tv Mac Arthur Hirohito and Famine in Postwar Japan CSPAN February 4, 2017 12:50pm-1:49pm EST
author and historian talks about america's post-world war ii occupation of japan, discusses general macarthur's relationship with the emperor, and efforts to set up a food dissolution of a population on the brink of starvation. this is part of a multi-day conference at the national world 1946, resume entitled year zero, triumph and tragedy. >> we have a preview for the next session. many of you have read his books or heard him address using gatherings before. richard frank is an independent researcher and author and internationally renowned authority on the pacific war. in fact, i hope i will not embarrass him by saying the international renowned authority on the pacific war. he is the award winning author a book that fascinated and
moved me in equal measure. iifather fought in world war on the canal and absolutely magnificent work. of anthe author authoritative look at the end game of the pacific war, and most recently "macarthur." i asked if there was a subtitle, and he said no, the man stands alone, in need of no subtitle. i am currently working on a narrative, a trilogy to the so let's give him encouragement. he was in the historical consultant in the hbo series. richard will be speaking today macarthur, and drooling postwar japan. i give you richard frank. [applause] richard frank: thank you. thank you, rob, for that generous introduction.
pleased thatlarly he did not accuse me of the dignified. [applause] -- [laughter] i was at the conference center a couple days ago, at the end of the conference, there were certain remarks and the explained that at centers, the british army trains lieutenants and he told us about how they have various tactical and other problems that they gave him, but the also like to talk about immoral issue into these problems. one recent exercise involved a scenario very much along the lines of the famous drop on the fortified battery on the night before d-day, it was heavily fortified and had heavy artillery that could threaten transport. it was for a plan for them to drop in and capture the battery. the scenario goes along to that point and instead of having over 700 troopers, the only have
hundred 60, and then they suing this, this year, waiting at the rendezvous point, five french civilians appear what do do with them? the tenets come back and announces that they are deadlocked. three of them believe that to maintain operation security, shoot the civilians. the other three are appalled. you cannot just take them and shoot them, it is much too noisy. [laughter] so there is a moral thread that kind of leaves through my talk basicand it involves two elements, both at believe are very much connected. let me start with the first. the enormous literature on the occupation of japan from 1945-1952 generally treats it as a great triumph, or at least an overall success, if flawed. but that literature is
overwhelmingly concentrated on political, economic, and social issues. in my judgment, that literature conspicuously ignores or underplays what is the most critical moment of the occupation, the first year when the occupation's paid hung by a -- fate hung by a thread in the face of two humanitarian crises, one involved epidemic diseases, and the second involved famine. the occupation was led by douglas macarthur whose title was supreme commander of the allied powers. it provided an economic of scape, which he was known by. his command was known by that to the occupation. the ward had disrupted in degraded japan's public health. malnutrition had rendered the entire population more susceptible to diseases. 6.5 million japanese personnel and civilians were being repatriated to the homeland. they were all potential carriers of deadly infections. the situation created a perfect
storm for rampaging lethal epidemics. in fact, 650,000 people would contract communicable disease during the first three years of the occupation. nearly 1000 of them died. as sad as these numbers are, they represent a small measure of the peril facing the japanese. a peril defeated by occupation authorities who worked in extremely close collaboration with japan's own medical personnel. the medical element of the occupation was under a colonel, career armyams, a officer and a trained neurosurgeon. neurosurgeon's at the top of the pecking order. he was involved in extensive medical planning during the war, particularly planning for the occupation of japan, and his foresight in terms of stockpiling material there would save many japanese lives in the coming months. he was dynamic, authoritarian,
extremely hard-driving, tactless and hyper efficient. this may not have made him a first choice for dinner companion, but the man for vanquishing diseases and he was the man for the hour. he arrived as a type this outbreak threaten japan. in short order, there were some 7000 cases and 615 deaths. the epidemic threatened to release typhus in to japan. sam set control of type is as is -- typhus as is first priority. he organized a thousand american and japanese public health personnel to confront the disease. and 800 newly created public health centers. he personally swung into personal action in osaka and oversaw the dusting of 500,000 people in four days. in total, 50 million japanese, or two thirds of the population were dusted with ddt.
