Robert W. Barnett Oral History Interview

Robert W. Barnett

Oral History Interview with
Robert W. Barnett

U.S. member of economics and reparations committees, Far Eastern Commission, representing U.S. Dept. of State, Japan, 1945-49; officer in charge, China economic affairs, State Dept., 1949-51; and officer in charge of Western European economic affairs, State Dept., 1951-54.

Washington, D.C.
January 26, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1976
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
Robert W. Barnett


Washington, D.C.
January 26, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie


MCKINZIE: Mr. Barnett, would you comment on how you came to choose a Government career, and particularly how you came to be involved with the China relief in 1941-42, and then, ultimately, say something about the circumstances of your appointment to the Far Eastern Commission.

BARNETT: I did not choose a Government career. I had no intention of working for the Government. When I finished college and went on to Oxford, and then from Oxford came back to Yale, my


life plan was to be a writer, and I had my eyes on a number of ways to do that. I would be an editor of a small magazine in the Far East, or get on the editorial board of a magazine like Fortune. I wanted to write about China, and I wanted to write, as my way of dealing with a number of the problems that I thought were of importance to our time.

My studies at Oxford served that purpose; my graduate work at Yale, where I studied Chinese, served it too. When war between China and Japan became violent and pervasive through the countryside, I was very much tempted to get in the war on the Chinese side against the Japanese, but nobody was urging me to volunteer. Working for the United China Relief was a way of my becoming morally and administratively involved in a war that meant a great deal to me. I was bitterly anti-Japanese, vengefully so, during those years. And my academic pursuits


had a practical and pugilistic motivation.

I was sent to China by the United China Relief right after the loss of the Burma Road to make an analysis of how it was possible to get help to a China which was inaccessible to any kind of logistic support, and whose major internal problem was inflation. So, how could foreign relief move into the China scene without contributing to inflation, or without making demands on the transportation facilities that were really much more needed for things like gasoline and spare parts for trucks and airplane engines and that kind of thing? But I did go to Chungking for United China Relief and used my time there to make the acquaintance of almost everybody in the Chinese power apparatus.

I saw Chou En-lai quite a few times in Chungking, saw Madam Chiang [Kai-shek], Madam Kung and Madam T.V. Soong, all the women in the picture, and then the principal ministers -- of foreign affairs, of finance, and so on. It


turned out to be quite a dangerous trip, both getting there and coming back. The Hump was a very dangerous flight and they didn't know much about it; but I got back.

I was still a civilian and I had this rather extraordinary experience with the Chung-king governing apparatus after the loss of the Burma Road -- after the loss of the coast -- and so putting China in isolation.

I got back and I found it intolerable not to be in a uniform. I was approached, as a matter of fact, by a number of organizations to wear all kinds of fake uniforms -- OSS: "Be a captain in our army." Navy also thought they would like to have me put on their uniform and start working on postwar administration in the Pacific Islands.

Well, this wasn't my idea of fighting a war, so I joined the Air Force and I went to officer's training school in Miami Beach,


became a second lieutenant and then went to air intelligence school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then to the Pentagon briefly from where I was assigned to be a member of General [Claire Lee] Chennault's staff, the 14th Air Force, the Flying Tigers.

Well, I got out to China with doctoral training in Chinese. I had written a book and so on, so on. But I was reminded that in a war there can be things that are more important than learning, or "intelligence" even; supplies were more important. So, I became the supply officer of the 23rd Fighter Group, which was really the Flying Tigers. It was the fighter group that later grew into an Air Force.

Well, I was, as I say, the supply officer for this fighter group for about a month when General Chennault discovered I was doing that and he said, "Well, look, we have better use for you." So, he brought me to 14th Air Force headquarters, where I was very soon placed in charge


of combat intelligence for the Air Force, I briefed General Chennault every morning for two years, and I briefed many who came through -- General Wedemeyer and Vice President [Henry] Wallace, and Senator [Mike] Mansfield and Walter Judd, etc.

