H – Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito inherited the throne of Japan in 1926, following his father’s footsteps after he died in December of 1926. Once he came to power, Japan was becoming a super power in the world. Although he was the face of Japan in the Second World War, he did not have the full power of decision making. Due to the strict rules of the Japanese Constitution, Hirohito wasn’t able to act on anything without the approval of his ministers and chiefs of staff. So in a way, he wasn’t actually running Japan. He just took the fall for all that Japan did. Hirohito was a careful thinker and planned out everything to the best of his ability. But, this meant nothing when his opinion could be overridden by the higher powers in his cabinet. For this reason, we can never know what he truly supported and what he truly opposed in WWII. It is said that he approved of the war against China and the attack on Pearl Harbor, but some say that he actually didn’t. It is commonly believed that his cabinet used him as a puppet and hid behind him from the backlash of other countries.

Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The historical first meeting between Emperor Hirohito and Macarthur.

After the bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito took a stand against his office and decided to end the war. His cabinet were furious with him. They still believed that, with Germany, they could win the war. Hirohito would not take no for an answer this time and delivered a speech acknowledging that the Americans had won the war. Hirohito then met with General Macarthur to speak about what would happen to him after the war. Many Japanese soldiers had done terrible and unspeakable things in the Emperor’s name. Macarthur knew that Hirohito would not have wanted this. In the meeting, Hirohito was offered a cigarette. He took it and Macarthur noticed how his hands were shaking. When it was Hirohito’s turn to be announced as a war criminal, Macarthur helped him out and made sure he came out clean.

Emperor Hirohito went on to lead Japan until 1989, when he died in office. He regained peace among the U.S. and Japan and lead his nation away from the atrocities of World War Two.