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New International, July 1949


Jack Brad

Books in Review



From The New International, Vol. XV No. 5, July 1949, p.  160.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Japan Diary
by Mark Gayn
William Sloan Associates, New York.

One of the better of the current crop of the foreign correspondents, Mark Gayn’s book hews close to its purpose of presenting a political diary of the crucial year of the occupation of Japan in 1946–47. While occasional moralizing detracts somewhat from the lucidity, it remains at all times an intelligent and skilled observer’s work. On the occasions when Gayn attempts to gain historic perspective or sociological depth he produces a blur. But there is no better reference available for these decisive years. The book reads easily and interestingly.

Summarizing his impressions, Gayn writes, “... we have failed in Japan as we have in China and Korea. We have succeeded merely in producing a backlog of hatred.” The book is a devastating indictment of every phase of the occupation.

In the initial flush of victory Washington’s policy directive encouraged democratic practices even if it meant popular violence against Japan’s ruling classes. This same directive also retained the Emperor and ordered MacArthur to operate exclusively through the existing state machinery. That these two objectives were at cross purposes did not for one moment bother upper echelons. In the first months a sharp conflict developed over just this contradiction.

In the third month of the occupation Gayn reports:

“... a dramatic cleavage has developed within Headquarters, dividing all policy planners into two warring camps. One of these believes that Japan should be reshaped drastically. The other opposes fundamental change on the grounds that a conservative Japan is our best ally in the coming struggle with Russia.”

As international tensions deepened the scales were decisively tipped in favor of the latter group.

U.S. military administrators had natural predilections for conservatism. As Gayn puts it, the military mind distrusts men in masses unless they wear uniforms. The sometime inchoate and “disorderly” popular movements which broke like a wave over the old order, under inspiration of the defeat of the master class, were simply not according to plan. Anyone who proposed reforms by any means or a second sooner than MacArthur’s edict was automatically under suspicion of being a Communist. That suspicion fell even on high ranking army officers who dared utter the barest critical breath.

Gayn adds a new anecdote to the MacArthur legend which illustrates the changed relationship between the occupation and the Japanese state.

“At first encounter (with the Emperor) the general was sternly formal. He was representative of the victors ... Time passed and at a subsequent meeting the Emperor said to General MacArthur: ‘Our constitution forbids us to have an army. I’m concerned over the future.’ General MacArthur reassured him: ‘The U.S. will assume responsibility for the defense of Japan.’ At the following interview, General MacArthur for the first time addressed the Emperor as ‘Your Majesty’.”

On a journalistic level the insights are very good. One cannot help but be impressed with Gayn’s conscientious pursuit of facts. He belongs to that sturdy liberal school of correspondents who combine critical zeal with relentless fidelity to truth but is, alas, too poorly schooled in politics, history and sociology.

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