World War II ended formally with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, after six years and one day of bloodshed and destruction. Douglas MacArthur, the commander of American forces in the Pacific, assumed almost total control over Japan as it came under Allied occupation.
A big question was what to do with the Emperor. Some believed he should be held accountable for war crimes, as many his government were later tried. MacArthur took a different view. He knew that putting the Emperor on trial would be extremely unpopular with the Japanese public, so resolved to use the Emperor to give the occupation authorities legitimacy.
Thus they met a couple of weeks after the surrender. The photo of MacArthur meeting the Emperor was a great shock to the Japanese public, who never saw the revered monarch overshadowed by another man. What was said during their first meeting remains unknown, but some sources suggest the Emperor offered to apologize and take responsibility for war crimes - in any case, Hirohito was protected from prosecution by MacArthur to make the job of ruling Japan much easier.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
- 1945-09-27 US General and head of the Allied occupation of Japan, Douglas MacArthur, meets Emperor Hirohito in Tokyo for the first time