nearly 13 million inoculating during the anti-typhus effort. for several months, there were no cases of highly lethal cholera. but japanese patriots from china introduced the disease in 1946. cholera is an extremely deadly disease. of cholera,utbreak the group of 17,000 japanese being repatriated to korea of resulted in 11,000 deaths. by august 1946, medical authorities identified 1200 cases of cholera in japan, most in port cities. general sam saw to it that 35 million people, almost half the population of japan, where vaccinated against the disease. there were no more cases of cholera after december 1946. so it was that the medical textbook list of other diseases like smallpox.
sam's efforts are seeing dressed -- are believed to have touched of 96% ofed total japanese population. no other element affected so many japanese. sam's second major front was public health. under his direction, there was a upgrade in the educational licensing and practice for positions, dentist, and veterinarians. he squared up public health efforts in multiple dimensions. in many cases, it must be emphasized he expanded upon early efforts by japanese health care providers. indeed, he worked rigorously to work in collaboration with the japanese when japanese historian said that american japanese cooperation during the occupation was at its zenith in dealing in the medical spear. the combined efforts of the japanese and american public health efforts in 1946-1949
dramatically reduce the incidence of the following diseases. here is some idea of how effective they were. further, tuberculosis had been prevalent in japan and the death rate was among the highest in the world. 50% ofunted for 12% to all the deaths in japan in the mid- the concentrated efforts 1930's. during the occupation reduce the death rate by 40% between 1946-1949. overall, sam's effort in reforming and strengthening the health system proved dramatic . this is the metric of that success. between 1933-1940, before armed conflict with the u.s., the annual death rate was 18.7 per thousand persons. the rates0-1951, that plummeted to 8.1. a reduction literally of one half. the preeminent japanese scholar
would write that his efforts saved 3 million lives. amazingly, this was the lesser of the mass saving endeavors during the occupation. an 18-year-old american soldier, ato, arrived in japan has the occupation began. he was shocked to witness japanese fathers come up to the fences around american facilities and try to pass over their children to put them in the hands of americans so that they might eat and live. he saw japanese sifting through garbage left from americans. our own their hard weinberg was president and witnessed similar scenes and gis finding ways to give foods to starving japanese. devastated lived in tokyo where the family meals
included grass. she had been warned that americans are great or killer, so the first time she saw americans, she ran. they can't care, but they proved kind. they could tell she was hungry. they offered her a strange food and to assure her it was not poison, they ate some of it themselves. she then took it and it was spam. she reports, she still loves spam -- [laughter] which places her in a very low percentile of the world population. [laughter] one later well-known japanese scholar recalled that at his university, they planted sweet potatoes on the lawns and later dug them up to cook and eat. on saturdays, they searched for grasshoppers to eat. four decades after the war, he and a large number of other japanese recoil at the site of his wheat potato. the stories put a human face on wars like hunger, but to be precise, the japanese nation not only based hunger but it was confronting famine. famine has been defined as quote
"the shortage of food or purchasing power that leads to death from starving or hunger induced diseases." the connection between starvation and disease is very close and intimate. they had no indication that it really was a generalized problem and few indications of food problems. the most comprehensive assessment had confirmed that japan's food supply was nowhere near collapse. the premise that the japanese taste of food crisis framed the occupation policies. as did the promise that japanese andcreated their own plight it was the job of the japanese to remedy it. directions issued to macarthur provided that the japanese functioning in the occupation would have told up responsibility for japan's economy, including feeding the population. the directives additionally commanded macarthur that there would be no gratuitous -- and that was the exact word -- gratuitous distribution of
american food to the japanese. macarthur and sam's became aware of this. first and ago delete and then efficiently. -- by october 1945, staff officers were warning that japan's food supply and distribution system might totally break down in the latter half of 1946. this would endanger the home mission of the occupation. macarthur took three immediate measures. first, he ordered the transfer of all storage and equipment , including food that had been held by the imperial army and navy to the japanese civilian authorities. the problem was not a great scandal. 70% of the said already been looted by the japanese before the occupation began. second, he ordered the u.s. would feed its own occupation forces. this is very significant because japan's policy throughout areas that it occupied was that the local areas had to supply food to the occupying armies. this had disastrous effects on many places, particularly in vietnam where 1.5 million