I got the daily and the weekly and the monthly intelligence reports out to units in the field and then back to headquarters here in Washington. But through this whole involvement with the military operation in China, a number of things became very clear to me. One was that the 14th was doing most of the fighting so far as we were concerned, and that the Army and the Navy and the Marines' components, ours, were engaged in a variety of training and logistic exercises, but weren't doing very much fighting. They all seemed to be somewhat overstaffed as compared with our Air Force, that always felt understaffed.


They became much more political than the 14th Air Force, and in the "toing and froing" of the American military personnel and diplomatic personnel there were the Jack [John S.] Services and the John Davies and the John Emmersons and so on who were on the Stilwell side of this operation who got to know the political situation in China, to some extent at the cost of having a good appreciation of what the military situation was. We in the 14th Air Force had the reverse problem. We were fighting the war month by month and were not really all that concerned with what would be the profile of China five years after the end of the war.

For one thing, nobody really knew when the end of the war was going to be, and five years after the end of the unending war was kind of farfetched in the terms of the living, the combat and the administrative and political interests and responsibilities of the people


actually fighting the war in the 14th Air Force context.

Well, this meant that my China experience was very combat oriented, but it was experience in which I had continuing acquaintance, association, friendship with people who had time to do a lot of other things. I left the 14th Air Force about six months before the surrender.

I was brought back to the Pentagon to work on intelligence there. During that period of time my intention was to leave the armed forces to get into my kind of journalism -- this was what I wanted to do, and I had the contacts to do it. I knew Harry Luce, and I knew the New York Times people, and so I thought that it was a matter of getting out of the uniform and having two or three conversations and starting over. I had no idea of starting at the top, I just wanted to start.

Well, I was in the Pentagon, working,


actually, on the Japanese surrender problem when I had a phone call from Ed Martin, who is now the chairman of the DAC, Development Assistance Committee, in Paris. And he asked if I would be willing to join him in a small exercise, supporting Under Secretary Will Clayton in the State Department, who was the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, and had been charged with responsibility for the occupied areas, and, in this case, specifically Japan. Ed Martin was named to be the adviser, to Will Clayton, on the occupation of Japan. Ed belonged to a State, War and Navy Coordinating Committee, and he wanted to have somebody to back him up. I didn't know him, he didn't know me, though he knew my wife who worked with him in OSS during the war. But he had read the book that I had written on Shanghai and he thought that I might be of value to him.

Well, I told him I was not interested, that


I didn't want to work for the Government. In any case, I didn't want to work on Japan, that if I did anything I would want to work on China, not Japan. I knew something about China, I didn't know anything about Japan.

So he said, "Well, I'm really in a jam, why don't you agree to work for say, three or four months, just so we can get through this period of writing the post-surrender directive, which was negotiated through the State, War and Navy Coordinating Committee and was sent out as a directive to the occupation, to [General Douglas] MacArthur. And that had been the work of a great many people in the State Department on the political side with Ed working a bit on the economic side of the SWNCC document. The thing that really pursuaded me was that he arranged to have Secretary [James F.] Byrnes, write a letter to Secretary [Henry L.] Stimson saying that the vital national interests were involved in my


being discharged from the Air Force before I had accumulated enough points. You know you couldn't get out at that time without having points. Well, I had a lot of points, but not enough. It was just short. In a normal kind of discharge proceedings I would not have left the Air Force until, oh, maybe March of 1946. And here it was in October '45 with Byrnes writing Stimson, you know, I thought, "My God, I only have to work three or four months to get out of this damn uniform, and you know, maybe working through the State Department a little while, what's wrong with that?" So, it was strictly on a temporary, and I must say somewhat cynical basis, that I decided that I'd work for the State Department.

I was given an office over in the basement of the Executive Office Building. Ed Martin had an office there and I had an adjoining office, and we had some secretaries that tried to help us.


