US Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan
The US Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan is a legal document approved by US President Harry S. Truman on September 6, 1945, which governed US policy in the occupation of Japan following surrender in the Second World War. It was released to the public on September 22.
The document titled "US Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan" was drafted by the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, and approved by that committee on August 29, 1945, and its official designation was SWNCC 150/4. It was approved by the president on September 6, and released to the media on September 22.
Provisions of the document
The document set two main objectives for the occupation:
- To ensure that Japan will not become a menace to world peace.
- To turn Japan into a peaceful nation beneficial to US policy according to the principles of the UN Charter.
The document also set four main policies to be pursued:
- Japanese sovereignty only to include the four main Japanese islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, while the fate of additional islands was to be determined later (this provision was taken from the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945).
- Japan was to be disarmed, and the military was not to play any important role in Japanese society in the future.
- The Japanese society was to be encouraged to develop personal liberties, such as freedoms of religion, assembly, speech, and the press, as well as to develop democratically elected institutions.
- The Japanese economy was to be developed for peaceful purposes.
The document stipulated the occupation was to last until these objectives were to be met, without specifying time limit. Practical control was vested in the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), appointed by the US, a post given to General Douglas McArthur. Other Allied governments were only given symbolic participation in policy making over Japan.
The Japanese government was retained along with the Emperor, but were subjected to SCAP.
The document established freedom of speech and freedom of religion as basic principles, and also prohibited religious and racial discrimination.
Two issues the document referred to were the issue of free elections and the demand for the dissolution of the big businesses then controlling the Japanese economy. The document did not require any policy on these issues, but called upon SCAP to encourage the Japanese government to take steps on these matters.
This non-committal attitude on free elections and corporate control derived from the view of Japanese society as over conservative and not very susceptible to change.
The US Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan became an official legal document for the conduct of Japanese affairs during the occupation. Following the establishment of the Allied Council for Japan in December 1945, it was charged with drafting a joint Allied occupation statute for Japan, to be based on the same document. However, opposition among Allied governments to approve a statute that gave the US government the dominant position led to delays, and the new statute was finally approved on June 19, 1947.
- text in Department of State Bulletin, September 23, 1945, pp. 423-427
- Juha Saunavaara, "Occupation Authorities, the Hatoyama Purge and the Making of Japan’s Postwar Political Order" The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 39-2-09, September 28, 2009 
- Page with documents from The National Diet Library, Japan