740.00119 Control (Japan)/2–1649

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Northeast Asian Affairs (Bishop)

top secret

Participants: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
William J. Sebald, Acting U.S. Political Adviser for Japan
Max W. Bishop, Chief, Division of Northeast Asian Affairs

Mr. Sebald, the Acting Political Adviser in Tokyo, arranged an appointment for me to see General MacArthur at 12:30 P. M. on Thursday, February 3, 1949. The General greeted me with warmest cordiality as an old friend and after some reminiscing and discussion of general world affairs turned to the situation in the Far East and particularly Japan. He said that conditions in Japan had developed in a completely satisfactory manner much as was to be expected. He indicated that he was satisfied with present conditions and accomplishments. He pointed out that the situation in the Far East at present made it impossible to conclude a peace treaty much as we would have wished to have had one by this time. I gathered that General MacArthur felt that it is impossible or undesirable to attempt to foresee a date when a peace treaty can be concluded.

At the first suitable opportunity I took occasion to point out to General MacArthur that the Department of State had attached great importance to the rapid development of Okinawa as a strong base—Army, Navy and Air—envisaged by the appropriate paragraph of NSC 13/2; that the Department of State had been eager to work out any suitable wording of the pertinent paragraph of that paper which would be realistic and at the same time satisfy the requirements of the Army’s Comptroller; and that the Department of State had shown its willingness to support in every feasible way the military development of our position in Okinawa. I said that I had wanted to make clear to him the attitude which the Department of State had taken toward Okinawa because there had been some indication in the reports of his talk with Mr. Flexer1 that he (General MacArthur) was under [Page 656] the misapprehension that the Department of State had not been in full support of the military development of Okinawa. The General replied immediately and emphatically that on the contrary he understood and appreciated the support which the Department of State had given this matter; that it was the Army and the other Departments of the National Military Establishment which he felt were not sufficiently impressed with the need for the development of Okinawa and were not giving it adequate support. He went on at some length to describe the transfer of naval forces from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the reduction of air forces in his theater and in the general Pacific area, and what he described as the policy of the military to “scuttle the Pacific”. He pointed out that most of the military leaders of the United States were confirmed in the belief that the Pacific was only of extremely minor significance and importance to the United States as compared with Europe and the Atlantic. As an example he pointed out that General George Marshall, whom he had known intimately for a great many years, had always held that the Far East and Asia were vastly inferior to Europe in relative importance to the United States. General MacArthur disagreed with these military concepts and felt that Asia and the Pacific areas were being given, as they had been in the past, far too little consideration. I gathered that he has put forward these views and his arguments in support of them to the National Military Establishment. (I learned later that the JCS have under consideration a new policy for disposition of forces in the Pacific and that decision in that connection is to be expected not later than early this spring. A military decision of this sort has far-reaching political implications and I assume that the Department of State will, either directly or through the National Security Council, participate in the final decision.)

While discussing the military situation I asked General MacArthur whether, in the light of the historic and deeply rooted xenophobia of the Chinese, their reluctance to allow foreign interference in their own affairs and the obvious possibility, if not actual probability, that the Russians would not have a free hand in operating within or from China, he would consider vital the loss of Formosa to the Chinese Communists providing no separatist or resistance movement developed and were successful in Formosa and they caved in along with the rest of China. The General’s reaction was immediate and vehement. He said that if Formosa went to the Chinese Communists our whole defensive position in the Far East was definitely lost; that it could only result eventually in putting our defensive line back to the west coast of the continental United States. He said that he felt there could be no question but that if Formosa were in the hands of the Chinese Communists it would be available to the USSR as a base at any time the latter desired. He pointed out that Formosa was astride the line [Page 657] of communications between Okinawa and the Philippines, that it outflanked our position on Okinawa and, in the hands of the Chinese Communists, broke through the island wall which we must have along the Asiatic “littorals” in order to maintain in a strategic sense a defense line in the western Pacific. Speaking of the strategy in the western Pacific General MacArthur emphasized that we could be secure easily with the maintenance of superior naval and air forces based on the islands lying off Asia. He said that it would be a great mistake if we were to consider the re-arming of the Japanese as an ally; that undoubtedly the Japanese could be of great assistance to us in any future war; that after a war should break out we might even, before the war were over, have Japanese fighting on our side; but it would be a grave error as well as an injustice, prior to the outbreak of hostilities to put Japan in any position except that of a militarily neutralized area. Referring again to the vital importance of Formosa and to the fatal consequences of its loss, General MacArthur emphasized that as long as we had superior air and naval forces in that part of the world we could prevent a launching from Asia of an attack on the United States, but that without holding solidly this Asiatic fringe of islands, with Japan as a neutralized area, our defense position would be forced back to the west coast of the continental United States.

The third question which I had in mind to ask General MacArthur was where he felt it desirable for Admiral Badger2 and his forces to go in the event they were forced to leave the China coast. General MacArthur said that the present directives for the Far East Command required that Admiral Badger’s forces, in the event of an emergency, would come under CINCFE’s (General MacArthur’s) Command; that if Admiral Badger were forced to leave the China coast it might be well to consider that there had been created those emergency conditions and that Admiral Badger’s forces should be assigned to General MacArthur. He indicated that he believed that Admiral Badger would not be averse to such an arrangement; that the ships under Admiral Badger’s Command could operate in and out of Yokosuka naval base in Japan; that while everyone should be aware of the political implications involved and such action should not be taken without due consideration to those political implications, Admiral Badger might send occasionally forces to operate off the China coast. In conclusion General MacArthur reiterated his belief that these naval forces if required to withdraw from the coast of China should come under his Command and be based in whole or in major part at Yokosuka.

Almost at the end of the conversation, which lasted nearly two hours, General MacArthur remarked that he was glad that Mr. Acheson [Page 658] had taken over the Department of State; that while he might not have always agreed fully with some of the State Department policies in the past he had felt that the Far East in general and Japan in particular had been given a full hearing when Mr. Acheson was Under Secretary of State; and that he welcomed Mr. Acheson’s appointment as Secretary because he felt once again Japan would receive its full measure of attention.

As we were leaving General MacArthur made a passing reference to the question of reparations from Japan and said that in the light of the great quantities of resources which had been taken away and were no longer available to the Japanese future livelihood, resources which he said were far in excess of anything that had been taken from any nation in modern times, it was inequitable and contrary to our best interests to attempt to remove further resources from Japan.

  1. Fayette J. Flexer, Counselor of Embassy in the Philippines until February 10 when he was transferred to the Department.
  2. Adm. Oscar C. Badger, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Western Pacific.