Then this trip to Japan was staged. There was a meeting in Moscow where Jack Ahernstein and several other people were along. John Carter Vincent was on that trip, and they talked about a Far Eastern Commission with the Russians. The idea was that the occupation of Japan would be administratively in the hands of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. There would be an Allied Control Commission in Tokyo, but it really wasn't any kind of a control commission at all. It was just a fake, and there would be a Far Eastern Commission made up of 11 countries who would lay down the policy directives for the Supreme Commander and the Supreme Commander would have all of the executive discretion, but his policy guidelines would be furnished him by an international body in which there were an appropriate number of vetoes; ours and the Russians, I guess, and the Chinese. But anyway, this was all a joke. The vetoes didn't


really make a damn bit of difference.

Well, it didn't operate that way, because MacArthur once he got the directive from the U.S. Government just settled down and was doing everything the way he thought fit, from the moment he arrived, and he arrived right after the surrender in September.

MCKINZIE: The Far Eastern Commission, I take it, was to make its recommendations to the U.S. Government, the U.S. Government was then to convey them to the Supreme Commander in the Pacific, is that correct?

BARNETT: That was roughly the procedure. Now prior to the construction of the Far Eastern Commission you know we handled the relationship to MacArthur and we were the people who pulled together the Far Eastern Commission before it really got into business. The first act of business, you might say, in the Far Eastern Commission


was to go to Japan. And on the 26th of December, 1945, representatives from ten countries -- the Russians were not in that group, but the other ten were -- got on airplanes down here at National Airport and flew across the country. This was a long, long trip -- prejet, of course, everything took a long time. We flew all the way to Pearl Harbor on four-engine, I guess maybe, C-54s. And when we got to Pearl Harbor we left our planes and got onto the Mt. McKinley which was a naval command vessel, a communications vessel. Apparently communications vessels have lots of officers and these officers had officers quarters, so there were enough places where reasonably senior diplomats could find a place to, you know, have a drink and maybe even have a meal. served in their room. And that's the way we traveled from Pearl Harbor to Japan.
Well, we got to Japan after about eight or nine days of steaming across the Pacific.


Of course, there's a terrible problem of accommodations in Japan. And so, instead of going to any normal port like Kobe, Osaka or Yokohama, we went right into Tokyo, which is unusual, and docked there and stayed there aboard the Mt. McKinley for the whole time we were in Japan. We either stayed on the Mt. McKinley or on the Emperor's private car, railway car, while we were in Japan looking around the country.

During this period the Far Eastern Commission was given really the most fantastic briefing that I think that I have ever seen staged. It was a highly professional briefing by all the senior officers on MacArthur's staff. MacArthur's own association with the members of the Far Eastern Commission was a scintillating and overpowering PR job. They left his presence believing that in history there may have been somebody like Socrates, and then there was Jesus Christ.


Along the way there were some second-rate characters like Julius Caesar and Napoleon, but then there was MacArthur, and you know, MacArthur was just fantastic, he really took them all in tow personally.

There was no Russian member of the group then, but even the Asians with whom I thought MacArthur had a rather poor style, were, I think, very much impressed by him.

So the experience with Japan, on the spot, gave this group of ten people and their lieutenants (I guess the whole party couldn't have been more than 75), a sense of seeing what their problem was: the problem of Japan that had fought an incredible war against the world for four years, that was prostrate as a result of the fire bombings and of course the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; of broken spirit; of great disorientation, a kind of clinging together in family and company units, of


unbelievable shock. Japan was in bad shape. There was a real question in the minds of most people looking at it whether it could survive. It had been stripped of its empire.

MCKINZIE: Do you recall your own emotions, after having been so pro-Chinese, to now see a prostrate Japan?

BARNETT: I wasn't sorry at all. I was horrified by Hiroshima and I will be to the day I die. I just think that decision was a horror and I'm prepared to say that I think it was a wrong decision to drop it. I was very faint the whole time I was in Hiroshima, physically. Everything about it in early January of 1946 seemed to me to be bad, I don't believe it when people say that this was needed to end the war. I think the war was coming to an end without it. This dimension of warfare, the nuclear dimension, struck me even then as being


suicidal for mankind, and I did not like it, any part of it. Notwithstanding that feeling about Hiroshima, and the ghastly spectacle of Tokyo and Yokohama and the port areas down in Kyushu, to the south, I was still pretty vengeful, because I had lived a lifetime of watching what the Japanese had done to everybody else, much more helpless people than they. So I was not instantly forgiving at all. But as I say, they were short of food; they were not self-supporting with their food, so we had to think of that right off.

