As the representative of the conquering power, General Douglas MacArthur commanded all Americans in Japan; civilians as well as military; Navy as well as Army. He for all practical purposes was a dictator. The Emperor still held his position, but everyone understood that it was MacArthur who gave the orders. Many years later I learned he appointed a small committee to write a new constitution for Japan. He appointed the committee and established the basic precepts to be included in that document, and ordered them to finish the task in a very few weeks.
One of my fellow signalman and I took a 48 hour liberty to Tokyo. For some reason we wanted to see MacArthur, and we did. MacArthur was known for his punctuality. He arrived at his headquarters every day promptly at 10:00 a.m. He also worked a short day. We arrived a few minutes before that time. The limousine drove up. The General got out of the car and walked into the building, and that was that. We also walked to wherever the Emperor’s Palace was located. There were no visitors allowed inside. We admired the undamaged palace and its surrounding moat, and that was that.
We were so stunned by what we saw – the total destruction of two great modern cities. We saw a harbor obliterated except for what was temporarily cleared and used for required services. We saw block after block leveled, burned and blackened. Chimneys or smoke stacks stood here and there intact. They were the only thing that didn’t burn. Hastily improvised shacks and shanties provided living quarters. Basic needs were barely provided for. And Tokyo’s neighbor city and chief port, Yokohama, was devastated. And yet, two unarmed sailors on liberty wandered around freely without concern. We never quite comprehended the ability of the Japanese to survive, nor, how they did so. We felt no hostility directed towards us. Could it be that the loyalty absolutely granted to the emperor had been transferred to the emperor’s conqueror?
A footnote about MacArthur; one of his first directives was that all American military forces in Japan were to subsist entirely on food supplies (all supplies, for that matter) imported from the U.S. As a consequence, we ate mostly food like greenish scrambled eggs, spam, powdered potatoes, and canned vegetables. Our Japanese cook, who we believed worked as a cook at the French Embassy before the war, made it all palatable and nutritious; or at least as far as I could tell. Again, much later I learned that the reason for MacArthur’s directive was to prevent the Japanese economy from being revived by becoming dependent on the American military purchases.
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