Aftermath of War: Americans and the Remaking of Japan, 1945-1952

By Howard B. Schonberger | Go to book overview

2 DOUGLAS MACARTHUR
The Peacemaker and the Presidency

To most Americans the Occupation of Japan is still personified by General Douglas MacArthur. His legend has eclipsed the major policymakers in Washington and the middle-echelon figures in the Occupation bureaucracy who proved instrumental in the building of the New Japan. More recent historical evaluations of the Occupation have reduced the general from Olympian to more human proportions. Many policies for which MacArthur claimed exclusive credit are now shown to have originated in Washington. Criticisms of MacArthur's handling of Occupation affairs, once largely suppressed by rigorous censorship, are now easily revealed to scholars working in numerous archival collections. Yet even these valuable new studies have failed to focus on or give careful attention to how MacArthur's political ambitions influenced every aspect of the Occupation and contributed to the MacArthur legend.1 The eventual outcome of idolatry is iconoclasm. Only by shattering the illusion of MacArthur's omnipotence and giving full weight to the general's political opportunism can his impact on the Occupation be comprehended.


The Making of the Supreme Commander

Soon after the devastating explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, President Harry Truman, after much hesitation, decided to appoint General Douglas MacArthur, then head of American forces in the Pacific, as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan. With the approval of the heads of state of Great Britain, China, and Russia, the president sent Mac

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