When we came back to Washington to sort of constitute ourselves as a working commission, all kinds of very interesting things started to take shape. As to the committee structure of the Far Eastern Commission, you had your plenary meetings at which were members of the commission minus one, their deputies. Then you had your committee structure: constitutional committee,


the political committee, the economics committee, reparations and restitution committee, and the military committee. Each one of these committees had a U.S. member, and each U.S. member spoke with the authority of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee. So, the State Department did not have a free ride in representing U.S. positions on these committees. The State Department was the kind of a spokesman for positions that were worked out within the U.S. Government, as being the U.S. attitude or position on one question or another.

Well, I guess you might say that the big job had already been done before the Far Eastern Commission was ever constituted, in the form of the SWNCC directive to Mr. MacArthur on the post-surrender policy. At first the Far Eastern Commission was furious that they had had their authority preempted by us, by the U.S. Government and this directive to MacArthur. At first


MacArthur was furious that the Far Eastern Commission was butting into his business because he had already gotten his directive from SWNCC. You know, why should these goddamn foreigners have any opinion as to what was proper for him to do or not to do.

But it turned out in the end that the Far Eastern Commission members came to feel that the directive was really very good, very good -- in some ways more radical than some of the members would have preferred. Look, for instance, the British were not in favor of the decartelization objectives. It was silent on some things of considerable importance to the Commission, like reparations for instance, but by and large they felt that the post-surrender document was, pretty good. There was some arguments and nit picks on this provision or that.

MCKINZIE: But the assumption of SWNCC in drawing up that directive that there was an economic


clique which contributed to the war machine, was accepted by the Far Eastern Commission as being valid assumption.

BARNETT: Oh, absolutely. And not only that, but the funny thing is that MacArthur went even further than the SWNCC or the Far Eastern Commission would have supposed he would do in acting on his own in the decartelization program. This was a big thing in MacArthur's own feeling of what was needed for Japan.

MacArthur, through the War Department and even through SWNCC and through the State Department, never let a day pass without finding some way of telling the Far Eastern Commission that he wished they didn't exist. He wished they'd go away, forget about it. "I'm doing fine, I don't like to have my authority interfered with by these irresponsible stupidities of yours." But in the end, when the Far Eastern Commission approved a slightly revised version of this


directive, MacArthur thought that was absolutely great, you know, to have international blessing, finally, for this thing that he had tried to keep them out of, to have them finally approve of something very close to what he wanted. He recognized that as a fantastic asset.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Far Eastern Commission was a very good place to analyze how it was that after the war, after the fighting, there was a tremendous propensity on the part of Americans to want to write "U.S.A." over everything. You know, occupation of Japan, "U.S.A." aid to South Korea, "U.S.A."; aid to Vietnam, "U.S.A."; Marshall plan, "U.S.A." I think maybe this propensity for putting the U.S.A. mark on this or that foreign operation was related in a rather critical way to the inexperience of the American system in the field of appropriating money for anything that was not domestically oriented or war oriented. Our occupation responsibilities in Europe and Asia


needed some appropriations and we thought we could only get those appropriations from the Congress if we acted as though we owned the world, or that somebody was trying to take it away from us.

MCKINZIE: Even at this very early period, even in 1945?

BARNETT: I remember having a conversation with General George Marshall, he was Secretary of State at that time, and he was talking about the Constitution and where power resides, and he was putting his finger on the Appropriations Committee as probably the most vital center of real power in the U.S. apparatus. Refusal of a request for an appropriation for a program kills a program and so I think much of the kind of chauvinism, post-surrender, that we saw in many parts of the world can be attributed to some extent to a practical assessment of what was needed to get the dough from the Congress.


