Was it a mistake by the United States....

Dec 2015
Do you think it was a mistake by the United States not to force Japan to get rid of the Emperor in 1945 ?

Mike McClure

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
No but it was a mistake to demand an unconditional surrender if we were going to let them keep their emperor anyway. Then why did we drop the bomb?
Sep 2012
Tarkington, Texas
MacArthur could have changed over to one of the competing royal houses. Several of the rivals called on him! I have a feeling that MacArthur let sentiment get to him. He and his Father had gone to Japan when Douglas was young and met the Emperor that was sitting on the throne. Hirohito was not the figurehead many made him out to be.



Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
No but it was a mistake to demand an unconditional surrender if we were going to let them keep their emperor anyway. Then why did we drop the bomb?
There's a big difference between conceding their right to keep their Emperor in exchange for peace and allowing them to keep their Emperor out of magnanimity in victory. In the former case the Emperor would have been a symbol of Japanese cultural unity and a thorn in the side of the occupation. In the latter case, which we pursued, our absolute power over him, including powers of life and death, forced him to become an American puppet and a tool with which we could manipulate and control the Japanese population. The Emperor proved indispensable to a bloodless and successful occupation, but only after he was subjected to the absolute and unrestrained rule of Gen. MacArthur and publicly humiliated by being forced to renounced his divinity.

Demanding the terms of unconditional surrender also ensured that the Japanese people are completely and undeniably defeated. It prevented the emergence of another 'stabbed in the back' myth, like the one that played a central role in the events leading up to the second world war.


Forum Staff
May 2013
Albuquerque, NM
It was a different world 1933-1945, and during the period from 1945-2016 the rates and impact of change have only increased. Until the Spanish-American War, the U.S. had generally been aloof to international involvements. The emotions whipped up over the sinking of the Main excited many Americans, but US used the occasion to expand its reach in the Pacific. The Philippine Islands did not rejoice at becoming a "protectorate" of the U.S. There was a strong American backlash, against "Colonization" and involvement in foreign political affairs. Wilson promised to keep the US out of Wars and entanglements. That wasn't really possible, and the Great War demonstrated the latent power of the nation. Most Americans wanted only a return to the world as it was at the turn of the century. That was not to be.

The whole world fell into a Great Depression. The Hoover Commission valiantly tried to mitigate the suffering of a war-shattered Europe, but in reality failed. Democratic experiments in Russia, Germany, and Italy were replaced by dictatorial systems. Paper currency was virtually worthless, and lawlessness ruled the streets. The U.S. had another problem, and that was the Dust-bowl. Farms that had been in production for generations failed, as the land blew away. Old farming verities were proven wrong, and families lost the family farm to banks who themselves were on the brink of failure. Americans looked inward and were appalled at what they saw. They looked to the future and instead of hope they saw only more failure. Democracy couldn't feed the people, but Mussolini's thugs could make the trains run on time. FDR's New Deal promised major changes in how the Federal Government worked, and some of those changes are still extremely important to the People of the US.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor before their what served as their declaration of war could be delivered, the American Public were shocked and outraged by the "sneak attack". Germany instantly declared war on the U.S., and so American's found themselves basically unprepared, but involved in major wars on two fronts. The Congress expressed the public sentiment in demanding a war against the Axis Powers to Unconditional Surrender. The Japanese were especially targeted because of the racial chauvinism that had long existed in the country, they looked different and were by nature devious and dangerous. First, the European War had to be resolved. Hitler betrayed his partner Stalin and launched an attack deep into the Ukraine. Stalin was surprised at the betrayal, and infuriated that the Germans were welcomed at first by the Ukrainians. German bad behavior, actually helped Stalin muster the Soviet Union's resources to resist. The US promised supplies to the Soviets, and at great cost deliverd on the promises. North Africa was in Axis hands, and almost all of the European Continent was occupied by Axis troops and collaborators. England's position was precarious in the extreme, as U-Boats sank merchantmen faster than they could be built. England hadn't enough money to buy rations, but the US found ways to keep Blighty afloat. Few if any Allied leaders (Stalin is one exception) had unambiguous knowledge of Death Camps. These were difficult times for the Allies, and it would have been counter-productive to amend "unconditional surrender" as the major war aim in both theaters.

As the war progressed, more and more shocking revelations into the behavior of the Axis Power was uncovered. Public sentiment was to shoot them all, and let God sort them out at the Pearly Gate. Propaganda, always directed at dehumanizing the enemy, was bolstered by the wearing effect of the War. Unconditional Surrender, and punishment of whole populations as being collectively guilty of previously unthinkable crimes was more common than not. On the other hand, the costs of fighting WWII were becoming onerous. As the curtain fell in Germany, the last Act of the drama was the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. The cowardly murderers and rapists of Nanjing demonstrated their sub-human nature by suicidal attacks, and mass suicide by Japanese civilians. Still the call was for "Unconditional Surrender".

However the world had changed. It was known that only leaving the Emperor on the throne was there any real chance of a Japanese surrender that couldn't be achieved without the loss of millions of lives, and countless treasure. The Soviet Ally was showing his true colors, and finally was preparing to shift forces to the Pacific Theater after the Allies had pretty much destroyed Japanese military effectiveness.

The Emperor, against the advice and urging of his military cabinet, unconditionally surrendered Japan. When Gen. MacArthur came ashore, he met with the Emperor and decided that the Emperor on the throne was better than a deposed, yet still beloved Emperor imprisoned. Leaving the Emperor was a US military decsion made after the unconditional surrender of Japan. It was a decision that wasn't particularly popular with the old folks on the family farm back in Indiana, or Oregon. It was practical and made possible a reconstruction of a democratic Japanese government pledged to peace. The Chinese and Koreans were livid and thirsty for revenge. Peoples whose lives were shattered by Japanese brutality wanted revenge, and leaving the Emperor on the throne didn't sit well with many.

It is doubtful, to me at least, to imagine the economic success, and political freedoms on Japan in the 21st century if the Emperor and his whole cabinet had been executed in 1945-1946 leaving the nation occupied by Allied military forces headed by MacArthur.
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Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
the emperor certainly should get his position in the after war court, even he may receive special remission.

unfortunately, it was cold war immediately after wwii, the US imposed all its will upon all other allied countries, and turn the whole business into their own private decision.


Forum Staff
Jan 2007
If The Son of Heaven had been hanged, God only knows what would have happened.