vietnamese starved to death in 1945. undoubtedly, the decision to make sure that we fed our own troops saved thousands of japanese lives in the coming months. third, he cast aside the prohibition of the using u.s. food stamps to feed japanese by ordering 3.5 million tons of food to japanese that have been stored for the invasion. they shipped macarthur's options. first, the urgent crisis involved urban, not the rural population. most verbal self suppliers fared well. a few urbanites had previously scorned them. the second problem was the lack of food and lack of data on the food situation. and the fact that massive amounts of food was being hoarded in rural areas. this made it impossible to arrive at a precise figure at
how much food was actually available in japan, especially during the first critical year of the occupation. macarthur turned to the japanese government for basic backs. rice was a major foodstuff. it was harvested in september and october and november commenced what the japanese call the rice year. in 1945, the rice harvest was devastated by cold weather, typhoons, floods, and a lack of fertilizer. the fertilizer had been converted to arm production. the japanese government reported the rice harvest was only 6.4 5 million metric tons, about 60% of the norm. it was by far the worst harvest since 1910. food imports had completely ceased. these have provided at least 15% of the food supply. the japanese minister of finance in october 1945, publicly announced that 10 million japanese would die from the operation without food relief. they insisted the japanese
government maximize production. the basic problem of food --rtage was much aggravated excuse me -- by additional impediments like transportation disruption, the hoarding and diversion to the black market. in september, macarthur announced only 200,000 u.s. soldiers would be needed for the occupation. an announcement popular with the american spec on, but this meant that staff had to rely on the japanese government for most of the work and food election and distribution. some scholarship maintained that staff had no economic policy worthy of the name before 1947. the more recent scholarship emphasizes that they had a food policy from the start, they had an economic policy from the start, and it was the food policy. macarthur and his staff recognized that feeding the japanese people was vital to
achieving the goals of democratization and militarization set by washington. the two cannot be separated. "no voice was louder than macarthur's in existing that the united states had an obligation to feed the japanese." at first, macarthur made the request loudly as something to prevent unrest and disease. when this produced a tepid response, he went to plan b, scare the hell out of them. he sent a cable describing the rice harvest as the worst in 30 years. he warned the ration of 1000 calories per day could not be met for may. to sustain the food situation, without food he asserted it would be disaster, poverty, hunger, and disease. he said it would spark uprisings of a major character. macarthur demanded that washington either provide him food or soldiers.
he passed on the request that these are questioned the showing to the president or that if the food is not provided, "there may be no future question as to the chain of responsibility." macarthur was the only american officer willing to send a message like that back to washington. washington did not immediately respond, but they did send a food investigation mission to examine whether the situation was as dire as macarthur was reporting. they quickly wrote back that the situation was not quite as serious as macarthur painted it, it was serious indeed. this was followed by the appearance of former president herbert hoover was with a u.n. mission. he affirmed the food situation was extremely dire. he had printed to his report a comment that without food imports, the japanese would be in conditions like the concentration camps.
maintaining order, much less economic recovery, would be impossible. these two definitions helped pave the way for food imports. although harrison and hoover moved washington to except that the food situation in japan was indeed very critical, the remaining factors that curbed washington's willingness to ship food. these included a worldwide food shortage, japan's status as a former enemy nation, and the needs of allied nations and liberated areas are good. in addition, some of the allies were particularly concerned that the americans were favoring the japanese over some of the other liberated areas and their own peoples. it must be stressed that the actual official ration was not nearly enough to sustain life. famously, a japanese judge who was profoundly disturbed by the fact that the majority of
persons brought before them on economic crimes because of a search for food, he instructed his lack to be the only the official ration. he died. he was not the only case of that there was. they were required to go off the on the official ration by home production, the black market, charitable organizations, emergency distribution, and imports. the government confronted a crisis with respect to collection to the harvest and confronted a crisis with respect to collecting the rice harvest. typically, the government held between 85% to 95% of the rice quoted in february. in 1946, they had only collected 60%. farmers were suspicious of the government. additionally, the social dislocation appointing -- of before the next fall harvest all 14 led to undermining the quota system. there was the black market, which was offering far higher prices than the official rates. in the first months of 1946, the rationing system was on the verge of collapse.
