Japan: Emperor Hirohito Warned US Attack in WWII Would be ‘Self-Destructive’

A new biography on Japanese Emperor Hirohito revealed that while he may have celebrated the Japanese Imperial Army’s victories during the Second World War, he had warned beforehand that an attack against the US (the Pearl Harbor strike) would be ‘self-destructive’ for the country.

It can be remembered that Emperor Hirohito, also known as the Showa Emperor (Enlightened Peace), was Japan’s reigning monarch from 1926 to 1989. These years saw Japan’s slide to militarism, the Second World War years, its defeat in the said war and its impressive economic rise from its postwar ashes.

The first official record divulging the thoughts of Emperor Hirohito during the tumultuous years of the Second World War as well as the years of his reign – totaling to 62 years – is a massive volume, a 12,000-page history. Nevertheless, in spite of its length, the record only disclosed several new details. Most of the information it contained had already been known by historians. It also did not challenge the view that Emperor Hirohito had little say over the country’s decision to align itself with the Nazi Germans and go to war. The primary point-of-view contained in its pages was the reluctance expressed by the monarch in engaging in war against the US.

It seemed that the most controversial facet of the report regarding the reign of Emperor Hirohito was that it took almost 25 years to compile at the massive cost of 230 million yen (£1.34 million). According to the Imperial Household Agency, the wing responsible for the release of the official records of Emperor Hirohito as well as the management of the imperial family’s affairs, the delay was due to the fact that it had to collate various information found in 3,152 records and documents to put the 61-volume history together. The agency added that some of these records have never been made public before.

The colossal volume of the history of Emperor Hirohito only contained the first meeting between the Japanese monarch and US General Douglas MacArthur which happened on September 27, 1945. This said meeting was already made public. Historians had hoped that the official records of the Japanese wartime emperor would contain the series of meetings between the two key figures.

It also contained his views regarding going against the United States. Prior to the surprise attack made by the Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Emperor Hirohito was quoted as saying in a speech on July 31, 1941 that going to war against the US would be “self-destructive” and that the country would not stand a chance against the American forces. Reportedly, the Japanese emperor had also condemned the Japanese army minister in 1939 as at that time, the latter had wanted to build up ties with Germany. Emperor Hirohito favored an alliance with the United States. But when WWII broke out, Japan joined the Axis Power together with Germany and Italy.

Currently, the official history of Emperor Hirohito is only available for limited viewing. However, the agency plans to publish the records in stages over the next five years.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE