Hirohito 裕仁 (Shōwa)
Emperor of Japan
Michinomiya Hirohito 裕仁 was born April 29, 1901 the first son of Crown Prince Yoshihito and Crown Princess Sadako in Tōgū Palace, Aoyama in Tokyo in Japan. As a child, his royal title was Prince Michi. He was the eldest child with three younger brothers: Yasuhito (later Prince Chichibu) born May 26, 1902, Nobuhito (later Prince Takamatsu) born March 1, 1905 and Takahito (later Prince Mikasa) born December 2, 1915.
Seventy days after Hirohito was born, he was placed under the care of care of the family of Count Kawamura Sumiyoshi, a retired vice-admiral who was to rear him as if he were his own grandchild but at age 3 he and his younger brother Yasuhito also under his care were returned to the royal court when Kawamura passed away. Between 1908 to 1914 he attended elementary school at Gakushūin (Peers' School)
. When his grandfather, Emperor Meiji died on July 30, 1912 Hirohito's father, Yoshihito, assumed the throne to become Emperor Taishō with Hirohito becoming the heir apparent.
During 1912 at age 11, he was commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Army as a 2nd lieutenant and in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as an ensign. Also, he was bestowed with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum. By 1914, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Army and promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant in the Navy, then to Captain and Lieutenant by 1916. During 1920 at age 19 Hirohito was promoted to the rank of Major in the Army and Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. In 1923 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the army and Commander in the navy, and to army Colonel and Navy Captain in 1925.
On November 2, 1916 he was formally proclaimed Crown Prince and heir apparent. On February 13, 1921 inspected Battleship Nagato. On March 3, 1921 at Yokohama embarked aboard Battleship Katori for a two month voyage to Europe. He was the first Japanese royalty to tour Europe and the trip was covered extensively in the news in Japan. Departing Yokohama, traveled via a Naha, Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, Suez, Cairo and Gibraltar before arriving at Portsmouth on May 9, 1921. In England, he met with King George V and Prime Minister David Lloyd George and a banquet was held in his honor at Buckingham Palace. He toured United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Vatican City during his tour he toured some of the battlefields of World War I and returned to Japan on September 3, 1921.
Regent of Japan
On November 29, 1921 he became
Regent of Japan (Sesshō) in place of his father whose health was failing and suffered from mental illness. On December 27, 1923 Hirohito survived the "Toranomon incident" a failed assassination attempt when Daisuke Nanbam, the son of a Diet member and Communist agitator fired a pistol at his carriage shattering a window and injuring a chamberlain. Hirohito was unharmed and Nanbam was proclaimed insane to the public and later sentenced to death and executed. Afterwards, Prime Minister Yamamoto Gonnohyōe took responsibility for the lapse in security and resigned along with his cabinet and was replaced conservative Kiyoura Keigo and a cabinet made up entirely of members of the House of Peers. On January 26, 1924 married his distant cousin Princess Nagako Kuni, eldest daughter of Prince Kuniyoshi Kuni. The couple had two sons and five daughters.
On December 25, 1926 Hirohito assumed the throne and became Emperor of Japan after the death of his father, Yoshihito. During November 1928 he formally ascended to the throne and his reign as Emperor was named Shōwa 昭和 (Enlightened Peace). Despite the name, his reign faced a financial crisis in Japan and political instability in the government where both the Army and Navy had veto power over the formation of a cabinet.
On October 22, 1930 embarked aboard Heavy Cruiser Haguro and spent two nights aboard then disembarks at Kirishima.
On January 9, 1932 Hirohito narrowly escaped assassination during the "Sakuradamon Incident" while departing the Imperial Palace via the Sakuradamon Gate in a horse carriage to review a military parade when Lee Bong-chang a Korean independence activist threw a hand grenade at him that missed and exploded near another horse carriage killing two horses. Lee Bong-chang was quickly arrested by the Imperial Guard and convicted and executed.
In 1931 after the Mukden Incident, Japanese forces occupied all of Manchuria and established the puppet Empire of Manchukuo. As Emperor, Hirohito never personally objected to the Second Sino-Japanese War or any military action in China and personally authorized the use of poison gas during the Battle of Wuhan and did not force his military to adhere to any international laws related to warfare or prisoners and endorsed a public policy of referring to the conflict as an "incident" versus a "war".
In November 1935 embarked aboard Battlecruiser Hiei for an official visit to official visit to Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyūshū. During the late 1930s, "incidents" initiated by the Japanese happened along the poorly defined borders of Manchuria against the Soviet Union (USSR) and Mongolia including the undeclared border wars including Changkufeng Incident (Battle of Lake Khasan) during July 29 to August 11, 1938 and Nomonhan Incident (Battle of Khalkhin Gol) during early May 1939 to September 15, 1939.
World War II
After the start of World War II and Nazi Germany victories in Europe including their invasion of Poland and conquering western Europe and the fall of France, Japanese leaders including his younger brother Prince Chichibu pressured the Emperor to join the Axis powers. On September 27, 1940 Japan joined the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.
On October 11, 1940 at Yokohama the Emperor and members of the royal family embarked aboard Battlecruiser Hiei welcomed by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto for the annual fleet review of the Combined Fleet in Tokyo Bay ceremonially escorted by Takao, Kako and Furutaka.
On September 4, 1941 the Japanese Cabinet met to consider war plans prepared by Imperial General Headquarters and the next day during a draft was submitted to the Emperor who questioned the leadership of the Army and Navy and breaking the tradition of Imperial silence, he asked questions of the leadership and questioned the chances of winning a Pacific War and how Japan could be victorious if they had not managed to conquer China. In closing, he stressed the need for diplomacy and read a poem written by his grandfather to avoid discord. Afterwards, the ministers present stressed they would explore all peaceful avenues to achieve Japanese goals but preparations for war continued.