I guess I'm saying that the occupation of Japan became an internationally blessed operation against the opposition of MacArthur and the Pentagon, who in my opinion should have welcomed the spread of responsibility and welcomed the existence of something like the Far Eastern Commission, and instead didn't and tried to frustrate its operations. But when, in the end, the Commission, as it were, put a stamp of moderated approval on what had already been done by their man MacArthur, they were very happy about that.

MCKINZIE: In your work in the Economic Committee of the Far Eastern Commission, how far in advance were you thinking? That is to say, with the decartelization program, there was obviously going to be further economic disruptions in Japan's economic life. Did the Far Eastern Commission economists, your people, think about the reintegration of Japan into some sort of


world trade system, and if so at what rate, according to what timetable, and at what level?

BARNETT: The assessment of Japan's capabilities in 1946-47 was quite low, and appreciation of the anti-Japanese feeling all the way around the world was very acute. And there was a kind of political-military sensitivity about Japan's relations with China, both before and after the Korean war. You may think I'm jumping ahead, but as we thought of Japan in a world economy we thought that we could hardly do better than to work for a state of affairs in which about the most you could hope for Japan was that it would be given nondiscriminatory access to the markets of normal trading partners. Our exception to that as a general proposition being that we didn't particularly want to have them trade with the Communists. Very early on we believed in economic warfare. Even though the


Japanese were in bad shape they should pitch in and help in the strategies of this kind of warfare, We thought that there was likely to develop a natural complementarity in the trade relations of Japan with its neighboring countries in Asia, and much of our talk was in the Far Eastern Commission and we, in the State Department, influenced by the Far Eastern Commission discussion, much of our effort was devoted to removing obstacles to Japanese exports that had been set up for political reasons.

In 1948 I remember that I went to London with Howard Peterson who was Secretary of the Army in the '45-'46 period, I think. he may have gone to Philadelphia to become a banker in '48. Howard Peterson and John Leddy, who later became Assistant Secretary for Europe, and I was the third, went to London for a meeting. I was told that it was the first meeting in which an


American delegation had negotiated with representatives from the entire British Commonwealth. There happened to be some kind of Commonwealth meeting, and we grabbed a part of their time and we had a meeting with representatives from the whole British Commonwealth. The purpose of the session was for us to persuade the Commonwealth to accord Japan "most favored nation" treatment in trade.

Well, the Commonwealth had very uneven and mixed feelings about this. They wanted to go on discriminating against Japan, for vengeful postwar reasons, not because they were afraid of Japan as a big economic deal, because they hated the guts of these guys who were not very nice to them during the war.

MCKINZIE: Is it a fair question to ask how much anti-Russian feeling in the United States contributed towards feelings about rebuilding Japan? That is to say, make allies out of your


former enemies, because you now have new enemies. Was that a visible phenomenon in the Department of State?

BARNETT: Yes, I think it probably figured. I think it probably figured that the rehabilitation of Japan was justified by a Washington notion that we needed a friend, an associate, for balancing purposes, vis-a-vis the Russians, and it would have been just marvelous if that could have turned out to be the Chinese, but Chiang Kai-shek was goofing it up. He was no good in dealing with the Communist problem and there was no evidence that the Chinese Communists were about to join us as a counterweight to the Russians. Japan was knocked out and in disorder and a depressed and despondent and disoriented society, but it was conceivable that with some help they could be put on their feet and would be of value in these terms. I think the term that was used in the bureaucracy at that time was the


"crank up program" for Japan. Amongst the policy planners and strategists there was a kind of deliberate parting of the ways when it was felt that it was futile to think of China as being of much value to us and it was promising to think of Japan becoming useful to us over the longer term. And it was up to us to make them our real friends, to give them some strength of their own, and to hope for their collaboration in worthwhile projects in Asia.

MCKINZIE: Was it an article of faith among the people in the economic and political sections that increasing the standard of living of the Japanese people would tend to discourage success of the Communist movement in Japan?

BARNETT: I don't think that that was the big thing. I don't think that we feared that a poor Japan would become a Communist Japan. I don't recall that we appropriated money to buy them food and


clothing and that kind of thing to halt the spread of communism within.

