Monday, October 16, 2017

A shield of courage....................

"Of all the amazing deeds of bravery of the war, I regard MacArthur's personal landing at Atsugi as the greatest of the lot," Winston Churchill wrote afterward.  The former prime minister, a connoisseur of courage, was speaking of the American general's daring flight to the heart of enemy territory at the close of the Pacific war in 1945.  The Japanese emperor, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had called on his subjects to cease fighting, yet more than twenty divisions of soldiers, who had been prepared to give their last drop of blood to keep the Americans from securing a foothold on Japan's sacred soil, retained their weapons and their positions on the Kanto Plain.  Kamikaze pilots, some having already received the rites for the dead, awaited only a word to carry out their suicide missions.  Squads of young civilians, outraged at the emperor's call for surrender, stormed about Tokyo and nearby Yokohama vowing to resist to the end.
     Douglas MacArthur, as the commander of the U. S. Army forces in the Pacific, would receive the formal Japanese surrender on board the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Prudence suggested he arrive with the ship, its powerful escort and the protection the vessels and their guns provided.  MacArthur refused.  He insisted he would enter Japan ahead of the navy, protected only by the moral force that came with righteous victory.  His aides urged him to reconsider.  Who knew what some bitter-ender might do?  All it took was one bullet, one grenade, and the general would be a dead man.  Worse, an assassination might rekindle the Japanese war spirit.  If he must enter ahead of the navy, he should wait for more army troops.  At the very least, he should be accompanied to Atsugi, the air base for Tokyo, by a substantial guard of well-armed soldiers.
      He waved aside the worries.  He declared that he would travel to Atsugi alone, with only his airplane's crew and his personal staff.  His courage would be all the shield he required.  He knew the Asian mind.  "Years of overseas duty had schooled me well in the ways of the Orient," he later wrote.  The Japanese would understand his action and be more impressed by one man alone than by any number of ships or regiments.

-H. W. Brand,  The General vs. The President:  MacArthur and Truman At The Brink Of Nuclear War

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