“Shortly after my arrival in Tokyo, I was urged by members of my staff to summon the Emperor to my headquarters as a show of power. I brushed the suggestions aside. “To do so,” I explained, “would be to outrage the feelings of the Japanese people and make a martyr of the Emperor in their eyes. No, I shall wait and in time the Emperor will voluntarily come to see me. In this case, the patience of the East rather than the haste of the West will best serve our purpose.”
The Emperor did indeed shortly request an interview. In cutaway, striped
trousers, and top hat, riding in his Daimler with the imperial grand
chamberlain facing him on the jump seat, Hirohito arrived at the embassy.
I had, from the start of the occupation, directed that there should
be no derogation in his treatment. Every honor due a sovereign was to be
I met him cordially, and recalled that I had at one time been
received by his father at the close of the Russo-Japanese War. He
was nervous and the stress of the past months showed plainly. I dismissed everyone but his own interpreter, and we sat down before an open fire at one end of the long reception hall.
I offered him an American cigarette, which he took with thanks. I noticed how his hands shook as I lighted it for him. I tried to make it as easy for him as I could, but I knew how deep and dreadful must be his agony of humiliation. I had an uneasy feeling he might plead his own cause against indictment as a war criminal. There had been considerable outcry from some of the Allies, notably the Russians and the British, to include him in this category. Indeed, the initial list of those proposed by them was headed by the Emperor’s name.
Realizing the tragic consequences that would follow such an unjust action, I had stoutly resisted such efforts. When Washington seemed to be veering toward the British point of view, I had advised that I would need at least one
million reinforcements should such action be taken. I believed that if
the Emperor were indicted, and perhaps hanged, as a war criminal, military
government would have to be instituted throughout all Japan, and guerrilla
warfare would probably break out. The Emperor’s name had then been
stricken from the list. But of all this he knew nothing.
But my fears were groundless. What he said was this: “I come to you,
General MacArthur, to offer myself to the judgment of the powers
you represent as the one to bear sole responsibility for every
political and military decision made and action taken by my people in
the conduct of war.”
A tremendous impression swept me. This courageous assumption of a responsibility implicit with death, a responsibility clearly belied by facts of which I was fully aware, moved me to the very marrow of my bones. He was an Emperor by inherent birth, but in that instant I knew I faced the First Gentleman of Japan in his own right.”