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Hirohito, The Emperor's Army and Pearl Harbor

Hirohito, The Emperor's Army and Pearl Harbor

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Published by Lorenzo Fabrizi

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Published by: Lorenzo Fabrizi on Mar 19, 2011
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Hirohito, the Emperor's Army and Pearl HarborAuthor(s): Saki DockrillSource:
Review of International Studies,
Vol. 18, No. 4 (Oct., 1992), pp. 319-333Published by:
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ReviewofInternational Studies(1992),18,319333 PrintedinGreat Britain
Hirohito,theEmperor'sArmyandPearl Harbor*
SAKI DOCKRILL
Thedeath of Hirohitoon7January1989providedtheJapanesewithanopportunityofreappraisingtheShowaera,asHirohito'sreigniscalledintheJapanesecalendar.Thislasted forsixty-twoyears,whichthepressdescribedasyearsof'turmoilanddrasticchanges.'1.While the role of theEmperorand,toagreaterdegree,the roleofthemilitaryinimperialJapanhavebeenlong-runningthemes forhistorians,intellectuals,andjournalists,Hirohito's deathcertainly encouragedthepublicationofalargenumberofbooks,including reprintsofworks about thePacificWar,fromsemi-officialhistories,thememoirsofsomeoftheleadingdecision makersandaseriesofhistories ofJapanfrom1868to1945.2 Televisionprogrammesshowed fortwofulldays paneldiscussionsbyhistorians anddocumentaryfilms oftheShowaera?aseries ofbloodywarsinChinaandeventuallywiththeAmericans,theBritish andtheother Alliedpowers,leadingtounconditionalsurrenderand
occupation.3
Domestic reactions varied from indifferencetoasenseofrelief,while therewerethose who felt thattheycouldfor thefirsttimeburytheir memories ofatragicandconfusedperiod.Some feltsorryforthemanwhohadreignedduring Japan'smostdifficultperiodof internationalrelations,whileothers admired theEmperor'spacifism.Therewasalsoasection ofthepopulationandsomeintellectualswhowerecriticalabouttheroleof theemperorinprewarpolitics.Asimpleandimportantquestionwaswhyhe allowedJapantobecomeboggeddowninafifteen-years'warinChina andsubsequentlyinthe PacificinDecember1941? TheEmperor'slegalpositionunder the old(Meiji)constitution remainscontroversial.YokotaKichisabur?,asupremecourtjudge,concludedin1949 thatastheEmperorwasdeeplyinvolved in thepreparationfor,andtheoutbreakof,thePacificWarandthat,
*Theoriginaldraft of thisarticlewasfirstpresentedattheMilitary HistorySeminar,atthe Institute ofHistoricalResearch,UniversityofLondon,inDecember1990.The revised and second draft of thisarticlewaspresentedatthe British InternationalHistoryAnnualConference,BISA,Durham inSeptember1991. Theauthor isverygratefultothe IHR seminarandthe audienceatDurham for theirhelpfuladvice.Theresearchwasmadepossible bythe JohnM.OlinFoundation,DepartmentofHistory,YaleUniversityandbythe MacArthurFoundation,DepartmentofWarStudies,King'sCollegeLondon.1Asahi Shimbun(dailynewspaper)(hereaftercitedasAsahi)7January1989;ainichi Shimbun(dailynewspaper),7January1989;AsahiEveningNews,1January1989.2Forinstance,eightvolumes of Taiheiyosenso e nomichi(TheRoadtothe PacificWar)originallypublishedin1962-3werere-designedandre-printedin 1988(Tokyo) SugiyamamemoeditedbytheImperial ArmyGeneralStaff(whichwasoriginallypublishedin1967) (Tokyo,1989);Seealso theinterestingstudyof theJapaneseEmperorbyThomasCrump,The DeathofanEmperor(OxfordandNewYork,1991).3TheauthorwasinTokyoatthe timeof thedeathof Hirohito.
319
 
