IBDP Internal Assessments and Extended Essays on Japan

To what extent did Japanese forces deliberately instigate the Marco Polo Bridge Incident?
IBDP Internal Assessment

Plan of Investigation

To what extent did Japanese forces deliberately instigate the Marco Polo Bridge Incident?

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident took place July 7th, 1937. Japanese and Chinese scholars hold diametrically opposing views of what actually occurred throughout the course of the incident; the one fact most agree on is that it became the cassus belli of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. From the Mukden Incident of 1931, tensions between Japan and China escalated and this latest Incident served as “the trigger for the Sino-Japanese War.” Analysis of contemporary Japanese, Chinese and Western historians’ books, study of the memoirs and statements made by actual combatants and participants on both sides, and a personal interview with a very knowledgeable Chinese scholar is hoped to disclose Marco Polo Bridge Incident’s course of the event, focusing on its causes, the mysteries around the “first shot” and the so called “lost soldier”, and the subsequent events following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.

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Summary of Evidence

To determine the extent to which the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was a deliberate act of Japanese aggression or an unfortunate series of misunderstandings, one must understand both the preceding events and the course of the events itself.

Preceding Events:

China in the 1930s was tumultuous due to the Civil War between Nationalists and Communists. During the Central Plains War, Japan fabricated the Mukden Incident and set up Manchukuo in Manchuria. Between February and May of 1933, the Kwantung Army began its offensive in Rehe Province and signing the Tanggu Truce on May 31st, recognising Rehe Province as part of Manchukuo. In June of 1935, the He-Umezu Agreement was signed, forcing the Nationalist government to leave Hebei Province, allowing Japanese troops to control areas around Beiping, (situated in Hebei Province). In June that same year, 6000 additional soldiers were stationed in the Hebei area adding to a total of 8400 soldiers.

The Course of Marco Polo Bridge Incident

From May 1937, Japanese troops in Fengtai conducted daily and nightly military exercises at a wasteland 1 kilometre north of Wanping Town. Foreign powers were allowed to hold military manoeuvres without informing the authorities provided they used blank ammunition. However, on July 7th Chinese troops reported to their brigade commander that Japanese troops were armed with live ammunition and their manoeuvres were different from usual; Japanese troops from the 7th and 8th Companies had stopped manoeuvres around 10:30 PM. At 10:40, Private 2nd Class Shimura was reported to be missing. A Japanese agent telephoned Jicha authorities to claim that while the 1st company was manoeuvring, shots were fired at them from the Chinese garrison in Wanping creating chaos, and they needed to enter Wanping Town to search for this lost soldier. If prevented, Japanese armed troops would enter. Chinese troops subsequently reported Japanese troops approaching Wanping Town but the Chinese officers in Wanping allowed Japanese commanders to enter the town to search unmolested. Either during or immediately after negotiations, Japanese troops began to shoot at Chinese troops situated at Marco Polo Bridge.

Negotiations resumed after fighting came to a halt at 9 AM on the 8th, but broke down shortly afterwards. A stalemate continued until Japanese infantry reinforcement arrived around 3:00 PM and captured the bridge. Negotiations offered by the Japanese with the demand that Chinese troops retreat from the Left Shore were rejected. . Fighting ensued, and the Chinese re-captured the bridge at 9AM on the 9th.

By the 10th, Japanese troops severed all routes connecting Wanping to Beiping and Japanese reinforcements, including heavy artillery, planes, and tanks, were transported to the area. On that day, the Japanese chief of staff listed 4 requirements for Chinese troops to prevent further fighting:

Apologise to the Japanese Armies and punish those responsible.

Take action against those who initiated the incident.

Chinese troops around Marco Polo Bridge should be removed.

Ban all Communist and anti-Japanese Organizations.

On July 11th, General Zhang signed the agreement with Colonel Matsui. That same day, the Konoe Cabinet sent three divisions to Northern China. The Nationalist government still attempted to negotiate through 3rd parties. Chiang made a speech on the 17th providing 4 solutions to the problem and decided not to declare war. On the 19th, General Zhang agreed to a similar agreement. After taking over Marco Polo Bridge after a fierce battle erupted on the 21st, Japan launched an attack on Beijing, capturing it on July 27th. Chiang realized that war was unavoidable and resistance officially began. Within a month the Chinese General Headquarters declared a general mobilization.

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Evaluation of Sources:

Interview on December 25th, 2007 with Luo Cunkang, Manager of Research Department at Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression,

Luo Cunkang is one of the spokesman for the only official comprehensive memorial for the “Resistance against Japanese Aggression” in China” , and his role for the interview, as I was referred to him by other museum directors, is to promote the core ethos of the Hall and to provide a general Chinese scholar’s standpoint on this incident, a topic he specializes. His exhaustive knowledge of the incident is due both to his studies and to his numerous encounters with soldiers or relatives of soldiers present at the incident and with other Chinese scholars. He had numerous meetings with Japanese scholars and was very respectful towards Japanese views. He spoke about the incident itself and also discussed its significance in the context of 20th Century Asia. It must be said that he, being a manager in the museum, is a representative for the memorial so it could be suggested he is limited in expressing his own opinions, and doubts regarding the event, and has to be careful with usage of words since it needs to follow the purpose of the museum.

Sankichi Yasui, Marco Polo Bridge Incident (Hong Kong, Kehua Publisher, 1999)

Professor Yasui Sankichi of Kobe University wrote this book for a Japanese audience to present the Marco Polo Bridge Incident as objectively and factually as possible. He was the head of the Japanese China Modern History Research Centre. Published in Hong Kong, the book was translated and directly published without deletion of content. Some errors present in the Japanese edition, published in 1993, were amended for this translation edition, published in 1999, due to newly available information and research. It is dedicated to describing the Marco Polo Bridge Incident and his opinions are based on the numerous quotes from Japanese soldiers and officers present at the Incident , not found in most Chinese books. Thus many valuable insights describing minutia of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident are offered, leading the author to state how “some of my perspectives differ from orthodox Chinese perspectives that may make Chinese readers feel uneasy.” Nevertheless it has been criticized stating that whilst the Sino-Japanese War was a war resulting from Japanese invasion, the cause of the Incident itself was an accident.

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The Marco Polo Bridge Incident has been regarded as the catalyst for the 8 year Sino-Japanese War and can possibly even be considered the opening of World War II.

Furthermore it was significant in uniting the Chinese people because it was the start of China’s resistance. Chiang Kai-Shek attempted to preserve peace but ultimately recognized the inevitability of war. This incident instigated Chinese citizens to fight against the Japanese invasion.

