World War II took place beginning at 1939 and ending in 1945. Japan was the last opposing country to surrender to the US Allies on September 2nd, 1945. Ending the long, horrific seven-year war. Upon Japan's admitted defeat, the U.S. invaded and took occupation of the country for seven years. Though assumed to be a distressing circumstance and expected total domination, it was a benefit to Japan, for the United States to take control of them, rather than being a disadvantage. The occupation helped the recovery and development of Japan's economy and also clarified understanding between the two countries.
When the United States took control of Japan during late summer of 1945, it proved to be a milestone for the entire world. Never before had one advanced nation attempted to reform the supposed faults of another advanced nation from within (Reischauer 221). Both countries were uneasy, complaining the regarded issue at first. For the Americans, the very notion of democratizing Japan represented a stunning revision of the propaganda they had imbibed during the war. When the media had routinely depicted all Japanese as children, savages, sadists, madmen, or robots. In the most pervasive metaphor of dehumanization, they were portrayed in word and picture as apes, or "monkey-men" (Dower 213).
There was much hatred for the Japanese by the American people, because of the negative depiction of them by the media and the remembrance of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese that drove the U.S. to declare war on Japan in the first place. Many Americans displayed extreme prejudice for the Japanese people calling them "jaundiced baboons" or the more unsophisticated racial term, "Jap". The United States viewed Japan as a collapsing nation that needed strict guidance from them in order to change into the correct form of government. For the first time in history, Japan was a conquered nation. The slogan, which Japan used to cope during the occupation, was "enduring the unendurable".
For some Japanese people, the U.S. occupation seemed like more of the same totalitarian leadership as of the emperor, therefore was indifferent to the new order. The rest feared that the Americans would be vengeful, cruel conquerors. The wildest rumors circulated about the expected rape and looting, and many women left town and retreated to the country (Morton 204). Many Japanese people still felt bitter about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which they tried to exploit the immorality of it by writing books, bashing the U.S. President Truman and the Americans. However, the U.S. government during the occupation period censored it. Surprisingly, the American occupation wasn't such an unpleasant experience the Japanese anticipated it to be.
The occupation proved to be an important, constructive phase of Japanese history, a veritable rebirth, comparable only to the Meiji Restoration (Reischauer 222). What the Japanese expected the U.S. to be a vindictive and relentless sovereignty, were basically friendly and fair-minded people. The Japanese, for their part, were far from the fanatical fighters the Americans had come to know on the battlefield, and proved to be a docile, disciplined, cooperative people at home (Reischauer 222). The United States dominating of Japan transformed the brutal war charged with overt racism into an amicable peace in which the issue of race seemed to have disappeared. The army of occupation became an undisputed figure of authority, and the government and its people obeyed without question.
Since militarism and authoritarianism lead Japan into disaster, many Japanese believed that the democratic rule the Americans eulogized must be the correct way of governing. They enthusiastically accepted Western influences instead of sticking to traditional values. The suffering, which the Japanese experienced during the war, made most turn away from any form of militarism in abhorrence. Upon discovering that they were detested in other Asian and Western countries, they wanted to change their self-image for the better. They no longer see themselves as a proud and powerful nation, but longed for lasting peace.
The United States was in the process of making Japan into a democracy in the fullest sense. American General Douglas MacArthur was the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers. He was chosen to be the leader of the military occupation of Japan. MacArthur thought that his primary task was to reform Japan, not to punish it.
Since America's ultimate goal was democratization, MacArthur took careful steps necessary to meet that standard. First he needed demobilization, demilitarization, decentralization, and "demythification" of Japan (Perez 150). General MacArthur took proper precautions of disarming over three million Japanese soldiers, democratizing most of the functions of Japanese government and destroying the myth of imperial divinity. The rapid economic growth of Japan after World War II can be attributed, to a large degree, to the influence of American business ideals and the financial backing to allow Japanese industry to enter into the technological age. Most historians emphasize the key role that the U.S. government played in the creation of postwar Japan.
Experts on Japanese history are more skeptical of U.S. influence, when researching Japanese government and business records. At any rate, by the late 1940's, Japan and the U.S. together paved the way such that by the 1970's, Japan was made one of the world's most productive and stable societies. Although they are currently considered trusted allies, they are also fierce rivals of economic competitiveness. The occupation, however, did not always go smoothly.
Cultural Differences at times divided American and Japanese officials. Military and civilian officials often clashed over objectives and bureaucratic issues. The United States pulled back some of their ambitious reformist goals to instead sought to make Japan a strong ally. Stressing of friendship rather than dictatorship helped win favor from many of the Japanese officials.
In September 1951, Japan signed the treaty of peace in San Francisco with fifty-one other nations. Thus formally ending the occupation. Japan renounced all claims to neighboring territories and promised to conduct reparation negotiations with afflicted nations. Japan addressed that their country will no longer take any participation of war and declared them to be neutral. They would only have a small army and navy to protect themselves from any hostilities, if which needed, the United States promised to give military assistance. The U.S. and Japan also concluded a security treaty that allowed the stationing U.S. Forces in and around Japan.
The process of changing from enemies to allies by the United States and Japan is certainly an impressive achievement. Due to the aid and influences contributed by the United States, Japan is now a peaceful, fully restored nation that has improved beyond expectations. The economy is one of the best in the world, and there is no longer any hostility between the two nations. America helped Japan restore its economy and society to build it into a better nation that it is today.
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