|“||The fruits of victory are tumbling into our mouths too quickly.||„|
|~ Emperor Hirohito|
Emperor Hirohito (April 29th, 1901 - January 7th, 1989) was the 124th Emperor of Japan, reigning from December 1926 to his death in 1989. He was the longest reigning Emperor in Japanese history, ruling for 64 years. He made up one-third of the Axis Powers during World War II alongside Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Imperial Japan under Hirohito's rule - particularly for the first two decades - was known for their savagery and sadism during wartime, as especially evident during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.
Hirohito himself was known for his cruelty during his earlier years as Emperor. He was known for his hatred towards other Asian groups; some estimate he may have been the mastermind behind the death of 10,000,000 Asians. He particularly enjoyed impaling them with sharp pieces of bamboo and with swords. His forces also forced prisoners to watch their families being raped and even forced men to rape their daughters.
While his regime would calm down significantly after the end of World War II, many consider him to be one of the most brutal dictators in all of recorded history. However there is still much debate on if he was truly responsible for the war crimes of Japan during the war.
Hirohito ascended to the the throne of the Empire of Japan on December 25, 1926, succeeding his father, Emperor Yoshihito. During the first years of his rule, he was informed of a revolt and immediately ordered that it be put down, referring to the officers as "rebels" (bōto). Shortly thereafter, he ordered Army Minister Yoshiyuki Kawashima to suppress the rebellion within the hour, and he asked for reports from Honjō every thirty minutes. The next day, when told by Honjō that little progress was being made by the high command in quashing the rebels, the Emperor told him "I Myself, will lead the Konoe Division and subdue them." The rebellion was suppressed following his orders on February 29.
Second Sino-Japanese War
In 1931, the Imperial Japanese Army staged a false flag operation by bombing part of a japanese railway. The event, known as the Mukden Incident, was a pretext to invade the Chinese territory of Manchuria. The invasion was successful and Japan established a puppet state known as Manchukuo. This marked the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in a bid for Japan to take control of China.
During the course of the war, Emperor Hirohito used a number of brutal and heinous tactics against the Chinese in what was effectively a campaign of genocide. A good example is the Rape of Nanking, a horrifically violent sacking of China's then capitol, Nanking, during which Imperial Japanese soldiers murdered, raped, pillaged, and destroyed with reckless abandon over the course of six weeks. The massacre is one of the most heinous war crimes ever perpetrated. It is widely accepted that Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, Hirohito's uncle by marriage, directed the massacre.
Other war crimes perpetrated against the Chinese was the use of chemical weapons, which Hirohito was especially fond of. During the invasion of Wuhan, from August to October 1938, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions, despite the resolution adopted by the League of Nations on May 14 condemning Japanese use of toxic gas.
World War II
As Japan's continued to terrorize China and other parts of Southeast Asia, other nations began worrying that they would jeopardize their relations with other Asian countries. The United States, in particular, began sending aid to China against Japan. Eventually Japan started to see the United States as a serious threat to their plans. Hirohito appointed Hideki Tojo as Prime Minister as well as the overall commander of the Imperial Japanese Army, and in 1940, allied himself with Nazi Party and Fascist Italy to form the Axis Powers.
At Tojo's urging, Hirohito formally declared war on the United States on December 7, 1941. The same day, Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor, an event which officially drew the U.S. into World War II. The same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded the Philippines and Malaya.
With the nation fully committed to the war, the Emperor took a keen interest in military progress and sought to boost morale. According to Akira Yamada and Akira Fujiwara, the Emperor made major interventions in some military operations. For example, he pressed Sugiyama four times, on January 13 and 21 and February 9 and 26, to increase troop strength and launch an attack on Bataan. On February 9, March 19, and May 29, the Emperor ordered the Army Chief of staff to examine the possibilities for an attack on Chungking, which led to Operation Gogo.
In the first six months of war, all the major engagements had been victories. Japanese advances were stopped in the summer of 1942 with the Battle of Midway and the landing of the American forces on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August. The Emperor recognized the potential danger and pushed the navy and the army for greater efforts. In September 1942, Emperor Hirohito signed an Imperial Rescript condemning to death American fliers Lieutenants Dean E. Hallmark and William G. Farrow and Corporal Harold A. Spatz and commuting to life sentences Lieutenants Robert J. Meder, Chase Nielsen, Robert L. Hite and George Barr and Corporal Jacob DeShazer. All had participated in the Doolittle Raid and had been captured.
When informed in August 1943 by Sugiyama that the American advance through the Solomon Islands could not be stopped, the Emperor asked his chief of staff to consider other places to attack: "When and where are you ever going to put up a good fight? And when are you ever going to fight a decisive battle?" On August 24 the Emperor reprimanded Nagano, and on September 11 he ordered Sugiyama to work with the Navy to implement better military preparation and give adequate supply to soldiers fighting in Rabaul.
