Empire of Japan (1945–1947)
Japan (1947–1952)
Military occupation
Flag Coat of arms
Map of Japan under occupation
Capital Tokyo
Languages Japanese
Government Military occupation
 •  1945–1952 Douglas MacArthur
 •  1945–1946 Hirohito
 •  1946–1952 Akihito
 •  Surrender of Japan 14 August 1945
 •  Occupation established 28 August 1947
 •  Instrument of Surrender signed 2 September 1945
 •  Treaty of
San Francisco
28 April 1952
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Empire of Japan

Japanese surrender[edit | edit source]

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Initial phase[edit | edit source]

Japan surrendered to the Allies on 14 August 1945, when the Japanese government notified the Allies that it had accepted the Cairo Declaration. On the following day, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's unconditional surrender on the radio (the Gyokuon-hōsō). The announcement was the emperor's first ever planned radio broadcast and the first time most citizens of Japan ever heard their sovereign's voice. This date is known as Victory over Japan, or V-J Day, and marked the end of the Pacific War and the beginning of a long road to recovery for a shattered Japan. Japanese officials left for Manila, Philippines on 19 August to meet MacArthur and to be briefed on his plans for the occupation. On 28 August 1945, 150 US personnel flew to Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture. They were followed by USS Missouri, whose accompanying vessels landed the 4th Marine Division on the southern coast of Kanagawa. Other Allied personnel followed.

MacArthur arrived in Tokyo on 30 August and immediately decreed several laws. No Allied personnel were to assault Japanese people. No Allied personnel were to eat the scarce Japanese food. Flying the Hinomaru or "Rising Sun" flag was initially severely restricted (although individuals and prefectural offices could apply for permission to fly it). This restriction was partially lifted in 1948 and completely lifted the following year.


On 2 September 1945, Japan formally surrendered with the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. On 6 September US President Truman approved a document titled "US Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan". The document set two main objectives for the occupation: (1) eliminating Japan's war potential and (2) turning Japan into a democratic-style nation with pro-United Nations orientation. Allied (primarily American) forces were set up to supervise the country, and "for eighty months following its surrender in 1945, Japan was at the mercy of an army of occupation, its people subject to foreign military control." At the head of the Occupation administration was General MacArthur, who was technically supposed to defer to an advisory council set up by the Allied powers, but in practice didn't. As a result, this period was one of significant American influence, described as early as 1951 that "for six years the United States has had a free hand to experiment with Japan than any other country in Asia, or indeed in the entire world." Looking back to his work in Japan, MacArthur described the Japanese reactions as acting similar to "a boy of twelve" and were at odds of putting away their troubled past.


SCAP[edit | edit source]

On V-J Day, US President Harry Truman appointed General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), to supervise the occupation of Japan. During the war, the Allied Powers had planned to divide Japan amongst themselves for the purposes of occupation. Under the final plan, however, SCAP was given direct control over the main islands of Japan (Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu) and the immediately surrounding islands, while outlying possessions were divided between the Allied Powers as follows:

It is unclear why the occupation plan was changed. Common theories include the increased power of the United States following development of the atomic bomb and an increased desire to restrict German influence in East Asia after the Cairo Conference.

MacArthur's first priority was to set up a food distribution network; following the collapse of the ruling government and the wholesale destruction of most major cities, virtually everyone was starving. Even with these measures, millions of people were still on the brink of starvation for several years after the surrender. As expressed by Kawai Kazuo, "Democracy cannot be taught to a starving people". The US government encouraged democratic reform in Japan, and while it sent billions of dollars in food aid, this was dwarfed by the occupation costs it imposed on the struggling Japanese administration.

File:Gaetano Faillace - Occupied Tokyo - film.webm

Half destroyed Tokyo as filmed by Gaetano Faillace

Initially, the US government provided emergency food relief through Government and Relief in Occupied Areas (GARIOA) funds. In fiscal year 1946, this aid amounted to US$92 million in loans. From April 1946, in the guise of Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia, private relief organizations were also permitted to provide relief. Once the food network was in place MacArthur set out to win the support of Hirohito. The two men met for the first time on 27 September; the photograph of the two together is one of the most famous in Japanese history. Some were shocked that MacArthur wore his standard duty uniform with no tie instead of his dress uniform when meeting the emperor. With the sanction of Japan's reigning monarch, MacArthur had the ammunition he needed to begin the real work of the occupation. While other Allied political and military leaders pushed for Hirohito to be tried as a war criminal, MacArthur resisted such calls, arguing that any such prosecution would be overwhelmingly unpopular with the Japanese people. He was ultimately pressured members of the imperial family such as Prince Mikasa and Prince Higashikuni and demands of intellectuals like Tatsuji Miyoshi, on the emperor's abdication. Hirohito abdicated on 1 January 1946 and lived in isolation in the Kyoto Imperial Palace until his death in 1989.

By the end of 1945, more than 350,000 US personnel were stationed throughout Japan. By the beginning of 1946, replacement troops began to arrive in the country in large numbers and were assigned to MacArthur's Eighth Army, headquartered in Tokyo's Dai-Ichi building. Of the main Japanese islands, Kyūshū was occupied by the 24th Infantry Division, with some responsibility for Shikoku. Honshu was occupied by the First Cavalry Division. Hokkaido was occupied by the 11th Airborne Division.

File:5th Gurkha Rifles, Japan 1946.jpg

May 1946. The 2nd Battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles march through Kure, Hiroshima soon after their arrival in Japan.

Organs running in parallel to SCAP[edit | edit source]

The official British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), composed of Australian, British, Indian and New Zealand personnel, was deployed on 21 February 1946. While US forces were responsible for the overall occupation, BCOF was responsible for supervising demilitarization and the disposal of Japan's war industries. BCOF was also responsible for occupation of several western prefectures and had its headquarters at Kure. At its peak, the force numbered about 40,000 personnel. During 1947, BCOF began to decrease its activities in Japan, and officially wound up in 1951.

The Far Eastern Commission and Allied Council for Japan were also established to supervise the occupation of Japan. The establishment of a multilateral Allied council for Japan was proposed by the German government as early as September 1945, and was supported partially by the British and Chinese governments.

Outcomes[edit | edit source]

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