Although it occurred half a century ago, scholars around the world still have not agreed upon who initiated the incident. Some scholars like Professor Nakumura Akita, Historian Masanori Ito , and Higashinakano Shudo blame Communists for purposely instigating the incident to create chaos between the Nationalists and the Japanese. On the other hand, Orthodox historians like Surugadai University professor Inoue Hisashi, Taiwanese scholar Yunhan Li , and Chinese scholar Sibai Sun claim Japan initiated the incident as a pretext for a full-scale invasion. They state that the Japanese army already fabricated a series of events to reach the surroundings of Beiping, and the Incident was merely a continuation of Japan’s expansion and so the incident of the “lost soldier” was fictitious. Other scholars and historians like Yasui Sankichi and Hattori Takushiro say the initial cause of the incident was completely accidental.

The “first shot” and the “lost soldier” have been the primary sources of controversy. The Chinese claimed that the Japanese fired the first shot when both sides were negotiating after Colonel Matsui demanded to enter Wanping. Japanese troops claimed that the Chinese fired the first shot around 10:40 when they were manoeuvring west of Marco Polo Bridge. The significance of the “first shot” is that it resulted in a soldier getting lost. The key instigator of the incident rests in the “lost soldier.”

The matter of the lost soldier (2nd Class Private Shimura) is a different story. The Chinese, by all accounts, stated that the Japanese demanded to enter Wanping town to find the lost soldier.

Most Chinese scholars and some Japanese scholars believe that this soldier was discovered to be “lost” at around 10:40 and was reported to the Captain. It can be concluded that Shimura was discovered long before Japanese officials informed Jicha authorities to discuss the issue of the lost soldier. Some Japanese writers question whether Colonel Matsui used the lost soldier as a reason to enter Wanping Town. Scholars like Professor Hata and Professor Nakamura Akira stated that General Jin’s allegation that Colonel Matsui demanded to enter the town due to the lost soldier is false. However, despite the fact that soldiers’ memoirs omitted this event, this incident was announced in 1938’s official symposium, and telegrams sent between Chinese officials show that his disappearance was indeed a reason for Japanese officials to enter the town.

The “first shot” and the “lost soldier” were occasional incidents in themselves and they were not orchestrated, but Company Commander Shimizu Setsuro’s demand of Chinese troops to retreat from Marco Polo Bridge or otherwise be attacked was a very provocative move that lead to conflict. Author Iris Chang stated this move was provoking a full-scale war with China. He, along with Japanese troops, exploited these accidents and Konoe cabinet’s decision to send another 3 divisions within days also demonstrates Japan’s ambitions to expand since it also follows, as argued by as Dexin Cai. However, scholars like Shougang Zhang and Shengze Zhang argue that both governments attempted to avoid war to some levels but due their national policies, they had no choice to fight or else be considered a weakling so it ultimately resulted in an all-out war.

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The first shot starting the Marco Polo Bridge Incident continues to be debated amongst scholars. To this day the war is a major point of contention between China and Japan and remains a major roadblock for Sino-Japanese relations. Wading through the nationalism and ideology that pervades such discussion both sides of the sea of Japan is a minefield and, based on past Japanese actions in Manchuria and the available evidence, it appears that the Japanese troops purposely used the excuse of the lost soldier to attack and occupy Wanping. It can be concluded the Konoe Cabinet, through the deployment of more troops in the days after the Incident, used the opportunity to expand their Manchukuo territories and exploited the originally small event to achieve their aims. The Chinese government, after impassively responding to Japanese interests for the past 8 years, decided finally to defend rather than submit. Both resulted in this minor incident quickly escalating into full-scale war. It can be assumed that even if the Incident did not take place, another minor event would have instigated the war. Tensions were stored already due to series of similar incidents and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident became the trigger.

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List of Sources


Dong, Linyi, “Why is it that the LuGou Bridge Incident became the beginning of the wars all over the country? Shandong Normal University Newspaper, 4th Edition, 1987.  “From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor, Who was responsible?” ASIAN PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2007.  Books  Akira, Nakamura. The road to the Greater East Asian War. Tokyo: Tendensha, 1990.  Benson, John, and Takao Matsumura. Japan 1865-1945: From isolation to occupation. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2001.  Brower, Daniel R. The World in the 20th Century-The Age of Global War and Revolution. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1992.  Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.  CPC Central Committee Party School Communist Party Historical Archives Center, The LuGou Bridge Incident and Beijing and Tianjing Anti-Japanese War. Beijing: CPC Central Committee Party School Research, Office 1986.  Ferguson, Niall. The War of the Worlds. London: Penguin Books, 2007.  Harries, Meirion, and Susan Harries. Soldiers of the Sun: the Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. New York: Random House, 1991.  Hattori, Takushiro. The Complete History of the Greater East Asia War (1). Yuxiang Zhang, Trans, Hong Kong: The Commercial Press, 1984.  Hunter, Alan. Peace Studies in the Chinese Century. Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006.  Li, Yunhan. Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Taiwan Dongdatushu Company, 1987.  Liu, Dejun. Research works about Anti-Japanese war, Jinan: Jilu Book Publisher. 2005.  Liu, Yifei. The records of Incident of LuGou Bridge blooded War ---7.7 Incident. Beijing: Tuan Jie Publishers, 1994  McClain, James L. A Modern History, Japan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.  New History Textbook 2005 version. Fushosha, 49  Qu, Jiayuan, and Zhaoqin Bai, History about LuGou Bridge Incident, Beijing: Beijing Publishers, 1997.  Rhoads, Murphey, A History of Asia. Lin Huang, trans, Beijing, Hainian Publisher, 2005.  Roberts, J. M. The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century, London: Penguin Group, 1999.  Sankichi, Yasui. Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Guifang Shi and Xutian Wang, trans. Hong Kong: Kehua Chuban Corporation, 1999.  Shudo, Higashinakano. The Nanking Massacre: Fact versus Fiction: A Historian's Quest for the Truth, Sekai Shuppan, Inc, 2005.  Takushiro, Hattori. Great East Asia War History (1). Shangwu Yinshua Guan.  Wu, Yuexing, Zhibo Lin, Hua Lin, and Youyu Liu. Stories of LuGou Bridge Incident. Beijing: Beijing People’s University Publisher, 1987.  Yang, Qing, and Yang Wang. Articles about the Anti-Japanese War during recent 10 years. Beijing: Zhong Gong Dang Shi Chu, 2005.  Zhang, Chunxiang. The Incident of LuGou Bridge and eight-year Anti-Japanese War, Beijing: Beijing Chu Ban She, 1990.  CD-Rom  Encarta 2005 Reference Library. CD-ROM. Microsoft, 2004  Interview  Luo, Cunkang, personal interview, December 25th, 2007.  Magazine  Tucker-Jones, Anthony. “Clash of the Titans.” Military Illustrated Feb 2008: 9.
Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression Pamphlet, English Edition.