to equalize food distribution, they started transition deficit areas of surplus -- from surplus areas to deficit areas. and to gain some cooperation with officials. there was an important appeal by the emperor himself that imports would not be distributed until the deficit transfer program had been completed. these actions improve the collection situation, but in may 1946, tokyo residents receive a ration of 775 calories in their daily distribution. food demonstrations erupted nationwide. by may 19, over a quarter of a million people demonstrated in a give us rice rally in front of the palace. were near theey
point of mass starvation. the evidence seems very clear that an american food shipments proved crucial to heading off what could've been mass famine. on this there seems to be no real dispute. when we get to the exact figures, the evidence is very murky. i've been through quite a number of secondary and primary sources. i find it impossible to totally reconcile all of the figures. here's is basically what we know and do not know. it was previously mentioned macarthur had accumulated about 3.5 million tons of american food, stuck that had been stockpiled for the american campaigns. some of this went to korea, who was also in a serious situation. some of it was held as a reserve against the catastrophic supply failure in japan. there is some evidence that most of this food that had been brought in for the stockpiles had been distributed by the time this summer was breached. we do not know where this tonnage was attributed. betweenow for sure that may and october 1946, during the
most critical months of the food crisis, some 594,000 of metric rice equivalents were imported in the form of canned goods. this may not seem like much, but bear in mind that the crisis involved about half the population, the urban thrillers, roughly 36 million people, and the height of the crisis fell in the rice year, so if you assume that have of the rice harvest went to the urban population, and the periods we were looking that means half of the normal period, the regular rice the solution domain should've october been around 1.6 million metric kind. -- mentor tends. the imported u.s. food alone with cap added 37% to the total available food during this. we do have some figures that provide support for this. i'm sorry. this set of figures indicates as you can see, the percent of the total food available to the japanese as a percentage of all
the food. and then of course the ration in tokyo. i would emphasize of those figures through june-september, there in mind that overwhelmingly, american food aid is going to the urban population. if you double that percentage , you can selld that is the percentage going to urban populations. as you can see, tokyo is totally dependent on imported food. there are 2 million people in tokyo during this period. there is a list of japanese cities we can find numbers where the food accounts for somewhere in the 60's to be 80% level of total food surprise. japan's population remain on a fully adequate diet in 1947-48. from november 1946, that efforts to address the nutritional inadequacy of the japanese diet. sams would expand on a school
improve them to nutrition of children. this would involve about 7 million youths. the occupation authorities with claim that feeding the famine saved over one million lives. no doubt that the total number of lives saved was in the millions. mcarthur's role in heading off the famine was absolutely fundamental. one japanese who pass through these years as a teenager called importantnoble and achievement during the occupation." whatever else one might say about douglas macarthur, this was his one clear shining moment. there is one further aspect about the dealings with disease and famine. if you look at figures from the war, if you find that the disease control saved 3 million lives, and the famine saved 3
million lives, maybe more, the total number of japanese that died in the whole war was 3 million, then you have the astonishing fact that the u.s. occupation in japan saved double the number of japanese lives that were lost in the entire war. this background is very important to the next part of my talk. it concerns the disposition of emperor hirohito. he rolled in japan from 1926 until his death in 1989. his role included the asia-pacific war, in which everything imperial japan did or some was say perpetrated was done in his name. the court this responsibility is mass death. here are some figures as best i can -- i think using a fairly conservative and measured approach to this, 24 million to 25 million people died during the asia-pacific war. of this number, 6 million were combatants, 3 million were chinese, 2 million were japanese, and the balance all
others. that means somewhere between 17 million and 18 million noncombatants died. japanese historians put the number of deaths among japanese noncombatants at 700,000. a well-known, distinguished american scholar, john dower, says the number is around one million. even assuming one million is the correct figure, you will see an incredible disparity that for every japanese noncombatants who died during the war, something like 17 or 18 other noncombatants died. overwhelmingly other asians, and probably about 12 of them were chinese. by any measure, this is one clear measure of moral responsibility for the war. arguments have been advanced that in order for them to surrender, america either pledged the surrender they need to ensure the continuance of emperor hirohito on the throne.