320 Saki Dockrill
ashehadapprovedthedecision,hecouldnotescapehisresponsibilityforthatwar.4Somearguethateveniftheemperorwaslegallyimmune from allresponsibility,hedid have moralobligationstotheJapaneseandtothepopulationsofconqueredcountries who suffered fromJapanese military aggression duringthe war.5 Othersbelievethat theEmperorwasmanipulatedby politiciansand themilitary duringthe
period.6
Infact,Hirohito wantedtoabdicateatleast three timesas a meansofatoningforthe nation'sresponsibilityforthewar?first,on29August,1945,when HirohitoputthiscasestronglytoMarquisKido K?'ichi(theLordKeeperofthePrivy Seal),second,inNovember1948,whentheTokyowartribunalimposeddeathsentencesonsevenofthe leadersof the war-timeJapan, notablyGeneralToj?Hideki,andfinally,when theEmperorrepeatedhis offertoabdicateinthe aftermath ofJapan'ssignatureof thepeacetreatyinSeptember1951.7However,hisdesiretoadmit hisresponsibilitywasfrustratedbyvariousJapaneseadvisors?court officialsandpoliticalleaders?bythe Americanpolicyofpreservingthe throne for thesakeof thestabilityofoccupiedJapan,andprobablybytheEmperor'sownpersonalitywhich didnotresisttoostrenuouslythe combinedoppositionofinternaland externalopiniontohisproposedabdication.Hewasinsteadpersuadedtoremainonthe throneasasymbolofJapan.Inthe aftermath of Hirohito'sdemise,aleading Japanesenewspaperwrotethat:thedeath of Hirohito shouldnotberegardedastheendofJapanesedebatesabout
responsibilityfor thewarandthatJapanshould realizethatnoother nationbutJapanneedsto reflectuponJapan'ssinsinthepast.8
MorerecentlytheEmperor's monologueofeighthours,whichwasrecordedbetween MarchandApril1946byfivecourtofficials,hasbeenpublished.Inthis,Hirohito discussed theeventswhich tookplacefromthe assassination ofChangTwo-lin,thewarlord ofManchuriabytheKwantung Armyin1928 downtothe endofthePacific WarinAugust1945. Hirohito dictatedthis,withoutrelyingonanymemos ornotes,and,despiteoccasional flawsin hismemoryofevents,the record hasconfirmedthat Hirohitowasfairlywellbriefedbyhisdecision makers aboutJapan'snationalstrategies.This article will first deal with theEmperor'srelationswiththeJapaneseMilitaryEstablishment.Secondly,it willtrytodemonstrate that Hirohitowasnotabsolutesovereignaswasdefined under theMeijiConstitutionnordid hemerelylistentoandacceptthe adviceofhisofficials,civilian andmilitary,ashas beengenerally acceptedbyhistorians. On thecontrary,he didtrytoinfluence the crucial decisions madeby
4Forinstance,seeAsahi, 9,12and 16January1989;D.Irokawa(interview),AsahiJournal,27January1989,pp.14-6.Seealso Kisaka inTaiheiyosenso,pp.16-17;Shin NihonBunkaguKai(NewJapanLiteraryAssociation),HanTennouseiron(Anti-EmperorViews)(6thedn,Tokyo,1986).5Forinstance,Asahi,12January1989;KHayashi,'Senso Sekinintowananika'(Whatis theWarResponsibility?)inBungei-shunju (Tokyo),67,no.4(March 1989),pp.264?5.6Thisreflects the mainstreamofJapanese thinking;forinstance,Asahi9,12and 16January1989;discussionsbycritics,writers,and historiansonTV(channels2, 6, 8,10)on7January1989;S.Oue,Tennounoguntai (TheEmperor's Army) (Tokyo,1988).7H.Takahashi,ShochoTennou(The EmperorasaSymbol),pp.18-59;seealso SukemasaIriye(whoservedattheboardofthe Chamberlainin theImperialHouseholdafter 1935 andwastheGrandChamberlain from 1969 until his deathin1985),IriyeJijuchonoshuki(IriyeGrandChamberlain'sDiaries),entries of11Mayand 17August1948printedinAsahi,1February1989;andentryof2May1951(inwhichIriyeobserves that theEmperor finallygave uphisplanstoabdicate),inAsahi,3February1989.8Author'stranslation,quotedfromAsahi,9January1989.

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