The records of Anti-Japanese War, Dir Xiaochun You, VCD, Tianjin Taida Audio&Video Distribution Co, 25 July 2007.
Anti-Japanese War, Dir. Ermao Huang, VCD, Guangdong Youlin Audio& Video Distribution Co, 2002.
Why We Fight World War II – The Complete Series, Dir. Frank Capra, DVD, Good Times Video, 1943.


“International Sino-Japanese Conference”, 12 February 2008, http://chinajapan.org/articles/10.2/10.2news2-7.pdf
People’s Republic of China Japanese History Editorial Board, 15 Feb, 2008. http://www.chinarshgb.cn/htm/xxjg.html
Qi, Xiaojing, “Japanese Historian stated the Marco Polo Bridge Incident is an inevitable outcome of Japanese’s policy of expansionism and invasion”, October 2007, February 10th, 2008, http://2006.chinataiwan.org/web/webportal/W5272501/Uqxjing/A514011.html,
(http://www.ne.jp/asahi/kyokasho/net21/e_yukou_seimei20001205.htm#++++) 8 February, 2008.

A. Plan of Investigation

Are the Japanese to blame for instigating the Marco Polo Bridge Incident?

The Marco Polo bridge incident occurred on the 7th of July 1937 yet it is still unclear to this day as to who caused this incident. In order to create an objective view on the circumstances of the incident, Japanese and Chinese viewpoints will be taken into account when deciding whether or not Japan is to blame for the incident. These viewpoints will be coming from Pulitzer Prize winning books and Japanese and Chinese sources. Both Japanese and Chinese journalists and army members have clear different views on to who is to blame for this event. Although with rising tensions between China and Japan due to the recent Mukden incident of 1931 both standpoints are needed to determine whether or not Japan is solely to blame for instigating the Marco Polo bridge incident.

B. Summary of Evidence

The Incident:
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurred on the 7th of July 1937. The incident was caused by a conflict between Japanese and Chinese Army troops in the small walled town of Wanping, southwest of Beiping (Beijing)[1]. Starting June 1937 The Japanese Imperial army was preforming military training manoeuvres every night close to the western end of the Marco Polo Bridge1. The Chinese Government complied with the Japanese army training only provided that the Japanese gave them advanced notice of these training manoeuvres, the Japanese agreed to these terms[2]. They asked for advanced notice so the Chinese inhabitants were not disturbed. However the night of the 7th of July training manoeuvres were carried out without prior notice1. This alarmed the local Chinese forces and it lead to a brief exchange of fire at approximately 11 pm. After the small conflict a Japanese soldier was reported missing from his post, which lead his company commander Major Kiyonao Ichiki to believe he had be captured by the Chinese troops. Major Kiyonao then reported this to the regimental commander colonel Renya Mutaguchi. The Chinese regimental commander Ji Xingwen received a telephone message from the Japanese wanting permission to search Wanping for their missing soldier.  The Chinese commander of the 29th Route Army General Qin Dechun received a call from Japanese military intelligence also requesting permission to enter and search Wanping[3]. Qin refused this demand due to the fact that the Japanese army had not given notice of their military training maneuvers that night3. The Chinese agreed to have the garrison of Wanping conduct a search along with a Japanese officer. As both Chinese and Japanese were preparing their investigators a Japanese infantry tried to gain access to Wanping but were fended off by Wanping’s defences3.  Around 3:30 a.m. on the 8th of July 4 Japanese reinforcements consisting of mountain guns and a group of machine gunners arrived at Wanping from the previously occupied railway junction of Fentai1. At 4:50 am the Japanese investigators were granted access to Wanping but despite that at 5 am Japanese machine gunmen proceeded to open fire on the Chinese at the Marco Polo Bridge3. Colonel Xingwen led 1000 Chinese troops to hold the bridge but the Japanese took hold of the bridge that afternoon. The Chinese were able to retake the bridge the morning of the 9th after taking advantage of the mist and rain of the morning3.
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C. Evaluation of Sources

Epstein, Israel. History Should Not Be Forgotten. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2005. Print.

History Should Not Be Forgotten is a book written by a Jewish journalist born in Warsaw 1915. Israel Epstein is an internationally known journalist who moved to China in 1917. He was born at the time of Imperial Russian control over Poland and when the German army approached Warsaw Epstein and his mother fled to China. Epstein started working as a journalist in 1931 for “Peking” and “Tientsin Times”. In 1933 Epstein started working with American journalist Edgar Snow and became a correspondent for the United Press of the United States in 1937. Epstein was one of the few foreign born Chinese citizens to be a member of the Communist Party of China. After the war on Japanese aggression was over, Epstein was actively involved and reporting on activities opposing U.S. involvement in China’s internal affairs.

This source will be very vital for the investigation as it coming from a journalist who was a journalist in China during the time of the Marco Polo bridge incident. Although it is very valuable for the investigation of who was responsible for the Marco Polo incident, the source has limitations. The limitations are that the author of the book was communist and actively involved in the front against Japanese aggression, the view will be highly biased against the Japanese due to Epstein’s history.

Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and fall of the Japanese Empire. Random House, 1982. Print.

The Rising Sun: the decline and fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 was written by John Toland who was one of the most widely read military historians of the 20th century. Toland was a Pulitzer Prize winning historian for The Rising Sun and the book is a collection of facts and interviews about the Japanese Imperial Army. Said in countless book reviews, Toland is said not to have interjected any biased or judgmental views in the telling of the events within the book. Said by the Chicago Sun-Times The Rising Sun is “similar in scope to William Shirer’s ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’” and “it also presents for the first time a great deal of fresh information”.

This book is vital to the investigation of the topic of whether or not Japan is to blame for the Marco Polo Bridge incident as it was one of the first books to tell the Japanese perspective of the conflict, instead of American or Chinese. This book uses interviews from Japanese Generals who were in the Imperial Army at the time of the Marco Polo Incident. Although said by book reviewers that Toland presents events without bias or judgement, the evidence within the book is greatly subjected to bias. As the book is telling the accounts from the Japanese perspective the views presented are in favor of Japan.