There was a Communist Party; in fact the Communist leadership in Tokyo right after the surrender was really very attractive. It was rational and had lived with Mao Tse-tung in Yenan; they were worldly; they were pro-American; they were anti-Japanese military. There was a lot of appeal. And MacArthur and his headquarters dealt with them along with everybody else. I didn't observe any hysterical anti-Communist sentiment at SCAP towards the Japanese Communists. It might have come later, but not right there at the beginning of the occupation.

MCKINZIE: You mentioned that General MacArthur thought better of the Far Eastern Commission after it endorsed a document which was similar to the original SWNCC post-surrender directive. Did the Far Eastern Commission make some recommendations soon thereafter that were in advance to the


kinds of reform that General MacArthur was willing or ready to make -- of an economic nature?

BARNETT: Well, on economic policy the debates on the decartelization within the Far Eastern Commission turned up a number of viewpoints that would have slowed down what MacArthur was already doing in the field of decartelization. If you want to call decartelization radical, MacArthur was more radical than the Far Eastern Commission.

MCKINZIE: What convinced you not to go back into journalism?

BARNETT: I guess inertia. You know, it's kind of heady, after ten years of horsing around in universities or even being a moderately responsible officer in the Air Force, to suddenly be tagged as the spokesman for the United States in conversations every day of the week with ten other governments, it makes you feel as though you're sort of in the center of things, even though


there isn't much going on. You, after all, are in touch with the whole U.S. Government reflecting a U.S. Government interest and position in negotiations with ten other governments. That's something. They ask you, you tell them, they send a telegram, they get a reply, you have a picture of London and Moscow all sort of waiting for you to tell them what Washington thinks on this matter. It's an exciting exercise, technically. In a very minor way it's conceivable that we had some impact on history; in a major way we had an impact on the flow of telegrams you know.

MCKINZIE: You're not willing to "write off" the effect of the Far Eastern Commission then?

BARNETT: No, I think the Far Eastern Commission did some good.

MCKINZIE: By persevering?

BARNETT: I think it was very desirable to have


Washington bothered by a lot of other people saying we don't want U.S.A. to be written all over the place without a challenge. I think it was desirable to have a place where other people said, we are neighbors of Japan too, and the way Japan is going to be in the future is of importance to us too. And even though we don't have MacArthur on the spot, even if we don't have a Congress that can appropriate five or six hundred million dollars a year for this or that, it is important to us how Japan is occupied, administered, and where it's headed. I think it was good for Washington to have somebody, a group of people here who were saying that every day, and a group of Americans who had to listen and report on it.

I am a very great believer in the value of multilateral negotiation as a technique for reminding governments that problems which may administratively seem to be quite simple, because


there is a guy on the spot here, there is money here, that looks very simple, but if you have a multilateral agency that is watching that operation, after awhile it dawns on you that what happens is important to a lot of other people too.

I'm sorry that there wasn't something like that for Vietnam. The U.N. wasn't on it. There was no way, apparently, in all of these years -- God, decades -- in which we really had a way of judging how what we were doing and saying about Vietnam was really affecting other people.

MCKINZIE: Even at that time there were important decisions to be made about Indochina.

BARNETT: Right, but I'm thinking about -- in the Japan case I think other countries learned a lot about Japan. It gave them a way to follow the situation, get rid of some old illusions and delusions, make their assessment of strength and weakness in character, accept the credibility of a pacified



Now, you know, I think the world believes that the Japanese people are pacifists. I think they are. I think most of the world thinks they are pacifists now. I'm not sure that that would have happened without a start rather early on in the game, of being in on that operation in a more or less official capacity so they could demand information and get it on this or that aspect of what was happening. So, no, I don't write it off.

MCKINZIE: How do you account for the fact that General MacArthur seemed to have such tremendous personal control over the occupation of Japan when Lucius Clay had no analogous control over the occupation of Germany?

