McArthur’s Cold War Plan for Japan

[ Lester Pearson and Herbert Norman, Tokyo ]

Lester Pearson and Herbert Norman, Tokyo, Unknown, 1950-01-30, University of British Columbia Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, BC2124-108, Pearson, on the last lap of a world trip, visits Tokyo to consult with Norman and General Douglas MacArthur

[I learned much about U.S. plans for Japan on] a visit I had paid to General Douglas MacArthur in late January and early February, 1950 [less than five months before the Korean War began]. I was on the last lap of the round-the-world trip which I made that year in connection with the Colombo Conference of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. I stopped off in Tokyo for four or five days mainly to see General MacArthur, then Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan. In some ways the General was the most arresting and magnetic personality that I have ever been exposed to. A fascinating man to talk with, he had a great deal of knowledge and a great sweeping sense of history; he spoke with extreme clarity and a sense of drama. Although I did not think too highly of some of his subsequent actions or ideas, there is no doubt that, in Japan after the war, he was the right man in the right place.

MacArthur was the most imperial, proconsular figure I have ever seen. He carried it all off with great Úlan and great impressiveness. Indeed, he had got to the point, so I was told, where the Japanese practically treated him like the Mikado himself. They would even bow when he passed by. I recall a luncheon he gave for my wife and me. There was more ceremony than I have ever encountered in Buckingham Palace or in the Vatican. Mrs MacArthur was already there with all the aides in attendance. As we waited we started to get fifteen-second bulletins: the General has left his office; the General is on the way; the General will be here shortly. We were lined up. There was a hush. The doors were thrown open and there was General of the Army and Field Marshal of the Philippines Douglas MacArthur. I felt that I ought to fall down and worship; but I do not very readily fall down and worship in that kind of ceremony.

It was, nonetheless, most interesting to meet with him and to get his views on the situation in Japan. In turn, I told him about the Colombo Conference, though the honours were not even, as his sermon was a much longer one than mine, and repeated. Herbert Norman, the head of our Liaison Mission in Tokyo, who was with me, said, however, that MacArthur listened to me longer than he had to anyone else whom he had seen with the General, and that I was to be congratulated!

During the course of our conversation he spoke mainly of Japan. I noted in my diary: ‘He is absolutely convinced that the Japanese have seen the error of their ways and are now convinced democrats, and that the conversion is permanent. It is hard to be as confident in this matter as he is, but he speaks with great conviction on the subject. At the same time, he feels that we should not seek to embroil the Japanese in the cold war against communism but that we should strive to convert Japan into a Pacific “Switzerland” whose neutrality would be guaranteed by everyone. He seems to think that even the Russians might be prevailed on to support this. At the same time, he gave his case away, I thought, by adding that, of course, Japan would be quite willing to give the United States certain defence rights on her islands. If she ever did, she would not, of course, be a Switzerland and the Russians could not be expected to respect her neutrality. The General treats Japan and her problems with a paternal solicitude, and obviously feels he is much better able to deal with “his people” than those in authority in Washington, for whose judgment on far eastern affairs he showed scant respect. In fact, he talked very frankly about what seemed to him to be the weaknesses of the State Department and the Pentagon in their handling of Japanese and Pacific matters.’

Source: Lester Pearson, "MacArthur's Cold War Plan for Japan," Mike: The Memories of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson Volume 2, 1948-1957 John A. Munro and Alex I. Inglis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973., n.d.), 145-6

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