D. Analysis

The Marco Polo bridge incident was considered to be complete misunderstanding according to the British Historian Niall Fergusson. “A Japanese soldier went missing and was wrongly presumed to have been kidnapped (he was actually relieving himself)”. However both accounts are told, both Chinese and Japanese are blamed to have instigated the incident. The investigation of this incident is critical in its historical context as the Marco Polo Incident is said to have started the Chinese war against Japanese aggression (the second Sino-Japanese war)[[4]][[5]]. It is also speculated by Niall Fergusson that it was not only the started of second Sino-Japanese war but the start of WWII[6].

Epstein argues “The Marco Polo (Lugou) Bridge, outside Wanping City, located more than 10 kilometers from downtown Beiping, is on the vital communication line in southwestern Beijing, and of strategic importance since ancient times.” This clearly shows a possible Japanese motive for occupying this land had they been aware that the surroundings and general location of the Lugou Bridge was of strategic importance. Also in his book Epstein states that Japan, prior to the Marco Polo Incident, had occupied three Northeastern Chinese Provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning)[7] showing the reader that Japan had previous acts of aggression against China.

According to John Toland it was not until the Sino-Japanese war had concluded that Japanese officers of the war, including ones that were directly involved in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, claimed that Mao’s agents had sparked the Incident[8] “We were then too simple to realize this was all a Communist plot” said by General Akio Doi, who Toland said to be a Russian expert. Mao had been known to want a united front against Japanese aggression[9], the reasoning proposed by Japanese General Akio Doi would give China a reason to blame Japan for causing the Marco Polo Incident. If Japan was seen to be instigating an event such as the Marco Polo Incident then Mao could unite China against Japanese aggression.

Although it is a possibility for China to have constructed the incident as a communist plot, the actions of the Imperial Japanese Army on the day of the Marco Polo Incident must be taken into account. On the day of the incident, Japanese forces were under the impression that Chinese forces had captured a member of their army. The Japanese forces responded to this by calling General Qin Dechun of the Chinese army, which they requested entrance to the suspected town. These actions are those of a country concerned for a member of their army. The Chinese refused to allow Japanese entry to Wanping due to the previous events of not informing China of their military training. The action of the day directly implementing blame on the Japanese is the event of Japanese army trying to forcefully gain access to the town of Wanping. Also after a Japanese investigator was allowed into the town to conduct a search Japanese forces open fired on the Chinese. This shows their instigation of the Incident.

E. Conclusion

Simply looking at the collected evidence given one can easily see how the Japanese were the instigators of this incident, however they were not solely to blame. The Chinese were refusing access to their town, which could have been seen as trying to stand against Japanese aggression, which inevitably was a reason for China’s unison against Japan. Had China granted access to the Japanese force into their town, the incident could have possibly been avoided s the Japanese would not have forcefully tried to gain access. To conclude the Japanese were not solely to blame for this incident although they are the primary instigators shown by the presented evidence.

F. List of Sources

  1.     "The Marco Polo Bridge Incident." History - China Culture. Cultural China. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. .  2.     "Marco Polo Bridge Incident (Asian History) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia."Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. .  3.     Epstein, Israel. History Should Not Be Forgotten. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2005. Print.  4.     Ferguson, Niall. "China's War." The War of the World. Penguin. Print.  5.     Harper, Damian. China. Footscray, Vic., Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 2007. Print.  6.     Peng, Xunhou. China in the World Anti-fascist War. [Beijing]: China Intercontinental,  2005. Print.  7.     Simkin, John. "Mao Zedong." Spartacus Educational. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. .  8.     Toland, John. The Rising Sun. The Decline and fall of the Japanese Empire. Random House, 1982. Print.  9.     Xiang, Ah. "Marco Polo Bridge Incident." Resistance Wars. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. .  10.  Xu, Haiyan. Historical View of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a Comparison of the Chinese and Japanese Accounts. Indiana University, 1990. Print.

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica  [2] Xiang, Ha  [3] "The Marco Polo Bridge Incident." History - China Culture. Cultural China. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. .     [4] (Harper, Damien: China p176)  [5] (Epstein, Israel: History Should Not Be Forgotten p13)  [6] (Ferguson, Niall: War of the World p306)  [7] (Epstein, Israel: History Should Not Be Forgotten p13)  [8] (Toland, John: The Rising Sun p43) [9] Simkin, John. "Mao Zedong." Spartacus Educational. Web. 13 Nov. 2011

How Many were Slaughtered at Nanking?


The investigation justifies the number of lives claimed by the Nanjing Massacre in the 1930s. In respond to this assessment, a primary source- a letter written by John Rabe to Hitler, a Chinese documentary novel called The Rape of Nanking, and various perspectives from Chinese and Japanese historians, will be examined. Two of the sources in this investigation, a letter by John Rabe to Hitler in 1938, and a documentary novel called the Rape of Nanking composed by Iris Chang, will be accessed through origin, purpose, value, and limitation.


In December 1937 the Japanese army marched into the Nanjing city beginning a reign of terror. “The troops murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians in horrific ways.” It was estimated the duration of the war had culminated in the death of twenty million Chinese. The city was practically collapsed into a defenceless habitat as “the government left Nanjing defenseless declaring it to be an “open city””. This therefore ensured massacres to prevail in all areas within and around the city. Since then, controversy aroused between groups from mainly China and Japan surrounds the number of people massacred by the Japanese troops during the years of the massacre. In one case a Chinese-German-made film called (John Rabe) has revealed the fact 300,000 people were killed when its film critic Song Ziwen asserts on the state-run Xinmin website, “'We always emphasize that 300,000 people were killed.” Similarily, numbers of Chinese official documents/historians point to the fact of apporximatly 300,000 deaths. Wu Tienwei, professor emeritus of history at Southern Illinois University, estimates a death toll of above 300,000. Sun Zhaiwei, a historian at the Jiangsu Acedemy of Social Sciences, concludes a number closing to 380,000. Contradictary, John Rabe’s diary and several Japanese historians have asserted relatively low figures compared to those submitted by the Chinese. In a letter addressing to Hitler from John Rabe in 1938 he stated, “We foreigners view the figure as having been from about 50,000 to 60,000.” Japanese historian, Hata Ikuhiko, argued a death toll of approximately 38000 to 42000 whereas he regarded the Chinese estimate of 300,000 deaths as exaggerated. Moreover, Fujiwara Akira, professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, has come up with an estimation of 200,000 deaths.


