Hirohito: War Criminal

(Originally published at The American Catholic.  I assume that the History mavens of Almost Chosen People will find it interesting.)

A strange fascination for World War II in the Pacific overtakes many Catholic blogs in early August each year, so in line with that I throw out this question:  should Hirohito have been tried as a war criminal?  The video clip above is from the movie Emperor (2012) which depicts a fictional account of an American attempt to determine the extent of Hirohito’s involvement in the launching of Japan’s war of conquest which would claim over thirty million lives.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:


MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. (more…)