BARNETT: All right. I think the terms of reference of the Far Eastern Commission and of the occupation of Japan, in which the Russians were associated from the beginning, gave MacArthur that power, that's point one. The Russians, I


think, were kind of sucked into believing that the Allied Control Commission and the Far Eastern Commission would have somewhat more influence than they actually did, but the Russians gave MacArthur his executive powers to begin with, and that was very important.

Secondly, the war coming to an end the way it did, and the Japanese people belonging to the kind of tradition which was theirs, MacArthur was a kind of Emperor image. He took over for the Emperor for awhile in the psychic experience of 80 to 100 million people. They needed somebody like MacArthur to trust. They had trusted their Emperor, you know the kamikazes trusted him so much they'd pile up their planes in flames because they felt that the Emperor wanted them to.

The Japanese I think relied in almost a religious way upon the Emperor as the source of all certainties. When the surrender was ordered by the Emperor, I think the Japanese


people had a horrible experience. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Could the Emperor be the Emperor that we have worshiped? They trusted him enough to go along. There were no riots, there was no messing up of the surrender plans, but in a part of the Japanese there was, I think, at that time, a longing for the same kind of absolute authority, and MacArthur symbolized it, and he had the personal style to pull it off.

He was nice to the Emperor personally, and so I think that's one, I think that's a good explanation for it. I studied at Oxford and had some very good Japanese friends there including a guy named Jiro Kato. Jiro Kato's a good tennis player, good golfer, son of the chairman of the board of the Mitsubishi Bank. He is a real Zaibatsu establishment gentleman par excellence, and I had seen him in 1940 just before the war, in Tokyo. I looked him up after the war in 1946, and he came to Washington in about 1948,


or '47. So I asked him to play tennis with me at Michael Straight's place. The fourth of our foursome was Justice Black.

Well, after we played a couple of sets of tennis, maybe an hour and a half of tennis, we went in and had a drink. Here were Jiro Kato and Justice Black and Michael Straight and me, nothing very unusual, but there we were. Kato just about collapsed when he found that Justice Black spent the whole time, in effect saying what a son of a bitch Douglas MacArthur was. Why? Because he was a military man, who was all right as a military man, but trying to shape up a presidential boom, and Black felt that for constitutional and policy reasons this was an outrage. This was long before MacArthur was brought back.

The point of my story is here in Kato, a very sophisticated and worldly Japanese, who found it almost unbelievable that an American,


even Justice Black (the idea of separation of power in this country didn't really go over), had the idea of MacArthur being characterized as vulnerable, as mortal, more than that, sinister. It struck him as being the most staggering and shocking thing that he could imagine.

Well, I think there was a bit of that in the Japanese psyche. I mention Kato because he was a sophisticated guy. What about way down the line then? No, I think in a curious way the MacArthur personality and the terms of reference for the occupation of Japan gave the Japanese an Emperor substitute for a few years.

MCKINZIE: Thank you, sir.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]




List of Subjects Discussed

Barnett, Robert W.:

    • background of, 1-2
      in 14th Air Force, 5-6, 7
      Japan, assigned to, 14-15
      U.S. State Department, employed by, 11
  • Black, Justice Hugo, 38

    Chennault, General Claire Lee, 5-6
    Chiang Kai-shek, 28
    Chou En-lai, 3
    Clayton, Will, 9

    Far Eastern Commission, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21-22, 24, 26, 30, 32, 35-36

    Hiroshima, postwar condition of, 17


    • and British Commonwealth, 27
      Communist party in, 30
      economy in postwar period, 25-27, 29, 31
      occupation in postwar period, policy of, 12-13
      and pacifism, 35
      and postwar trade, 25-27

    Kato, Jiro, 37-38, 39

    Leddy, John, 26

    MacArthur, General Douglas, 12, 13, 15, 19-20, 21, 24, 31, 35-37, 38-39
    Marshall, General George C., and Appropriations Committee, view of, 23
    Martin, Ed, 9-10, 11

    Peterson, Howard, 26

    State War Navy Coordinating Committee, 19, 21

    United China Relief, 2, 3

    Vietnam, 34

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