MacArthur's SCAP office to be shown to the public
By KARYN POUPEE AFP-Jiji
For six years U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was lord of all he surveyed as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers during the Occupation, gazing over Tokyo from a building requisitioned from an insurance company.
Now, more than 60 years since Japan returned to governing itself again, his office will be briefly opened for public viewing, just as he left it.
The sixth-floor room has the original seats, desk and even the armchair where MacArthur would have sat as he presided over Japan's rise from the ashes of World War II.
From the office, MacArthur oversaw the transformation of a country that waged a brutal war of acquisition across Asia into a peaceable nation that would become the economic powerhouse of the late 20th century.
And it was from this office that he ordered the rewriting of Japan's Constitution, in the process stripping the Emperor — in whose name that war was waged — of his divine status and recasting him as a mere figurehead in a democratic nation.
The room was the nerve center for land reform, voting enfranchisement, and changing laws on education, labor rights, public health and women's issues.
Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., whose chief executive vacated the space when MacArthur moved in, kept the office as it was when their guest left as U.S. attention shifted to the Korean Peninsula.
The insurer now plans to open it for public viewing for a week from Tuesday, keenly aware that many Japanese have no understanding of the immense role it played in postwar history.
"I did not know that the office was occupied by Mr. MacArthur before I was hired," a young company spokesman confessed during a tour.
"But all of us . . . learned about this place when we arrived," he added.
The wood-paneled room, with its large windows and translucent curtains, offers a glimpse into history and MacArthur's driven work style: The desk is devoid of drawers to prevent papers from piling up.
The office overlooks the vast Imperial Palace where Emperor Hirohito lived in luxury in the heart of Tokyo, an area that was spared from the Allies' devastating bombing campaign.
As well as the fact that the building was intact, the site's choice would have owed much to the occupiers' understanding of the importance of symbolism in Japan — something expressed no better than in the widely distributed picture of MacArthur standing beside the Emperor.
The towering U.S. general strikes a relaxed pose in his open-neck shirt, contrasting sharply with Emperor Hirohito, who stands erect — but much shorter — in his tightly buttoned Western-style suit.
There is little room for doubt about who is in charge. And MacArthur had a lot to do.
His task between 1945, when he stepped off the airplane smoking his trademark pipe, and when he left in 1951 was nothing short of monumental.
The economy was in tatters, people were starving and the shattered military was scattered throughout Asia. The cities were in ruins and the countryside was ravaged.
As commander of the Occupation, MacArthur led the demobilization of the Imperial Japanese Army and oversaw a series of war crimes trials aimed ostensibly at bringing the aggressors to justice.
But the Emperor, whose home he could see from his window, would never face a court.
Emperor Hirohito's own transformation into the leader of a peace-loving nation, a role he fulfilled until his death in 1989, is one of the enduring legacies — and controversies — of MacArthur's rule.
June 25, 1950
This particular Sunday the return from wince they came did not happen exactly as expected. In Tokyo when of the SCAP staff learned from Edith Sebald that something was amiss in Korea, he quickly passed the word to General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur, who was quartered at the Dai Ichi Life Insurance building. The General had gotten the word from General Ned [Edward M.] Almond about two hours after the attack began [about 6AM]. FEAF would not learn of it for another three and three quarter hours. It would not be until 11:30 AM that the whole of FEAF was notified of the incursion. In the mean time the General of the Army wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Being so early his wife came in and ask if everything was all right. He told Jean the news, then his dog Blackie came by followed by Arthur his son. The General continued to ponder the situation, which he likened to Sunday morning eleven years previous. Larry Bunker the Generals aid though he had shad ten years from his countenance when latter he saw him
June 25, 1950
Because the enemy had attacked on a Sunday, telephone circuits between Tokyo and Sŏul were closed. As a consequence, most SCAP staff officers were spared a rude awakening. It was a sunny, pleasant morning; the Huffs and several others were lounging beside the embassy swimming pool, enjoying it, when Edith Sebald arrived and mentioned casually that she had just heard about the hostilities on the radio.
Huff questioned her excitedly and rushed to tell MacArthur, but the General already knew had known, in fact, for hours. In the first gray moments of daylight a duty officer had phoned from the Dai Ichi:
"General, we have just received a dispatch from Sŏul, advising that the North Koreans have struck in great strength south across the 38th Parallel at four o'clock this morning."
MacArthur, remembering Manila nearly nine years earlier, felt
"an uncanny feeling of nightmare. . . . It was the same fell note of the war cry that was again ringing in my ears. It couldn't be, I told myself. Not again! I must still be asleep and dreaming. Not again! But then came the crisp, cool voice of my fine chief of staff, General Ned [Edward M.] Almond, `Any orders, General?"'
Barring urgent developments, the Supreme Commander said, he wanted to be left alone with his own reflections. Stepping into his slippers and his frayed robe, he began striding back and forth in his bedroom. Presently Jean stepped in from her room.
"I heard you pacing up and down," she said. "Are you all right?"
He told her the news, and she paled. Later Blackie bounded in, tried to divert his master with coaxing barks, and failing, slunk off. Then Arthur appeared for his morning romp with his father. Jean intercepted him and told him there would be no frolicking today. MacArthur put his arm around his son's shoulders, paused, thrust his hands in the pockets of his robe, and renewed his strides.
His moods in those first hours of the new war were oddly uneven. At the prospect of new challenges, he became euphoric. George Marshall, during a recent stop in Tokyo, had thought that the Supreme Commander had
since their last meeting, but now Larry Bunker discovered him
"reinvigorated ... like an old fire horse back in harness."
Another aide believed the General had
"peeled ten years from his shoulders,"
and Sebald noted:
"Despite his years, the General seemed impatient for action."
Yet at the same time he appeared. to be trying to convince himself that there would be no need for action.