coincidence was japan surrendered in august of 1945, they do not withstand close scrutiny as communications between the u.s. government and japan, nor indeed u.s. actions. the u.s. made one formal commitment to its regard to the imperial institution. this appeared in the pottsdam proclamation in that stated that 1945. after japan's habituation, there would be established in "accordance with the freely express will of the japanese responsibleefully government." that pledge was based on the principles set forth in the atlantic charter. a clearly envisioned the japanese people to be free to choose their own government, which could include an imperial institution within a democratic framework. when the u.s. received the first authentic peace offer on august principles set forth in the 10, 1945, the text contained a caveat that the acceptance was
"with the understanding that the declaration does not compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of his majesty of sovereign ruler." this language, which may seem fairly innocuous, actually constituted the demand that the u.s. effectively recognize their book supreme, not only over the japanese government but over the japanese commander, and over occupation reforms. this was not acceptable. the response of the japanese communication became known as the burns note at the u.s. secretary of state james burns. moment ofat from the surrender, the authority of the emperor and the japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the supreme manner of the allied powers. the note went on to reiterate the u.s. position that the ultimate form of japanese
government will be chosen by the japanese people. you can detect in the burns note an implication that the emperor will be recognized in interim status. that would be consistent with interest of the u.s. and its allies who were anxious to use the authority of emperor hirohito to security compliance of all japanese, especially the japan's armed forces with the surrender. nothing in the burns note altered the basic pledge of the pottsdam proclamation about the people. the note emphasized it at every there was considerable internal point. debate within the leadership of japan over whether the burns note offered prospect of survival of the imperial institution. on august 12, the foreign minister advised the emperor that they administer believed it posed no danger to the institution. the next day on august 13, explaining his resolve to accept the note and end the war, hirohito remarked to his prince
-- principal advisor that "if the japanese people no longer want the imperial house, even if the united states allows it to continue, there would be no use in trying to save it." some of the time of japan's surrender had no commitment that the japanese people would be free to choose their own form of government. that promise obviously included the continuation of the imperial institution. when the occupation began, the original plan was that the u.s. would conduct direct governance of japan just like it had in germany. the initial post surrender to macarthur in september 1945 and reversed this and ordered macarthur to conduct his occupation through the japanese governmental machinery and agencies, including the emperor, to the extent that the satisfied u.s. objectives.
macarthur was told he could not depose the emperor or eliminate the institution without approval from washington. on august 6, he was told to take "take no action against the emperor as a war criminal without explicit directions from washington." the occupation of japan was to be run through japanese local institutions, not by direct u.s. rule. this was a principal that would be ignored later in afghanistan and iraq. there were sound reasons for the change from direct to indirect rule. the u.s. lacked no linguistic ability to conduct government. second, the number of occupation -- the public demand to bring the boy so meant that the number of occupation forces would decline from 500,000 to 200,000. that left macarthur without enough bayonets to enforce policies by intimidation or rob power. there was one further factor that appeared critical to the course of the occupation of japan, both official and public interest in japanese matters very swiftly declined.
