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Unformatted text preview: further resistence was futile, Japan finally acceded to the ultimatum of the Allied powers from Potsdam in July 1945, and in August
surrendered unconditionally. The last agonies of the war produced, on
one side, the horror of suicidal air attacks by kamikaze pilots—who were
exhorted to re-create the glorious defense of the homeland by “divine
winds” directed against the Mongol invaders of the thirteenth century—
and, on the other side, the unspeakable holocaust of atomic destruction
in the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In an unprecedented radio broadcast on August 15 (August 14 in the
United States), the emperor informed his subjects that “the war situation
has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general
trends of the world have all turned against her interest.” In fact, Japan’s
war-making capacity had been reduced to a pitiful remnant, many of its
cities lay in charred ruins, and thousands of its citizens faced starvation.
There remained no practical alternative to surrender or, in the words of
the emperor, no alternative but “to endure the unendurable and suffer
what is insufferable.”1
Although the emperor’s forebodings proved excessively dire, one cannot minimize the suffering the Japanese were forced to endure in the first
few years following defeat, despite the vigorous efforts of the Occupation
regime—monopolized by the United States through General Douglas
MacArthur (1880–1964) as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
(SCAP)—to reestablish order. People were not only hungry and homeless, they were also spiritually exhausted; jobs were scarce and in some
sectors nonexistent; inflation raged and black markets sprang up everywhere.
By contrast, GIs strolling the streets of Tokyo and elsewhere and patronizing military post exchanges seemed to be blessed with undreamed of
material prosperity. The Japanese could observe this prosperity not only
among GIs in Japan but also through American movies. For once...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13