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Hirohito - Was He Responsible for the Pacifc War?

In the spring of 1946, pressure mounted to try Hirohito for war crimes.  To avoid this, someone else had to take total responsibility for the war.  That job fell to Tojo, the former Primer Minister.  While preparations for the war trials began, the Emperor was absent from the scene.

Tojo, under questioning, said that he had never once disobeyed the Emperor's wishes.  That raised an obvious question:  Was it the Emperor, then, who made the decision to start a war?

The American prosecutor sent word to the Emperor, about Tojo's testimony, and Tojo was paid a visit in prison.  The former prime minister insisted he was still living with his shame so as to protect Hirohito from blame. 

Despite his personal observations, Tojo was instructed how to answer questions when he next appeared in court.

Changing his testimony, during the next session, Tojo said that he had only once disobeyed the Emperor's wishes - when, despite the Emperor's desire for peace, Tojo and his cabinet decided otherwise.  He thus took complete responsibility for starting the war.

As part of his new role, Hirohito began to mingle with the Japanese people.  He launched goodwill tours and "walkabouts."  On January 1, 1946, he publicly renounced his status as "a god."  Within a matter of months, Hirohito had been transformed.  He was now merely a symbol of the state.

Hirohito remained on the throne of Japan for another 42 years.  He died, in 1989, after witnessing his country's economic rebirth. 

Yasuo Wakatsuki wrote a book about the war, and its causes, calling his work "Japan's War Responsibility."  Included in that responsibility, according to Wakatsuki, is Hirohito.  Not everyone agrees and some have argued that such a book should never have been written.

See, also:

Hirohito - Emperor of Japan

Hirohito - As a Young Man

Hirohito - Conduct During the War

Hirohito - Immediately After the War


Media Credits

Clip from the BBC series, produced and directed by Tim Robinson, "As it Happened" - episode, "Emperor Hirohito."  Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.  Subtitles by Hiroko Moore and Brenden Dannaher, copyright SBS Australia.

 

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