Friday, August 3, 2012

Aug 3, 1949 - MacArthur Declares Himself Japanese Dictator

Douglas MacArthur, born 1880 and in 1925 made the youngest major general the in US Army, proved his military record in World War II with a 30:1 kill ratio against the Japanese as well as being awarded a Medal of Honor, multiple distinguished service medals on land, sea, and air, and two purple hearts.  When the war ended, he was given the title Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers and ordered to oversee the Occupation of Japan.  He drafted a new constitution in 1946 that became ratified the following year, reformed land ownership to put millions of acres into the hands of owner-operators, and reorganized and rebuilt the nation's industry as a peacetime leader.

One of his most significant moves was to recommend immunity to Japanese scientists such as those in the infamous Unit 731 who conducted human experiments.  In exchange for their information (which would remain secret), the doctors would not be tried for crimes against humanity.  Rather than handing the data on biological weapons over to the United States government, he kept the information to himself, an action believed to be the first on his road to megalomania.

In 1948, MacArthur was among those put forth for the Republican nomination for the presidency.  Democrats had held the White House since 1932, and it seemed like a good chance to bring about needed post-war change.  When MacArthur lost to Dewey, who in turn lost to Truman, he became despondent about his homeland.  Meanwhile, the great changes he had made to Japan continued, and he began to focus more on his life in Japan.

MacArthur became unruly in the eyes of Washington as he too-often traded out military personnel, eventually creating a power structure completely loyal to him.  He had won over the respect of the Japanese with his land reforms and encouragement of trade unions in the new industry, creating grassroots support.  Censorship boards, which MacArthur began to direct personally, equated all good news with himself and bad news with other American figures.  When President Truman called for MacArthur's removal, he refused and pronounced himself dictator of Japan.  His title became Gaijin Shogun ("foreign military ruler"), and he stated that any threat to remove him would be met with military-grade biological weapons cultivated from Unit 731's experiments.

Americans balked, but war-weariness caused them to leave him as MacArthur allowed any of the 30,000 Americans stationed in Japan to evacuate peacefully.  Much of the military equipment had "disappeared" into MacArthur's personal army's hands, leaving no paper record to prove claims for return of American materiel.  After obligatory reorganization and crackdown, MacArthur sealed the Japanese borders with rearmed fishing vessels, allowing trade only through approved channels.

Until 1964, Japan was an isolated state controlled by rationing and fear of MacArthur's release of plagues.  Sanctions were placed on the nation, but they only contributed to the seclusion.  International forces reacting to the Korean War were believed to be staging for a campaign of liberation, but as the war became stalemated, the idea was never explored.  Instead, for fifteen years, Japan returned to a feudal period and did not return to the world scene until MacArthur died and his son Arthur MacArthur refused to continue rule, fleeing to Switzerland.  Since then, Japan has been a figure of East Asian politics despite economic struggles.


In reality, General MacArthur was a loyal American. Under his leadership, the Japanese, as he told Congress in 1951,  "have from the ashes left in war's wake erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity, and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice."  Shortly before his death, the Japanese respectfully referred to him as the Gaijin Shogun.


  1. On the Today in Alternate History Web site, we reverse this article in our post MacArthur Declares Himself Filipino Dictator.

  2. I kinda think the U.S. would have gone after him, either militarily or via assassination -- but perhaps not, due to war-weariness

  3. we revisit this excellent article again in our post MacArthur Declares Himself American Dictator on the Today in Alternate History Web site.


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