Toshikazu Kase's Account
Reflections on the end of World War II
Excerpt from Journey to Missouri by Toshikazu Kase, member of the Japanese delegation to the Surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.
The Japanese Delegation awaits the start of the Surrender Ceremony aboard USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.Front row: Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu. Second row: Toshikazu Kase, aide to the Foreign Minister, is second from right holding briefcase.
"Never has the truth of the line "peace hath her victories no less renown'd than war" been more eloquently demonstrated. Is it not rare good fortune, I asked myself, that a man of such caliber and character [as General Douglas MacArthur] should have been designated as the Supreme Commander who will shape the destiny of Japan? Does he not say that "the energy of the Japanese race, if properly directed, will enable expansion vertically rather than horizontally"? Does he not also predict that "if the talents of the race are turned into constructive channels, the country can lift itself from its present deplorable state into a position of dignity"? We must be grateful for this recognition and in gratitude must pledge our best efforts to vindicate the truth of this prediction.
MacArthur included a timely reference to Commodore Perry's visit to these shores. On the USS Missouri near the deck where the ceremony had just taken place, I had seen encased in the white wall a faded flag. It was the old flag that flew from the mast of Perry’s flagship Powhattan when ninety-two years ago he first knocked at the door of Japan, then a hermit nation. Now it paid a return visit as if to witness the subsequent vicissitudes of the island empire.
Japan, awakened by Perry's black ships, rose speedily to the position of a major power, surprising the world by her spectacular achievements. In a brief span of time she became a naval power surpassed only the United States and Great Britain and enjoyed immense prestige as a recognized leader of the Asiatic nations. Now prostrate in defeat, she greets once again the flag of Commodore Perry. If Perry's spirit is embodied in this flag, does it not call upon us to sweep away the militarism that caused our downfall and urge us to open wide our doors once again to external intercourse – this time to repair and restore our national fortunes by assimilating and acquiring not aggressive militarism but democratic ways? In accepting defeat under this historic flag we must not idly deplore the irretrievable past but rise to our full stature to cope with the manifold difficulties that confront, in order to resuscitate and rebuild the nation on democratic principles. We beg to be judged not by our past deserts but by what we will deserve in the future. MacArthur’s address still vibrant in my ears seemed to exhort our people to join efforts in that work of reconstruction and rehabilitation which must commence at once.
While the destroyer sped home, I hurriedly wrote down my impressions of the surrender ceremony. [Foreign Minister] Shigemitsu took this document to the throne immediately after our return to the capital where the Emperor was anxiously waiting. At the end of this report, in which I dwelt at length upon the superb address of the Supreme Commander, I raised the question whether it would have been possible for us, had we been victorious, to embrace the vanquished with a similar magnanimity. Clearly, it would have been different. Returning from the audience Shigemitsu told me that the Emperor had nodded with a sigh in agreement. Indeed an incalculable ideological distance separates America from Japan. After all, we were not beaten on the battlefields by dint of superior arms. We were defeated by a nobler ideal. The real issue was moral – beyond all the powers of algebra to compute.
The day will come when recorded time, age upon age, will seem but a point in retrospect. However, happen what may in the future, this day on the Missouri will stand out as a bright point that marks a tireless march toward an enduring peace. By that time the Pacific war which cost so much blood and treasure will have become an episode surviving only in songs and stories dedicated to its heroes. Then, perhaps, a historian or two will delve into faded papers to ascertain the facts relating to Japan’s capitulation."