The first source to be evaluated according to its origin, purpose, value, and limitation is a primary source, a letter written in June 1938 by John Rabe to Hitler. The letter upholds a purpose “to persuade Hitler to intervene and stop the inhuman acts of violence committed by the Japanese.” The value of it lies in the fact it is a primary source written by an eye witness of the massacre. Moreover, its weight was shown when it was aimed at addressing to Hitler himself. The limitation of it is it failed to observe the full duration of the Nanjing Massacre since John Rabe left Nanjing in February 1938. The letter hasn’t been verified by any authority but exclusively accounted from the view of a foreigner whose observation in the area had been limited. The second source to be evaluated is an English history documentary novel called The Rape of Nanking. Its purpose is to narrate the events of the massacre from perspectives of the Japanese military, Chinese victims, and westerners. Its value is shown in its ability to blend in three various aspects to reconstruct a wider and more realistic context of history. It was also the “first comprehensive examination of the destruction of this Chinese imperial city.” The limitation is the book procured the information through various sources instead of first hand experiences. The book has been criticized for its nature of “seriously flawed” and “full of misinformation and harebrained explanations.” This’ perhaps due to the fact she lacks the experience with the subject matter.


The majority of the Chinese historians share a similar perspective on the fact of approximately 300,000 people were massacred throughout the course. Such fact is that certain of them based their research on the official Chinese burial records. Many people were desperate in dodging the gun fire by diving into the water while the fire persisted. This certainly would challenge the reliability of the burial records since some bodies might have been washed away or sunken to the riverbed. This inaccuracy also applies to the circumstance when gasoline was being set fire on corpses. Some experts including those from Japan have questioned the reliability of the 300,000 figure in areas concerning of double counting, and miscounting. The fact burial records were exclusively acquired from burial grounds miles away from the seashore; this therefore eliminated the possibility of taking into account of those corpses that were washed onshore then buried on spot. There were people questioning if 300,000 people existed inside the Nanking city after the Japanese troops marched in. This query was contradicted by numbers of Chinese official documents stating the number of people inside the city at that time were approximately 500,000. Nevertheless, although those factors stated above are influential to the death toll of 300,000, there still existed an uncertainty of whether those assumptions actually took place during the massacre for most of them were theories and infer. Contrary, the estimation of 300,000 deaths was reinforced by numerous primary elements. Interviews were conducted on 1,700 survivors of the massacre and arrived at a conclusion of 340,000 deaths. There was one case when the Japanese foreign minister Hirota Koki in January 1938 ordered to forward a telegram to America informing no less than 300,000 people were killed. And that was only the first month of the massacre. This is very ponderous evidence since it was devised by Japanese at that time.

Drawing to a conclusion from the analysis carried out, there is a higher possibility the 300,000 death toll is comparatively justified than the other assumptions. As have been briefly mentioned above, relatively low figures are often based on imaginative factors and theories such as double counting, miscounting, and so on, whereas the 300,000 death toll is closely associated with researches and investigations that were carried out practically namely interviews, and most importantly the recognition of certain Japanese officials.


Section A: Plan of the investigation

The purpose of this essay is to investigate “How many Chinese citizens were killed in Nanking by the Japanese army during 13th December 1937 to 24th January 1938.” To answer this question, I will focus on the numbers of the buried dead bodies. I am going to use Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang because it was the first best seller book about the Nanking Massacre written in English. I will use Nankin Jiken by Ikuhiko Hata. because this is a recognized book by a Japanese historian who has a neutral standpoint about the Nanking Massacre. To take a diversified stand point, I will use books that are critical of Chang’s book and books that support her point of view with regard to numbers of victims. Also I will use reports from the foreigners who were in the Nanking safety zone because they researched the scale of the damage at that time.

 Section B: Summary of evidence  The 2nd Sino-Japanese war began with the Marco Polo bridge incident on 7th July 1937  By 15th August, the Japanese navy started the first bomb attack on Nanking, the Chinese capital, without the declaration on war . Nanking was about 4,737km² in size and its population was around 1,000,000 in March 1937 . Because of the bombings, thousands of citizens fled from Nanking. The population decreased to 500,000 in November 1937 .  After the fall of Shanghai on 12th November, the Japanese army decided to invade Nanking on 20th November unilaterally, the Japanese government did not agree . Chiang Kai-shek decided to defend Nanking. He burned down the villages around the city so that the Japanese army could not use them . All important people and foreigners were asked to leave Nanking by November .To protect those citizens who were left behind, the 'International Committee of the Nanking safety zone' was created by the foreigners who stayed in Nanking . They made a 3.8km safety area within Nanking. The capital of China was removed from Nanking to Chongqing on 15th of November.  On 1st December the Japanese government officially accepted the Nanking capture operation. On 9th of December, Japan asked China to surrender Nanking  but China refused. Japan started to attack Nanking on 10th  December. There were about 120,000 Japanese soldiers and the Chinese army was about 50,000~100,000 . The problem of the Chinese army was that they had to recruit in a hurry so there were many untrained soldiers.   After Japan defeated the Chinese army outside Nanking, on 13th December 1937, the Japanese army broke into Nanking and started the sweep operation. Because the Chinese head quarters withdrew on 12th of December , the Chinese chain of command collapsed. Chinese soldiers started to change from uniforms to plain clothes in order to run away. Japan captured Nanking on 17th December. The “Nanking Massacre” happened after the capture of Nanking.  Since the Japanese army only had seventeen military police , there was nothing to stop the soldiers from ferocity. The Japanese army did not have enough supplies so soldiers started robbing . The Japanese army did not have the capability to take care of all the Chinese POW, so they decided to kill them.  
Japanese soldiers killed, raped and looted in Nanking. There were eye witnesses statements. Ohta, a Japanese Army Major stated in 1954when he was in prison in China that he and his unit dumped 19,000  dead bodies in the river from 15th of December for three days. He also stated that neighboring units disposed total of 130,000 bodies in the same period. Lu Shu said that he saw that 57,418 Chinese were killed by the Japanese Army in the night of 16th December . This report was one of the Chinese evidence of the Tokyo Trial. Members of the Safety Zone Committee wrote reports. Professor L. S. C. Smythe of the University of Nanking did a survey  in December 1937 about numbers of people killed during the massacre.  The German businessman, John Rabe who was the president of the Nanking safety Zone wrote in a letter to Hitler in 1937, that  he estimated that 60,000 Chinese died in the massacre.  Tsun-shan-tang and Red Swastika Society, charitable institutions in Nanking, were the main organizations that buried the dead bodies .  The Red Swastika Society buried 43,071 bodies . Tsun-shan-tang buried 112,266 .  
After the war the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Japan agreed that 260,000 Chinese died in Nanking.

