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American Occupation Policy Towards Japan Essay

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Updated: Nov 19th, 2020

Introduction: Background

WWII remains one of the worst bloodbaths in human history and the most horrid crimes against humanity. The Nazi and Fascist movements that represented the Axis were the epitome of evil, striving to conquer the world and deprive people of their basic human rights by claiming that certain nations were superior to others (Butler 2016). The victory of the Allies, while admittedly glorious, was also bittersweet because of the numerous losses that had been taken during the war. However, with the defeat that the Axis suffered, new issues emerged.

Particularly, the problems associated with the further development of the relationships between the Entente and the Axis appeared immediately. Indeed, the shift from a military confrontation to the further political, economic, and financial collaboration required further development of relationships between the two camps (Tsai & Nakajima 2016). Therefore, it was needed to introduce the policy that could allow the former members of the Axis to evolve in a way that would not harm the global society.

Thus, the occupation policy was born (Shumann 2014). Since the idea was highly controversial and evolved from the mere promotion of change toward democracy to the aggressive promotion of specific relationships, as well as a gradual loss of control over the actions of the military, the overall process of the policy development left much to be desired, providing bitter yet essential lessons about multicultural relationships to the posterity.

Policy Description

According to the primary principles of the occupation policy that the United States was executed in Japan, Okinawa, the Amami Islands, the Ogasawara Islands, and the areas that were subordinate to Japan at the time had to be occupied by the United States (Cohen 2015). Furthermore, the supervision of how the policy was implemented was assigned to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). Douglas McArthur was chosen as the SCAP and given the responsibility of managing and controlling the relevant operations in Japan (Culver 2014).

McAdams considered the redesign of the infrastructure and, therefore, the creation of new opportunities for agriculture development as the primary goals of the occupation process. The reasons for the specified step to be taken were quite obvious. Devastated by the war and the economic challenges that it entailed, the state was starving and, therefore, needed food resources badly: “The SCAP officials also felt that the zaibatsu – bureaucratic factions – needed to be reformed. MacArthur was concerned with government workers’ strikes, which could signal an attempt at a revolution” (Tsai & Nakajima, 2016, p. 123).

Furthermore, the policy suggested that war criminals should be sentenced accordingly. Particularly, it was necessary to make sure that all representatives of the Japanese Nazi camp should receive the appropriate punishment. Trials were due for all participants of the Nazi movement in Japan (Schmidt 2016).


At the end of WWII, the AXIS powers were in shambles, for the most part (Brody et al. 2014). However, defeating the enemy was only the first step toward safeguarding the world against the threat of Nazism (Selden 2016).

With the regimes that defied democratic principles, the states that constituted the Axis still posed a significant threat to world peace (Garon 2016). Therefore, it was vital to make sure that the defeated states should not resort to more violence to exact vengeance on the rest of the world (Moore & Robinson 2002). Therefore, it was crucial to not merely contain the dangerous potential of the said states but also to reduce it to the minimum. Therefore, the United States as one of the members of the Allies developed occupation policy in Japan as one of the former members of the Axis, claiming the necessity to promote democracy and eliminate any remnants of Nazism as the primary goal of the occupation policy (Moore & Robinson 2002).

Step 1: Analysis

The development of the occupational policy toward the started with a comparatively rigid set of standards as far as the implementation was concerned. Particularly, the beginning of the occupation could be characterized by a set of fixed demands toward the Japanese government and a clear course of actions that had to be taken to achieve the necessary goals, i.e., eradicating the concept of Nazism.

Indeed, at the beginning of the occupation, the U.S. military forces were guided by the requirements set in the Potsdam Declaration; particularly, it was crucial to punish all those that were involved in the creation and promotion of the Nazi movement, the disarmament of the Japanese military forces, and the further promotion of democratic principles in the state as opposed to the Nazi doctrine that used to guide Japanese people (Satio 2017).

The identified goals, while being generic, could be deemed as rather sensible given the challenges that the Allies had to address. The focus on the promotion of the appropriate political values that were based on the tenets of democracy was necessary to reduce the impact of the regime that had been affecting people’s concept of power and relationships between the state and its citizens for years.