On October 16, 1941 Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe
resigned stating: "Of course His Majesty is a pacifist, and there is no doubt he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war was a mistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: "You were worried about it yesterday, but you do not have to worry so much." Thus, gradually, he began to lean toward war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more toward. In short, I felt the Emperor was telling me: my prime minister does not understand military matters, I know much more. In short, the Emperor had absorbed the view of the army and navy high commands."
On October 17, 1941 Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) General Hideki Tojo became Prime Minister of Japan who was an outspoken proponents for preventive war including an attack against the United States. On November 5, 1941 the Emperor approved the operational plan for the Pacific War including the attack against Pearl Harbor. For the remainder of the month met with military leaders.
As tensions with the United States increased, on November 26, 1941 U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull sent the Japanese ambassador the "Hull note" that demanded Japan withdraw from Indochina and China. In Japan, Prime Minister Tojo told his cabinet "This is an ultimatum" and on December 1, 1941 the Imperial Conference sanctioned "War against the United States, United Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Netherlands".
On December 8, 1941 Japan began the Pacific War striking Hong Kong, Malaya and the Philippines and over the International Date Line on December 7, 1941 Navy carrier aircraft and midget submarines attack Pearl Harbor and Oahu. For the first six months of the Pacific War, Japan had only victories. During this period, the Emperor took an active interest in the progress of the war and personally intervened in military operations including suggesting increased troop strength to attack the Bataan Peninsula and suggested an operation against Chungking.
On June 24, 1943 at Yokosuka toured Battleship Musashi with other officials for a top secret inspection and was photographed seated with Navy officers. As the tide of war turned against Japan, he continued to participate in the planning of military operations and allocation of resources. He suggested the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) join the offensive against Guadalcanal and criticized the Navy withdrawing from the Solomon Islands and demanded new offensive actions that all resulted in Japanese defeats. Meanwhile, domestic shortages became acute. After the Japanese defeat on Saipan, Hirohito lost confidence in Prime Minister Tojo and his cabinet and forced him to resign on July 18, 1944. The next day, the Emperor approved the appointment of Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso.
During late 1944 came the Navy defeat during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and start of the U.S. bombing campaign against the homeland. In February 1945 former Prime Minister Konoe advised Hirohito to begin negotiations to end the Pacific War. On April 5, 1945 the Soviet Union renounced the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. On May 8, 1945 Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies. On June 22, 1945 Emperor met with his ministers and stated: "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts be made to implement them." Despite his views, military hawks advocated for Japan fighting to the end using kamikaze attacks and mass suicides to defend the homeland.
On April 7, 1945 Prime Minister Kuniaki resigned on April 7, 1945 and was replaced by Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki.
On July 26, 1945 the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration demanding unconditional surrender of Japan. Although the Emperor was in favor of ending the war, the Japanese government did not want to unconditionally surrender without conditions including a guarantee the Emperor would remain in power. After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, Nagasaki and the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan on August 9, 1945 opposition to surrender ended. On August 10, 1945 the cabinet drafted the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the Greater East Asia War that would accept the Potsdam Declaration. Two days later, he informed Imperial family of his decision to surrender.
On August 14, 1945 Emperor Hirohito assembled Imperial Council and decides to accept the Potsdam Declaration that called for the unconditional surrender of Japan. At 11:25pm in a bunker below the Imperial Household Ministry, Emperor Hirohito was recorded onto a phonograph record by NHK sound technicians reading the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the Greater East Asia War. During the first recording, his voice was too soft and the NHK technicians offered to make another recording with the first version saved as a backup. During the second attempt, his voice was deemed to be too high pitched with occasional skips but this recording was marked as the official recording.
On August 15, 1945 at 1:00am the "Kyūjō Incident" (Tokyo Imperial Palace Incident) began with an attempted coup d'état by members of the Staff Office of the Ministry of War of Japan and many members of the Imperial Guard attempted to stop the Emperor from surrendering and place him under house arrest but failed to convince the high command of the Imperial Japanese Army to move forward and the members of the coup committed ritual suicide. At noon, a radio broadcast plays the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo followed by the playback of the record of Emperor Hirohito reading the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the Greater East Asia War. This recording was dubbed the "Jewel Voice Broadcast" (Gyokuon-hōsō) announcing to the people of Japan that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japan. Due to the poor quality of the broadcast and formality of the language most Japanese did not understand his words or the meaning. His remarks did not include the word "surrender" stating only that Japan would “accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.” (Potsdam Declaration). Afterwards, a NHK radio announcer clarified the Emperor's message meant Japan was surrendering.
On August 17 ,1945 Minister Kantarō Suzuki resigned and was replaced by Prince Higashikuni (Hirohito's uncle). On September 2, 1945 Japan officially surrendered to the Allies. On September 27, 1945 the Emperor met General Douglas MacArthur for the first time at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Postwar, Emperor Hirohito remained in power.
On January 7, 1989 at 6:33am the Emperor died at aged 87 in Fukiage Palace in Japan ending the Shōwa era. His definitive posthumous was Shōwa Tennō. On February 24, 1989 a state funeral held in his honor that was attended by U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Buried in the Musashi Imperial Graveyard in Hachiōji alongside Emperor Taishō, his father. He was succeeded by his son Emperor Akihito and the Heisei era.
The New York Times “Text of Hirohito's Radio Rescript” August 15, 1945 page 3
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