On this day in 1945, Imperial Japan surrendered to the United States, concluding World War II. Back in July, the American Admiralty Books Website contrasted the formal attire of Japan’s dignitaries assembled on the deck of the USS Missouri docked in Tokyo Bay to the khaki-wearing US Navy men who greeted them:
The victors are in simple cotton, mostly khaki uniforms, some slightly rumpled. The Imperial Japanese who have come to submit to unconditional surrender arrived in top hats, and morning coats, their officers ribbon and aiguillette bedecked. Previously in history the dress code was reversed and the victors wore the finery. Some of the most senior officers including Gen. MacArthur wore no ribbons at all, in essence they attended to the ceremony in work Khaki. It was as if MacArthur was sending a message, get ready for the hard work of occupation and partial demobilization ahead. The pictures above are well known but motion picture film with sound is much more rare.
A squad of US Navy fighter planes flew overhead during the ceremony. The workaday uniforms of the servicemen, and the planes overhead were there to remind the Japanese that we were prepared to keep fighting if necessary.
While sparing Hirohito from war crimes and allowing him to maintain his title of emperor to help ease the Japanese transition to peacetime, MacArthur maintained the same sartorial mindset in one of the most famous postwar photos to circulate during the immediate aftermath:
That photo made the rounds once again in 2002 while President Bush was seeking authorization from Congress and the UN to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein; one blogger at the time wrote:
This picture was taken in the days immediately after Japan’s surrender to the Allies. This picture became public, and spread alarm throughout the Japanese. Why? Because it showed that Japan had been defeated. There was an obvious difference in the stature and demeanor of MacArthur v. Hirohito. MacArthur is relaxed, wearing a relatively casual khakis. Hirohito is stiff, in very formal attire, and looking a bit worse for wear. The picture created an impetus among the Japanese to engage in self examination for the first time, and with the active help of the MacArthur, truly changed Japanese society forever. Now why do I bring up this picture? Because this is exactly the point that Steven [Den Beste] is trying to make. We need to inflict a serious, undeniable defeat on the both Islamism and Pan-Arabism.
Unlike the confident liberals who dominated the American culture during World War II and its aftermath, today’s left lacks the self-assurance to pursue such a strategy, and the Bush White House and Republican Congress were too weak or fearful to push back against political correctness in the immediate wake of 9/11, arguably the only time in recent years such a top-down cultural reset would have been possible.
Hence the mindset today that exists on wide swatches of both sides of aisle when faced with new conflicts in the Arab World, which Jonah Goldberg recently dubbed, “‘The To Hell with Them’ Doctrine.”