The Broadcast of Emperor Hirohito
Announcing the Surrender of Japan
Investigation of Emperor Hirohito
for Prosecution as a War Criminal

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"I have noted in red the subtle dissembling of Hirohito." -- Roger Mansell

August 14, 1945, New York Times


After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart.

Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone-the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people-the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with death [otherwise] and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who have lost their home and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.

We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the [unavoidable] and suffering what is unsufferable. Having been able to save * * * and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

See also these assorted photos and news clippings re the Investigation of Emperor Hirohito for prosecution as war criminal. (Record Group 153, Box 107, Folders 2 and 26)

On Jan. 24, 1946, MacArthur wrote a message to the Joints Chiefs of Staff regarding the emperor:

He is a symbol which unites all Japanese. Destroy him and the nation will disintegrate. Practically all Japanese venerate him as the social head of the State and believe rightly or wrongly that the Potsdam Agreements were intended to maintain him as the emperor of Japan. They will regard Allied action to the contrary as the greatest betrayal in their history and the hatreds and resentments engendered by this thought will unquestionably last for all measurable time. A vendetta for revenge will thereby be initiated whose cycle may well not be completed for centuries if ever.

The whole of Japan can be expected, in my opinion, to resist the action either by passive or semi-active means..... It would be absolutely essential to greatly increase the occupational forces. It is quite possible that a minimum of a million troops would be required which would have to be maintained for an indefinite number of years.

The decision as to whether the emperor should be tried as a war criminal involves a policy determination upon such a high level that I would not feel it appropriate for me to make a recommendation; but if the decision by the heads of states is in the affirmative, I recommend the above measures as imperative. (Original document)

MacArthur's message regarding criminal action against the Emperor Hirohito was handled the very next day. Here's from a blog posting of mine:

February 10, 2010

MacArthur on Exemption of the Emperor
from War Criminals, January 25, 1946

Documents with Commentaries Part 3 Formulation of the GHQ Draft and Response of the Japanese Government
3-3 Telegram, MacArthur to Eisenhower, Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific, concerning exemption of the Emperor from War Criminals, January 25, 1946

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on November 29, 1945, ordered MacArthur to gather information regarding whether the Emperor had committed any war crimes. In response to this, MacArthur sent a telegram dated January 25, 1946 reporting that there was no evidence of the Emperor having committed any war crimes. In addition to this, MacArthur stated that charging the Emperor would cause confusion in the situation in Japan thus requiring a longer occupation with increased military and civilian personnel. He made it clear that he would prefer not to charge the Emperor in consideration of the burden such action would create for the United States.

Actual Title of Source Incoming Classified Message From: CINCAFPAC Adv Tokyo, Japan To: War Department
Date 25 January, 1946
Document Number State Department Records Decimal File, 1945-1949"894.001 HIROHITO/1-2546"<Sheet No. SDDF (B)00065>
Repository (reproduction) National Diet Library
Repository U.S. National Archives & Records Administration (RG59)
Note Microfiche
In a review of a book by Leonard Mosley on the Emperor of Japan, author David Bergamini wrote:

In September 1945, the Japanese cabinet, in anticipation of Allied demands, drew up a list of war criminals. Hirohito forthrightly refused even to consider it because, he said, these were his 'most loyal retainers.' MacArthur needed the emperor untried and unreviled. - LIFE magazine, June 17, 1966

For further study into why Emperor Hirohito was not tried at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (IMTFE), see Victors' Justice: Tokyo War Crimes Trial by Richard H. Minear (2015), pp. 138-145. Another book that may be helpful, a rebuttal of sorts composed of articles by scholars including Japanese, is Beyond Victor's Justice? The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited by Simpson, McCormack, and Tanaka (2011). See also the section, "Why Hirohito Was Not Tried," in War Responsibility and Historical Memory: Hirohito's Apparition by Herbert Bix (2008):

General Douglas MacArthur, before he had even arrived on Japanese soil, assumed incorrectly that Hirohito had been a mere figurehead emperor and a virtually powerless puppet of Japan's "militarists." This helped the US military to use him just as Japan's militarists had once done, to ease their rule, legitimize reforms, and insure their smooth implementation... Such occupation-sponsored myths strengthened Japanese victim consciousness and impede the search for truth... But when some of the judges on the Tokyo tribunal felt compelled to call attention in their dissenting final judgments to the emperor's total, unqualified political immunity from leadership crimes even though he had launched the aggressive war, they insured that the Hirohito case would be remembered.

One of these judges giving a dissenting opinion at the trial, Justice Bernard of France, disagreed because the emperor was NOT included in the list of those to be prosecuted, even though he felt there was enough evidence to implicate the emperor.