Throughout the following years from 1943 to 1945, the sequence of drawn and then decisively lost naval and land engagements was reported to the public as a series of great victories. Only gradually did it become apparent to the Japanese people that the situation was very grim due to growing shortages of food, medicine, and fuel as U.S submarines began wiping out Japanese shipping. Starting in mid 1944, U.S. air raids on the cities of Japan made a mockery of the unending tales of victory. Later that year, with the downfall of Hideki Tojo's government, two other prime ministers were appointed to continue the war effort, Kuniaki Koiso and Kantarō Suzuki—each with the formal approval of the Emperor. Both were unsuccessful and Japan was nearing defeat.
In early 1945, in the wake of the losses in Battle of Leyte, Emperor Hirohito began a series of individual meetings with senior government officials to consider the progress of the war. All but ex-Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe advised continuing the war. Konoe feared a communist revolution even more than defeat in war and urged a negotiated surrender. In February 1945 during the first private audience with the Emperor which he had been allowed in three years, Konoe advised Hirohito to begin negotiations to end the war. According to Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita, the Emperor, still looking for a tennozan (a great victory) in order to provide a stronger bargaining position, firmly rejected Konoe's recommendation.
With each passing week victory became less likely. In April the Soviet Union issued notice that it would not renew its neutrality agreement. Japan's ally Germany surrendered in early May 1945. In June the cabinet reassessed the war strategy, only to decide more firmly than ever on a fight to the last man. This strategy was officially affirmed at a brief Imperial Council meeting, at which, as was normal, the Emperor did not speak.
On June 22 the Emperor met with his ministers saying, "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts be made to implement them." The attempt to negotiate a peace via the Soviet Union came to nothing. There was always the threat that extremists would carry out a coup or foment other violence. On July 26, 1945, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration demanding unconditional surrender. The Japanese government council, the Big Six, considered that option and recommended to the Emperor that it be accepted only if one to four conditions were agreed upon, including a guarantee of the Emperor's continued position in Japanese society. The Emperor decided not to surrender.
That changed after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet declaration of war. On August 9 Emperor Hirohito told Kōichi Kido: "The Soviet Union has declared war and today began hostilities against us." On August 10, the cabinet drafted an "Imperial Rescript ending the War" following the Emperor's indications that the declaration did not compromise any demand which prejudiced the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.
On August 12, 1945, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai (national polity) could not be preserved. The Emperor simply replied "Of course." On August 14 the Suzuki government notified the Allies that it had accepted the Potsdam Declaration.
After World War II
Hirohito was never tried or prosecuted for war crimes perpetrated by Japan, even though he had personally ordered things such as the use of poison gas or the horrific experiments conducted by Unit 731. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur insisted that Emperor Hirohito retain the throne. MacArthur saw the Emperor as a symbol of the continuity and cohesion of the Japanese people. Some historians criticize the decision to exonerate the Emperor and all members of the imperial family who were implicated in the war. Ultimately, the war crime tribunals established by the United States placed a majority of the responsibility of Japan's atrocities on Hideki Tojo, who was summarily tried and executed in 1948.
Hirohito was not put on trial, but he was forced to explicitly reject the quasi-official claim that the Emperor of Japan was an arahitogami, i.e., an incarnate divinity, and in 1947, an amendment to the Japanese Constitution was made so his title was altered to him being a constitutional monarch rather than an imperial sovereign.
For the rest of his life, Hirohito was an active figure in Japanese life and performed many of the duties commonly associated with a constitutional head of state. He and his family maintained a strong public presence, often holding public walkabouts and making public appearances on special events and ceremonies. He also played an important role in rebuilding Japan's diplomatic image, traveling abroad to meet with many foreign leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II (1971) and President Richard Nixon (1975). Thus, his status and image became strongly positive in the United States and Many US-allied countries such as the UK, France, and West Germany.
Following the Iranian Revolution and the end of the short-lived Central African Empire, both in 1979, Hirohito found himself the last monarch in the world to bear any variation of the highest royal title "emperor." By pure coincidence he was also the longest-reigning monarch in the world by this time, which meant that he was ranked first in the diplomatic order of precedence which distinguishes monarchs only by time in office and not by title.
In his later years, Hirohito reportedly felt tremendous guilt and remorse over his actions during World War II, particularly as he neared the end of his life. Though his advisers told him not to worry about the past, he reportedly obsessed over what he believed to be his "war responsibility" and had a hard time forgiving himself for the atrocities that occurred during his earlier reign.
Emperor Hirohito passed away on January 7, 1989, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 87 years old.