 Section C : Evaluations of Sources 
Chang, Iris.(1997) The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. London, Penguin Books, 1998  
According to Chang, the purpose of the book is “not to establish a quantitative record to qualify the event as one of the great evil deeds in history, but to understand the event so that lessons can be learned and warnings sounded.”  . Since it was the first book written in English about the Nanking massacre, it introduced the topic to the west. More than 500,000 copies were sold  which shows the strong influence this book had. Chang states that more than 300,000 people died in the massacre, a number allocated by the Chinese Government (see appendix 1).Some historians such like David M. Kennedy from Stanford University, argue that this book is more focused to impeach Japan instead of working on a historical analysis of the event . Chang  is a journalist and not a historian. This can be seen from misunderstandings in her book regarding history, especially in Japanese history. For example, she has dates of the Tokugawa period wrong for more than hundred years    . Picture No.6 in the book (see appendix 2) is taken out of context. This picture is part of a Japanese propaganda photo that shows the Japanese army protecting Chinese farmers on their way home. It was not a picture of women being rounded up . Chang is Chinese American and through her comments, we can see that her point of view is biased. Her tone of writing is emotional and you can see some anti-Japanese perspective .   

Ikuhiko, Hata. (1986). Nankin Jiken(Nanking Incident):Gyakusatu no kouzou(Mechanism of the massacre) 
Hata inspects what actually happened in Nanking in 1937 by analyzing  Japanese military records, soldier's diaries and witnesses reports. According to Syudo Higasinakano, a Japanese historian, this book focuses on analyzing the data without nationalism common to those books. Since it is published 40 years after the Nanking massacre happened, it can look to the incident one step back which helps to exclude personal emotions. Although the author is Japanese, he is a historian studying modern Japanese military history and he is standing on a neutral point. The author believes that the numbers of victims were 40,000 . The argued numbers of victims range from a few thousands to 300,000 so Hata’s estimate is roughly in the middle. However, from the bibliography it is clear that Hata uses less Chinese sources and that he focuses more on Japanese sources which makes the conclusion one-sided.  

Section D: Analysis  This investigation is historically important because if 300,000 citizens died in Nanking, this massacre would be one of the biggest in modern history. But there is debate about the numbers of the people killed there. This historical event still causes tension between Japan and China as it is considered the symbol of the Japanese cruel invasion in China  (see appendix 1).   Chang argues that 300,000 people died in Nanking and she supports this by three main points; The burial records of Tsun-shan-tang and the Red Swastika Society , the statements from Hisao Ohta, and Lu Su, and the other reports from Chinese eyewitnesses that were sent to the Tokyo Trials. . By adding the data of the burial records and the numbers that the eyewitnesses saw, Chang concluded that the numbers of victims were at least 260,000 . To support her point, she referred the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Japan where they agreed that the victims of the Nanking were 260,000. As conclusion, Chang said that at least about 260,000 people were certainly dead and by adding the statements of eyewitnesses and the Japanese records, it will be more than 400,000.  However, there are some problems with her conclusion. Iris Chang does not provide evidence to support her claim of 300,000 victims but merely adds the numbers of dead bodies on all records without assessing the sources. According to Hata, one cannot simply add the numbers of dead bodies witnessed by people because it could be ambiguous and uncertain . Sun Lu stated that he saw 57,400 Chinese were killed by the Japanese military on the night of 16th December. But the question is how could a person know the exact numbers of people by watching at night? Another example is the statement of Ohta, the diary of Taterou Kajitani, the sergeant of the Japanese army, proves that Ohta arrived in Nanking on 25th December  so it is impossible for Ohta to bury dead bodies in Nanking on the 15th December. Eyewitnesses are not always reliable sources to use to get the numbers of dead bodies.  Secondly, according to Minoru Kitamura, a Japanese historian studying Chinese modern history, the burial record from Red Swastika Society is trustful since it accords with the Japanese records . But the burial record of Tsun-shan-tang is not accurate. According to the Japanese newspapers in 1937, the Red Swastika Society was mentioned as organization requested by the Japanese government to bury the dead bodies but Tsun-shan-tang was not mentioned in any newspapers although it buried more than twice as much as the Red Swastika Society did . Also the Nanking safety zone report written by Miner Searle Bates, only mentions Red Swastika Society as the main organization working on burial . In a letter to the Nanking self-government, the leader of the Tsun-shan-tang wrote that they only got one truck to use where Red Swastika society got 10 trucks. So it is physically impossible for such a small organization to burry more than 100,000 dead bodies in one month . Tsun-shan-tang buried massacre victims but it seems that it record was inflated so it is difficult to estimate how many they did burry.  Hata’s conclusion is that the numbers of dead bodies were about 40,000 . He reached this conclusion by subtracting the inaccurate records of the buried dead bodies from the total number, 155,000. He supports his argument with the facts of the survey by Symthe, member of the Nanking Safety Zone Committee who also stated that the number of buried victims in Nanking was about 40,000   This is an objective conclusion since it is based on the record. However Hatta developed a method to subtracting the numbers of dead bodies that are over counted but he does not explain his exact method . 

Section E: Conclusion  I conclude that the minimum number of people who were killed in Nanking was at least about 50,000 based on the estimation of Rabe and the survey of Smythe. I decided to use the burial record of Red Swastika Society, because this figure is mentioned by Hata, Chang and Kasahara who all have different view points on the massacre. Based on the books I read, I can conclude that Tsun-shan-tang also buried dead bodies.  The only way to estimate the numbers of people killed in Nanking is by counting the numbers of the burials. But this method will only show the minimum numbers of the victims. Because it is clear that not all victims of the massacre are buried, bodies might have been burned or dumped in the river.  It is impossible to know the numbers of victims. It seems that historians are starting with a certain stand point and try to prove that their argument is right and they are not considering to investigate from an objective point of view.  The Nanking Massacre did happen, the exact number of Chinese citizens that were killed by the Japanese army during 13th December 1937 to 24th January 1938 we might never know.