Another individual brought out in prominence in this whole matter is MacArthur's military secretary, Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers. Here is one excerpt, out of many possible, from Embracing Defeat by John Dower (p. 297):

Had the imperial household been privy to communications at the top level of GHQ, they would have been ecstatic, for there was little fundamental difference between their hopes and SCAP's intentions. On October 1, MacArthur received through Fellers a short legal brief that made absolutely clear that SCAP had no interest in seriously investigating Hirohito's actual role in the war undertaken in his name. The brief took as "facts" that the emperor had not exercised free will in signing the declaration of war; that he had "lack of knowledge of the true state of affairs"; and that he had risked his life in attempting to effect the surrender. It offered, in awkward legalese, the one-sentence "Conclusion" that "If fraud, menace or duress sufficient to negative intent can be affirmatively established by the Emperor, he could not stand convicted in a democratic court of law." And it ended with the following "Recommendation":

a. That in the interest of peaceful occupation and rehabilitation of Japan, prevention of revolution and communism, all facts surrounding the execution of the declaration of war and subsequent position of the Emperor which tend to show fraud, menace or duress be marshalled.
b. That if such facts are sufficient to establish an affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt, positive action be taken to prevent indictment and prosecution of the Emperor as a war criminal.

On the next day, General Fellers prepared a long memorandum for MacArthur's exclusive perusal that spelled out in richer detail why it was imperative that such mitigating "facts" be marshaled. Fellers's memo was written before SCAP's "civil liberties" directive, before free discussion existed in Japan, before political prisoners had been released from prison, before the most basic questions of "war responsibility" had been clearly formulated, before trends in popular sentiment had been seriously evaluated, before it was even legal for Japanese to speak such phrases as "popular sovereignty." It read, in full, as follows:

The attitude of the Japanese toward their Emperor is not generally understood. Unlike Christians, the Japanese have no God with whom to commune. Their Emperor is the living symbol of the race in whom lies the virtues of their ancestors. He is the incarnation of national spirit, incapable of wrong or misdeeds. Loyalty to him is absolute. Although no one fears him, all hold their Emperor in reverential awe. They would not touch him, look into his face, address him, step on his shadow. Their abject homage to him amounts to a self abnegation sustained by a religious patriotism the depth of which is incomprehensible to Westerners.

It would be a sacrilege to entertain the idea that the Emperor is on a level with the people or any governmental official. To try him as a war criminal would not only be blasphemous but a denial of spiritual freedom.

The Imperial War Rescript, 8 December 1941, was the inescapable responsibility of the Emperor who, as the head of a then sovereign state, possessed the legal right to issue it. From the highest and most reliable sources, it can be established that the war did not stem from the Emperor himself. He has personally said that he had no intention to have the War Rescript used as Tojo used it.

It is a fundamental American concept that the people of any nation have the inherent right to choose their own government. Were the Japanese given this opportunity, they would select the Emperor as the symbolic head of the state. The masses are especially devoted to Hirohito. They feel that his addressing the people personally made him unprecedentally close to them. His rescript demanding peace filled them with joy. They know he is no puppet now. They feel his retention is not a barrier to as liberal a government as they are qualified to enjoy.

In effecting our bloodless invasion, we requisitioned the services of the Emperor. By his order seven million soldiers laid down their arms and are being rapidly demobilized. Through his act hundreds of thousands of American casualties were avoided and the war terminated far ahead of schedule. Therefore having made good use of the Emperor, to try him for war crimes, to the Japanese, would amount to a breach of faith. Moreover, the Japanese feel that unconditional surrender as outlined in the Potsdam Declaration meant preservation of the State structure, which includes the Emperor.

If the Emperor were tried for war crimes, the governmental structure would collapse and a general uprising would be inevitable. The people will uncomplainingly stand any other humiliation. Although they are disarmed, there would be chaos and bloodshed. It would necessitate a large expeditionary force with many thousands of public officials. The period of occupation would be prolonged and we would have alienated the Japanese.

American long range interests require friendly relations with the Orient based on mutual respect, faith and understanding. In the long run it is of paramount, national importance that Japan harbor no lasting resentment.

SCAP's commitment to saving and using the emperor was firm. The pressing, immediate task was to create the most usable emperor possible.

Furthermore, Japanese defendants in the trials were compliant in not mentioning anything which would incriminate the emperor; from p. 325 in Dower's work:

Before the war crimes trials actually convened, SCAP, the IPS, and Japanese officials worked behind the scenes not only to prevent Emperor Hirohito from being indicted, but also to slant the testimony of the defendants to ensure that no one implicated him. Former admiral and prime minister Yonai, following Fellers's advice, apparently did caution Tojo to take care not to incriminate the emperor in any way. The collaborative campaign to shape the nature of the trials went considerably beyond this, however. High officials in court circles and the government collaborated with GHQ in compiling lists of prospective war criminals, while the hundred or so prominent individuals eventually arrested as "Class A" suspects and incarcerated in Sugamo Prison for the duration of the trial (of whom only twenty-eight were indicted) solemnly vowed on their own to protect their sovereign against any possible taint of war responsibility. The sustained intensity of this campaign to protect the emperor was revealed when, in testifying before the tribunal on December 31, 1947, Tojo momentarily strayed from the agreed-on line concerning imperial innocence and referred to the emperor's ultimate authority. The American-led prosecution immediately arranged that he be secretly coached to recant this testimony.