• Kyodo


Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in occupied Japan, worried that the nation would wage a “new economic aggression” by flooding other Asian markets with cheap products, according to a Swiss document obtained by Kyodo News.

To avoid this aggression, MacArthur emphasized to Camille Gorge, a Swiss minister in Tokyo, that General Headquarters needed to help organize labor unions in Japan. This would lead to higher wages and prices when the country exported products.

The document, a cable from Gorge to the Swiss Foreign Ministry dated Oct. 5, 1945, is one of many telegrams describing the last days of World War II and the early days of the occupation.

MacArthur ordered newly appointed Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara on Oct. 11 that year to embark on “five major reforms,” which included organizing labor unions.

“Documents written by foreign diplomats residing in Japan describing what happened in those days are rare,” said Kentaro Awaya, a professor specializing in Japan’s modern history.

“MacArthur’s remarks came just days before the five major reforms,” Awaya said. “It gives an insight into what he had in mind when he gave the order.”

In the Oct. 2 meeting with Gorge, MacArthur spoke at length about the Imperial Japanese Army’s atrocities during the war, according to the document, which was written in French.

But he told Gorge that Japan “will not count any more in military terms” after the war, and that Japan would be in “an almost miserable situation.”

MacArthur told the Swiss diplomat the only remaining danger with Japan was its potential export competence.

MacArthur worried that Japan, supported by “a salary of famine (cheap wages),” would dominate Asian markets with “junk” products.

It was therefore necessary to organize labor unions to “raise salaries and living standards” and to “liberate Japanese workers from their (state of) slavery.”

MacArthur told Gorge that if wages increased, Japanese products “will be unable to compete easily with (products manufactured by) others.”

Gorge, who served as a Swiss minister in Tokyo between 1940 and 1945, sent a series of telegrams to Bern, often with the diplomat’s analysis and inside information collected from his Japanese counterparts.

On March 6, 1945, Gorge cabled that it was “naive” for Japan to count on the Soviet Union to intervene to avoid an unconditional surrender.

“Japan has always . . . predicted that a quarrel in the near future between the Soviets and (the U.S. and Britain) . . . might rescue Japan,” the document says.

A week after 325 U.S. B-29 bombers raided Tokyo, Gorge described the confusion in the capital.

“Thousands of families are without shelters, and often without food and nothing to bandage their wounds,” said the telegram, dated March 17.

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