american leadership was highly egocentric. the distances to asia were vastly greater. japan was much less well-known in the european states. macarthur had already established a distant relationship with washington and superiors there than other american commanders. finally, the attention of the american people was diverted to conversion of the economy from war to peace. 1946 is still the record for the most industrial turmoil the u.s. has ever experienced. what about the japanese side of this equation? within the japanese inner circle, and what those might storage, andrial those who might have some say in the matter, the idea that hirohito could be tried as a war criminal was unthinkable. what was thinkable was that he should take responsibility for the war. voluntary abdication was seen as
one clear act that could have him a knowledge responsibility. on august 29, 1945, the emperor himself brought up the question to his advisor. at that time, the emperor framed it as a means of absolving his ministers and senior officers from their war responsibility. his advisor counseled against this. the immediate postwar cabinet under the prince discussed abdication with the knowledge of emperor to take more responsibility. the cabinet remained divided. hirohito'shimself, uncle, suggest he abdicate in october. in october 1945, he was continue to be raised until 1946. one further aspect of abdication
husked be noted with respect to the japanese elites. the principal advisor would be convicted as a war criminal at the war crimes trials. and he was still in prison when japan regained its sovereignty in 1952. at that time, he passed on his view, roughly what he first expressed in 1945, that the emperor should retire or abdicate, and act that would be viewed as an acceptance of war responsibility. the japanese prime minister rejected that view and hirohito did not oblige. the disposition of the emperor was an issue to the american public, the government, as well as allied nations. in a gallup poll in 1945, 77% of the american people wanted hirohito severely punished. there is a resolution introduced in the u.s. senate that called for his trial as a war criminal. in the autumn of 1945, the state
war and navy coordinating commission remained split between those who wished to use the emperor to further documentation -- the occupation hauled and those who wish to see them tried as a war criminal. numerous allied nations produced statements demanding the ever be tried as a war criminal. macarthur had carried with him to japan an entire approach to emperor hirohito that he had developed with his psychological warfare experts. the most important of which was on her in 1944. fellows ins bonner from that time, his command had 1944. avoided direct attacks from the emperor both as a technical analysis and long-term considerations that the emperor might provide indispensable assistance to obtain japan's surrender and further advance occupation goals, including "the
spiritual transmission of the japanese people." this approach dictated the posture adopted the drive to put a wedge between the people on the one side and the military on the other. with the ultimate status of hirohito yet to be resolved, there occurred in the event of tremendous importance. in september 1945, macarthur met for the first time at hiro hito. this is the famous photograph of that event. it became the most famous image of the occupation. the photograph shows that the emperor was not a living god, but a mortal human being. he is standing beside a much older human to whom he was now subservient. it exemplified the defeat of japan. japanese officials were horrified when they saw the photograph and wanted it suppressed.
macarthur's occupation staff insisted the photograph be published. it was a sensation. two important degree, whatever the eventual fate of the emperor might have been, this photograph demonstrated there would be a vast gap between what it gone before and what would come after. the ultimate resolution of the status of hirohito moved on two fronts. macarthur's headquarters in tokyo and in washington. in tokyo, the policy was advanced. not only do macarthur, but the fellows. while macarthur was an official contact, fellows exploited to unofficial conduits. one ran through quakers having ties to the imperial court. the second ran through his own cousin, who was married to a japanese geomet. he was attached to the imperial court and fellows collaborated with him, thus giving the imperial court in an official
link to direct communications to the highest levels of occupation. several messages were conveyed by these contacts. one was an excavation of the wedge theory and the role of the emperor. which of course fell lightly upon the years of the japanese. -- ears of the japanese. the second was soliciting from the imperial court. not to establish what rule the emperor had really played, but to exonerate him from more responsibility. fellows conducted a series of from september 1945 to march 1946, but what these investigations of set to do was to provide the japanese with export guidance on how to present evidence to exonerate the emperor. in particular, fellows indicated to prime the japanese and admiral to take full responsibility for pearl harbor. washington got around to ordering an investigation of the emperor's war responsibility for 1945 thisthe turn of
, 1946. produced the most important document on the u.s. side. macarthur's response on january 25, 1946. in this secret cable to dwight eisenhower, then army general chief of staff, macarthur affirmed his belief in the emperor's total innocence. macarthur declared that there was no specific and tangible evidence about the emperor's exact activities which might connect into political decisions of the japanese empire during the last decade. i've gained a definite impression from as complete a research as was possible to meet -- to me that the election to the affairs of state to the end of the war was ministerial and automatically responded to the advice of his counselors. there was in fact no meaningful investigation. macarthur in his own style
concluded this communication with the following, "the trial of the emperor with a concussion -- would unquestionably cause a tremendous convulsion with the japanese people, the repercussions of which cannot be overestimated. the is a symbol that unites all japanese. this him and the nation will disintegrate. it is quite possible a million troops would be required, which would have to be maintained for an indefinite amount of time." the final mile marker in this process came four-months later when the prosecution section for the international will carry tribunal publicly exonerated the emperor of war crimes. i've only outlined here a number of stations on the path to
