General Douglas MacArthur remains a controversial presence in American history. Franklin Roosevelt was wary of the man, distrusting his ambitions, while Harry Truman fired him (for more, read Truman Fires MacArthur). His fellow generals, even those who admired his military talents, could not abided his naked ambition and unceasing self-promotion. Amidst the turmoil and controversy of his career, his rule of Japan from 1945 to 1950 stands as an undisputed high point. It all began on September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Japan announced its capitulation on August 15 but the official surrender ceremony and signing of the documents took two weeks to arrange. General MacArthur's words on that occasion were thoughful, measured, and worthy of the best in the American tradition.
We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers—to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored. The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies, have been determined on the battlefields of the world and hence are not for our discussion or debate.
Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the people of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred. But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to that higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are about to serve, committing all our people unreservedly to faithful compliance with the undertakings they are here formally to assume.
It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past—a world founded upon faith and understanding—a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish—for freedom, tolerance and justice.The terms and conditions upon which the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces is here to be given and accepted are contained in the Instrument of Surrender now before you.As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, I announce it my firm purpose, in the tradition of the countries I represent, to proceed in the discharge of my responsibilities with justice and tolerance, while taking all necessary dispositions to insure that the terms of surrender are fully, promptly and faithfully complied with.