Section F: List of Sources

  Ara,Kenichi (2002) Nankin Jiken no Syougen(The witnesses of the Nanking Incident):Nihonjin 48nin no syougen(witnesses of 48 Japanese). Tokyo. Syougakkan 2005  Barrres, Charles (1998)  Amerika wo yurugasu “Za reipu obu nankin” Tyuoukouron  1998, August, www.history.gr.jp/~nanking/books_chuokouron9808.html viewed on  01.11.2011  Chang, Iris.(1997) The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. London, Penguin Books, 1998  The Diet Members Group for Japan’s Future and History Education (2008). The Truth of Nanjing:The League of nations Failed to even recognise the “Massacre of 20,000 Persons at Nanjing Tokyo,Nitisinhoudou. 2010  Fogel, Joshua. A. (2000) The Nanjing Massacre: in history and historiography, Berkeley, Los Angelos, London, University of California Press, 2000  Fujioka, Nobukastu. Syudou Higasinakano (1999). Za Reipu obu Nankin no kenkyuu( The study on the Rape of Nanking), Tokyo, Syoudensya, 2007  Hata, Ikuhiko(1986) .Nankin Jiken: Gyakusatu no koudou(The Nanking Incident: the mechanism of the massacre), Tokyo,Tyuoukouronsya, 2007   Kasahara, Tokushi.(1997) Nankin Jiken(The Nanking Incident), Tokyo, Iwanamisinyo, 2009  : so no jituzou wo motomete(The research of the Nanking Incident: to find the real image), Tokyo,Bungeisyusyun. 2007  Li, Fei Fei;Sabella, Robert; Liu, David (2002). Nanking 1937: Memory and healing, Armonk, New York, M.E. Sharpe,Inc. 2002  Takemoto, Tadao;Ohara, Yasuo (2000). The Alleged Nanking Massacre: Japan’s rebuttal to China’s forged claims, Tokyo, Meiseisya 2010  Wakabayashi, Bob.T (2001). The Nanking Massacre, now you see it..., Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 56. No 4  Tokyo, Sophia University Press,2001

Why Did Macarthur Ignore the Postdam Declaration's Demand for the Removal of the Japanese Emperor?

IBDP Extended Essay in History

This essay analyzes the reason for the decision to exonerate the Emperor of Japan from WWII war crimes contrary to the terms first presented in the Potsdam Declaration of July 1945.
On July 17, 1945, President Harry S Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Party General Secretary to the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin met in Potsdam to discuss the terms of surrender for Germany.  Also, during the conference, Churchill, Truman and Chaing Kai Chek, Chairman of Nationalist China, outlined the terms of surrender for Japan.  On July 26, the Potsdam Declaration was issued to Japan calling for their unconditional surrender at the risk of total annihilation.  While the declaration did not specifically address the Emperor or the Emperor system, it did state; “stern justice will be meted to all war criminals”.   This language suggested that the Emperor might be vulnerable and in contrast to the Atlantic Charter that the Japanese had been negotiating for, be tried and hung as a war criminal.
On August 6th & 9th, 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Japan surrendered.  By August 30th, the US occupied Japan with General MacArthur appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.  He was given absolute authority to implement the terms of the Potsdam Declaration with the eventual goal to democratize Japan.
But Macarthur also had to deal with the Emperor.  While the other allied powers wanted the Emperor to be tried and hung as a war criminal, MacArthur learned that such an act would be the equivalent to crucifying Christ to the Japanese people who viewed the Emperor as a God and would rather die than see him deposed and humiliated.  As a consequence, MacArthur reasoned that he could use the Emperor as effective tool to further his larger goal to democratize and restore Japan as an ally in the Pacific.
This essay concludes that MacArthur needed the Emperor in order to fulfill the goals of the Potsdam Declaration.

            On the 17th of July 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union convened in Potsdam, Germany for a conference to discuss reparations for a defeated Nazi Germany. Nine days later at the same conference, Churchill and Truman sat down with Chairman Chaing Kai-shek, leader of the nationalist government of China to discuss the surrender terms for Japan.  Known as the Potsdam Declaration, Japan was issued an ultimatum for unconditional surrender with the threat of total annihilation should they refuse.  The Allies stayed true to their promise dropping atomic bombs both on Hiroshima on August 6th and Nagasaki 3, days later.  The bombings were followed up by the surrender of Japan and the occupation of Japanese soil by American forces on August 30th, 1945. The occupation would last until 1952.
            Documents from the MacArthur Memorial show that the Truman administration had a general consensus that “fundamental changes” should be imposed in the political, industrial, and general economic conditions of German, Italy, and Japan.  (The MacArthur Memorial)  However, Japan was seen as a special case and was given special consideration.  The administration believed that:
In a few words, the basic point that was being made was that a viable Japanese economy is to be considered a first prerequisite of lasting peace in the Pacific. (The MacArthur Memorial)
The process of democratization and the roles played by General MacArthur and the Emperor is the scope of this essay.