keeping emperor here are veto -- emperor hirohito as emperor. in reality, we have not located complete evidence, assuming it exists, of all the nuances of american decision-making on this matter. particularly those that went on in washington. by any estimate, the american occupation of japan was not a success but an outstanding success. the accolades bestowed on the occupation was a prevention of a massive humanitarian catastrophe involving disease and famine should secure a position on the list must take privacy. -- must take primacy. without the defense against disease and famine the moral of the occupation would have been destroyed and the authority of the program been undermined. in terms of significant failures under the occupation, without a doubt, not having emperor hirohito having take more responsibility is at the top of
the list. the distorted the matter in which the japanese came to understand their history. it continues to generate classes with japan's asian neighbors who believe japan has never manifested remorse for wartime activities that it should for mass death and devastation. there were two methods to dealing with hirohito's war responsibility. the first was war trials, the second was abdication. as a lawyer, my inclination would be to a trial. it might clarify aspects of about hirohito and the asia-pacific war. as a storing, however, my judgment has been tempered with my understanding of the humanitarian crises that the occupation phase at the beginning. regardless of macarthur's motives, and i do not think they withstand scrutiny, any reasonable occupation commander could and should have held his hand against your heat up and the crisis of the unstable
situation in 1945-1946. we cannot know what would've happened without the emperors plea for cooperation with food. it would've been extremely ill-advised to take the chance under these circumstances. after a year or two, there would've been plenty of time to deal with the emperor. i believe the best way would've been abdication. trials are messy and subject to challenge. abdication would be his own personal initiative, would be a clear way to establish his responsibility. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, rich. there was a gentleman who had his hand up for the last round. he gets the first question. audience member: obviously, the allies did not know about the
food situation in japan when they were making their invasion plans in 1945. in your view, might that situation have made the invasion more feasible, or at least less deadly? richard frank: if you buy a copy of my book -- [laughter] richard frank: the food situation in the context of the end of the war is really important because the japanese leadership in june 1945 conducted on imperial conference. which is to say one before the emperor. these are formalized rituals. everything is decided. they simply paraded it in front of the emperor. the staff papers that were prepared in preparation for this conference had a passage in them that i was looking at. i said this is clearly saying that even if there plans got -- were able to work out, the
leaders were still being told that there is going to mass starvation in japan in 1946. i hesitated to say that explicitly because i could not find a connecting link to this show that the leaders understood that. since then, others have found evidence that the military leaders clearly understood that however horrendous the invasion battle would begin, there is the uneven worse prospect for the japanese population of mass death. even though we debate about what ended the war, there was a domestic situation. but it was about was the campaign of blockade and bombardment and the threat of mass starvation. starting with the beginning of the new rice year in november 1945.
i believe that that factor is critical. a recent book by a really excellent historian -- i know that because she agrees with me -- wrote that she thinks that is the most important reason why the japanese quake. the food situation, besides the shock of when we got there, one of the side effects was a powerful argument against the blockade and bombardment strategy. it is why the invasion story -- strategy went forward. there are lots of elements to food. >> i have the next question here. audience member: those who made a decision to drop the atomic bomb -- why did they not include tokyo in order to cut off the head of the snake? richard frank: their assessment
was that the head of the snake was going to be important to get the japanese armed forces to surrender and the japanese people to agree to a surrender. when the aspects about this whole debate that to me is striking that gets omitted is in 1945, there had been no surrender of the japanese government to a foreign power in the history of japan. that was 2600 years. from our side of it, we were not aware of any organized surrender of any japanese unit in any battle or campaign of the whole pacific war. the joint space -- joint chiefs of staff wrote in 1945 that there was no guarantee that we are going to get a japanese government to surrender.
secondly, if we got a japanese government that would surrender, there is no guarantee that the armed forces would comply with a surrender. this issue of no organized capitulation was the ultimate american nightmare about what was going to happen in terms of ending the war with japan. to the degree they believe they ever could be utilized to convince the japanese people, government, and armed forces is rendered, then it made no sense to kill him or attempt to kill him. >> in the back to your left, richard. audience member: the war was incredibly bitter. american forces were coming in and helping save everyone from famine and disease. can you tell us about the reaction of the japanese civilians to the conquering army. from their perspective, was their gratitude? with their bitterness and hatred? how did that progress? richard frank: the first thing that ran through japanese hearts was terror. wartime propaganda and a general belief that the americans would come in and slaughter people and have their way with the japanese women.
