Story behind the pic: When MacArthur met with Hiroito


FGM Brigadier
Castelar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
Yesterday I saw the movie Emperor, a movie of the year 2012, interpreted by Tommy Lee Jones. When the japanese surrender at the end of the war, the americans is tasked with deciding if Emperor Hirohito will be hanged or not as a war criminal.


And it seemed interesting, in the end of the film, the photograph taken together General MacArthur and the emperor Hiroito.


When Japan signed the official surrender on September 2, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur had been there for two days. Truman had appointed him commander-in-chief of the allied forces to supervise the occupation of the island since the VJ day, he had been asked by President Truman to oversee the occupation of Japan. Seventy percent of Americans thought Emperor Hirohito should be persecuted.

But the general had other plans. MacArthur understood that for the transition to be smooth, the imperial rule must persist.

The Gen. Bonner Fellers (played in the film by Matthew Fox), his Japan specialist, had convinced him that ending a cult figure in a war-torn country of war-fanatics massacred by two atomic bombs would have consequences, and that it was better to use the natural charisma of the son of Sol to manage the occupation without further setbacks. In his message to Eisenhower, MacArthur asserted that Hirohito's role in the war had been strictly ceremonial, a pacifist captive in his palace, the victim of a conspiracy.

Yet, he didn’t make the customary call to the palace; instead, he waited for the emperor to make the first contact. On sept. 27, Hirohito finally crossed the palace moat to reach MacArthur’s headquarters at the Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Company — requisitioned for its relative intactness and its proximity to both the palace and the american embassy.

MacArthur greeted the emperor at the entrance to the reception room, shaking his hand and saying, ‘You are very, very welcome sir.’ The emperor kept bowing lower and lower until MacArthur found himself shaking hands with him over the emperor’s head. Only the emperor, MacArthur and the imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo, went into the reception room. Then the door to the reception room was opened and Lt. Gaetano Faillace (1904 – 1991), of the military camera corps, took a now famous photograph of the emperor and MacArthur from outside the room.

Faillace was given one shot, but he spoke up and asked for three. Faillace also adviced MacArthur against a seated picture on a soft couch. First two photos were less than ideal — their eyes were closed in one, and the Emperor’s mouth was gaping open in the other. But even the perfect, final shot posed its own problems: at this juncture, Hirohito was still akitsumikami or manifest deity (he would not renounce his divinity before the coming New Year’s Day), and everyone was supposed to avert eyes from the veiled imperial portraits in government buildings.

Thus, printing the photo was deemed sacrilegious, not least because of the general’s extremely casual attire and his even more pointed body language. MacArthur’s office itself had to intervene to Japanese censors to have it printed. It ran on 29th September. He had to intervene again when the photo appeared in the New York Times alongside an unprecedented interview with the Emperor — where he criticized his government on failing to declare war on US before Pearl Harbor — and police tried to confiscate the papers.

Outside Japan, too, the general’s informal appearance shocked many. Even Life clutched its pearls and wrote, “MacArthur did not trouble to put on a tie for the occasion”. As for the contents of their 40-minute tete-a-tete, nothing was made public; the two men would meet 10 more times during MacArthur’s sojourn as the American Proconsul but the general never paid a return call to the palace.

The pic in the movie: Gen. MacArthur (starring by T. L. Jones) and the emperor Hiroito (starring by japanese actor Takatarô Kataoka).

Sgt Joch

I saw "Emperor" but was disappointed with the movie since it actually spends little time on MacArthur.

There was another side to that photo which I read some times ago. A lot of thought went into that photo by MacArthur and his staff.

MacArthur was playing many games, he had to show to the Japanese that he ruled Japan and that the Emperor was no longer in control. He also had to convince politicians back home that Hirohito had to stay, even though many thought he should be tried as a war criminal.

That photo served many purposes including the fact that Hirohito went to MacArthur's HQ. The photo show to the Japanese that "Hey the war is over and you lost! I am the boss now". At the same time the pose is not one of disrespect for the Emperor, rather that MacArthur is now the new emperor, but that he will probably treat Japan fairly. At the same time, to people back home, it screams, "We won, we are in charge now".