Prior to the end of the Second World War, Japan had little in the way of democracy. It possessed no political parties and hosted no free elections, and women were denied what even those living in 40s considered “equal rights”.  (Constitutional Rights Foundation)  Despite the Meji Constitution outlining a few individual liberties, from an American standpoint there were few.  For instance, although free speech was protected under the constitution, the government prohibited what it considered to be “dangerous thoughts.” (Constitutional Rights Foundation) This was intentional.  The Meji Constitution (1889) was designed to concentrate actual political power into the hands of a small group of influential political leaders whose sole loyalty and responsibility was to the Emperor, not the people.  From 1930 to the end of the Second World War only military officials dominated this governing group. (Constitutional Rights Foundation)
             In the aftermath of the two atomic bombings and the surrender of Japan to the Allies, the Japanese government indicated it would accept the conditions of the Potsdam Declaration on the understanding that it would not include any demands that would compromise the authority of the Emperor as the sovereign ruler of the country, thereby preserving the “kokutai”.  The kokutai represents “a line of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal.” (National Diet Library)
However, the Allies were adamant that under the occupation the most powerful leader would be the military governor and stated, “the authority of the Emperor… to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” (National Diet Library)  Additionally, the Allies aimed to ultimately create a system where democratically elected leaders would hold the highest authority in Japan, stating that, “the ultimate form of Government of Japan shall…be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.”  (Constitutional Rights Foundation)
On September 6, 1945, General MacArthur was installed as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) over the occupation forces in Japan.  While control of Japan would be through the Japanese government, MacArthur could employ such measures as necessary, including the “use of force”.  (National Diet Library)  It was also stated that the Potsdam Declaration did not override Japan’s “unconditional surrender” and that the government of the UK, Soviet Union, or China was under the authority of MacArthur.
However, while MacArthur held power over the government, the Emperor was still a powerful symbol to the people and held a considerable influence over their hearts and minds despite being stripped of all formal authority.  General MacArthur was told by his advisors that executing the Emperor would be the same as “crucifying Jesus Christ” to the people who saw him as a God and would lead to widespread unrest insurrections.  (Harvey)  MacArthur reflects on this in his autobiography: “... I would need at least one million reinforcements should such an action be taken … Military government would have to be instituted throughout all Japan, and guerrilla warfare would probably break out.” (Harvey)  Having chosen to keep the Japanese Parliament (the Diet), as well the original cabinet in place, MacArthur next faced the question of what to do with Hirohito.  In his memoirs, MacArthur wrote of his first meeting with the Emperor.
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. (On 27 September 1945) 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 his. 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.  (MacArthur 287)
Nevertheless, both the Russians and the British wanted Hirohito to be tried and hanged as a war criminal and by November, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered MacArthur to gather information regarding whether the Emperor been responsible for any war crimes and called for either the complete abolishment of the Emperor System or steps initiating its reform along democratic lines. (National Diet Library) In response, MacArthur sent a telegram dated January 25, 1946 reporting that he could find no evidence of the Emperor’s involvement with war crimes and that to try the Emperor would generate confusion and unrest in Japan.  In his classified telegram to the War Department he wrote:
No specific and tangible evidence has been uncovered with regard to his exact activities, which might connect him in varying degree with the political decisions of the Japanese Emperor during the last decade.  I have gained the definite impression from as complete a research as was possible to me that his connection with affairs of state up to the time of the end of the war was largely ministerial and automatically responsive to the advice of his counselors.  There are those who believe that even had he positive ideas it would have been quite possible that any effort on his part to thwart the current of public opinion controlled and represented by the dominant military clique would have placed him in actual jeopardy.  If he is to be tried great changes must be made in the occupational plans and due preparation therefore should be accomplished in preparedness before actual action is initiated.  His indictment will unquestionably cause a tremendous convulsion among the Japanese people.  He is a symbol which (sic) unites all Japanese. Destroy him and the nation will disintegrate. (National Diet Library)
On August 14th, 1945, the Emperor submitted and publicly stated during the New Years Address the “Imperial Rescript for the Termination of the War” in which he stated, “The kokutai (“the line of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal”) has been maintained.” During the address, the Emperor also renounced his claim to Godhood and stated that the concept of the Emperor’s divinity was not true. (National Diet Library) That same day, MacArthur commented on Hirohito’s Imperial Rescript, praising the Emperor for taking the first steps to democratizing Japan.  He wrote in a press release;
The Emperor’s New Year’s statement pleases me very much.  By it he undertakes a leading part in the democratization of his people.  He squarely takes his stand for the future along liberal lines.  His action reflects the irresistible influence of a sound idea.  A sound idea cannot be stopped.” (National Diet Library)
Early into his position as military governor, MacArthur saw the need for a complete overhaul of the Meji Constitution. In his autobiography he said:
We could not simply encourage the growth of democracy. We had to make sure that it grew. Under the old constitution, government flowed downward from the emperor, who held the supreme authority, to those to whom he had delegated power. It was a dictatorship to begin with; a hereditary one, and the people existed to serve it. (Constitutional Rights Foundation)
To this end, MacArthur assembled a team to draft a new constitution for Japan composing of himself, Courtney Whitney, the Chief Government Section at GHQ, and the Steering Committee.  The team worked on the language of the new constitution, paying special attention to the language of the document pertaining to the relationship between the people and the Emperor.  For example, the team had originally drafted “The Emperor shall be the symbol of the state and of the Unity of the People,…” along with recognition and declaration regarding to, “the sovereignty of the people’s will.” (National Diet Library)  In March, the phrase “the sovereignty of the people’s will” was replaced with “the supreme will of the people” which made the principles for sovereignty of the people ambiguous.  (National Diet Library)  Ultimately, the language was amended to include “proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people” and the passage relating to the Emperor to read, “deriving his position from the will of the people with who resides sovereign power.” (National Diet Library)
The Japanese parliament was stunned by the radical changes in the new “model constitution” finding it hard to grasp the concept of “rule by the people” which conflicted so much with the Japanese tradition of ultimate obedience to the Emperor.  The average people of Japan were also confused and upset.  MacArthur had chosen to keep Hirohito only as “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people.” (Constitutional Rights Foundation) After debating among themselves and failing to come to a consensus, the Japanese cabinet went to the Emperor to ask if they should accept the model constitution.  On February 22, Hirohito made his decision in favor of the “model” becoming the basis for which the new Japanese constitution was written.  “Upon these principles,” Hirohito said, “will we truly rest the welfare of our people and the rebuilding of Japan.” (Constitutional Rights Foundation) However, even following the enactment of the constitution the problems in interpreting the “sovereignty of the people and the Emperor as a symbol” still proved to be a contentious issue. (National Diet Library)

            The Constitutional Rights Foundation credits MacArthur with developing democracy in Japan by abolishing laws that suppressed political, civil, and religious liberties and by forcing the Diet to pass new laws for free, democratic elections.
His policies dismantled the Japanese military industrial complex and disbarred 200,000 wartime officials from ever holding office in the new Japan. He even eliminated government support from Shinto, the official state religion.  (Constitutional Rights Foundation)
The Japanese eventually welcomed these changes. The Americans encouraged an atmosphere of free public debate and discussion on nearly every kind of issue, from politics to marriage to women’s rights. After years of wartime censorship and thought control, most Japanese appreciated their new freedom. (CountriesQuest.com)
 However, this could not be accomplished without the cooperation of Hirohito. Without the humility and bravery Hirohito displayed in surrendering to the Allies, the lives of countless solders and civilians on both sides would have been lost in the subsequent invasion.  (Sanello)

Constitutional Rights Foundation. Bringing Democracy to Japan. Los Angeles.

Harvey, Robert. "American Shogun: MacArthur, Hirohito and the American Duel with Japan." n.d.

MacArthur, General Douglas. Reminiscences. Naval Institute Press, 2001.

National Diet Library. "Emperor, Imperial Rescript Denying His Divinity (Professing His Humanity)." 2003-2004. Birth of the Constitution of Japan. April 2013 .

—. "Popular Sovereignty and the Emperor System." 2003-2004. Birth of the Japanese Constitution. April 2013 .

—. "Telegram, MacArthur to Eisenhower ... concerning exemption of the Emperor from War Criminals." 2003-2004. Documents with Commentaries. April 2013 .

Sanello, Frank. "Why Gen MacArthur Spared Emperor Hirohito
's Life but not Gen Tojo's." Red Room. June 2013 .
The MacArthur Memorial. "The Occupation of Japan Economic Policy and Reform." The Proceedings of a Symposium Sponsored by the MacArthur Memorial. Norfolk: The MacArthur Memorial, 1980.