then the americans arrives, and very quickly, although american conduct was by no means spotless, it was astonishingly good. compared to what was going on in germany and the eastern zone at that time. secondly, when the gis arrived in japan, they were old struck by the amount of devastation. most of them were in urban areas. many were struck by the destitution of the japanese people because they were all hungry. when gerhart arrived with his unit, he got the word that this is something that causes people
to govern themselves with informal policies. no one will go off and buy japanese food off of the japanese economy because the japanese people are so desperate. it was hard for them to look at this, and when there was no overt act of resistance, to feel anything but compassion. in short order, americans were roaming around with no weapons at all unlike what is going on , in germany where people are still carrying weapons. there are a few incidents. just a totally different kind -- to me, it is fascinating at other levels. we fought this war with the japanese, and without a doubt, there was a white-hot heat of rage. there is a lot of literature on in terms ofs solely race. but also conduct. japanese seemed to be off the chart of common humanity in terms of how they fought the war.
when the japanese surrendered, what stopped? the japanese stop being people of another race? did they stop the conduct? there is an obvious lesson there. >> right here in the front. audience member: thank you. another informative talk. it seems the united states quickly, in both europe and asia, went from fighting a war to trying to help the people that they defeated. i was particularly interested in your chart that talk about the food that was applied to the japanese people. i know we were the suppliers, but do you have information on what the ultimate source was. did it come from america? regional things? where was the source of this food? richard frank: the imports of food continue into the occupation. it was not just in 1946. it was just under 600,000 tons
that came from u.s. agricultural output. also, one source points out that nearly 600,000 tons includes 50,000 tons of canned goods. the canned goods had nutritional value that was much higher than we -- than whea or something like that. t the effectiveness of those items was much higher. a historian remarked that all of them have been older adults during the occupation, mentioned that american people came and fed the japanese people as a cornerstone of our relationship. audience member: just a quick follow-up.
that placed no difficulty with the american public and our consumption needs? richard frank: that is a good point. two names. -- two things. there is a wonderful book called "the taste of war." she goes on about how well fed the americans were and how much food there were. but she also notes we shipped a lot of places. particularly she mentions -- and i was not aware of this the food , that went to the soviet union probably saved a couple million soviets from starving to death during the war. we had enough food around to ship out. the bigger issue within the animosity of the war. like i said, clearly what
happened with the attention shifted very swiftly to getting the boys home and getting everybody back to work. that kept public attention off of all was going on in japan. >> i would like to ask the man , don leslie in the front row to , the right to stand. don, will you please stand? he gave a lecture on wednesday to the locals on the mercy wheat program. if you want to learn more about food in world war ii, especially in the postwar world, talk to this man. thank you for giving that lecture earlier. [applause] >> kim has the last question in the back. audience member: actually, i'm in the center. after the second atomic bomb was dropped, did not hirohito step in to the ruling war council and say, this is it. it is over?
and getting into counterfactual is him, had he not done that, how many more atomic bombs were we willing to use had he not stepped in and said, it is over? richard frank: let me have another 45 minutes and i can answer that. [laughter] richard frank: it does take the intervention by the emperor to bring the japanese. the legal government of japan never on its own initiative agrees to any terms to end the war that they u.s. and its allies would have found acceptable. the terms before included no occupation of japan. the emperor's intervention was decisive. another historian made the point that after the official announcement on august 15 about
the surrender, we were still intercepting traffic from japanese commanders saying they were not going to comply. there is a message put out by the navy ministry in tokyo explaining what happened. it describes how the emperor intervenes into the war. the historian argues that we were not entirely sure what was going on behind the curtain among the japanese leaders. that message seems to be solid gold evidence that the emperor did indeed intervene and his intervention was vital to ending the war. that seems it would strongly reinforce the policy of keeping the emperor to achieve the occupation goals. at least, not try him as a war criminal. on the number of bombs, what would've happened, i want to take a pass on that until we have a further conference. [laughter] >> thank you very much, richard. give him a round of applause. [applause]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] this week, c-span is in fresno learning more about the city's history. right now we are in kearney park . gamed for one of the city's an pioneers. we are in the kearney mansion. this was the managers residence. mr. kearney did not intend to live here or mentally. he at plans for a grander château to be built on the property. for years until he died. mr. kearney was really a self-made man. he was not born here in california. he was born in liverpool, england. his family immigrated.