too far, and, if so, whether modification may not be desirable.4 If it is concluded that modification would be advisable, I would suggest that a paper containing definite recommendations on the subject be prepared in the Department for submission to SANACC.
The division of Occupied Areas Economic Affairs has been consulted in the matter and, as indicated in the attached memorandum concurs in the above recommendation.
W. W[alton] B[utterworth, Jr.]
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Scapin 93, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Report of Government Section, Political Reorientation of Japan, September 1945 to September 1948 (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington; 1949), p. 463.
  4. Promulgated November 3, 1946; see Political Reorientation of Japan, pp. 670, 671.
  5. This is not to imply that this performance has been solely or even primarily attributable to the purge, but that the purge has had a significant contributory effect. [Footnote in the original.]
  6. Assistant Secretary Saltzman on January 22 replied agreeing with the recommendation to set up a “Department working group to study the desirability of modifying the purge program in Japan” and inquired whether progress had been made “about someone going to Japan to look into economic reform and other matters”. Memorandum of December 31 not found in Department files.