THE END OF JAPAN’S EMPIRE IN THE PACIFIC
collapse of what had once been the apex of Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s
dream of an empire comprised of all of Asia and all islands spread
across the Pacific began to unravel in April of 1945 with the deaths of
the heads of Germany and Italy – Japan’s partners in a worldwide
attempt to defeat the Allies.
Few people who know about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor know also that
Germany and Italy declared war on the United States the following day,
citing a mutual defense pact that Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler and
Hirohito had signed.
Once Germany’s army in Italy collapsed under coordinated Allied
attacks, Italian communist partisans captured Mussolini and his
mistress. They executed both on April 25th of 1945. This
was two days before Hitler and his mistress committed suicide in a
bunker in Berlin as Russian troops overran East Berlin.
Meanwhile, General Douglas MacArthur had returned to the Philippines
after decimating Japanese forces in one ferocious island battle after
This left Hirohito the only remaining head of an “Axis Power.”
One person stood between Hirohito and the hangman:
General Tomoyuki Yamashita had led the Japanese forces as they swept
down the Malay peninsula and forced the surrender of then British-held
Singapore. For this, he was made head of the Japanese Army in the
Philippines. On September 2nd of 1945, Hirohito ordered him to
surrender to advancing U.S, forces and he did so.
A military court accused him of having overseen the commission of war
crimes, decided he was culpable, and hanged him on February 23, 1946.
The story of how Hirohito escaped the same fate and how MacArthur was
appointed the head of Japan has yet to be told in full. And,
after so many years, it probably never will be.
Phil Richardson, Editor