Furthermore, the emphasis on the economic growth in the state could be viewed as an essential step toward the improvement of the citizens’ well-being, which was deplorable because of the war. Finally, the enhancement of change in the civic values and the promotion thereof among the Japanese population seemed a sensible step to take given the years of Nazi ideology being forced as the only possible doctrine (Satio 2017).

Step 2: Analysis

However, the further steps of the policy development could raise a few eyebrows. One of the most notorious choices that were made during the occupation of Japan, the decision to use religious changes as a tool for promoting the necessary values and ideas to the target population deserves to be mentioned. While the concept of using faith as the means of instilling certain values and morals is nothing new, it did not work to the advantage of the United States.

Particularly, the failure of the U.S. authorities to abolish Shinto as the state religion was viewed as one of the driving forces behind the Japanese military movement deserves to be mentioned. The identified change in the U.S. policy toward the management of the occupation process serves as graphic evidence of gradual loss of control over the ideas that were supported and promoted by the Potsdam Declaration (Masafumi 2010).

Finally, the fact that violence against civilians became common quite soon shows that the lack of control was one of the primary problems with the development of the U.S. policy in Japan. Particularly, the fact that the idea of promoting democracy and freedom evolved to the enhancement of violent behaviors among the U.S. military, as well as the promotion of lenience toward the representatives of the Japanese aristocracy, points to the obvious flaws in the development of the program.

Step 3: Implications. Analysis

Even though the initial ideas implanted into the U.S. occupation program in Japan were rather well-meaning, the further development thereof led to a range of negative outcomes that, in turn, triggered significant issues in the relationships between U.S. and Japan. The emphasis on change without an actual understanding of the specifics of the Japanese culture, as well as the further lack of regard for the needs and feelings of the residents, reduced the efficacy of the occupation process. It should also be borne in mind that, due to the lack of control that the U.S. officials had over how the policy was implemented in Japan, civilians were under a considerable threat. Particularly, the instances of rape became very frequent (Cuerda-Galindo et al. 2014)

Germany Occupation: Comparison

While Japan was seized by the United States, Germany had to submit to several states. Particularly, the country was under the aegis of the USSR, France, Great Britain, and the USSR (Dittmer 2014). The specified detail invited a plethora of changes to the occupation policy. Particularly, the trials that the representatives of the enemy camp had to face were much more objective in Germany, where the legal processes involved the consideration of the cases from the perspective of all of the said states. Japan, in turn, witnessed a plethora of controversy as far as the prosecution of the representatives of the Japanese aristocracy was concerned (Mizuno 2013).

Particularly, the trials during which the Japanese aristocracy was prosecuted tended to be much more lenient toward the defendants because of the protection that the specified members of the Japanese population had (Masland 1947). The reasons for the specified phenomenon to occur concern primarily the fact that the American occupation of Japan did not imply rigid control over the political and criminal procedures as the occupation of Germany did (Borton 1948). To be more exact, some of the U.S. officials responsible for the execution of the trials and the relevant procedures were quite sympathetic with the Japanese elite and, therefore, made certain that the punishment should not be as severe as the Axis supporters deserved:

U.S. officials, being members of a privileged class themselves and connected to Japanese political elites, had no faith in the capability of the Japanese people to govern themselves in a democratic system and therefore could envision only halfhearted reform proposals. (Kimura 2014, p. 251)

As stressed above, the lack of supervision from other states of the Allies created prerequisites for the specified phenomenon to happen. If tighter control over the execution of the occupation policies had been provided, the specified situation would have been avoided. However, unlike in Germany, where several states were representing the justice system, and, therefore, very little room was left for unlawful negotiation, in Japan, the supervision was much looser.

However, there were some similarities in the way in which injustice worked its way into the implementation of the occupation strategies in Japan and Germany. For instance, the policy developed from the concept of preventing the emergence of Nazism and similar doctrines in the environment of the specified states to the process of hunting down civilians (Ming 2015).

The Allied invasion of Sicily was also aimed at containing the potential that could have possibly caused another military conflict and sparked another war with the Nazi forces. It should be noted that the identified operation bears a range of similarities to the Japanese one as far as the economic aspect of the process is concerned. Particularly, equally great attention was paid to the infrastructure of the state and how it could evolve.

However, in contrast to the endeavors of the U.S. representatives to promote the economic growth in the state, the operations in Italy pursued a rather different plan that focused less on the wellbeing of the residents and more on the safety of the rest of the world. Particularly, the local infrastructure was analyzed carefully so that it could be seized, and that the possible transfer of the relevant information and supplies among the remnants of the Axis forces could be prevented successfully (Barai & Saha 2015).

Therefore, the policy of the U.S. authorities regarding the occupation of Japan was quite different from the one that the military troops executed in Italy. Even though the goals were similar in each case (i.e., the prevention of further Nazi-related ideas and ideology development and the promotion of peace), the means that were chosen to implement the said policy in Japan were oriented toward the creation of new opportunities rather than the destruction of the existing ones.

Furthermore, the fact that the resistance toward the implementation of the policy was much greater in Italy than in Japan deserves to be mentioned as the crucial difference: “It took the Allies another nine months to liberate Rome. The campaign in Sicily was swift, but the campaigns in Italy proved to be longer and harder. Thousands of Americans lost their lives, along with thousands of their Allies” (American Battle Monuments Commission n.d., para. 8).

Therefore, despite the common goal of the occupation policies designed by the Allies, how these policies were executed in different areas were strikingly different. The reasons for the specified discrepancies between the execution approach to existing concerns the fact that the identified goals had to be met under the pressure of the different economic, political, cultural, and technological environment. For instance, the inconsistencies between the infrastructure principles promoted in the United States and those that were used in Japan prevented from the enhancement of the state’s recovery; thus, the relevant challenges had to be met accordingly.

Similarly, the lack of supervision over the execution had had its toll and led to the unfair trials carried out in the Japanese courts, with numerous Nazi leaders being given a minimum punishment due to the connections that they had with wealthy representatives of the justice system.


Even after the WWI had been over, it was crucial to maintain close supervision over the former Axis states so that any possible factor that could have contributed to the development of any Nazi-associated ideas or movements could be stifled immediately. Therefore, the occupation of the Axis states was viewed as a necessity, and Japan was one of the countries over which the United States was supposed to take control.

Even though, as an outline, the plan created to build the occupation strategy seemed reasonable enough, the actual execution of the policy was rather sloppy, which led to numerous instances of injustice, especially as far as the trials were concerned. Because of the absence of the American representatives in the identified area, the members of the Japanese aristocracy managed to negotiate with the local executives so that the trial results could be less harsh.

Nevertheless, the occupation policy served its basic purpose. While it was flawed at the core due to the lack of control over the execution process, it has had the required result; particularly, the Nazi movement was stifled in Japan. Therefore, in retrospect, the essential goals were achieved. That being said, the policy chosen by the United States, as well as how it was executed, has led to the tensions that are likely to have a significant impact on the relationships between the United States and Japan in the future. Thus, it is required that diplomacy and mutual compromise should be viewed as the foundation for managing further communication between the two.

Therefore, it would be wrong to define that the occupation of Japan as a positive or a negative phenomenon; instead, it should be viewed as the measure that was the only available option at the time, and that had its positive and negative outcomes. One must admit that the idea of occupation, no matter what goals it might pursue, is intrinsically wrong. However, as the choice of the lesser evil and the deliberate usage of the strategy secure millions of people, the identified approach succeeded. Thus, the identified part of the global history must be viewed as an important lesson in using power wisely and preventing its abuse since the further development of relationships between the opponents is bound to be beyond complicated.

Reference List

American Battle Monuments Commission n.d., . Web.

Barai, MK & Saha, BB 2015, ‘Energy security and sustainability in Japan’, Joint Journal of Novel Carbon Resource Sciences & Green Asian Strategy, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 49-56.

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Brody, H, Leonard, SE, Nie, JB & Weindling, P 2014, ‘United States responses to japanese wartime inhuman experimentation after World War II: national security and wartime exigency’, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 220-230.

Cohen, BC 2015, Political process and foreign policy: the making of the Japanese peace, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Cuerda-Galindo, E, Sierra-Valentí, X, González-Lopez, E, Lopez-Munoz, F 2014, ‘Syphilis and human experimentation from the first appearance of the disease to World War II: a historical perspective and reflections on ethics’, Actas Dermo-Sifiliograficas, vol, 105, no.8, pp. 762-767.

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